A monument in La Defense, a modern business area west of Paris. Completed in 1990, this modern skyscraper rests at the western end of the axis of monuments that runs through Paris (with Place de la Concorde on the eastern end and the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe in the middle.) It is 110 meters high; the Notre Dame cathedral could fit within the arch.

The Grande Arche de La Defense houses several government offices, a small museum, and a panoramic elevator and view. Many military and state ceremonies take place on the parvis in front of the arch. From the top of the front steps on a clear day, one can see down the entire length of the axis of monuments to the obelisk at Concorde and the Ferris wheel at the entrance to the Jardin des Tuileries.

An interesting fact about La Defense is that from the Place de la Concorde it looks to be completely hidden by the Arc de Triomphe - it was deliberately designed on such a scale as to seem the same size. Quite a nifty effect. Looking in the other direction, one can get a detailed and quite spectacular view of most of central Paris from the telescopes located on the viewing platform on the roof of the structure. It is quite high, so not for the fainthearted - the capsule lifts are shit-scary, too, even for those not usually afraid of heights.

The building itself is staggeringly white, with reflective window panes and a white-paved platform and steps. This gives the illusion, even from a relatively small distance, of uniformity of texture, camouflaging the fact that the arch is an office building. It stands on an elevated platform which is reached by a wide staircase. I'm not sure what the maths of this is, but they are built on such an angle that they are impossible to see from the top until one is practically on them. The effect is very much of striding confidently towards the edge of an abyss. Again, it can be very scary, but also quite invigorating.

A last fond memory, the area below and around the arch is full of office buildings and amusement complexes, and spotted here and there with statuary. Our favourite was a giant (probably 8 or 10 meter high) bronze thumb sticking out of the ground in the left hand corner, complete with exact details of nail, cuticle and skin folds.

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