The 8th Arrondissement lies across the Seine from the 7th. Its most famous landmark is the Arc de Triomphe. The Soldat Inconnu was buried underneath the central arch on Armistice Day 1920. There is ceremony at the tomb at 6.30pm each evening. The Arc also houses a small museum which is reached by a spiral staircase in one of the legs of the Arc. At 35 FF entry is dear compared with a typical museum on the Western Front. The museum contains a display of photos, plans and documents which tell the story of the Arc. This includes photos of the 1919 victory parade, the 1920 Armistice Day parade and a statue of a poilu. The gift shop had the usual selection of souvenirs of varying degrees of tackiness which seem to be similar at tourist attractions the world over. However, it didn't sell any books on the Arc itself and the Soldat Inconnu. The museum gives access to a viewing platform on top of the Arc which gives the visitor a superb view of the city.
Near the Concorde end of the Champs-Elysees is the place Clemenceau which is home to a statue of Clemenceau himself. Dressed in boots and a greatcoat, he is striding purposely onward. A few hundred yards away on the banks of the Seine, in the south-west corner of the Place de la Concorde, is an equestrian statue of King Albert 1st of Belgium. The plinth has two finely detailed bas reliefs which illustrate the cities of Belgium: Ypres is represented by the Cloth Hall.
A worthwhile visit is to be had at the American Cathedral, Avenue George V. This is notable for its memorial cloister which is dedicated to Americans who died in France.
The walls are inscribed with the insignia of all the American divisions which fought on the Western Front 1917-18. These are painted the appropriate colours, and below each one is the name of the unit, the number of officers and men killed, and the sectors of the front on which that division fought. Also included are the badges of all the supporting arms and services of the US forces. In addition are civilian organisations, (e.g. the Red Cross and Church Army), volunteer medical organisations (e.g. American Field Service) as well as details of foreign units which contained Americans. These include the French Foreign Legion, the Lafayette Squadron, and the approximate 3,000 Americans who died serving with Canadian and other British Empire units. The cathedral itself is an unremarkable 19th century stone church, but inside there is a memorial plaque to a member of the Lafayette Squadron. (Opening times are normal working hours and Sunday services.)
Copyright © Charles Fair, May, 1997.
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