On my very first day in Paris, I ascended the Arc de Triomphe to take in the view, then strolled down the length of this most famous of avenues. I remember the people, the chintzy foreign borrowings, and the over-the-top commerciality, but I also remember being somewhat swept away by the experience.
Well, I have no idea what I was thinking. Some memories are best left as memories, and I quickly come to resent each remembered step. What, exactly, is the appeal of the upper half of this boulevard? Except to business owners, I mean. Only as the street descends to the FDR Métro stop and commerce gives way to gardens does it become worthwhile. In fact, the stretch from there to the Place de la Concorde (my favorite “great space” in Europe) is quite striking. But my advice? If you’ve good memories of the Champs-Élysées, never, ever return. For these days, it’s little more than an avenue of regrets.