Hello all! For those of you who are French, I hope you had a wonderful Fête de la Bastille. For those of you who aren't, I hope you had a lovely…Sunday. The 14th of July is a French national holiday which takes place on the same day as the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. On a weekend geared towards celebrating general French greatness, I thought it fitting to head to a monument of just that: the Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe (or "Triumphal Arch", though I'm sure you clever lot could have got there on your own…) is a huge Neoclassical monument, based on the Arch of Titus, commemorating all those who fought and died for France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned it in 1806, though it wasn't finished until 1836, the very foundations taking a whole 2 years to build. I guess triumph is a gradual business.
It sits at the centre of the Place Charles De Gaulle, at the head of the Champs Elysées and act as the middle point between the Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Défense.
Underneath the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – a touching monument to all the unidentified dead from the First and Second World Wars. On this tomb burns an eternal flame, which was lit in 1921 and was, apparently, the first eternal flame to be lit in Europe, since that of the Vestal Virgins went out in the 4th century. Every year on the 11th of November, a memorial service is held there.
That's looking down, looking up is an incredible structure standing at 50 metres tall (which meant it was the largest triumphal arch in the world until 1982 when the Arch of Triumph was built in Pyongyang. “Take that, Europe” says North Korea...) Still, the second largest in the world isn't bad – and Charles Godefroy still managed to fly a biplane under it in 1919, so I reckon it's something to be proud of.
The sculptures covering the edifice were done by several different sculptors and show "The Departure of 1792" (also known as "La Marsaillaise"), "The Triumph of 1810", "The Resistance of 1814" and "The Peace of 1815". Rumour has it that the sword held by the figure of the Republic in the "Marsaillaise" relief broke off on the day the Battle of Verdun started in 1916. (For those of you who don't know or who, like me, had forgotten most of their GCSE History – the Battle of Verdun was a WW1 battle fought between the French and the Germans. It resulted in a tactical victory for the French, but was arduous, bloody, and took nearly a year.) The swordless Republic was immediately covered with a tarpaulin, in case any civilians took it as a bad omen.
When doing some research in preparation for the shoot, I read somewhere that there is a lift to take you to the top of the monument. Wonderful, I thought, no climbing up 200-odd steps for Fran then. Wherever it was that I read that was mistaken. And there are 234 steps. (If you're disabled, however, there IS a lift so for anyone desperate to visit the arc who has a deep-seated phobia of stairs or exercise, I don't know, maybe break your leg first). Still, it wasn't too bad and the view from the top is utterly stunning. Unfortunately you can't see it too well in the pictures, because the killjoys of the tourist office were obviously all like "bla bla bla, safety, bla bla bla, 50-metres, bla bla bla, fall off and DIE" so there's a high metal railing all the way around.
|Neck to Ankle - H+M|
Shoes - Marks and Spencer
Earrings - Vintage
Sunglasses - ...H+M...
For this week's shoot I decided to go for pale, neutral colours to match the arch itself and then injected some life with the gold embroidery on the top and the gold jewellery. (Gold being the colour of Triumph, obvs.) It's a pretty rare thing to see me wearing trousers (Ones that AREN'T made of lace, that is) because I have complexes about my legs because of society, etc etc. HOWEVER, having examined Andrew GN's Pre-Fall 2013 collection, I felt drawn to the idea of giving tight cropped trousers a go. The brocading on the top was fortuitously reminiscent of the embroidery in his Resort 2014 collection as well. Have I mentioned my love of plans coming together?
A big thank you to Best Friend Recently Back From Africa for stepping in as photographer extraordinaire for this shoot and I hope the rest of you lovely people enjoy what's left of this week.