The glamour of the Champs-Élysées, particularly its upper end, may not be quite what it was, dominated as it is by airline offices, car showrooms, and bright, light shopping arcades.
But there's still the Lido cabaret, Fouquet's high-class bar and restaurant, and plenty of cinemas and outrageously priced cafes to bring the punters in. At Christmas this is where the fairy lights go, and on December 31 everyone happily jams in, in their cars, to hoot in the New Year.
The new landscaping project has removed the avenue's side lanes where cars used to prowl in search of parking spaces, and now pedestrians have an equal share of the avenue's width, with shade from more trees. cultural centers, deluxe hotels and other activities that participate in the tradition and prestige of the Champs-Elysees are encouraged to return by the municipality.
The stretch between the Rond-Point roundabout - whose Lalique glass fountains disappeared during the German occupation - and Concorde is bordered by chestnut trees and municipal flower beds, pleasant enough to stroll among, but not sufficiently dense to muffle the squeal of accelerating tyres. The two massive buildings rising above the greenery to the south are the Grand and Petit Palais, with their overloaded Neoclassical exteriors, rail station roofs and exuberant flying statuary. They house a number of museums and the Grand Palais is the address for major cultural exhibitions, curtailed at the moment due to major restoration works.
On the north side, combat police guard the high walls round the presidential Elysee palace and the line of ministries and embassies ending with the US in prime position on the corner of place de la Concorde. On Thursdays and at weekends you can see a stranger manifestation of the self-images of states in the postage stamp market at the corner of avenues Gabriel and Marigny.
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