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There's a reason why so many songs are written about Paris, but until experiencing it firsthand, it wasn't something I could comprehend just from seeing photos of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Still, even after visiting Paris four times, when those famous icons are seen within the context of the whole city, they are rather amazing. 

The Eiffel Tower, the premier iconic image of Paris, was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel's company to be the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. It was not love at first site for many Parisians, who were only somewhat appeased by the reassurance that it was only intended to remain for 20 years. But by then, of course, it wasn't something the French would even consider parting with. The light show at night is definitely worth seeing, and for splurge lunch or dinner dining with magnificent views, try Le Jules Verne at the heart of the tower.

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon to honour those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. To get a sense of the scale, the dots you see in the photos at the top are people. With its 164-foot height of stone, just laying the foundation took two years. Surrounding the Arc is a traffic circle with 12 spokes. Because this photo was captured during a lucky moment in August, when many Parisians are vacationing, it doesn't give an accurate representation of what it's usually like to navigate this circle by car. Attempting to do so is not for the novice or faint of heart!

A Walking City. Paris is a city of immense beauty. In an effort to check off the must-see places, please don't forgo time spent just walking the city and savoring a good cup of coffee at a sidewalk cafe. Your feet will appreciate you for the latter, and so will your memory bank.

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