From the Arch of Triumph in Paris there are twelve major avenues that radiate out in twelve directions. The best-known of these twelve avenues is the Champs-Élysées, which still had a disgusting ten lanes of cars when I took these photos in 2012. Now it is down to eight, as the two outer lanes are reserved for bicycles, and further changes are in the works.
From the top of the arch you fortunately can’t smell the exhaust fumes of all these vehicles, but you can certainly hear the traffic noise, the same incessant humming that you hear if you happen to live near a motorway, punctuated with the individual roars of sports cars or motorcycles as they accelerate wildly when the lights change. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées leads off to the southeast, towards the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.
Going around clockwise from the Champs-Elysées, the next avenue is the Avenue Marceau, which leads off in a more southerly direction, towards the Montparnasse Tower. Avenue d’Iéna, on the right in the same photo, goes off towards Place d’Iéna (named after a battle that took place near the German city of Jena in 1806) and the Eiffel Tower.
Avenue Kléber goes off to the south-southeast, with the Eiffel Tower still visible at the left side of the photo. This avenue was named after a general of the French army, Jean Baptiste Kléber (1753–1800). Avenue Victor Hugo leads off to the southeast. It was named of course after the great nineteenth century author who wrote Notre-Dame de Paris 1482 and Les Misérables, among many other works.
Avenue Foch, with its wide light brown gravelly sidewalks, goes off in an easterly direction towards the woods called Bois de Boulogne. This avenue was named after another general, Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929).
Next, the Avenue de la Grande Armée leads off roughly to the west-northwest towards La Défense. This avenue, which was named after Napoléon’s large army, is practically the continuation of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Continuing around clockwise, we come to Avenue Carnot, a shorter avenue which goes off to the northwest. There have been several prominent people named Carnot, such as the physicist and military engineer Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot (1796-1832) and his nephew Marie François Sadi Carnot (1837-1894), who was president of France from 1887 until his assassination in 1894.
Avenue Mac-Mahon goes off in a more northerly direction. It was named after Patrice de Mac-Mahon, Duc de Magenta, a French general (of Irish ancestry) who served as Chief of State of France from 1873 to 1875 and as the first president of the Third Republic from 1875 to 1879.
Avenue de Wagram leads off more or less to the northeast. It was named after a battle that took place in Austria in 1809 and was of course a French victory, otherwise they wouldn’t have named the avenue after it. (You may have noticed that in Paris there is no street, avenue, square or boulevard named Waterloo. Not even an impasse.)
Avenue Hoche goes northeast to Parc Monceau, with Sacré-Coeur visible in the distance on a hill off to the right. This avenue was named after Louis Lazare Hoche (1768–1797), who was a general in the French Revolutionary Army. Avenue de Friedland goes off roughly to the west. Friedland was the site of a battle (what else?) in 1807, in which Napoléon’s army defeated a Russian army in East Prussia.
Having come full circle, we are now back at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where traffic has mercifully let up a bit in the meantime.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2017 and 2022.