Sunset in Paris, France.

One of the world’s greatest capital cities, Paris is a beautiful city to explore the wealth of attractions it has to offer. There are loads of cheap holiday deals on offer these days, and you could do worse than book a trip to Paris.

France was of course the cradle of revolution in the late eighteenth century, and everywhere you sense that spirit of intellectual freedom and proud independence that survive from the days when it seized the initiative and finally burst its chains of benighted medieval bigotry and superstition to initiate a new world order based on rationality and freedom.

Place de la Concorde in Paris

Well, that was the idea anyway, but a stroll along to the Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris will probably stir up a few old ghosts. Things after all are rarely as cut and dried as we often like to think them. The square is conveniently situated close to the start of the famous Champs-Elysses and the gardens of the Tuileries, so all three can be taken in during the course of a day here.

The Place de la Concorde was finished in 1763, during the reign of Louis XV, and in fact the original name for the square was Place Louis XV, and it had a monumental statue of him at its centre. Now the square, unlike all the others in Paris, is not enclosed and you have to dodge the traffic to some extent because it has become an intersection for a number of main avenues in the city.

Gardens of the Tuileries

This square, much as it now resembles a sort of giant zebra crossing without the stripes, is still worth a visit if you’re interested in history because of the central place it held during the revolutionary Terror. It was renamed in those heady days as Place de la Revolution and the great guillotine whose position is still marked on its flagstones became a symbol throughout the whole of Europe for bloody excess.

Aristocratic and royal heads hit the basket like ninepins and paranoia reigned throughout the country as the revolutionaries desperately attempted to wipe out all trace of the old order and ensure their own survival. Marie Antoinette and her rather dim husband Louis XVI, who had written ‘Nothing’ as his sole journal entry on the day the Bastille fell, were Madame Guillotine’s most high profile victims, but there were thousands of others.

Eiffel Tower photo taken from the Trocadero

As the revolution started to spin out of control, Robespierre and Danton were themselves consumed by its gaping maw and their heads joined those of their countless victims before things started to settle down and the periods of first the Revolutionary Wars and finally the Napoleonic Wars were initiated.

Following the restoration of the monarchy after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Place de la Revolution along with many other landmarks in Paris was renamed several times. Place de la Concorde was eventually settled on, with its connotations of reconciliation for a country riven by the aftershocks of long years of revolution and the world’s first truly global conflict.

Luxor Obelisk

Louis XV’s statue disappeared during the revolutionary years and was replaced by the Luxor obelisk. This was a gift from the Viceroy of Egypt to Louis Phillipe in 1836 and it still stands there at the centre of an oval and statues that represent various French cities.

Feature images courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons.