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Place de la Bastille: a must visit in Paris

January 11, 2012

Paris is a city with a rich and meaningful past. It holds within its city limits many places that have a deep resonance in the history of modern Europe. Place de la Bastille holds just such a special distinction; indeed it may be described as the true heart of modern-day Paris.

It used to be home to a fort at first, then the Bastille prison which was meant to hold those reformers and free-thinking writers that would dare challenge the monarchy. To the people of France, it symbolized everything indulgent and oppressive about their rulers. The prison was torn down, brick by brick; and it was the storming of the Bastille that sparked the globally significant event which we know today as the French Revolution. The date, the 14th of July, 1789, was christened ‘Bastille Day’ and is celebrated annually by the French as their Independence Day.

But, what could possibly replace the reviled Bastille prison? In 1792, it was decided that the area occupied by the Bastille would be turned into a square celebrating liberty, and a column erected there. The foundation was laid but construction would be aborted, and eventually a fountain would be built there. The Bastille square would face many more twists to its fate. One of the most notable twists was provided by the Great Emperor Napoleon himself. He wanted a great bronze Elephant placed in the square. A plaster model was commissioned and put in place by the impatient Emperor, while he waited in vain for the copper to arrive which would make the statue a permanent fixture in the Parisian Skyline. However it was not to be. Even as Napoleon’s rule descended into chaos, the Elephant would progressively rot away; till it arrived at the extremely dilapidated state described by Victor Hugo in his 1832 masterpiece Les Misérables.

Today, a visit to Place de la Bastille offers the visitor a very different experience. It is currently principally occupied by the Bastille Opera House, aka L’Opéra Bastille. It is home to the Opéra national de Paris and their productions which are the main attractions of Place de la Bastille. And if you’re not the Operatic sort, you can always stroll round to the back where you might go on a little cruise on the Bassin de l’Arsenal, a marina for pleasure boats. Formerly a huge ditch meant to supply water from the Seine to the moat around the Bastille fort; it is today a large boat basin linking the Canal Saint-Martin, which begins at the Place de la Bastille, to the Seine.

And for those of you with an inclination for shopping, you could visit the park to the north of the Place de la Bastille, where every Thursday and Sunday, you’d find an open-air market along the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, with everything on sale from fresh food to clothing and other flea-market style items.

Or you could glance back into the history of the Place de la Bastille, and take a look at the only remains of the once-proud Fort Bastille, displayed in the Square Henri Galli, a few hundred meters away. All that remains are some crumbling parts of one of the towers, and the original boundaries of the fort are marked by special paving stones. A look at these last remnants of the history of this place just puts it all into perspective. Be it revolutions, monuments, or the sweet sound of the opera, the Bastille square has witnessed all.

About the author: Samantha Harper is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this, she is fond of clothes. She recently bought a dress from Alfred Angelo Wedding Dresses latest collection. These days she is busy in witting an article on Short Prom Dresses.

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