There is an article in the New York Times this week about the Champs-Elysees and since, as you will read on Friday, Paris was my very favorite city on our European tour, I felt that I had to write a little bit about this article here.
The article discusses concerns that the Champs-Elysees is becoming too commercialized and mainstream and losing the Parisian joie-de-vivre that defines French culture.
We visited Paris last week and it was love at first sight. Our first tourist destination was the Arc de Triumphe and the Champs Elysees. We walked the entire length of the boulevard and were mesmerized by the luxurious shops and cafes.
We ate the most delicious pastry I have ever tasted – or seen. I wish I had a photo to share with all of you, but this gallery of sweets, which has been in operation since the 1800’s was off-limits to photographers. The word pastry simply does not do justice to this decadent delight.
The New York Times article examines the influence of new chain stores like H&M and Banana Republic opening on the boulevard.
We did a Rick Steve’s walking tour down the Champs-Elysees and learned that there was a lot of concern when McDonalds opened.
Steves notes that McDonalds was only allowed to open as long as they agreed to paint their arches white and maintain a café feel, including sidewalk tables.
I understand the concern over losing the artistic and luxurious energy of this iconic avenue. And I certainly saw some signs of this deterioration firsthand. But I also saw the future compromising with the past in a way that held some beauty.
It is hard to explain, but as an example, I was absolutely blown away by the Abercrombie and Fitch store. The outside of the store – we did not go inside – was as beautiful as any museum. We did not learn the history of that building, but I have no doubt that it is a place with great historic significance.
Frankfurt was another incredible example of the old meeting the new, where sky-scrapers share a block with castles, which I will share on my Photo-Friday about Germany.
I find myself wondering how I feel about this. It was wonderful to see historic buildings being preserved and put to use rather than destroyed like we are so quick to do here in the United States.
But is it OK to have a McDonalds in a place with such a rich history? Something doesn’t sit well with me about that. Perhaps it is the desire to slow down the rapid pace of change. But can we do that?
What do you think? Do you have issues with historic buildings being put to use for modern-day services? Would you have a problem if a castle turned into a Walmart, even if it maintained the architectural integrity of the original structure? Have you seen any positive examples of old things being repurposed for new uses that could serve as a model for others?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!