A lap of the Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, a large road junction that is the meeting point for twelve straight avenues, including the Champs-Élysées.

This road junction forms a roundabout that is ten cars wide. Cars in the roundabout zig and zag between lanes to position themselves for an exit. Usually, driving in a roundabout requires the cars entering the roundabout to give way to the cars already in the roundabout. Not in Paris, the cars in the roundabout will often stop to allow other cars to enter. To me, this seemed counterintuitive. There were so many cars already in the roundabout, why were they stopping to let more in?

On our departure from Paris, I suggested to the family that it would be good to do a lap of the Arc de Triomphe. They weren't enthusiastic and would have been happy to get away from the maddening traffic of Paris as soon as they could. But I insisted, and I drove confidently up the Champs-Élysées.

As I approached the Place Charles de Gaulle, I was super careful when entering the roundabout. I felt like I needed eyes in the back of my head to negotiate it. In some respects, I felt that if I showed any weakness whilst finding my way out, I would have been swept up by other cars and taken down the wrong road.

After completing a lap of the roundabout, I successfully exited back into the Champs-Élysées, whilst the family let out a sigh of relief. As I drove down the Champs-Élysées, I suggested to the family that it would be fun to go back and do another lap. There were howls of protest, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. They groaned as I did a u-turn and headed back up the hill, ready to tackle a lap of the Arc de Triomphe one more time.