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On the road

Essonne (91)

Ile de France region
Population: 1,215,340 (2010)
Prefecture: Evry
Sub-prefectures: Etampes, Palaiseau.
Surface: 1 804 km2.
Largest town: Evry (Pop: 52,000 )
Economy: pharmaceutical products, office machines, computers, research.
Specialities: Arpajon beans, strawberries in Marcoussis, watercress quiche, lark pate.
Tourism: domain of Courances, domain of Chamarande, Dourdan, Etampes, Milly-la-Foret, Regional Nature Park of Gatinais français.

Hauts-de-Seine (92)

Ile de France region
Population: 1,581,628 (2011)
Prefecture: Nanterre
Sub-prefectures: Antony, Boulogne-Billancourt.
Surface: 176 km2
Largest town: Boulogne-Billancourt (Pop: 116,000 )
Economy: 6,000 company headquarters. Third region in Europe for the GDP per person in Europe behind Paris and London. Second fluvial port in Europe (Gennevilliers).
Specialities: p'tit blanc of Suresnes, omelette in Clamart, madeleine of Nanterre.
Tourisme: La Defense, Aqua 92 (diving site)

Km 26 : Fontenay-Les-Briis

De Courson castle © Fondation Pour les Monuments HistoriquesDu Marais castle © Fondation Pour les Monuments HistoriquesChateau Fontenay les Briis © Véronique PAGNIERLa façade occidentale du château, par l’architecte Jean-Benoît-Vincent Barré © Céréales Killer, Wikipedia


Domaine de Courson (4 kms from Fontenay-les-Briis)

The romantic park of Courson, designed by famous landscape-gardeners, is a real delight : vast pond, rich végétation, remarkable trees. Courson organises twice a year the most famous  « Flower-show » in France. The château, a family house  is worth visiting. The park can be visited on sundays and bank holidays, from 10 am to 6 pm. The château can be visited on sundays and bank holidays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. Domaine de Courson, Courson-Monteloup ; tel : 01 64 58 90 12 ;


Château du Marais (9 kms from Briis-sous-Forges)

The most beautiful example of end of 18th century style in Ile de France area, the château du Marais is the fourth château built on this site. The park and gardens beautifully deigned between 1903 and 1905 by Boniface de Castellane, a excentric aristocrat, are marvellous. Park and Talleyrand museum : open from march 15 to november 15, sundays and bank holidays, from 2 pm to 6.30 pm. Château du Marais, Val St Germain ; tel : 01 64 38 91 60 ;

Tour de France of the Monuments Nationaux

The Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe © Pascal Lemaître - Centre des Monuments Nationaux

In 1806, Napoleon I decreed that an arch be built on the Place de l'Etoile to the glory of the Grande Armée. This project was entrusted to Jean-Arnaud Raymond and Jean-François Chalgrin.

Plans were hastily drawn up and the first stone was laid on 15 August 1806, the day of the Emperor's birthday. Chalgrin subsequently devised a new project on his own, and his successors followed his architectural plans. When Chalgrin died in 1811, the monument only stood at 5.40 metres above ground level. With the return of the Bourbons in 1814, work on the project stopped, before starting again during the reign of Louis XVIII and was finally completed in 1836, under Louis-Philippe. The Arc de Triomphe stands as a symbol of national unity and the glory of the French armies, and is ornamented with four groups of sculpted figures by Rude, Cortot and Etex. The frieze running around the entablature is a vast bas-relief recounting the departure and return of the French armies. The architect, Chalgrin, had not made any plans for the ornamentation of the inside of the monument. It was in 1835 that the idea emerged to inscribe on the underside of the vault decorated with Roman-style panels the names of the 128 battles of the Republic and the Empire, together with the names of the Generals who had taken part in them.

Ever since construction was completed, the Arc de Triomphe has been at the centre of major events, such as the return of Napoleon's ashes on 15 December 1840, the Festival of Fraternity in February 1848, and Prince Napoleon Bonaparte's passing through the arch on 2 December 1852. At the State funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885, his catafalque was placed beneath the arch before his body was taken to the Panthéon. For the Victory celebrations on 14 July 1919, French and Allied troops paraded beneath the arch. On 11 November 1920, a solemn cortège transported the body of the Unknown Soldier to the Arc de Triomphe. It was buried beneath the vault to honour the 1,500,000 soldiers who died in battle during the Great War.

On 11 November 1923, the Flame of Remembrance was lit on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, consecrating the patriotic and symbolic nature of the Arc de Triomphe. On 25 August 1944, Paris was liberated after four years of occupation, and the following day General de Gaulle descended the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe. At 6.30pm every day since 1923, veterans and soldiers have rekindled the Flame.

The Arc de Triomphe is opened to the public by Centre des monuments nationaux.

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