Strange as it may seem, the Opéra is not the center of the twenty thousand and odd acres which are covered by the city of Paris. The geographical center, the heart of the town, is protected, as it were, by the wings of the largest palace in the world, the Louvre; the center of Paris is the Place du Carrousel, at the very end of the avenue de l’Opéra, and immediately south of the rue de Rivoli. We have given the word carrousel an orgiastic meaning, but to the French it means nothing more than “tournament,” and was the name given to this place after an equestrian exhibit in 1662 before Louis XIV and his court.
The center of Paris has its own arc de triomphe, built by Napoleon in 1806 and recently repaired by an American; it used to serve as a gateway to the Tuileries Palace before that palace burned in 1871.
In other towns the geographical center usually moves to the west as growth proceeds; in Paris it is not likely to displace itself, for the growth of the town continues fairly equally in ever-widening concentric circles, even though the last of the walls which created that form for it have now fallen.