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This was where Parisians who lived outside the ramparts used to gather, away from the mire and squalor of the city. It was a place for all sorts of outdoor pursuits, from the most innocent to those that were less laudable. The adjoining street now known as avenue Montaigne used to be called allée des Veuves (the widow's avenue) because women in mourning gathered there. *
* Talk about a singles hotspot...
The Champs Élysées had its own special police force, whose reports give a highly colorful vision of the times. It was also the backdrop for political affairs. Paul Barras devised his conspiracy to overthrow Robespierre from the inn that belonged to Antoine-Nicolas Doyen (which still exists today as the Ledoyen restaurant**).
** Been there. Try the rouget laqué d'un jus de betterave acidulé. Tell them I sent you. But do NOT use my name or refer to me in any way.
By his own admission: "We sought to agree on how to put an end to the excesses of the government committees, and to help the National Convention to regain its existence..." In the evening, the conspirators met at a local limonadier.
During the Reign of Terror, it was also the most inconspicuous means of passage - among the unruly crowds - to the Bois de Boulonge in order to hide. Only a dozen police officers patrolled it. Suspects, escaped prisoners, draft evaders and vagrants would hide there among the foliage and thickets.***
*** Livin' the dream, boys.