Leaders & Landmarks

Paris Leaders & Landmarks


The inhabitants of a place surely influence how it is perceived. Parisian politicians have certainly left their marks on some of France’s most famous landmarks, creating some amazing stories for us to share with you before you pack your bags for a Paris adventure.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The crowning of two kings, the beatification of an innocent martyr, and the attempted assassination of one of France’s most prominent presidents. What do these three historically significant events have in common? All took place in a famous Gothic cathedral completed over two centuries – the Notre-Dame-de-Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The assassination attempt on Charles de Gaulle, founder of the Fifth and current Republic of France, and leader of the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in the second World War, remains a mystery.

At the Notre Dame Cathedral on the afternoon of 26 August 1944, between De Gaulle’s brief address and the thanksgiving service to celebrate Paris’ Liberation, gunshots rang from inside the cathedral. In the panic, casualties amounted to three hundred, yet De Gaulle remained unscathed – despite walking straight into the gunfire.

At nearly 2 meters tall, how could they have missed the target walking into their line of fire, a larger-than-life leader attempting to re-establish France’s democracy?

Till this day, speculations of the unidentified suspects persist. Were the assassins really Germans, or was the assassination staged by the French Communist Party under political motivations?

Monument of French President Charles De Gaulle

This, however, was not the only time De Gaulle’s life was at risk. Notably, the Organisation de l’Armee Secrete, better known as OAS, went after his life – and failed – multiple times. OAS was a French dissident, right-wing paramilitary group protesting against the decolonization of Algeria from France. Supporters of his Presidency at the height of the Algerian War in 1958, the OAS were incensed when De Gaulle granted Algeria independence from France.

In late August 1962, following a Council of Ministers meeting to address OAS issues, De Gaulle was ambushed on his way home with his wife. 43kg of plastic explosives inside a propane cylinder and 20kg of petrol and oil in a fuel can were hidden in large sand piles left by road-menders on the road they travelled on. As luck would have it, only the fuel ignited.

The OAS received insider information from their spies at the Élysée Palace. Time and again however, the assassination attempts were subverted, including the seemingly foolproof plan near Rue du Bois. In this instance, both crossfire and attempts to clean up their tracks failed – the fuse of a bomb blew out before it could rid the weapons used, and the culprits were arrested within a couple of weeks! Dumbfounded by their repeated failures, OAS begun to suspect secret-service agents were behind their organisation to disgrace them and put the President in a better light.

Brasserie Lipp

A prestigious Parisian brasserie, LIPP is a traditional French restaurant well-known not only for its classic French dishes, but also its famous clientele, from philosophers, screenwriters, literary artists, to supermodels and politicians. Located in the fashionable arrondissement of Paris, its extraordinary history features a regular customer, Francois Mitterrand.

The longest-serving President of France from 1981 to 1995, Francois Mitterrand was First Secretary of the Socialist Party, the first figure from the left elected President under the Fifth Republic. In what became known as The Observatory Affair, he was pursued by assassins when travelling home from dinner at Brasserie Lipp very late on the night of 15 October 1959, perhaps after visiting his secret mistress and daughter residing in the Seventh Arrondissement of Paris, about 5 Kilometers from the Élysée.

Brasserie Lipp


The Paris Observatory

Near one of the largest astronomical centres in the world, the president of France took cover as gunshots were fired at his vehicle.

A dark car had tried to run Mitterand off the road twice before he abandoned his car along Rue Auguste-Comte. He laid prostrate on the grass of a Paris park bordering the Avenue de l’Observatoire, before ringing the bell at entrance no.5 which scared off the assassins and woke the quartier. There were 7 bullet holes in the front and rear door of his vehicle.


Avenue De L’observatoire

Commissioner Georges Clot was chief investigator of this assassination attempt. He deduced from the angle of the bullet holes that the shots were fired from a stationary card, which implied that the gunmen were confident, but raised suspicions as to why they had failed to run Mitterrand off the road, and had assumed to have killed him in his car before taking off. Moreover, he identified unreliable parts of Mitterrand’s testimony.

The truth was finally revealed – in a dramatic turn of events – by Robert Pesquet, a carpenter who stepped into politics.

Palais de Justice

Formerly the residence of France’s medieval kings, Palais de Justice also housed a royal chapel and a prison.

Palais de Justice

At the Palais de Justice, in front of reporters and lawyers, Pesquet read out a letter posted to himself two days before the staged assassination. The plan of events which unfolded exactly on that night was recorded in the letter! Pesquet claimed that this was Mitterrand’s scheme.

Mitterrand defended himself with the claim that Pesquet had come to him with orders from French-Algerian friends for Mitterrand’s life over his own. Since a fake assassination would deter potential killers and help his friend, Mitterrand had agreed to play along. Pesquet, however, publicly accused Mitterrand for organising the whole scandal, and Mitterrand became the victim of a right-wing plot to ruin his political career.


Just what were the truths behind these assassination attempts? Their stories are sure to remain with you as you explore Boulevard Saint-Germain and other iconic landmarks of France. Aside from the City of Lights and Love, Odyssey has a wide offering of tours for you to learn more about the culture and historic sites of France in person.

Small group tours for senior travellers

Odyssey Traveller is famous for our small groups, and we average eight participants per tour. Our maximum group size is eighteen people, which ensures quality, flexibility and care that is tailored to our clients. We specialise in small group tours for the senior traveller who is seeking adventure or is curious about the world we live in. Typically, our clients begin travelling with us from their mid 50’s onward. But be prepared to meet fellow travellers in their 80s and beyond! Both couples and solo travellers are very welcome on our tours.

About Odyssey Traveller

Odyssey Traveller is committed to charitable activities that support the environment and cultural development of Australian and New Zealand communities. Accordingly, we are pleased to announce that since 2012, Odyssey has been awarding $10,000 Equity & Merit Cash Scholarships each year. We award scholarships on the basis of academic performance and demonstrated financial need. We award at least one scholarship per year. We’re supported through our educational travel programs, and your participation helps Odyssey achieve its goals.

For more information on Odyssey Traveller and our educational small group tours, visit our website. Alternatively, please call or send an email. We’d love to hear from you!

Related Tours

mount of Mont Saint Michel, France

Our 21 night program explores the north-west corner of France before hopping across the English Channel to the tiny autonomous islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Sark as well as the historic Isle of Wight. The tour combines the dramatic scenery of Normandy and Brittany with the quirky history and natural beauty of the Channel Islands together with the natural and historic splendour of the Isle of Wight in the English Channel.

22 days
British Isles, Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

French History by Rail program is based on Ina Caro’s book of the same name. Participants live in central Paris, using apartments as a base, living as the locals do, whilst meeting each day as a small group to journey by rail and TGV to the beautiful medieval centres of France.

21 days
Level 2 - Moderate

On this small group Paris tour, we take the time to get to know the Paris beyond the tourist centres. Staying in apartments, we  immerse ourselves in the city’s history, art, and culture, with a mixture of guided tours, day trips, and time to enjoy the city at leisure

21 days
Level 2 - Moderate