Paris : Conquering the Eiffel Tower(?).
Paris Travel Blog› entry 6 of 268 › view all entries
Thereâs some confusion at the ticket office. Nothing to do with my at-best patchy French skills I swear! Besides I have Jules on hand to help out. It seems momentarily, crushingly that the earliest available train seat to Paris (unless I wish to fork out approx 100 Euros) is not until much later that evening. Dismay. A whole day in Paris wiped from the vague, and fragile map of my first weekâs itineraryâŚ however, the usual trick of going back in to the ticket office and asking someone else yields the desired result of a ticket on a train leaving in âYIKES!â 4 minutes for 70 odd Euros which Julia assures me is âa good priceâ.
So there it is.
âŚand 3 hours later thatâs where I find myself. My first moment of complete disorientation sets in at Paris Montparnasse station as I realise this is truly my first time on my own entirely in a foreign speaking city where I havenât really a clue how things work, where to go and what to ask. Luckily my patchy French is seeing me good so far, and Iâm able to find my way to the metro system and buy a very handy 2 day âVisit Parisâ transport pass for 14 Euros that will cover all modes of transport for my time in Paris.
I quickly hurtle up Metro Line 7 to the 19th Arrandisement (are they called?), north-east Paris (as you look at the travel maps anyhow) and check in to St.
I chuck my bag in a locker without even checking my room and dash back out to the Metro. Half of this astonishingly beautiful day is gone already and I have a date; a reunion; a grudge match to settle with the famous, the fabulous and awe-inspiring Eiffel Tower!
Just a minutes walk out of the Ecole Militaire Metro station as I stumble excitedly over a dusty car park, there she is âBANG!â printed boldly upon the perfect blue summer skyline in the distance at the far end of the Champ de Mars (the long green swathe of grass and garden that runs from the entrance of the large Military riding school building to the marble-pedestal feet of Gustave Eiffelâs masterpiece).
A Tale : I am here to admire the Eiffel Tower but also to settle a score, for when I was here in my youth I suffered from both mild asthma and an unfortunate fear of heights and the tower inflicted both upon me!. I am lucky to have grown out of both. Heights of course by their nature still trouble that part of my human psyche that knows full well it is NOT designed to be far from solid ground having spent countless millennia evolving to descend from the great heights and trees and suchlike to leave those well and truly for the birds âthank you very much!ââŚ (depending on your point of view on these matters of course.
Today I will not - I hope - be defeated AGAIN and intend to reach the very summit of The Tower! This mission has to wait a fair old while though. Yes people, if you are going to do The Tower set aside A LOT OF TIME as queuing is the name of the game.
âWell. Here goes nothing Steveâ I nervously tell myself as, all alone (the queueâs been stopped again behind me) I take my first quivering steps on to the rusty-brown painted steps of the Pilier Sud (South Pillar). Itâs a fair old climb (not for the unfit, or unwary climber) and I must confess that whether itâs the weight of my past experiences bearing down on my physiology via the force of memory, or the fact that I am just plain sh*ting myself once more upon the Eiffel Tower I find this climb to le premiere etage extremely difficult and nerve-wrenching! A complete regression to my childhood self threatens to overwhelm me, especially in the moments when I am foolish enough to look up ahead at whatâs to come. A vertiginous veritable spiderâs web of iron girders, steps, rivets and fencing ascending like an MC Escher nightmare seemingly unendingly into the skies.
But I get there. Safe and sound. My heart pounding, breathing a little laboured and sweat avalanching off my head down to my toes. But there none the less. I can relax briefly and stroll around the large viewing platform that makes up the first level of The Tower. People sit in reclining chairs outside expensive cafes and restaurants that are placed here for your convenience etcâŚ
Not a long break though before I decide to get whilst the goingâs good and crack on up to le deuxieme etage. Strangely I find this one a little easier to handle (although not much!) and as long as my hand never strays far from the iron stair-rail I make this stretch of the ascent without the loss of too much more dignity. The indication on the stairwell is that one has clambered approx 700 steps by the time you pull up on to the second floor of The TowerâŚ.
It costs 4 Euros to climb to the second floor, and then if you wish another 4.20 Euros (and another 30 minute queue) will get you squeezed into one of the four tiny lifts that float up and down the âneckâ of The Tower to the summit and back all day long. This I am very keen to do, and find this the most relaxing part of the ascent actually. The view is astonishing as flashes of Paris below get further and further away, glimpsed between the iron girders as you fly gently upwards. Itâs crowded at the top as you might imagine but the views are extremely rewarding, and in my case a little dizzying! There is a small room or âapartmentâ at the top where a mannequin scene of a meeting between Gustave Eiffel and Thomas Edison is recreated, this being the âroom with the viewâ that Monsieur Eiffel would entertain guests and dignitaries in after The Towerâs completion.
After all that waiting and excitement of course what has come up can only now go down, so I queue once more for the lift back to the second floor and very easily skip my way down the 700 steps without a care or fear in my mind all the way back down to solid, comforting tarmacâd terra firma! âMission accomplished!â.
Iâve been at The Tower a good few hours now, so now cross the Seine over Le Pont dâLena bridge and stroll in the tree-dappled sunlight along the riverside promenade in the direction of such Paris âmomentsâ as the Grand Palais, Le Musee du Louvre and further along (today in the distance) Notre Dame cathedral. I cross the Concorde âfreewayâ in one piece with cars and motorbikes zipping death-defyingly in every direction with seemingly no pattern, rhyme or reason and stroll through the serene summer scene of Le Jardin de Tuileries, a wide pedestrian park walkway with large intermittent pools of water containing playful water fountains that people pull up to in little green chairs at the waterâs edge.
As you proceed along Le Jardin de Tuileries you eventually come upon the looming magnificence of the Louvre palace and museum. Through a marble arch where a newly married couple are having a romantic sunset photo shoot the famous glass pyramid that marks the entrance to the Louvre appears. I discover that The Louvre (which Iâve never been to before) is open late today, but it is 20.15 already and I would still only have an hour to take in a probable life-timeâs worth of culture so I defer this pleasure until tomorrow.
I continue to stroll along the Seine with the various bridges passing me by and the boats slipping along towards the finale of the sunset over the Seine. On the wooden, pedestrian-only bridge âLe Pont des Artsâ all walks of Parisian society are getting everything they can from this glorious day. Itâs clearly a grand tradition for large groups of friends, families and work colleagues to bring mouth-watering, impromptu picnics up onto the bridge to share moments of freewheeling, comfortable and natural communal laughter, friendship and love in a way that I fear is often beyond the British these days (if they ever had such moments). Fine wines are being drunk slowly from plastic cups in one hand, and crystal glasses from the next with long baguettes, cheeses and hams adding their aroma to this perfect, happy scene.