The Eiffel Tower which was built to commemorate
the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, by engineer Gustav
Eiffel, was originally only supposed to stay up for 20 years. But
its use as an antennae saved it and today it is the most recognizable
symbol of Paris. Before the Empire State Building was built in 1931
it was the tallest building in the world at 320 meters or over one
thousand feet high.
As a tourist you
can't go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. That's because you
can see it from all over the city. You even see it when you are
flying over Paris taking off or landing. Going to the top of the
Eiffel Tower is another thing. I did not visit it until the last
morning of my third visit to Paris. Our late afternoon flight gave
us an entire morning to do as we wished and except for having to
race back to the hotel to be out of the room by noon, there was
plenty of time to take a cab and take the elevator to the top. But
when I got to the famous landmark there was a half hour line for
the elevators and I was resigned to wandering around taking photos from the bottom.
Then I saw one entrance where they were collecting
tickets and there was no line. What could this be? They were the
stairs. I decided to climb the Eiffel Tower on foot. At least the
367 steps to the first level. I knew that when I got back to
Carrboro, North Carolina it would be Saturday night and in my favorite
bar some friend who had not even noticed I had been missing would
ask me what I had done today. "Nothing much. Just climbed the
Eiffel Tower". He would think I was joking and go on to
the next subject but I would be persistent. "No, really. I
climbed the Eiffel Tower this morning and I TOOK THE STAIRS".
People around us would stop their conversations and listen in. Women
with free-spirited Democratic leanings who had spent the last
3 weeks mourning the 2004 elections would suddenly look at their
Republican lawyer husbands with distaste and wonder about the international
adventurer in their midst who had climbed the Eiffel Tower that
morning, on foot no less.
But before I could bask in the glory I had
to climb the thing which was not an easy task. I began counting
the steps, just as a way to make the time pass, but after awhile
it just made me more tired and I started counting the landings
instead. Even that required too much extra effort. I could see I
was making great progress by looking at the buildings around me
but whenever I looked up at the first platform which was my destination,
it seemed like I still had a long way to go and I might not make
it. I started feeling my age. My fifty-year old heart was straining
and my lungs hurt with every breath, still I pushed on. I passed
people going down and they looked at me with a sort of pity, having
been in my situation a half-hour before (about the time I estimated
it would take me to recuperate).
At last I made it to the first observation platform. Not the second or the third but at least for this trip as far as I was going to go. I wandered around and took photos from every angle and direction before walking down the stairs which of course was much easier though still tiring in a different way. The first level has a cafe, a museum with films of famous visitors and other interesting things to read and see. But probably you will be so impressed by the
view that you will have to force yourself to look at anything else. If you go to the second level I recommend the elevator unless you are an athlete in training. The Jules Verne restaurant has good food and a nearly unbeatable view. In fact the only better one is all the way at the top where Gustav Eiffel used to have his sitting room.
I did go to my local bar at home and I did say in a loud voice that I had climbed the Eiffel Tower that morning. But nobody was impressed. The only response was from a woman nearby who pronounced that she too loved Paris and then started to let us know how much she knew the city until in the end we had to change the subject to basketball just so she would leave us alone. So I did not get a reward or the respect I thought that climbing the Eiffel tower would
earn me. But I did get these really terrific pictures. Oh yeah. I was sore for days, but it was something to remember Paris by.
For those who don't want to climb the stairs or wait in line there are some options. The Skip the Line Eiffel Tower Tour will save your valuable vacation time as your guide will take you through a special entrance and around the second level of the Tower while discussing the history, architecture, and interesting stories about the monument. Access to all three levels of the Tower is included!
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