Friday, July 4, 2008

Postcards from Paris v. 1

Catching up on things I owe the we go

There are some things you only do once in life because you have to, and ascending the Eiffel Tower is one of them. I think first-time visitors to Paris fall for it because they are awe-fully starstruck by all the big names in Paris: Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Invalides, Sacre Coeur -- all of which they can see from still another angle from the biggest name of them all: le Tour Eiffel itself.

What they are not aware of, and what return travelers painfully remember, is the nearly 90 minute wait to buy tickets, the elevator up to the second level and all of its sardine-packed pandemonium, where you wait another 30-45 minutes to be crammed into a still smaller sardine can to be pushed to the top of the tower, where you can barely move for want of space. And honestly, while it is mildly entertaining to experience vertigo at 980 feet of open air (didn't know I had that problem!) and see miniature versions of your favorite monument from that high up, I suggest you buy your favorite in faux-brass miniature version from the "bling bling" illegal vendors at the base of the tower and invest this time somewhere else in the city. Or walk around the neighborhoods near le Tour and catch it peeking at you through gardens, between apartments and over brasseries.

But you won't follow that tip, I know you, newbie in Paris. I know, because on your first trip to Paris you just have to do it, and that's ok because I did too. And because I am in Paris with a newbie visitor, I have to do it again, so I do. Going against my gut instinct, we are there an hour after opening, so we end up investing 3 1/2 hours in the process of waiting, ascending, photographing for mere minutes at the top, and descending. But by the second level of the descent, we are both so fed up with waiting and crowds that we take the stairs - 760 of them - to the ground, which only takes 10 minutes, earning us back time better used elsewhere, like over a croque monsieur and grand creme up the street.

That said, we did it and Abby loved the view (but not the crowds) and I suffered vertigo for the first time, nearly dropping my Nikon from 1000 feet up. So I leave here with the knowledge that hopefully, I will not have to ascend that beautiful tower again.

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