Ever since I was a wee lass, I’ve had an intense love of France. The land, the history, the language, the culture…all of it. Perhaps it’s because of the French blood flowing through my veins, or of my last name that its people can actually pronounce, or of reading and watching several versions of The Three Musketeers. In any case, I’ve always wanted to visit France.
And that meant Paris.
Which meant the Eiffel Tower…
…and my moment of muted awe when I inched through a security line and finally – finally! – stood underneath it.
I was underneath the Eiffel Tower. I was underneath the Eiffel Tower!!! The metal structures building up level by level reminded me of the view I had gotten climbing up the Statue of Liberty, since both were designed by Gustave Eiffel. No surprise, since the similarities were very apparent.
But for me, the Eiffel Tower is more than just amazing architecture. It is the icon of France, the country I’ve always dreamed of visiting. It is the jewel of Paris, the City of Lights, Queen of Europe. It stirs up feelings of national pride and nostalgia of fresh-baked baguettes.
And the hundreds, if not thousands, of other people must have had similar sentiments.
There were three ticket lines, each of them packed tight with people queuing in coiling loops. Some were for elevators, some were for stairs. We found a sign that said Ascenseur (or Elevator) and placed ourselves at the back of the line.
No benches. No places to sit. No problem? Well…not that I was complaining, but I had already climbed nearly 400 steps up the highest hill in Paris to the tallest tower of Sacre Coeur and walked all the way from the Arc de Triumph to the Eiffel Tower (a very charming walk through Parisian streets, but a walk all the same.) My feet were burning and my legs ached, but Europe has an addictive tendency to lure travelers up and down more flights of steps, across more streets, and through ridiculously longer lines than otherwise possible.
So I stood in the never-shortening line and courageously accepted the fact that I’d be waiting for the rest of my life.
An hour later, surprise surprise, we were still in line, though we shuffled forward a tiny bit every few minutes. My feet ached and throbbed. Micah got shooed off the steps of a café. The geometrical iron underside of the Eiffel Tower started to glare at me.
Then a man approached us and announced that the line we were in was not for the elevator, but for climbing. What? What about the sign?
The man shrugged. The sign was in the wrong place.
Of course it was.
As the man waltzed off to inform everyone else in line behind us, my family held a huddled conference. Our decision was easy. There was no way we were wasting that precious time on our exhausted feet and getting into the back of an intimidatingly long line for the elevator. So we braved out the remainder of the wait, during which the erroneous sign was relocated.
Finally we reached the ticket booth. I never knew slips of paper could be so precious. We started up the climb to the first floor, but it took about fifteen steps and my frenzied excitement took over again.
I was climbing up the legs of the Eiffel Tower! I could touch the iron trusses! It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but I was certain the view would be once I got past the latticed iron bars. My feet shrieked in protest, but I ignored them.
347 steps later, I emerged onto the first level with Micah on my heels. The view just begged to be soaked in. My throbbing feet were utterly forgotten as I took in the sight of Paris from above.
I had climbed further up than I thought. Though from below the first floor doesn’t look that high, one gets quite an amazing aerial view of the city. I could pick out landmarks, like the Arc de Triumph, Louvre museum, Invalides (where Napoléon Bonaparte is buried), and Sacre-Coeur on a distant hilltop.
I circled the floor, reading history presentations, when I discovered a section of the floor that was made of glass! Walking on it was a bit scary, as I could see the crowds of people below and a white pattern on the floor, but it was exciting. One Chinese man who saw the glass freaked out and, though I smiled and motioned for him to try, he refused, absolutely terrified. His loss.
Mama and Papa caught up and we circled around the first floor, examining historical presentations and fascinating videos. Then we continued wearily up the 327 steps to the second floor. I wasn’t so spry anymore, my shoes feeling like solid lead and the wind feeling like icy knives, but we eventually made it and I gazed at the beautiful city in between pants, shivers, and guzzles of water.
I glanced up at the remainder of the Eiffel Tower, and my head spun. Forget the railing. It felt like I was about to topple backwards to fall down, down to the ground. So scary!
We spent a lot of time resting our sore feet and soaking in the sights, when I realized the sun would be soon be setting over the River Seine.
I hurried to the west side and gasped. I had seen sunsets all around the world, every time being a new and special experience, but there was something unique about it that time, the feeling of witnessing such a gorgeous sight from the Eiffel Tower.
The pink, red, and orange clouds swirled around a striking line of pure, golden sunlight. A canvas of heavenly glory, painted by angels. The warmth of the last rays of the sun enveloped on my face, and I soaked it in. A few moments later, the reddish pink disc disappeared below the horizon, and though I was sorry to see it go, my attention immediately turned to the city lighting up all around me.
Ah, what can describe the City of Lights alit at night? A sight more beautiful than in the day. All the monuments glowed golden, while the city sparkled, accented in my favorite color of deep, navy blue. But soon, as the light of the sun went out, it grew windy and cold, so we huddled beneath the tower while we waited for the lights of the Eiffel Tower to turn on.
Just as my fingers were about to fall off, Micah exclaimed, “Look! It’s sparkling!”
I jumped up, energized and filled with a burst of warmth as I ran outside the cover of the tower and, though it made me dizzy, gazed up. I gasped in awe.
The Eiffel Tower was sparkling, flashes of silver light dancing up and down. I was mesmerized, wondering what it would look like from afar, when it suddenly stopped. Hmm, that was…brief. Still, the tower was bathed in a golden light, creating a beacon for all of Paris to see.
After waiting a bit longer in the chilling air, the elevator arrived, and we piled in it. I was so relieved that we weren’t forced to walk all the way down in the trepid temperatures!
The elevator experience was thrilling, since we went down at an incline, with all the metal rods growing closer to you and yet not so. Here is a picture of the elevator going down, and the second one is of the part above.
When I stepped out of the elevator into the cold air, I was rewarded with one more surprise: the gorgeous sight of the moon next to the Eiffel Tower. Somehow its small pure silver light could rival the tower’s golden halo.
I left with incredibly sore and aching feet (which felt even worse when we walked all the way back to our apartment), but fresh with a new collection of precious memories. That golden sunset will be forever seared into my head, ready to be recalled to memory at a moment’s notice. As for the Eiffel Tower, well…
It was worth every step.
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