Prior to leaving Australia I had arranged to reunite with my best friend Grace underneath the Eiffel Tower, the first night I’d be in Paris, at 8:00pm. Just in case plans went astray we exchanged our various international numbers, and then I went to sleep before catching those really long flights.
Upon arrival in Reunion Island I discovered something really wonderful (insert sarcasm). In a recent upgrade of my phone handset I’d somehow managed to lose the international roaming I’d had set up. No contact in or out for me. I’d be purely relying on WiFi. (For budding Parisian Travellers, I am yet to find a better free wifi connection spot than McDonalds. Everywhere else is very hard to connect to.)
So, it was with great hope and crossed fingers that I headed down from the hotel to the Eiffel Tower. Would I get to reunite with my friend? Or would it be a missed connection?
I arrived at the tower early which gave me a great opportunity to examine the structure. And what a fine structure it is. There’s nothing worse than being disappointed by a landmark (ahem… Empire State Building) but I can safely say Eiffel’s steel structure did not disappoint. The gracious curves, the intricate ironwork, the embossed names on the side. Taller and browner than I expected, I was under the impression it was more of a silver colour, there it stood. A tower with no peer, stretching tall above the rooftops of every building close by, somehow managing to put the grand palaces that surround it to shame.
Grace, and her visiting Australian friend Hannah arrived. At this point in time there was a two hour wait to ride the elevator to the top of the tower. I had no urge to wait that long in line, it was getting cold, and I hadn’t really been fussed about going to the top. My theory has always been that observation decks on the tallest/coolest buildings in a city are pointless, and that’s the building you want IN your photo, not where you want to take your photo from. (Ahem… Space Needle.) The line to climb the tower however was empty. Grace and Hannah, who were ticking off tourist cliches by the bucket load on their similarly brief stay in the City Of Light, suggested we climb.
For 9 Euro we got the opportunity to climb the tower up to the second tier, and then take an elevator to the very top. Bargain. And can I say, money incredibly well spent. I could not imagine a greater way to experience the Eiffel Tower. 700 steps await you, and it is a little gruelling on your legs (especially if you’ve already walked 20kms that day) but the climb is what makes this so much more than just an observation deck. Information boards tell you all you could ever wish to know about the tower as you ascend. There’s even restaurants on the various levels that you can eat at. But for all it’s elegance in form, what climbing the structure shows you is its immense strength. Crisscrossing girders surround you like a cage. You’re in the tower’s grip, but she’ll look after you.
On the second level, after perusing the city, we waited for one of the tiny elevators to take us to the top. All of a sudden (on the hour) the tower sprung to life, emitting a dazzling array of sparkling lights, casting a strobe light effect over all who were waiting. From all levels of the tower you could hear people go “OH!” in awe of the sudden beauty. Urged on by the lights we clambered aboard the elevator and it rose, steadily upwards, on and on and on. Now the height of the tower was really evident. We were above everything.
There are a few things at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Being so tall it is obviously useful for various telecommunication activities, and in one area, behind some glass, you’ll find a series of very modern looking network routers. Juxtaposed to this is a room with wax works figures representing some historical scene featuring Eiffel himself (I’m assuming, as I didn’t read a sign about the room). You’ll also find the Bar Champagne.
Yes, in the most cliche of cliche things you could possibly do, we drank Champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower!
While that was exciting, the oddest part of the night comes next. I needed to use the Eiffel Tower’s facilities, and, on the very top level, there happens to be a bathroom. I actually got a bit excited. I was going to pee on top of the Eiffel Tower! How many people could say they’d done that? And this is where I started to discover some quirks. Potentially due to size and space, but also potentially a French/European thing, the bathroom was semi-unisex. There was a girls side and a boys side. The boys side a little bit more open to the public than I’d like to declare normal. No dividing walls, just boys to the left, girls to the right. There was also a bathroom attendant, a not so happy looking lady who sat in the middle of the two sides, a position where, if she wished, she could see everything… and I’m not talking about the view of Paris, though, there was a window on the door, so I guess she could see that as well.
After descending the tower- partially by stairs, partially by elevator, we returned to Earth, brimming with happiness, that only a trip on the nearby Carousel could cure…and then Nutella crepes for the girls as well.
I couldn’t think of a better way to reunite with someone I hadn’t seen for over a year and a half. What sheer luck that we could both be in the same place at the same time and enjoy such an incredible experience together.