The Giddy Heights of Paris

This is the second post about my Paris trip. The first can be found here.

While in Paris I obviously couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Eiffel Tower, so, after visiting the Arc de Triomphe, I strolled over.

Perhaps surprisingly, the tower comprises only three floors. The two lower floors are in the legs, and can be easily made out in photographs. The third floor is at the very top. The only way to reach it is via a lift from the second floor, but it’s possible to walk the first two legs of the journey (pun intended). To me, taking a lift seemed like cheating. If I was going to climb the tower then I wanted to actually climb the tower (at least as much as possible). It only costs 5E to walk as well (9E for the lift), which seemed pretty reasonable, so up I climbed.

The stairs weave between the leg’s metalwork. It’s pretty breezy, but the view becomes increasingly spectacular. Upon reaching the first floor I went to explore. Around the central section is a glass floor through which you can see ant-like people milling around below. I strolled onto the glass and looked down. Much to my surprise, my stomach did a backflip. I’ve never really had a problem with heights before, but I felt quite queasy. I hastily, but unsteadily, shuffled off the glass and onto solid (and opaque) floor. I was a little surprised (and a little embarrassed) if I’m honest. Acrophobia isn’t something I’ve ever suffered before. It was high, admittedly, but it wasn’t that high. My surprise nausea even made me reconsider my ascent, for brief moment. If I felt bad at the first floor, how would I feel at the much higher top floor? I didn’t want to find myself stuck up there freaking out. But I quickly dismissed the idea. There was no way I was going to take a trip to the Eiffel Tower and not make it to the top! So, upwards I climbed.

By the time you reach the second floor, you’re certainly pretty high. The view begins to stretch out in all directions. The ant-like people morph into flea-like people, while the traffic trundling along the road below turns into toy trucks cars and from an elaborate toy set. It’s also pretty windy. The stairs were still weaving their way through the metal work, so they were pretty exposed. After grabbing a few photos it was time to continue the climb, though at this point transport was required.

It was only a further 6E for the final leg of the journey. Again, I couldn’t help but find it quite reasonable. It is, after all, the most popular tourist attraction in the world. After the minute or two in the lift the doors opened and we all filed out to enjoy the incredible views. If the second floor was high, the third floor didn’t compare. It’s about the height of an 81 storey building, so it’s certainly on the tall side.

The tower was built in 1889 by the eponymous Gustave Eiffel. Despite being built so long ago it’s, surprisingly, still the tallest structure in Paris. It’s also the most visited paid-monument in the world. In 2010 it received its 250 millionth visitor. But it wasn’t always that popular. Many people, particularly artists and architects, were greatly opposed to the construction. Not least of all was Guy de Maupassant, around whom the famous story arose that claims (likely apocryphal) that he ate lunch there every day as it was the only place in Paris from which the tower was not visible. But the general public embraced the tower immediately. By the end of the exhibition 1,896,987 people had visited. It was originally only meant to be up for twenty years before being dismantled. But no doubt its popularity helped save it. It was also saved on another occasion in 1944. Hitler ordered for it to be dismantled. Thankfully the orders were ignored. That Hitler, eh?

I obviously grabbed lots of photos while enjoying the views, along with the rest of the crowds. It was pretty busy up there. While enjoying the attraction I couldn’t help but note people’s clothing. There were visitors from every corner of the globe, but everywhere I looked all I saw were jeans, trainers, T-shirts and baseball caps. It’s funny really. At places like that the homogeneity of the modern world can be quite striking. I couldn’t help but think “Well, America, in terms of the culture wars, you win!” Although there was one American whose attire struck me as a little inappropriate. He was wearing a white vest emblazoned with a US flag and the slogan “Back to back world war champs”. I’m not sure that’s an item I’d pack for a trip to Europe, but each to their own. Anyway, I grabbed lots of photos, ignored the slight bit of rain, experienced no more giddiness and headed back down.

After getting back down to the first level I decided to force myself to walk all the way around the glass floor. There was no way I was going to be beaten by a glass floor! I did get a strange look from a nearby boy of around ten as I awkwardly shuffled onto the glass, looking a little queasy. Meanwhile, other kids tore past me laughing and playing, seemingly oblivious to the glass. After taking a few steps I finally relaxed and was okay to walk around it. I then headed back down.

Back on terra firma I accosted one of the many sellers of cheap Eiffel Tower ornaments. My brother took a trip to Paris back in the 90s and bought one as he considered having a tacky trinket of the Eiffel Tower was one of life’s necessities. When he realised I taking the trip he implored me to get one too.


About lanceleuven

2 responses to “The Giddy Heights of Paris

  • suzykewct

    My ground-eye view of the Tour Eiffel – twice – shows how much of postcard Paris I’ve yet to see properly. Mind you, I have been to Les Invalides, bought a tarte tatin pan at Samaritaine (before it closed), had a snack at the top floor cafeteria at Galeries Lafayette and scored the perfect picnic (pique-nique?) on Rue Cler for a trip to London on Eurostar years ago. I guess each of us creates iconic memories from our personal experiences. I like to think that way, else I’d be stressing out thinking of all the things I was ‘supposed to’ see and skipped.


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