Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tour Eiffel

Wow, what a day! We walked on the Champs-Élysées yes, THE CHAMPS ELYSEES, where Cadel Evans won the tour de France. We climbed the Arc de Triomphe - EVERY SINGLE STEP and then we went to the Eiffel Tower - ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP! Paris is fabulous and today we saw most of it from the top of two iconic buildings.

Cashing in on our southern hemisphere time clocks, we got up early and, using the travel cards supplied by Anne the unhelpful information booth lady, we ventured into our first Metro adventure. Turns out the Metro is every bit as easy as the New York subway; just find the right coloured line, work out whether you're coming or going from the city and travel to the next 'intersection' to change lines. Makes our Myki look just like the complicated and non user friendly program that it is.

Walking down the Champs-Elysees is one of those out of body travel experiences, like Times Square or the Washington Mall. Because you've seen it on TV so many times you feel like you're an extra in a movie rather than your real life. The queue at the Arc de Triomphe was virtually non existent so we got started on the circular stair case straight away. I don't know how many steps there are - it's a lot! My calves started screaming at about the half way mark. The view from the top is well worth it though. The city fans out in a series of avenues from the arch. I tried to take a photo with my panorama app and thought I'd just taken the same frame over and over; that's how symmetrical the 'segments' of the city are. The feng shui on this place must be very powerful! The roundabout at the base of the arch has to be seen to be believed. There are at least 6, unmarked lanes surrounding the building and all the avenues joining in. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to entering or leaving the roundabout, it's just a case of who dares wins, dominated by some remarkably reckless motorcycle riders who just cut a swathe across all the lanes.

Another Metro ride took us to the Trocadero station opposite the Tour Eiffel. We'd hoped to take a photo from there before we crossed the Seine but there was a full scale Tibetan protest going on so we had to jump on another train to get across. Geoff had been determined to go up the tower from the time we booked the trip and being paranoid about standing in queues, I booked a Behind the Scenes tour that included the chance to 'skip the ticket queue'. This proved to be one of my better decisions. For the price of not that much more than the admission ticket, we had a guided tour from an actor called Sebastian. Playing several imaginary roles, he told us the history of Gustav Eiffel's amazing engineering feat, along with a fair bit of World War 2 history and some interesting anecdotes about the tower. I felt fleetingly guilty as we skipped past the poor suckers standing in the freezing cold lines waiting to go up but smugly grateful for my own foresight. The view from the second level of the tower is everything you can imagine. The entire city of Paris is visible, even on a grey and cloudy day like today. For an extra few euro you can take another lift to the very top of the tower and so, we did. The view doesn't really improve but the knowledge that you are right at the pointy end of Eiffel Tower is pretty special. Those who know me well can imagine how terrified I was looking down through the 281 metres of steel girders! On the way down we stopped at the first level for a play on the glass floor - child's play after surviving the ride to the top.

One more trip on the train and we were back at Gare de Lyon. Too tired to eat or think, we'll have an early night before visiting the Montmarte tomorrow.

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