Simon Woods

Jill takes on the Eiffel Tower - Al Fresco Holidays

I’d managed to get to the age of forty-something without getting all the way up Gustav Eiffel’s 320m-high creation. However, that was without two children pestering me to climb the thing…

We thought we’d get there early to beat the crowds, but our early was obviously not early enough as the queues were already snaking around the plaza beneath when we arrived. Some judicious questions elicited the information that the tower could be ascended either by lift or by a combination of step aerobics and lift. And of course the smallest queue was for the steps route. After girding our loins and paying our entrance fee, we managed (with a few breathing stops) to get to the first level (357 steps – my new hip doing well). Wandering round the observation deck we were able to see the breathtaking (literally!) view of the city.

Then up another 357 steps to the second level – getting hotter now and needing lunch, which we ate overlooking Le Palais de Chaillot on the Trocadero. Envied the people splashing about in the fountains in front of it. A stunning variety of architecture on display: the domes of Sacre Coeur, the Grand Palace and the L’Hotel des Invalides, the spires of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre.

Now to get a ticket for the lift to the top. Another queue and then another to actually get into the lift, but at the top we decided it had been well worth it although we would forego the Champagne at €10 a glass (or sparkling water for €3). Curiously, in places on the iron mesh covering the viewing area, there were little padlocks. Apparently it’s an imported tradition from Italy, where lovers declare undying love for each other and place a padlock as a token of their love and then throw away the key. Very romantic – but not very aesthetically pleasing!

After an easy (OK, easier) descent, we headed for the Louvre, which fortunately was really quiet – no queues!! Unfortunately there was a reason why there were no queues: it was closed. And as we discovered when we attempted to go to the Poppadom (Pompidou) instead, so were all the major museums in Paris. Of course – it was Tuesday! And of course we should have known that being one of the great cultural cities of the world, attracting millions of tourists every year, Paris would shut it’s museum doors to visitors in the middle of the week. So…no Mona Lisa, no Venus de Milo, and no modern art at the Poppadom. However, we did enjoy watching a busker singing complete gobbledegook in his attempt to woo the crowd with cover versions of (English) soft rock songs. Very funny, very French – apart from the fact that he was from Barcelona…


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