diamond geezer

 Monday, March 11, 2013

À Paris: la tour Eiffel
When in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is a must-climb. Or it should be, assuming that a) the weather's decent and b) the queues aren't too long. I had luck on my side with the weather. Saturday was a fine spring day in Paris, the sky mostly cloudless and the temperature well into double figures (the UK not so, I understand, which means I picked to spend my birthday in precisely the right place). But the queues took a bit more planning. Last time I was here in 2005 I thought I'd turn up at 6pm because it might be quieter then, but the tower stays open until 11pm so I met lengthy resistance. This time I went for the early approach, heading straight from the Eurostar to the Trocadero, then walking down through the gardens and across the Seine. The €14 queue to take the lift up the tower was already rather long, but the €5 queue to take the stairs was only half an hour. Result, game on.

What they don't tell you, at the foot of the Pilier Sud, is that climbing to the deuxième étage is the equivalent of climbing a 43 storey building. That slowly dawns because the steps are numbered, every tenth with digits stencilled to one side, and these climb inexorably upwards. The first flight is curved, then repeatedly back and forth in staggered ascent, a narrow metal staircase threading between the pillar's ironwork. I don't always have the best head for heights but this was OK, so long as I remembered the metalwork's not spontaneously collapsed now for 125 years. Eventually the climb darkens as you reach the underside of the premier étage, and then you're out... into a bit of a dump. The central platform is being revamped to create a better visitor space, even a "hospitality destination", with reconstruction due to be completed later this year. In the meantime visitors are restricted to unfenced-off parts of the exterior, or the posh restaurant, or of course the obligatory gift shop within. And that's fine because it's the view you're up here for, and it's marvellous.

When you're ready, there are lots more steps to the deuxième étage. This was a slightly more unnerving climb, though it shouldn't have been, and I tried not to show my trepidation to the liftfuls rushing past. Past 500 steps, past 600, until the final riser read 669 (and no, I wasn't out of breath). Balconies run around the entire perimeter, on two storeys thanks to the need for double-decker lifts. You're open to the weather, which can be grim but was delightfully springlike on Saturday. Even better the safety grille has a grating wide enough to be entirely camera-friendly, and from the upper deck there's nothing in the way at all. Indeed the Eiffel Tower easily beats the Orbit in East London on lack of obstruction (and on price, height and view). To the west, on a nearby bridge, tiny Metro trains rumble across the Seine. To the southeast, in a formal green stripe, lie the gardens of the Parc du Champ de Mars. To the northeast, set high above the rooftops of the inner city, sit the gleaming domes of Sacré-Cœur. And to the northwest are the Chaillot gardens, marked by the tower's noonday shadow, with the financial towers of La Defense rising on the horizon.

I was expecting it to be packed up here, but not so. Wherever you wanted to stand there was room, often plenty, this despite the presence of a large group from an English primary school (wearing red baseball caps for easy identification). Another reason for the space was that a significant number of the people up here were queueing. The lifts to the troisième étage are only small, so it takes a while to get on board, and then a while to escape back down again when you're ready. I was tempted to head up to the very top - there's a cash desk here where you pay the €5.50 extra (which is my top tip if you ever pay a visit). But I looked at the queues, and thought how much of my brief trip to Paris this would consume, and decided against. I've done the upper deck once before, back in 1980 on a French Exchange, and that memory'll have to do for now. This just left me 669 steps down, the descent not scary at all, this time stuck behind a party of lively deaf teenagers waving their hands. The queues looked much worse at this point, even for those who'd pre-booked their tickets. But I'd beaten the multitudes this time, and enjoyed a stunning Parisian panorama as a result. A birthday highlight, long to be remembered.

» 19 photos of and from the Eiffel Tower [slideshow]


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream