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Published: June 22nd 2017
Following are the details of Ashley's visit to the Eiffel Tower this morning, in her own words:
This morning I put on my "Big Girl Panties" because Grandma and Mitch had arranged a special tour for me to go to the summit of the Eiffel Tower. After eating an early breakfast, we left around 9:15 to go to the tour office, where Mitch left me for the rest of the morning. I learned at the beginning of the tour that every person in our 20 member group was from America, mainly a large family from Wisconsin and a mix of others from Philly, Georgia, and St. Louis. We all sat and chatted a little before our tour guide, a young British dude named Sam, introduced himself and we set off for the Jardins du Champ de Mars, which was less than a block away.
Sam gave us these little headsets so that we could hear him talking, no matter where we were on the tower, which I thought was clever. I quickly learned some need-to-know facts about the tower while on the walk to the security screening checkpoint. The tower is credited to be designed by Gustave Eiffel as
an entry for the 1889 World's Fair. The tower was actually designed by two of his apprentices, who don’t really get any recognition for their efforts. When the tower was designed it won over other French designs that included a enormous guillotine, a gruesome symbol associated with the French Revolution in 1789, and a giant barrel of champagne that destroyed roads when it was rolled into Paris.
The tower was only supposed to be built for the World's Fair, but the government was short on funds while putting it together, so they made a deal with Eiffel. He would provide the money if the tower could remain standing for 20 years. This was a smart move, since it cost $35 million Euros in today’s currency to build the tower, and it only took Gustave 6 months to recoup his investment. The other 19.5 years were pure profit! It only took 2 years to build the 1,063 ft. tower, all done by climbers without harnesses, and surprisingly enough only a single person died (and it wasn’t even from falling). France also bent some rules in the making of the tower. For the World's Fair, all components of entries were to
be created and built by residents of the country. However, when designing the slanted elevators that go up each of the four legs of the tower (to the first and second floors), Eiffel couldn’t find a company willing to take-on such a risky job. Instead, he convinced an American company, that is still in business today, to open an office in France so that they could complete the job.
Of course, the Eiffel Tower design took first place in 1889 over another French design, with the Bronze Medal being awarded to the Heineken brewing company, which was tasted for the first time that year. Since the World's Fair, the tower has remained standing and attracts tourists from all over the world. However, it’s always been highly controversial, as some people find it to be an eyesore in the skyline of Paris. One famous writer of the time noted that the top of the Eiffel Tower is the only place you don’t have to see it. I believe this must be true, since from almost every place you go in Paris, there is a view of “The Iron Lady"!
When we got to the base of the tower, we
had to go through a security check. Things you’re not allowed to have on the tower; sharp objects, national flags, and harmonicas? I’m still not sure why this specific instrument is included. Anyway, I passed. We walked to the north elevator and went through a second security check, which was much like an airport. Apparently, there has never been this level of scrutiny in the past, as you could walk freely under the tower. But now, as many of you know, times have recently changed in Paris. Uniformed and armed men and women are often visible as they walk the streets in Paris.
It was fairly uncrowded at the tower, since it was earlier in the morning, so it was only about a five minute wait to get on the first elevator, with 2 levels to it. It was like a small sized room, and probably 30 people could fit on each level. I have to say my stomach was churning a little, being so close to so many people and standing right at the edge of the glass windows looking straight down at the people below getting smaller and smaller! We went straight up to the second level
of the tower (which is really the 3rd level), where the views of all of Paris were already breathtaking. We then got in another elevator line, which was a little longer wait, like fifteen minutes. This elevator was much smaller, and it was a much longer ascent to the tippy top of the tower. The outdoor, caged-in area at the top allowed for 360-degree panoramic views of Paris and the surrounding countryside. The skyline was slightly hazy, I think because we were so high in the air, it really was a sunny day on the ground. Even so, every monument in Paris was visible and breathtaking to see them all at once from the top of the tower. After spending about 20 minutes at the summit, we took the elevator back down to the second level, where Sam walked us around the much more spacious deck, pointing out monuments that would be worth visiting while in Paris. Some of these include the Louvre, Invalides, Notre-Dame, Sacré-Cœur, and the Arc de Triomphe, among many others.
Once the guide was finished, we were free to roam about the tower on our own, or leave. I decided to stay a little longer,
and then looked around the tacky souvenir shops on the second floor. Since the elevators made me a little nervous on the way up, I decided to try something different on the way down. So I took the stairs for my journey down from the second level, stopped at the first level to check out the glass floors looking down to the ground, and to sample a miniature bottle of wine that cost the same as a coke. I should’ve started counting earlier, but from the second level to the ground it was roughly 378 steps. Needless to say, by the time I got to the bottom, I had done my workout for the day, and I walked back to the apartment where there was air conditioning (yes, sometimes I am thankful for the "meat locker" where I sleep, with the A/C unit just a few feet away from my bed).
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed, but I am still in disbelief that I got to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower! This whole trip so far has been like a childhood dream come true, so thank you Grandma and Mitch!! I LOVE PARIS
♥ Our dinner this evening at the Café Constant, located around the corner from our apartment on rue Saint-Dominique, was such a memorable experience that it deserves special mention in today's blog. I had been familiar with this rather unpretentious-looking brasserie owned by the famous French chef Christian Constant, who runs several other high-end restaurants on the same street, after reading several reviews over the years. In fact, on one of our previous trips Dee and I had tried to have lunch here, but it was closed that day. On that occasion, we ended up eating at La Fontaine de Mars a few doors away, a restaurant where Barack and Michelle Obama had a meal during the early years of his presidency.
After we entered this cramped, two-level café and wedged ourselves into a table on the ground floor, the vintage décor (including a classic zinc bar) gave us the sense of an authentic French brasserie. But none of us were expecting the culinary treats that were soon to delight our palates. The young staff were extremely friendly and adroit, coping almost effortlessly with a typically packed house, and we began by ordering a carafe of
rosé for the girls and a gin for myself. After deliberating over the menu for quite awhile (...Ashley), the waiter took our orders.
When Dee's appetizer (Tarte fine aux gambas grillées, salade de pousses d’épinards et sauce citronella)
arrived, we knew we were in a different gastronomic universe! All our taste buds experienced major "Wow" moments as we savored the simple, well-prepared dishes we had ordered; see today's photo section for descriptions. By the time we had polished off our desserts and cups of espresso, Dee and I voted this meal as the best of our entire trip!
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