Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Tour Eiffel
When you visit Paris, you have to go up the Eiffel Tower. It's an unwritten law, isn't it? But I must say, I've been to Paris twice now and this was my least favorite experience both times.
At the bottom of the tower is the biggest mass of tourists from all over the world that you are likely to ever encounter. At first, it's charming and thrilling being among such a mass of humanity. You listen to all the different languages and study all the different fashions. You try to guess where people are from. But then you get in a line to buy tickets and you start to dislike them more and more. They shove. They're rude. And you're surrounded by them for at least the next hour just to buy tickets.
After the hours-long ticket line, you get in line to go up the elevator and it doesn't matter that you've all just stood in the same line to buy tickets. It's suddenly every-man-for-himself all over and the pushing, shoving and cutting in lines begins again.
You smash yourselves into an overcrowded elevator with body odors from all over the world and ascend to the first platform. Few get off here. Most continue onto the second platform, where everyone finally breathes and the camera-frenzy begins. The views are spectacular. Spend as much time here as you can. If you're smart, you'll go ahead and start walking down the stairs now before the crushing crowds to come sour your whole visit.
But you can't go down now, can you? You have to go to the top.
Forget any type of order, consideration, or civility. The line for the elevator to the top is cut-throat. It brings out the worst in everyone and suddenly you understand how world wars start. This line will last close to an hour. By now, you've spent hours in one line or another trying to get to the top, where there is little space to look out at the same views you saw below.
The line to go down is chaos. There's little point in calling it a line. Pushing and shoving are the norm. Everyone seems in an even bigger hurry to get down than to get up. You can make enemies here.
One elevator down to the second platform. Then another to the ground. By the time your feet touch earth again, you feel ready to leave Paris entirely. But then you walk a hundred feet away and turn around. The tower is magnificent. You love it. It embodies everything you've ever dreamed about Paris, and like childbirth, you forget the pain of the experience.