Here’s a short piece that I recently wrote, closely inspired by my own previous visits to the Eiffel Tower. A visit to France, Paris in particular, is definitely a bucket-list worthy experience. 🙂
IMPORTANT: Please give full credit to me should you wish to share this.
Up the Tower ©
by C Canda
“Mademoiselle, would you like to buy the Eiffel Tower?”
I gasped softly, surprised at the voice that suddenly spoke to my right. It was dusk, the sun quickly setting. I was in Paris, walking briskly along the Pont d’Lena that led to the foot of the Eiffel Tower from the Jardins du Trocadero. It had been a fairly warm October day but the temperature quickly dropped to a windy cold by late afternoon.
“Maganda, kamusta? Konichiwa? Buy Eiffel Tower?” the tall, dark young man smiled brightly at me, making a show of his language skills. He proffered his wares proudly, a bunch of miniature plastic towers looped across his arm, each lit up in a variety of colors. His perfect white teeth reflected the colors of the battery-operated towers.
“Non,” I shook my head. “No, thank you,” I continued walking, as a breeze blew my hair off the side of my face. I adjusted my scarf and warmed my hands further inside my coat pockets.
“Ah, please, si’l vous plait, very cheap, one euro only for three,” the young salesman’s voice sounded a little more aggressive. I could feel his body heat as he walked alongside me, matching me step for step. From my peripheral vision, I noticed him motion to a cohort and, within a minute, there were four of them, crowding me as I attempted to walk on.
The stoplight at the short pedestrian crossing ahead unfortunately turned red. A parade of cars chose that moment to all drive by, giving me no choice but to wait and hope not to be thieved, or worse, attacked.
“Non, non, I’m sorry I’ve got no cash. Maybe another time,” I declared loudly, gesturing “no”, and stepping away from the small band of laughing men. They were now talking in their native tongue, strange sounds to my ear.
I came behind a family of four, likely tourists from the cameras slung around their necks, Germans I think, from the little I heard them speak. They glanced at me as if questioning, are you alright? The father looked menacingly at the street peddlers, challenging them to come any closer to me and his family. I gave him a small smile, thanks. He nodded and pointed to the stoplight. It had turned green.
I quickly skipped ahead. I walked past the carousel and the creperie stand.
I approached the ticket booth and just about made the last scheduled trip up the tower. Behind the booth, I could see one of the groups prior just getting back down and off the elevator.
“Bonjour, monsieur. Une billet, si’l vous plait,” I said carefully to the white haired man behind the glass. I have been taking French language classes before arriving in Paris a week ago, but I was still getting used to the proper enunciations and intonations.
The man glanced at the wall clock to the side, and slowly returned his gaze to me. His thin pale lips curled up in a slight snarl, and he said, “Seize euro”.
I pushed twenty euro into the narrow slot. He took it, keyed in a few strokes on his machine, and handed me my change and my ticket. “Turn right, and wait to be called,” the man said in heavily accented English, whilst pointing to the entryway.
“Merci beaucoup, monsieur,” I answered, smiling slightly. It was hit or miss, I noticed, when dealing with the locals here. Some were naturally nice, some were just not. I suppose it is the same for any other city.
I took my place in the short queue and soon found myself shepherded into the giant metal elevator. There were only about a dozen people in my group that were mostly couples, I noted.
The view going up the top was beautiful. The sky was an exquisite blanket of pinks and purples, darker shades on the bottom as the night fell. The lights across the city were slowly turned on, each arrondissement lit following the next. The elevator halted to a stop on the first level viewing deck and the doors whooshed open. I heard excited chatter outside as earlier visitors walked around the souvenir shop and queued for the toilets.
All but my self and one other person stepped off. A microphoned voice announced the ascent to the topmost view deck.
I stayed in place by the elevator window. I glanced at the man opposite me. He was tall and broad shouldered, and he wore an expensive looking dark suit. His face was obscured by longish dark hair, his head down as he spoke intensely into his mobile phone. He looked up, just as the elevator opened again.
I stepped out into the now freezing Paris air. The night and the altitude caused a vast drop in temperature. There were only a handful of visitors left, I noticed, as I walked towards the west side of the deck, where the winds did not blow as hard.
It was relatively quiet where I stood, with only soft voices carrying over from people on the other side. I pushed my left coat sleeve up to check the time – five past seven. I had five minutes to spare.
With my heart pounding, I took out my new slim camera from my satchel and turned its setting to video.
I looped the thin camera strap around my neck and poised it in front of me. I checked my watch again – seven oh eight. Any minute now.
The excited voices from the other visitors faded into the background as suddenly, my surroundings became so bright it was startling. It felt like the most special of days, like new year’s eve, as all twenty thousand lightbulbs glittered on the tower’s exterior frame.
People cheered as the tower lit up in all its glory, as if announcing to the world, here I am! Look at me!
I continued to record my visit, commentating quietly and in awe, encircling the deck and even asking people to wave at my camera.
Those precious few minutes were undoubtedly special. It was a personal triumph like no other.
I had finally crossed off the last to-do on my bucket list.