Tuesday, March 13, 2012

towers and tunnels

Yesterday we visited the iconic Paris. 

We had a babysitter and found, not surprisingly, that the Paris metro rail, like most metro rail I imagine, is much more user-friendly without a baby and/or pushchair. The train trip didn't even seem very long. We changed lines about half way and exited just a couple of blocks from the Eiffel tower: the first stop on our travels. We kept glimpsing it as we approached - a couple of times from the train, then from the foot path, and eventually up close.

It was strange to be so close to an icon with such mythic qualities. Reminded me of visiting Washington DC - all these monuments that you've seen in movies, tv, art, etc. This thing, that might otherwise have just been an interesting architectural or engineering feature, is turned into something much more... mainly in our heads.

Fully aware of this, it was no less strange to stand beneath the tower, looking up, wondering at how I came to be there. As I predicted, we were beneath it long enough for that to sink in... in line for the lifts. I did try to buy tickets on line, but no luck. So we waited in the queue with all the other poor schlobs. It was about an hour and a half, from the back of the queue to the lift... which wasn't much different from what I expected. Realistic expectations helped, of course, but my poor back, burdened with this suddenly pregnant belly, wasn't particularly happy about it.

Views from the second level (where the lift stops)
Luuk, looking west.

C'est moi, and the view to the north west.

Looking straight up... which is where we were headed. 
I'm not ashamed to admit I was a little nervous at this point. But also a little cold, and getting tired, so we marched on wards... (in the lift, of course)

The view north east, from the top.

The southern man.

 After our descent, we headed across the Seine, then past the souvenir peddlers and a demonstration by 'femmes solidaires' involving A LOT of motorcycles, as well as pink flags and balloons by the mile.
Looking back. Yeah, I know it's all hyped and touristy up the wazoo, but still it makes my heart beat a little faster, my breath a little shorter...

We took the train from Trocadero to Charles de Gaulle-Etoile (a very good idea) and then...

Another great icon! The trick is getting to the thing, which is in the middle of a round-about: another classic example of French insanity. Eventually we found the underpass
(with all the train-station-navigating, and then this, there were quite a few stairs and tunnels, as well as icons, in our day)

Beneath the arc.


The center was fenced off for a ceremony of some kind, involving people in military uniforms, a large flame (possibly eternal), wreaths, and a band (who were warming up when we arrived, and still warming up when we left). Can't find out what was going on though, not for many-a google search with my mangled french. 

We went to dinner (occasion-appropriate champagne, and delicious pizza, which left me feeling like I'd eaten a whole ball of mozzarella) and when we left the restaurant the city had been transformed.

Caught a glimpse of the Eiffel tower, all lit up like a christmas tree, from the train on the way home. Spectacular. But I didn't take a photo, just sat there and gazed, and sighed 'wow'.

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