Lucky Eiffel Tower

by Jessica on March 8, 2009

The Eiffel Tower at dusk

As much as the organized part of me would like to claim that the secret to successful family travel is always researching thoroughly and planning ahead, I have to admit that a good deal of success can be pinned down to old fashioned good luck. That’s not to say that planning doesn’t have its part, but sometimes it’s the things that you don’t plan that make the difference.

Our first morning in France began with a three hour car trip from Calais to Paris. The French countryside welcomed us with soft rolling hills and a gentle fog that lifted along with the morning sun.

Once in Paris, we checked into our hotel. Paris is divided into sections called arrondissments, which form a spiral shape from the center of the city. Because we were traveling using hotel points, we opted to stay off the main tourist streets to conserve our points. This meant that we needed to drive into the city for sightseeing.

Like most big cities, driving in Paris can be tricky, but Paris has a driving flair of its own. For starters, lane markers are thought of more as guidelines than rules. It is not uncommon for drivers to create their own lane anywhere at any time. Also, all concepts of right of way can be tossed completely out the window. Basically, it is like a sophisticated game of Frogger where you rapidly cross the street and hope you don’t get plowed over.

Our first stop was the iconic symbol of the city, the Eiffel Tower. We easily found a car park that was some distance from the tower, but this turned out to be a stroke of luck. The distance allowed us to walk through the park and enjoy the view of the tower while taking some great pictures. Once we arrived at the Tower, we were met with confusion.

First, there are tons of peddlers who are not shy about shaking their wares in your face. They seemed to especially target the children in hopes that they would be an easier sale. This was especially foreign and frustrating for all the boys. Of course, we have taught our boys to be polite, so we had to have some interesting conversations about how to say no firmly. They were interested in the cultural differences that drove the peddlers to earn money this way, and Ryan kept wondering why they didn’t get ‘real jobs.’

Ryan finally gets the red beret he has been wanting.

 The second challenge at the tower was finding the right tickets and lines. There are four legs that extend up into the tower and you can enter from any of these legs. Tickets are available for climbing the stairs, riding the elevator, or a combination of either. Even after being there, I still do not understand all of the ticket options. I do know that if I were to visit again, I would likely purchase a tour so that we could forgo the lengthy lines.
The whole process of climbing up the tower was a series of lines. Lines for tickets, lines for the first elevator, lines for the second elevator, lines to go back down. We chose a ticket that allowed us to go to the second deck. This turned out to be the lucky best choice, because we were up high enough to see the panorama of the city, but not so high that we did not recognize the landmarks.

Looking North from the Eiffel Tower towards Palais de Chaillot

If I had been choosing, I would have skipped the lines and viewed the city from the Arc de Triomph. But, it wasn’t about me. Aidan had been talking about climbing up the Eiffel Tower since the planning of the trip. For him we endured the lines. Once at the top, he was so giddy from the experience that he couldn’t even stay still for a picture, but we tried anyway. Something about that monument was meaningful to him. To this day, if he sees a picture of the Eiffel Tower, he will say proudly, “That’s the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been to the top.”

Aidan and Mom at the top of the Eiffel Tower

 Once back on the ground and out of the crowd, we heard a faint musical tinkling calling to us from the other side of the park. A carrousel ride and cotton candy was in order for all of the boys, and how could anything be more storybook perfect than riding a carrousel and eating cotton candy in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?

 The sun was starting to set and we were trying to decide if we should drive to get something to eat or walk. The smell of warm paninis and hot chocolate helped us to decide to stay right next the tower and enjoy our meal outdoors. Just as we were finishing our dinner, and dusk was settling on the city, the twinkling lights on the tower began to dance. The boys loved the lights, which twinkle on the hour for ten minutes. I am so glad we did not leave to eat, as we would have missed the best part of the day.

On the way back to the car, we found a playground and the boys wanted to stop and play for a while. Gary and I sat on a bench, close together and watched our boys playing under the sparkle of the Eiffel Tower. Moments of romance are few and far between on a trip with three boys. But, with the Eiffel Tower in the background and laughter all around us, we were caught up in the spirit of the city and there was much love.

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