After such a long bus ride from Dublin to Paris, I slept quite late into the next day. I woke up and got dressed, determined to go visit the Eiffel Tower after finding a late breakfast. I found the hostel actually still had breakfast going, cereal and bread, so I grabbed my computer and sat down to eat and check in online.
I found I had a message on Twitter from another travel blogger asking for a picture of the Eiffel Tower to use for an article she had written. She wanted one of it at night, all lit up. I replied that I would attempt to get the shot for her, and started looking up the best route to the tower from my hostel. I found a pocket map on a rack of advertisements in the lobby and quickly marked my location and the simplest route to the tower from there, being careful not to write over any street names.
After securing my stuff back in the room, I set out into the muggy Parisian afternoon. Google maps says that the walk should be about 35 minutes, which isn’t too bad, now that all I have to carry is my camera, as opposed to my entire life for the last 8 months.
I started walking, checking my map occasionally to verify I was still on course. I passed by small shops set into the old buildings. The familiar smell of fishing boats wafted up the street and a few minutes later I passed by a stand that had fresh fish iced up and on display. There were a few stands that had fresh fruits and vegetables. When I say fresh, I mean really fresh. Living in Alaska, I’d gotten used to having produce that was shipped up on a barge and took several days to get to us. They were heavily preserved, chilled, and just not fresh. I saw bundles of oranges, apples, and strawberries. Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits, so I decided to get a bundle to eat when I got to the tower.
Of course, there was no chance I was going to make it all the way to the tower with a bag of strawberries. Even the less than perfect ones we got back home were never safe around me. I bit into one about 6 minutes after walking away from the shop and actually had to stop on the side walk and look at what I had just bit into. It was incredible! The sweetest strawberry I’d ever tasted. The most strawberry-ey taste I could fathom. I started walking again, munching on these delectable morsels while the blocks to the tower started to fly by.
I finally saw the tip of the tower in the distance, looming in the bright blue sky, getting closer with each step. After about 20 minutes of walking, and a few minutes of strawberry eating, I reached the park that faces the tower. It is a large open park, lined with trees, several fountains, and a dirt running path. It was a long park, manicured and well groomed, and filled with people. Laying down, picnics, Frisbees flying, children running, all the proper park activities you can think of.
Still a ways off, was the Eiffel tower. I could now see the whole tower, from base to tip and it was a very impressive sight. I could see there was a massive crush of people underneath it, all trying to get in lines to go up the elevators and stairways to see the view from the top of the tower. I kept walking now with my camera out to snap a few pictures here and there.
After another 5 minutes, I reached the base of the tower and was looking directly up to see the tip now. There were vendors selling small replicas, post cards, shirts and hats from small stands, and tons of people everywhere. As I milled around the site, I was approached by someone with a clip board asking to donate to a charity. The letter head was poorly photocopied, and the handwriting all looked identical for the few people that had signed the form to donate. This is a common scam that occurs in popular tourist areas and Paris was far from immune to these people. I was approached 5 times over the course of the hour I spent under the tower all with a slightly different approach to obtain some money from me.
After a rest back at the hostel, and some dinner, I came back after the sun had set to get the picture requested by my fellow travel writer. I brought my tripod along to get the long exposure shots I would need. I set up in a few different locations, but wasn’t really happy with any that were taken at a distance. I finally got very close to the tower and pointed the camera straight up at the top. Just as I was setting up the shot, and had gotten the exposure where I wanted it, the whole tower started raining with light. At the top of the hour, at least at 11pm, a light show goes off on, with pale blue/purple lights dancing on the whole tower for about 10 minutes. I started snapping away, knowing that I could later merge these shots into an animation of the show.
There was no music (at least not audible from my location) but the lights danced in a fury as if some beat drove them on. The lights stopped as suddenly as they had begun, some minutes later and the tower shone with its golden light, a rigid beacon standing up out of the narrow swath of grass next to the river Seine.
Coming up in a few days: A walk of the city, and the Catacombs of Paris!