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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

9 Days in Paris (Part 6) - La Grande Dame

Last Saturday, I ran into Schmiddy and Babymaus while I was out running some errands in Altona. (Well, it was more like he ran up behind me and scared the crap out of me). Frosty and I had sent him a postcard. I would have sent more people postcards, if I could remember more addresses. Luckily for Schmiddy, I still remember my old address, which made things very easy.

Anyway, the postcard had a picture of the Eiffel Tower and then, randomly, two giant kittens in a basket and across the top it read "Souvenir Paris". The scaling made the kittens look roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower. I saw it and figured that it belonged in my former kitchen.

We stopped and chatted for a bit and I told him some bits and pieces about the Paris trip. He mentioned reading somewhere that the Eiffel Tower was on a list of the most overrated tourist attractions in the world (or something to that effect).

I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but every time I think of the Eiffel Tower, I think about this scene from Highlander the TV show, where Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod danced up there with Amanda (who, in case you're wondering, went on to do the spin-off show Highlander: The Raven). It's just one of the random things ingrained into my memory.

I think Pickles is the only one who will understand
this and that's why she's my favorite.

When I saw it, I didn't think "Oh cool, that's what I want to do!"

I'm afraid of heights and it's only gotten worse with time. So when Frosty said that we just *had* to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I was less than thrilled. And then when we arrived, I mostly wanted to just get it out of the way. Go up, go down, done.

Personally, I would have preferred a picnic on solid ground and would have been content with my many pictures of different angles and distances. Like these people...

Sacrebleu! Champagne?! Où est le fromage?

I would have even been willing to sit on the grass without a blanket. But that didn't happen.

We didn't make it there the first day...or the second...or third. Ok, I could go through all the numbers, but I will spare you. We saved the Eiffel Tower for our last day. Somewhere in the middle of the week, it started to get a little overcast and Frosty said that it was better to go up on a nice, clear day.

Once the weather clouded up, I tried to put on my best "Aww, shucks...too bad we can't go up"-act. On our last day, we slept in, lounged about and didn't even really start to get out of bed until almost noon. I thought the sky would be just as gray as the previous day. However, once we got up and drew the curtains back: sun and blue sky. It was Eiffel Tower Time.

I'm ok with heights, if it's an enclosed space. Buildings and whatnot. I get anxious if I'm really close to a big window or on a balcony looking down from really high up. Ironically, I prefer window seats on a plane -- mostly because I don't like to get bumped by the serving carts -- but I almost always draw the shade. I don't like metal grate steps and I don't do glass walkways. Eff that ess.

But what the hell, I figured. I only have to do this once. Then I can say that I did it and I never have to do it again.

So off we went to the Eiffel Tower.

First of all, that place is on lockdown. Soldiers with machine guns everywhere. It's a national treasure and I didn't expect otherwise, but it does kind of kill the fantasy.

Second, the illegal street vendors impressed me. They were all selling the same stuff, namely Eiffel Tower statues in all shapes and sizes. Also bottles of cold water at a ridiculous mark up. They were getting their grind on and wouldn't take no for an answer. So I hoped that they would take silence for an answer, because that's what I did.

After reading in our book about the monument's history, it was time to go up.

For those who have never been there, the Eiffel Tower has 3 levels. The first two are accessible by stairway and the entry costs considerably less. The third level is only accessible by elevator.
Or you can buy a ticket to ride the elevator up to the second level and switch and take the elevator to the top. And I was most definitely about getting up and getting back down, I was not very interested in the middle view.

Frosty headed towards the line for the stairs, while I headed towards the line for the elevator. Not being able to agree on our method of ascension, we decided to part ways and made no additional plan aside from the (in hindsight) extremely vague, "We'll just meet up at the top".

This was an awful, awful plan.

In the time that it took me to get through the line to get to the first elevator to get to the 2nd floor, Frosty was already on the second floor. The elevator ride up there made me extremely queasy. I did not enjoy it at all. I was in the elevator with the two young women who were in front of me in the line. While we were still on the ground waiting, we went by a bust of Gustave Eiffel . And one of them asked the other, "Who's that supposed to be?"


This might be an incredibly morbid thought on my part, but when I encounter people like this -- especially in situations that cause me a lot of anxiety (planes, giant monuments that could topple over in some kind of horrible, apocalyptic mishap, etc) -- I can't help but think to myself, "I don't want to die with these assholes." Like, if this is going to be the day that the crucial bolt holding the Eiffel Tower together snaps, then I will die with these idiots...and that would really piss me off.

*le sigh*

I thought that maybe I would be able to meet up with Frosty on the second floor, since the line seemed to be really long that day. So I walked around the second floor, snapped some pictures (including the one seen above). Then I got in line to go to the top. This was also not a short line. So I had time to keep an eye out for him. And here's where having a tall boyfriend with a distinctive hairstyle comes in handy.

Alas, I did not see him. So, of course, I figured that he must have still been on his way up.

So I went up to the top.

At the top of the Eiffel Tower, there is an enclosed room and then there are some stairs leading up to a viewing platform. It was...alright in the enclosed area, despite feeling (or imagining that I could feel) the tower swaying every so often. I walked around the enclosed area looking for Frosty. Then I went up to the viewing platform to look for him.

No such luck.

I just figured that I had arrived there before him. So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.


I went up to the viewing platform a few times to look, thinking I might have missed him. But he wasn't there.

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower at slightly before 3pm. I was up at the top slightly after 4pm. Shortly before 7pm, I decided to head back down. Not quite 3 hours, but I feel pretty comfortable rounding up the number. At any rate, we did not tango at the top. We didn't even see each other.

But I held out as long as I could, which has to count for something.

If I had been somewhere ground level, I probably would have been annoyed and angry, but 896ft in the mind was really on other things. The worst thing is that up at the top there is only one bench for sitting. Also I was more annoyed at the people who brought up strollers and unfolded them and tried to walk around up top with their dumb babies, even though there were clearly signs that stated that this was against regulation.

I was not without "entertainment" the entire time. From about 5-6pm, I watched a tour bus roll into the Seine and the ensuing rescue mission on the water.

That was crazy. Especially since I seemed to be the only person looking at that, rather than the panoramic view.

When I finally got back down to terra firma, I continued my search for Frosty. I actually felt bad that I couldn't stick it out longer, because I thought that he was probably up top still and that I had missed him. Also it was getting late, I was hungry/thirsty and I only had 1€ on me.

So I went up to one of the water selling guys and asked him if I could buy a bottle of water. Up until now, almost everywhere a bottle cost 1€, even at the Louvre. But the dude was like, "Nah...2€". And I was like, "Dude, I've only got 1€". And then he was like, "Are you from South America?" and I told him, "No, I'm just really thirsty and only have 1€". Then he asked me if I have a husband. After a long conversation, I did get some water though.

I took my bottle of water and sat down on a bench next to some lady that was reading. The bench was situated between the entry/exit for the elevator and the entry/exit for the stairs. I figured that way I would have both of my bases covered while looking out for Frosty.

Two hours after that, my cell phone started ringing. I looked at the display and it read "Raven". I was so tired and confused. I couldn't figure out why I was calling myself. I answered and it was Zilv. She had no idea was was going on, but Frosty had called my apartment in Hamburg using a phone card. Zilv relayed a few messages back and forth. As it turns out, Frosty had made it to the top way before me, but thought that I had arrived before him and, due to my dislike of heights, had headed back down fairly quickly.

Having no way to reach me, he went back to the hotel where he thought I would be.

My conversation with Zilv was in German. After I hung up with her, the lady sitting next to me on the bench turned towards me and asked in German, "Excuse me, how long does it take to get to the top?"

For some reason, the question made me recall the entire process and difficulties that I had during my struggle for papers so that I could stay in Germany. Whenever I meet Americans who are contemplating moving to Germany to live and/or work, they ask me "How hard is it to get a visa?"

And my answer is always, "It depends."

Clearly, I'm not the right person to ask. My answer is always going to be too complicated.

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