Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Taking the stairs

I figured it was a case of now or possibly never.

It struck me that I had been to Paris a few times now, but had never actually climbed the Eiffel Tower. (Yes it's a tourist cliche, but sometimes these things just have to be done.)

The rarely photographed Eiffel Tower

Previously, I had been put off by the massive queues underneath its iconic arches, even in poor weather.  

I had also questioned what the view would be like given Paris is pretty flat and mostly low-rise buildings.  After all, when you stand atop other Paris viewpoints, such as Montmartre, Notre Dame's bell tower, or the Arc d'Triumphe, the most interesting thing to look at is the Eiffel Tower.  Is it better to look at the tower, rather than from the tower?

Still, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon (albeit in winter, windy and about five degrees Celsius) and the crowds looked manageable.

Standing underneath: lift or stairs?
It was underneath the tower that I was faced with a choice: take the elevator (but suffer a sizeable queue) or take the stairs (for which there was no queue whatsoever).

Figuring I'd had enough of people for one day, I chose the stairs.  For the record, that's 704 stairs.
Moving on up... using the stairs

It's actually not as bad as you might think, though it probably helped that it was winter and not a hot summer's day.  

There's plenty of space and you tend to be distracted by the view.  Along the way, there are places to stop and information boards telling you about the tower, its designer and its construction.
Information boards to distract you from the stairs

Before I knew it I was on the first stage.  This stage was under renovation when I was there and only housed a collection of port-a-loos.

I was at the first stage before I knew it
Onwards and upwards, I headed for the second stage.  Strangely, this part seems to take a little longer.  

Perhaps it was because you are really entering the bowels of the structure and so the view is less prominent.
Paris peek-a-boo

It's here that you start to pass people who've regretted taking the stairs option.  They're looking longingly at the elevator as it whizzes past.
If you take the stairs, this is as close to the elevator as you'll get

Standing at 115 metres above ground, the second stage actually has two levels. 
Champ de Mars
Surprisingly, it also has a cafeteria and another queue; this time for the elevator to the very top.   Given this line and the gathering wind, I passed.
The queue within the Eiffel Tower itself for the elevator the very top
Straight up from the second stage

With sunset rapidly approaching, suddenly I was engulfed by waves of couples who had specifically made the trek up here to stare lovingly into each others' eyes at dusk.
Sunset approaching... cue couples

Monmartre in the distance
This is "selfie central".  Singles, couples and families (and myself) are all extending their arms and grinning into their camera or smartphone.

The Seine
So how was the view?  

Even with the wind and the cold, it's pretty impressive.   There's a rewarding view from every point of the compass, from Monmartre and the Trocadero, to the Seine and the green lawns of the Champ de Mars.
The Seine... again

And if you ever wanted to know what it would be like to peer out from the inside a giant Meccano creation, this is your best bet.   

Inside the giant Meccano creation

Having made it down and out

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