I FINALLY did it, guys. I finally made like a proper tourist and climbed the Eiffel Tower.
I had no intention of actually going up the tower when I first arrived in Paris almost two months ago. I wanted to see it, sit on the grass around it, take a million pictures of me in front of it, but actually climbing or taking the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower never even occured to me.
Why? To start with, I assumed it was way too expensive for me. I am a traveller and despite the way I pretend to live my life, I have to stick to some sort of imaginary budget. The second reason, is that it just seems like such a touristy thing to do. And yes, I AM a tourist I suppose, but I really like leaving cities feeling like I know them. That usually means skipping a lot of the most popular areas (despite the fact that I love travelling to big cities…go figure) and finding the more hidden, quiet, hole in the wall type things to do. It can be hard in such huge, famous places like Paris and London where there probably isn’t a square inch left of these cities that haven’t been overrun with tourists, but travelling, although an experience widely shared, is still something that can be super personal. I want my experience to be one part exactly how I have imagined it all my life and one part complete surprise. The third, and maybe the silliest reason for not ever really considering climbing the Eiffel Tower, is that I sort of didn’t think you could. I will be the first to admit that I do not know the actual history of the tower. I sort of thought it was built for the World’s Fair years and years ago and then that was that. I assumed years later, some fancy suits came along and decided, “Hey, we could make money for charging people to climb this sucker.” So they simply opened up the rickety stairs that had been placed there for workers, popped a restaurant at the top and voila! But no. I was so wrong. It was actually built as an observation tower. Silly me.
After days of losing me in the crowd when I rushed off to catch a glimpse of the tower in the distance, and hours and hours of “Take a picture of me standing like this,” “No, not like that, like this,” “No, not there, here!”. My sweet, sweet partner in crime suggested we actually climb the tower. I thought he was absurd for suggesting such a thing (see above), so it took 3 weeks for me to finally take him up on his offer. My only stipulation was that it had to be bad weather, because, call me dramatic (dramatique!) but climbing the Eiffel Tower in the rain just makes for a better story, better photos and a better experience. Also, I was hoping there would be less crowds and a shorter wait. I was totally right.
We got in line around 5pm, paid the 11 euros each to first climb 669 steps, then to take the elevator from there to the very tip top. **11 euros was for people who are 24 years and under. Paris has lots of age based offers at their museums and attractions, even their movie theatres. I am perhaps on the upper end of 24, but it’s a fun game to see who I can trick into believing I am younger. In this case, it worked. (As another side note within a side note, men always believe I am younger, women never do. Not sure what that says about French people…you be the judge). Since 11 euros is basically a meal at McDonalds here in France, I don’t know why I was so concerned about money. Also, since it has rained every single day since I arrived in Paris, it wasn’t difficult to pick which day to go.
Climbing the stairs was fun and at the top of each little set of stairs, they have a giant board with facts and information about the tower that you can read as you go along in case for some reason, you get bored while climbing the Eiffel Tower. Brilliant. We got to the first level and it was huge. I had no idea you could actually walk around the entire circumference of the tower. I was thinking there would maybe be a little observation deck that people would squish onto to all take the same picture of the same view. Quelle suprise! This was place was huge and the crowds were sparse. You have all the photo opportunities you could ever want. There are even benches so if you really wanted to, you could go up the tower with a book and spend the day reading your book IN the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes life is just pure magic. There are cafes and gift shops and restaurants and even a good impersonation of a glass floor (CN Tower, you win this one). You totally forget you are high in the air inside a tower. It feels like you are enclosed in a normal building. (I really hope someone leaves a comment saying they understand what I mean. Did everyone else in the world know the tower was so big inside?)
After walking around the first level, we took the stairs again and went up to the second level, completing all 669 steps.
The second level had the same gift shops and cafes. We waited in an enormous line and took the elevator up the rest of the way. At this point, it had started to rain and it was freezing cold. We got to the third level which is covered and enclosed, but you can take a set of stairs to the very top open air level to get the greatest, most magical views of Paris at night. There is also a little champagne bar on the top that lots of loud Americans were getting drunk at.
We spent a solid 4 hours at the Eiffel Tower before heading back down to the ground. All in all, is climbing the Eiffel Tower worth the money? Yes. Is it worth the crowds? Yes. Is it an experience that most who visit Paris share, but that also makes you feel lucky and alive and so, so excited about everything that is possible in life? Absolutely yes. Thinking back on my reasons for not considering climbing the tower to begin with, those are all true, however the one reason even bigger than those is that I come from a very small town on the East Coast of Canada. There aren’t a whole lot of opportunities where I come from, so to be a kid with giant dreams of moving to London or climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or laying on a beach in Malta or staying up to see the sunrise in Copenhagen…sometimes you can get singled out for being silly or over the top. Or, you face the always present, “Remember where you came from. Who do you think you are to have dreams like that?” My least favorite is when the word “dreamer” is used in a negative way. It doesn’t matter the amount of inner strength you carry around on a daily basis, mean words can last forever. It took me a minute to realize that the things I am doing in my life aren’t meant just for other people as I had previously been taught. They are just things and experiences that are there for the taking. The Eiffel Tower is made for me because I bought a ticket and climbed it and made it part of my journey. It’s that simple. Like I said earlier, life really can be complete magic.