On every corner is a restaurant whose most affordable meal is a king’s ransom. Tricksters and shills linger at intersections, finding a lady which their marks never will. In the bustle of a cooler-than-expected summer’s day, the most iconic of the wonders of the modern world looms out of the corner of the eye, almost hidden.
Turn into an alleyway and it is there, peering over the trees, with the contours of its pillars tracing a gargantuan silhouette. Take a step back and there’s the sudden realisation that, like the mythical creature mistaken for an island, it was just too big to make sense of up close.
Walk through the edge of the Champ de Mars and find yourself at the foot of this marvel of engineering, with an almost voyeuristic view under its four pillars.
Gawk mockingly at the hundreds of tacky miniatures being peddled right there by those who have absolute faith in the gullibility of mankind, and witness it rewarded as parents reluctantly shell out. Kids of a certain age are like magpies, and the tiny towers sure are shiny.
Go to the top of the tower.
Do not take the elevator. Climb its entrails. Each flight of stairs brings its sides closer and closer to you. The view of Paris through the railings starts off as a detached vista, but it soon swallows you as you go higher and higher up the colossus’ trachea. Soon, the vast expanse of Paris is all you can see… and this flight of stairs sure feels flimsy…
There are two plateaus on your way up. There, you can rest and take in the view and wave to the people on the ground.
The shadow of the tower falls over Paris. The specks of colours milling about are people. Trace their movements with your finger and feel like an improbable god or an rts veteran, depending on your sensibilities.
You will not want to stay for too long. The crown of the structure towers above you. Its presence is oddly ominous, and oddly enticing. You want to go up. You have to go up.
There are no stairs leading there. There is an elevator waiting, ready to welcome the willing.
You walk out onto a narrow arrangement full of people huddling close together. You walk out into a drizzle of rain on a cooler-than-expected summer’s day. You walk out onto one of the most glorious sights that the modern world has to offer.
La belle époque stretches out in front of you. The Arc de Triomphe and the Notre-Dame Cathedral stand reverentially while the Montparnasse tower sticks out like a sore thumb. The Sacré-Coeur sits in penance at the top of its hill.
Watch the sun set over Paris. Perched at the top of the tower, you see the City of Lights live up to its name.
And then the tower itself flares up in an explosion of light.
Go to the Eiffel Tower if you are in Paris. What feels like an overused cliché before you get there is an experience that is as magnificent as it is exhilarating. This cliché has survived for a reason.
Words by Ash Dawotal, incessant reader and avid writer