Eiffel Tower: Sights, sounds & smells…

Photo by Bryon Meyer

Photo by Bryon Meyer

The Eiffel Tower is a “must see” when visiting the grand city of Paris, so we crammed this icon into our itinerary.

We walk from the metro… Hmmm… where is a bathroom?  Ah-ha! Just after we passed the Louvre (and a Gypsy having a loud argument with an African Eiffel Tower vendor), Randy spies a small pay toilet and he pays the lady attendant.  Randy proceeds to conduct his business  only to notice the woman is still standing there watching him.  Awkward…

After a lengthy walk, we arrive at the latticed wrought iron landmark and find we are not alone. The area around this popular tower is crammed with tourists, vendors with large rings of tiny Eiffel Tower replicas, Gypsies attempting to scam tourists… Do you speak English?  Sign my petition for orphans… along with the regular pick pockets. They would have to dig pretty deep to get any of my valuables and I’ve learned to say “No,” so I’m still feeling pretty secure.

We stroll through the area and see a man urinating in the bushes right by the sidewalk. We continue on our way and see another man doing the same thing and we soon discover why.  The only bathroom facilities we could find was one of the automatic pods that takes a minute to disinfect  between users.  Long line backed up waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. This may explain why so many areas in the city smell like urine.

The Eiffel Tower, La Tour Eiffel in French, was the main exhibit of the Paris Exposition — or World’s Fair — of 1889. It was constructed to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and to demonstrate France’s industrial prowess to the world. Not all were pleased with the project as a group of 300 artists, sculptors, writers and architects sent a petition to the commissioner of the Paris Exposition, pleading him to halt construction of the “ridiculous tower” that would dominate Paris like a “gigantic black smokestack.”

There are many fun fact to know and tell about this massive structure, but the most interesting to me was the effect of the sun. Logically, the tower was built to sway slightly in the wind, but the sun affects the tower more. As the sun-facing side of the tower heats up, the top moves as much as 7 inches (18 centimeters) away from the sun. The sun also causes the tower to grow about 6 inches.  livescience.com

Even though the tourist trap atmosphere and lack of bathrooms at the Eiffel Tower are negatives, you can’t help but be amazed at the architecture and stare at the design from all angles possible. It is a worthwhile stop.

Best advice when visiting the Eiffel Tower?  Restrict your liquids or wear Depends.

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Welcome to Paris!

With the Camino de Santiago completed, we fly from Santiago, Spain, back to Paris on Vueling Airlines a few days before our return flight from Paris to Minneapolis, MN. Might as well look around since we are already here!

When you think of Paris, you think of romance, indulgence, and the sweet smells of perfume.

Um… I hate to burst your bubble, but that isn’t necessarily the case, unless you are Princess Kate or George Clooney. (I’m 60% sure we saw him in the Paris airport)

As we sit with our backpacks on the RER train leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport, Liz warns/lectures us NOT to talk to anyone on the metro subway and don’t be so nice.  A little harsh, perhaps?

We soon find out why.

Scam:  Ticket purchase help

While attempting to purchase metro tickets at a machine, a man speaking broken English acts friendly, takes over the transaction, insisting on “helping.” Forcing his way into our machine, he puts his special credit card in,  pushes buttons with lightning speed and five tickets appear.  Already severely annoyed, Liz notices that the total was 8 Euro. After he thrust the tickets into Randy’s  hand (His culture (Gypsy?), apparently, assumes  the oldest male to be in charge), he says, 35 Euro  – follow me!” and goes towards the metro train we are to get on.  The tiger in Liz raises it’s ferocious head and after grabbing those metro tickets from Randy,  all 5′ 2″ of her chases after the thief (with the four of us following), shoves the tickets back in his hand, scolds him and stomps awayWe then go back to the machine, she and Joan purchase metro tickets for 8 euro total and we go on our merry way. From then on, we keep vigilant with awareness of surroundings and say, “NO,” to every person unnecessarily approaching us. Close call.

Here is a link to a page of security tips when using Paris (or probably any) metro system. The above scam was listed right at the top of the list.  http://parisbytrain.com/paris-security-safety-tips/

Lesson learned:  Be extra careful if you are Minnesota Nice on the Paris Metro.

sncf_blue_green_ticket_vending_machines

Photo from the Paris Public Transportation website.

Welcome to Paris!