The biggest challenge with having visitors in Paris is tempering their expectations, because there’s never enough time to see everything they want to. On one tour I went on with my mom, the guide told us she’d moved here from Mississippi decades ago, and her family continues to ask when she’s coming home. “When I get bored,” she tells them, noting that she’s lived in Paris for 25 years and isn’t bored yet. I believe it. It would take at least two lifetimes to see everything of interest, and by the time you’d finished, museum exhibits would have changed and you’d have to start all over again.
As a result, it’s easy to do the same few things over and over again when visitors are in town. Everyone wants to photograph the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and explore the Louvre, and drink champagne along the Seine. True to form, I did all those things when my mom was here. But because she was here for so long, we also wanted to fit in a few new-to-me things.
One of those things was climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I know, I know—you’re thinking, how is that not on your standard tourist list?! The answer is that it is on so many other people’s tourist lists that it’s not possible to get tickets less than a month in advance. So people who live here don’t do it, and people who come on last-minute trips can’t. All of the guidebooks tell you to book your tickets in advance to avoid long lines, but they fail to mention that “in advance” means “as soon as you have an inkling you might come to Paris.”
Colin and I discovered this the hard way when the weather turned nice in April and we thought we’d get tickets to go up that weekend. Ce n’était pas possible! Tickets were not available until mid-May, when we’d be in Greece. So instead of buying two for Colin and me, I bought three for Colin, me, and my mom, for mid-June.
As it turns out, getting tickets is the hardest part. Once you have them, you get to breeze past the long line of tourists hoping that space opens up for them to ascend (bonne chance, but it probably will not), go through the standard Parisian security check, stroll over to the line for the elevator, go through a second security check (having a security guard glance through your bag is a fact of life in Paris), and then wait a few minutes for the glass elevator to take you to the second level. From there, you wait in another line (also a fact of life in Paris) for the elevator to take you to the summit. There were crowds, yes, but it was nothing compared to the all-out-contact-sport that is visiting the Mona Lisa at the Louvre (a thing that I do not recommend you put on your Paris short-list). Following the advice of the wonderful Rick Steves’ guidebook, we took the elevator back down to the second level and walked down from there. That way, you can see the impressive metalwork up close and stop at the first level, which the elevators don’t take you to. Word of warning, though: if you’re not a fan of heights or walking on metal grillwork, maybe take the elevators both ways! My poor husband looked a little green as he ran down, while my mom and I stopped to ooh and ahh over the views. Or maybe Colin was just extra impatient for a hot coffee at the bottom, since the day we went happened to be the coldest of the summer and we were bundled up in all of our très chic scarves and jackets.
Anyway—we all had a lot of fun, we did not freeze, and we crossed one more touristy thing off our list. Climbing the Eiffel Tower is definitely not something I’d recommend if you’re only here a short time, and to be honest, I prefer the views from the top of Notre Dame since you don’t get a view of the Eiffel Tower when you’re standing atop it. The skyline just doesn’t look like Paris without it!
But the view was spectacular anyway. Here are a few of my favorite shots: