Paris – The Magic of the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
I live in Toronto, and to this day, when I see the CN Tower, I still get a little charge out of it. I feel the same way in Paris when I see the Eiffel Tower. No matter where I see it from, or how many times, it reminds me that I am looking at an icon, in a city that I love. It also means freshly baked pain au chocolat can’t possibly be that far away, because no matter where you are in Paris, freshly baked pain au chocolat is never far away.

The Eiffel Tower is so iconic, so present, so quintessentially Paris, that I felt like it needed some attention here on the big blog. You can see this thing from everywhere, and no matter where you are in the city people search for a glimpse of it. It’s the most-visited paid monument in the world, with more than 6.9 million visitors last year alone – so obviously it’s a crowd favourite.

We first saw the tower on this trip from the train inbound from Garches (suburb 10k SW of the tower, near St. Cloud), where we were staying with our friends Brendan, Kim, and their kids Bella and Finn. The view wasn’t great, but it still perked us up as we zipped from the outskirts of the city to the Trocadero Plaza to take some pictures and have a picnic under the tower for Angela’s birthday celebration.

Trocadero is a great spot to view the tower from. If you can outrun the hawkers trying to guilt you into buying a little souvenir tower, you’ll enjoy a fantastic vantage point for taking pics.

People come here for all manner of Eiffel Tower shots from selfies…

 With Brendan – we’ve been the best of friends since our teens

To family portraits…

To fashion images (I had the opportunity to shoot with Parisian model Ophélie Moreau while in town, and sure enough, we began our shoot at Trocadero). Here’s a B+W outtake:

The tower is just a short walk from Trocadero, so if you plan to visit, this is a good place to start, take your pics, and then go to the tower itself. There are a couple of carousels nearby, which also make for some good photo backdrops. Here’s one with Ophélie at the carousel:

 One downside to Trocadero is that it can be really busy. It takes work to make it look like there’s no one else around in the above photos, but trust me – the place was packed. Getting there early in the day makes a massive difference if you’re hoping to find some open space. Not to worry, though, there are plenty of other great spots for viewing the tower.

A few minutes’ walk from Trocadero is a quiet little dead end street called Avenue de Camnoens that offers brilliant views and no tourists. If you’re hoping to take some tower images without having to fight hordes, this is a great little spot:

Outside of the Trocadero area, there are heaps of other spots around the city to enjoy the tower from. One is Pont Alexandre III, which is stunning in its own right and is smack in the middle of a number of other Paris landmarks.

 View of the Eiffel Tower from Pont Alexandre III

 People also rave about the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (we visited the Arc but didn’t go up), and from the viewing deck at the Tour Montparnasse (otherwise referred to as the “shame of Paris” – it’s a huge, blocky building that doesn’t fit with the rest of the architecture in the city). They say the view from Montparnasse is the best in the city, not because it’s any more picturesque than other places in Paris, but because it’s the only place in the city you can’t see the Tour Montparnasse. 🙂 I wonder how Parisians really feel about it.

Another great spot, which we touched on in the Montmartre post, is from the viewing deck on the sixth floor (roof) of Printemps, the upscale shopping mall. The tower is in the distance, but the views of the city in general are pretty great.

Looking at the tower is pretty fantastic, and eating a ridiculously decadent birthday treat from Desgranges (a boulangerie we managed to find no matter where we were in Paris) at the base of the tower was also pretty special for Angela:

 But the biggest thrill, I think, for me, was going up the Eiffel Tower. When we arrived we found the lines poorly managed (worst we’ve seen at any attraction in France), the staff weren’t all that friendly, and the elevators were really slow. There are no bells and whistles here, but having said all of that, this is an awesome building to explore and it all kind of fits. When you visit Taipei 101, the CN Tower, the Burj Khalifa, or some of the world’s other tall structures you expect modern amenities, super fast elevators, and cutting edge technology. Not so at the Eiffel Tower. This looks and feels like a wrought iron building built in 1889, which makes it totally unique in a world full of shiny skyscrapers.

 The underside of the tower

 We bought tickets to the top, which were reasonably affordable at €17. To get there you have to take the elevator to the second floor, where you get off and join a line to go to the top. At least you get to look out at the city while you wait. Our wait was more than ninety minutes once we joined it, but the view was pretty great.

 When we finally made it to the top we took in the view and enjoyed the city from a vantage point that allows you to see the mess of roads and countless buildings. North American cities are typically built on a grid, so when you look down on Toronto from the CN Tower, or down on New York from Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building, you can see the orderly grid down below.

Not so in Paris, where linear patterns are nowhere to be seen. When you look from above, you can see major boulevards connecting major city points, as with the Arc de Triomphe below, streets radiating out in all directions. From street level, though, it would have been really easy to get lost before the time of smart phones and GPS.

The views give you an appreciation for the sheer size of this French metropolis. This is a city that always feels kind of quaint; each neighbourhood has a flavour, and you never really feel boxed in by skyscrapers on all sides. So it’s hard to imagine that the Paris Region has a population just north of 12 million people when you’re at street level, sitting under a tree, eating your baguette jambon gruyere (as I did on a fairly regular basis). Seeing it from the top of the Eiffel Tower makes it much easier to believe.

So is the Eiffel Tower busy, touristy, and cliche? Yep, but go see it. It’s part of being in Paris. It’s iconic for a reason and I’m quite sure that every time I see it I’ll always get that little thrill. Mostly because I know pain au chocolat can’t be far behind. 😉

6.9 million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year – have you been one of them? What did you think? Please leave comments below – cheers!

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