Saturday, November 21, 2009

(Not really) alone in Paris

When they say Paris is a city of love, they mean it. This city has been the setting for many a romantic movie. In spring time, it is as lovely as it appears on the silver screen.
Nothing is more symbolic of this city than the 324-meter Eiffel Tower. When I hopped into an Easyjet plane for an hour and some minutes flight from Schonefeld airport (the domestic airport that is soon to be the new Berlin Brandenburg International airport) in Berlin to Paris Orly (the domestic airport at the southern edge), my mind was fixed on just one thing - to see the Tower.
From the air, it was not visible so I was constantly on guard for the chance it would appear in my view. On the bus ride from the airport to the city center (Paris Orly is quite far - about 45 minutes), my eyes were leaned to the left, expecting to catch a glimpse of the famous structure (I had dreamed of seeing Eiffel in all its grandeur while I'm transit and quite expected that would be the case in this visit - I must say it again that dreams and de javu experiences often precede my visits to famous places).
But like a shy lady, the Tower evaded me until I reached the city, until I climbed into Montmarte to a hostel where I made online reservations for a two-night stay. I promised myself I would see only Eiffel, never mind that I was staying in an artsy charming district where the famed French movie "Amelie" was filmed.
My legs quite defeated me, for I was soon slouched on a chair in the hostel balcony unable to stand up and see my queen, the Tower that is. Into slumberland I fell. But once I regained my vigor, by mid-afternoon, in haste I descended to the subway (it's RTM, narrow trains with funny-looking tires) to a destination I didn't know where except for the city map in my hands.
With excitement, I rushed out of the train station, the fifth or sixth from where I entered, and emerged to a street full of outdoor cafes. People were going in all directions yet still the Tower was nowhere in sight.
Paris is terrible for its people don't speak the Queen's language. Unable to bear the longing anymore, I called out to a Frenchman walking by and asked for the Eiffel. "Oh, it's on your right." I wanted to slap myself but never had the chance to, for before me was the love of my mind - the Eiffel Tower! It's beautiful, though it's still some distance from me.
I made a slow walk to get near - the Tower was like an enchanting forest nymph that has beckoned on me to hold her. I was whisked from my mystical state by a call from an Indian-looking man behind me who asked me to take a photo of him with the Tower in view. I scratched his back and he did mine.
Reality seeping in, I made my way to the Tower to see how it is up close. Every turn going to the Tower I saw changing vistas - one was monochromatic, another as fresh as a tropical garden, with many young people basking under the sun.
You cannot resist the charm of this edifice. I queued up to make an ascent to the second floor, for a fee. It was a tough climb but everyone was doing it - young and old, men and women, French, Spanish, Germans, Americans, Chinese, couples, lovers, friends. My short nap was helpful.
I was happy at the view at the second floor, but I climbed to the third. It was awesome - Paris in its entirety! Yet still I wanted more, so I took the elevator to the top (overall, I think I paid nine euros). It was a fast climb and at the summit I didn't want to look down anymore.
That day I had fulfilled a dream. I went to see other Parisian landmarks in the next hours to the next day - the Louvre Museum, Sacre Couer and Moulin Rouge (all in Montmarte), Luxembourg Gardens past the Italian Quarter, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, Arc de Triomphe at the end of Champ Elysee.
I closed my two-day journey by going back to the Eiffel Tower grounds from late afternoon to dusk. Across the Seine River from the Trocadero Gardens, I sat on a bench and watched the view change. I hummed to my Ipod, as if I was with someone. Couples, some with kids and dogs, walked in front me, enjoying a romantic Sunday stroll. The air was chilly I had to cover my head with my jacket's hood. I stared into the distance, into the giant iron structure before me. I was having the date of my life.


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