The Eiffel Tower is much more than the iconic architectural image of Paris and probably all of France. It’s an everlasting expression of the 7-year-old imagination, or at least that of our granddaughter Devon. Today, after seeing pictures of the tower and hearing stories about it since before she could talk, Devon joined us on a ride to the top.
I caught up with her after a stylishly late dinner (this is France) for an informal interview:
Jerry: Why did you get interested in the Eiffel Tower?
Devon: Because you guys had a picture on your living room wall, and it looked beautiful. I always dreamed of seeing it.
J. What did you think of when you first saw it in Paris?
D. My mind was blown. I was speechless.
D. It kind of just like it lights up your mind [when the lights flicker on the hour]. It gives you a great feeling.
J: Today you went to the top of the Eiffel Tower for the first time. What did you like best?
J. Was the Eiffel Tower bigger or smaller than you imagined it?
D. It was bigger than I imagined. A lot bigger.
J. What would you suggest to other kids thinking of visiting the Eiffel Tower?
D. I’d highly recommend that they come. It’s just great.
J. So this is a hard question. Has it been tough to visit Paris with your grandparents?
J. How so?
J. Well thank you very much. It’s been great talking to you. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
D.. You guys are the greatest grandparents ever.
J. Covering your tracks, eh?
D. Yes, I’m covering my tracks. … Just remember to add one thing. I really hope to be interviewed again.
And there you have it. How great was today? As we approached the tower from the direction of Champ de Mars, Devon blurted out, “I can’t believe we’re at the Eiffel Tower. Can you pinch me? I’m going to pinch myself.”
Later, after her second ice cream of the day (sorry mom), she burst into song: “Ice cream and gaufre pick me up when I get low so I can grow.”
And she’s spent a whole lot of the day giggling.
In the end, even with the endless lines, the litter on the ground, and the signs warning of pickpockets, the magic of the tower was contagious. Kathy and I loved the intricate latticework of metal soaring up and up, the 343-step walk down between the middle and lowest stages; the champagne bar at the top; and the fabulous remodeled first stage, which offers a four-screen film, “Architecture, Modernity and Illumination;” glass floors that look straight down on the crowd below; a wooden model of the tower, and wooden swing-seats for the by-now tired traveler. What we loved the most though was seeing Devon’s excitement. As the Master Card ad says, that was priceless.
I haven’t come to the Eiffel Tower every time I’ve visit Paris. In fact, this was only our second visit as adults. Still, if you’ve never been, keep in mind that the Eiffel Tower is not just a symbol of Paris. It’s a place with special allure for kids of all ages.
1) In approaching the tower, get out at the Ecole Militaire Metro stop and walk through the Champ de Mars. The park has a playground and the approach from this side of the tower is less frenetic and more dramatic.
2) Start at the top of the tower and work your way down. But be sure not to miss the first stage, which is really interesting and was by far the least crowded.
3) Eat outside the perimeter of buses surrounding the tower and don’t settle for the take-out truck sandwiches. We decided to stop at a neighborhood brasserie on Rue de Grenelle, about five or six blocks away and truly lucked out. The place, called au Gros Caillou, was filled with locals and the food explained why. We had goat-cheese quiche and the best fries we’ve tasted in France, followed by creme brule that melted in our mouths. The fixed price menu (appetizer and main course or main course plus dessert) was about $15.