A 6am departure from London’s Royal National Hotel lobby which was really a 5am departure for my body due to the UK’s day light saving, made for one slightly dishevelled, slightly disoriented and slightly still asleep South African making her way onto the bus.
Crossing the English Channel to France took one huge ferry docked by the magnificent White Cliffs of Dover just under two hours. Thereafter our first official travel day then commenced as we travelled for the entire day via the World War I battlefields in the valley of the Somme to reach the anticipated destination of the city of love.
When in Paris do as the Parisians do! Which roughly translates to eat Escargot – which is a dish of cooked land snails (Frances national delicacy), and drink lots of champagne. Although served just as one would find them in the garden surprisingly with all the garlic and butter they are doused in they weren’t bad tasting at all, something akin to mushrooms especially with a glass or two of champagne thrown in for good measure.
After the dinner was the Tour of Illuminations where Paris becomes PARIS. Lamp lit bridges and cafe’s gives one the sense that you truly are in the city of romance. The Paris by night tour included the world’s most recognised monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, a drive down the Champs-Elysees, Notre Dame Cathedral and with a final stop and drop off at the iconic Eiffel Tower which had just began its hourly sparkle upon our arrival.
The Eiffel Tower, or la Tour Eiffel, as the French call their iconic structure, is the most visited paid landmark in the world having surpassed 250,000,000 visitors in 2010.Built of iron and completed in 1889, the 1050-feet tall latticed tower weighs 7300 metric tonnes and took two years, two months and five days to complete. It was named after Gustave Eiffel, a engineer and the owner of the company that designed and built the tower. Today, it has become one of the most photographed structures in the world.
As so many tourists do indeed visit the tower, the tower, the square in which it sits on, and the park adjacent to it are always filled with visitors, making the entire area very crowded however there is a strong Police presence as French soldiers are seen walking around with machine guns in their hands securing the area.
The Eiffel Tower has four “entrances”/ticket booths in each of the four corners of the Tower, but the lines are usually equally long. For us it was a two hour wait just to get our tickets and another 30 minutes to get up to the top as with the large number of visitors, the top deck is often filled to capacity, in which case they won’t allow you to go up until people begin to leave it, thus making you wait even longer.
Regardless of the wait and the minus 2 weather conditions the Eiffel Tower simply is magnificent, and in my opinion, it’s a sight that every person must experience at least once during the course of their life.