During the bus ride back to the hotel we had time to scheme and we decided that we needed to go to Planet Hollywood for dinner (a souvenir search).
After, if we timed everything right we wanted to take a night-time ride on the Batobus (boat) to see the lights of the city at night, especially the Eiffel Tower.
The 1889 Universal Exposition featured the new Eiffel Tower. It was actually controversial when it was proposed. A group, including some famous names from the world of art at the time, started a petition: “We come, we writers, painters, sculptors, architects, lovers of the beauty of Paris which was until now intact, to protest with all our strength and all our indignation, in the name of the underestimated taste of the French, in the name of French art and history under threat, against the erection in the very heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower which popular ill-feeling, so often an arbiter of good sense and justice, has already christened the Tower of Babel.” It was mocked by local satirists- “this truly tragic street lamp”, and “this mast of iron gymnasium apparatus, incomplete, confused and deformed” -for example. Amazing that it got built and has become such an iconic symbol of Paris.
We took it down to the wire, but made it and we had a wonderful cruise on the river. It was interesting to see how many people were out along the banks of the Seine enjoying the warm evening. There were places where people had gathered to dance and other areas where they were just enjoying the scene -often with a bottle of wine.
Our boat was approaching the Eiffel just in time for us to see the light show from the water. It was a beautiful view from the water.
We had a thought that maybe the lines/crowds would be a bit more tolerable so Gail and I decided to try one more time to get to the summit.
It was already after 11PM and while it was nowhere nearly as crowded inside the security area as it was that morning, there was a crazy crowd scene outside of the security zone. We rushed into a much shorter line than earlier and I swear this is true…just as we were arriving near the ticket windows –they closed the summit AGAIN! We did go up anyway just to see the night view. While Laura and Elton waited for us below, they were treated to another light show.
When Mike and I first saw Paris, the Eiffel Tower wasn’t wrapped in security like it is now. It was simply part of the surroundings and you just walked up to it from any direction. Now it is blocked off with fencing (seen in this picture) and you can only enter the plaza through a security check. There is a second security check (with an x-ray machine for your bags) just before you get on the elevator to go up. You can only exit through a one-way revolving metal gate. This made me sad because it was so ugly. It also funnels a great many people into narrow entry/exit points. While most of anyone’s focus is looking “up” – I’m glad I was able to see it in a simpler time.
Our only option to get back to the hotel at that time of the night was a taxi. The first guy I talked to wanted to charge us $30 euros. I said…”I don’t think so”. We went to another taxi line and got a driver who wasn’t trying to scam us. Our metered fare ended up being around $15 euros.
While we were riding around on the bus or boat -we took random pictures of things we were seeing. Here’s a more candid slide show of those pictures:
The last small notes about points of history in Paris:
In the early 1900’s Paris became the home of artists such as Picasso, Modigliani and Matisse.
WWI affected Paris – there’s a story about taxi drivers driving soldiers to the front lines for the Battle of the Marne. (I’m assuming they weren’t overcharging the soldiers like our guy at the Eiffel Tower!)
In the years after the war, Paris became a mecca for writers, musicians and artists from around the world. Many famous people found themselves there – Hemingway, James Joyce, Josephine Baker and Salvador Dali to name a few.
The German army marched into Paris in 1940 and in 1944 the city was liberated by the French 2nd Armored Division and the 4th Infantry of the US Army.
The reason I’ve included these glimpses of history is because I’m a bit fascinated about the “ages” the city has lived through and the layers upon layers of history overlaid on the same streets and at the places we visited. The evolution the city has gone through – from an unpopulated island in a river where two trading routes crossed, to vikings, then kings and queens to guillotines to famous art and literature to WWII and on into our modern era. Layer upon layer of history. It is easy to walk the streets, comfortable with the things from our own era, gawking at this old statue or that old building. I try to imagine these things when they were new – what life would have been like for the citizens of the time. I try to decide which historical era would be the most interesting to be transported back in time to. I wonder what future tourists will think of the monuments, the history and the citizens of our time?