Monday – we finally get up at a decent hour because the Kendricks are going up in the Eiffel Tower and we do not want to stand in line for two hours. So we are on the Metro at 8:30 a.m., headed for the most visited and recognized landmark in the world! Rick advises getting there a little before it opens at 9:00 a.m., and we are on schedule. We book through the streets and a nice little park and voila! there it is! It’s hard to convey how massive a structure the Eiffel Tower is; just go see for yourself sometime. At each of the Tower’s four “feet”, there are queues set up, and it’s anyone guess as to which ticket office will actually open up. I guess in the rush of summer tourists they have multiple offices open, but today there was nobody there. We stood around in the cold morning sunshine and posted two people at the two feet where activity in the form of Eiffel Tower staff was present. When 9:00 arrived, nothing happened! Turns out the Eiffel Tower opens at 9:30. Oh well, at least we were one of the first people in line, even though we did end up standing in line for a while. Jeff and Ann say that at some of these tourist hot spots you do well to get in line a little bit after the place opens and the first crush of visitors has passed through the turnstiles. I could see where there is some wisdom to this strategy now. At any event, I can proudly report that the Kendrick family was in the very first elevator to go up the Eiffel Tower on Marc h 31, 2008. We got to the second level and transferred to the elevator that goes up to the tippy top of the tower, and we and six other people had the place all to ourselves for a bit. The ride up is a bit disconcerting, because it’s somewhat diagonal up to a certain point (if you look at a picture of the tower you can see what I mean) and then you straighten up but you are really far off the ground! We got out in an enclosed area and there was a flight of metal stairs to go out to the observation deck. We did it – the kids were fearless, completely unfazed by the height – but ended up staying on the north side of the tower as the wind was howling on the south side. I didn’t really realize how cold it was going to be, but it was definitely hats and mittens weather. There was a little bit of a haze, but we could point out the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame, the Louvre, etc. The river makes it really easy to get your bearings. The kids especially enjoyed watching the metro train cross the river on its own bridge. We looked below trying to find the Whites and Majo, but everyone looked like ants. We could see flashes going off at the other end of the park, and the kids said, “Hey! they are taking pictures of us!” So we waved for our adoring public.
We rode back down to the second level and looked out again. It was actually easier to recognize landmarks because the view is clearer and the “stuff” is closer to you. The kids all bought little souvenir Eiffel Towers, and we started our final descent. Back on the ground, we reunited with Team 2 and took some more pictures, walked through the park. This was the only place on our entire trip that we had a picture taken of all 10 of us. We stopped a man who oddly enough was visiting from North Carolina and even odder, ended up going with his wife and son on the same bike tour that we did later that evening. And he was a bit of a weird one, but at the Eiffel Tower we were just glad that he spoke English and could take our picture without running away with my pride and joy (the camera). So back into the bowels of the subway we go, up we pop at St. Peters (our stop), and home we run for lunch. That afternoon was the long awaited girls’ day out shopping extravaganza. Mom, Ann and I abandoned the boys with the children and went out. Ann stopped in at her favorite olive oil and chocolate boutiques, and Mom and I soaked up the ambiance. Mom was looking for something for Maddie, but didn’t see anything she liked. The only problem with our long awaited girls’ day out shopping extravaganza was that we were (in a word) exhausted. Actually I think Ann could have gone all day, but I had hit some sort of traveling wall. I wanted to enjoy it and did to some extent, especially when we wandered into the Jewish quarter and the men were outside trying to get us to come in and try their sandwiches (which did smell delicious!), but I just wanted to sit! I had hoped to find some inexpensive Parisian memento to display at home, but instead I found postcards and a t-shirt for Emma. We walked back home and met up with the boys who had taken the kids to Luxembourg Gardens, where there is a great playground which I only heard about. The children were completely enthralled, and if we ever go back to Paris, I want to see it. I can’t remember what we did for supper – I assume we ate something 🙂 – and then we went to the bike shop for our Fat Tire Bike Tour. We had seen pictures from PC and Tracy’s trip with the Whites and these people were all college students from Texas who guided the trip. I did not bring my camera b/c I didn’t really think I would use it – we were biking, right? And I regret that choice, b/c I think we could have gotten some great pictures. Oh well. Anyway, we ended up with a group of about 10-15 Americans and this boy from Texas whose name I can’t remember – he reminded me so much of a high school boyfriend of mine that I have superimposed his name on this boy. Off we go! It’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike, but you know what they say about learning how to ride a bike. It was a little unnerving to ride in the bike lane with all of France zipping along beside you, but no one was hurt, and we were a big enough group to create our own presence on the road so to speak. I couldn’t tell you where all we went, but high lights for me would be riding along the road right at dusk and seeing everyone gather at the bistro tables outside, getting to the courtyard of the Louvre right when they turned the exterior lights on and hearing someone playing the saxophone. It was magical, we were the only people there – that doesn’t happen often anywhere in Paris. I didn’t realize if you look out with your back to the Louvre through the Tuiliries garden you are looking straight up the Champs-Elysees with the Arc De Triomphe in the distance. It was really beautiful. We went by the US Embassy and our guide told us a bit about the Germans occupying Paris during WW II. Then we went up the Champs Elysees and got to a boat dock where we took another boat tour on the Seine. This had a much different feel than the daytime tour we took with the kids. Same crowded boats with tourists, but we had wine and it felt more like a date, which was nice. The other funny thing that happened is our boat captain caught up with the tour boat in front of us and gently rammed it a few times, just for kicks. I guess you get bored plowing through the same waters every day and night. We tried to talk our guide into jumping on board the boat in front of us like a pirate, but he did not. The other great thing about our boat trip was seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up. It sparkles every hour on the hour for 10 minutes, and we were right by it when it went off. What a great photo op! Too bad the camera was at home. But it was still fantastic, and maybe more so b/c I just enjoyed it instead of trying to get the best picture. After the boat tour we started to bike home and I had a flat tire, so our little guy had to change it for me, which he was super thrilled about. Then as we were going back up the hill from the boats to the street, some man grabbed the back of my bike and started pushing me while running. I slammed on the brakes and yelped, “Please, stop!” (ever polite, even when stressed!) That was strange, but the adrenaline rush helped me to get back to the bike tour office with plenty of energy. I also just remembered I wore Will’s ski hat with flames on it for almost the entire trip. Not to be a psycho, just because it was cold! You can see why Justin thanks his lucky stars everyday fo
r a wife like me. We got home after midnight again – poor Majo, she was just as tired as we were. The Whites trudged back to their hotel, and we went to sleep, for tomorrow would be another busy day. Back to Germany!