The thigh’s the limit

Kim eiffel 1I’ve always wanted to go up in the world. But as you all know, I’m hardly flush enough to afford a penthouse in the 16th, and besides, leaving Granny Flat would simply break my heart. So with one of my best friends in tow visiting from the Motherland entrenched deep inside a new punishing fitness regime, last weekend there was only one way for us to achieve my lofty ambitions, for an afternoon at least. Climb the Eiffel Tower. One. Step. At. A. Time.

Kim eiffel 6The sky’s the limit! the old adage goes. Well… sure Parisian rooftops become a distant tableau the higher you climb, but actually your feet can only take you as far as the second tier, and by then it becomes a case of the thigh’s the limit. Buttock-tuning was a secret aim of our mission, but there’s only so much leg-raising our adult bodies could take. Once the second floor had been conquered there was no way we had enough puff power to hit the very top, and anyway a snaking queue, an extra ticket and the dull prospect of being crammed into a lift to get there meant that we were happy to take in the sights from halfway up.

Kim eiffel 2Now I know for those visiting Paris, hitting the famous tower is a bit of a no-brainer. But here’s the twist. Most folk waste their time hanging around in the longer queue to take the lifts, and pay a bit more for the privilege. From September 1st it’ll set you back €11 to get ferried to the second floor or €17 to reach the very top. But where’s the challenge in that? Skip the queues, pay a mere €7 to walk up the way God intended, and use the extra time and money to grab a glass of wine and a well-earned rest at the bar on the 1st floor. Far classier than hopping from one leg to the other in a never-ending line.

Kim eiffel 5Plus, I can’t imagine that the views can be any more stunning from the third floor than they are from the second. Whatever your perspective when casting your eye over the charms of the Grand Old Dame, the beauty always shines through. People-watching from a cafe terrace shows you the finer aesthetics of Parisian life, but from up its most famous structure, you get to see the city as one in spectacular 360° panorama, taking in all of the must-see spots all at once. Rooftops have never been so romantic since Bert and Mary Poppins skipped across them covered in soot in the old Disney classic.

Kim eiffel 4For the daredevils amongst you, 2014 saw the introduction of a portion of glass floor meaning you can lord over the people-ants below like a huge, sightseeing giant (with jelly legs shaking with fear in our case). Those with love in mind will no doubt move in for the smooch at any given opportunity, and there must have been more proposals up the Eiffel Tower than anywhere else in the world. Me, having a squeeze and a glass of wine with my bestie was enough to make my own heart full of amour. And being able to see the quiet beauty of my much-loved home city from the dizzy heights; now that’s amore.

For more info on how to test your thigh power, check out the tower’s official website here.

 

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Talkin’ bout a revolution……

If Paris was a family, the Eiffel Tower would be at the bottom of the tree, the precocious young pup at a mere 126 years old. Being the juvenile show pony of the city kin, it’s no wonder that hordes flock to her as a priority, leaving the rest of the Parisian clan to fill up the lower reaches of the sightseeing list. But you know what tower, dear? It’s far too hot to be shimmying up your height in this face-melting weather, so we’ll leave your daunting climb to a day during much cooler times.

Kim bastille 1Luckily it’s almost as if the history of Paris prepared itself for this change in temperature, and July is the month to cast our cultural eye, Sauron style, to a different part of town where it’s the country as a complete generational unit that gets our undivided attention. You’re in the mood for a lively celebration? Then you can’t go wrong if you happen to be in the capital on 14 July for France’s Fête Nationale, or ‘Bastille Day’ as us Anglos like to refer to it.

Kim French 3In the Motherland, the damp squib that is England’s national day on 23 April couldn’t be more of a contrast. Over there we raise little more than an eyebrow in celebration to Greek-born Saint George who never actually went to the green and pleasant land, and made himself famous, as legend has it, by having a to-do with a dragon. Yes, that traditional English native animal, THE DRAGON. Here in France the origins of the national celebration may be more recent, but a whole lot less tenous, and a far more historically rich and suitably patriotic affair.

Kim bastille 5The whole shebang started way back in 1789 when thousands of cheesed-off revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison, marking the beginning of the French Revolution and setting the wheels in motion for a chain of events that would change the country and its values forever. A feast was held on the same date the following year to mark the momentous occasion, but there was a whole lot of revolting happening during the subsequent 100 years, and the date wasn’t chosen and officiated as the national celebration day until 1880.

The spirit of French unity which prompted its creation carries through to today and a week on Tuesday you can check out the huge parade of military might on the Champs Élysées and watch the heart-shuddering air display pass over the city. The Eiffel Tower can’t help but muscle in on the festivities as restless kids are wont to do, and naturally an impressive fireworks display makes sure we pay enough attention to it.

Kim bastille 4If you fancy absorbing some of the original revolutionary spirit, head to Place de la Bastille. You won’t find the original prison there as the revolutionaries did a sterling job of dismantling it stone by stone, but if you want to see just what an impressive feat that is, duck into the metro and find the platform of line 5 (direction Bobigny) where you can find the only remaining chunk of foundations and an outline of where the structure used to stand.

Kim bastille 2Don’t be lumping into the 1789 story the green column standing proud in the middle of the place though – that’s a whole other story of the 2nd French Revolution (oh how they loved making their point back then). Named the July column, it commemorates the 3-day-long July Revolution of 1830 (27-29 July), and the little gold cherub on the top represents the spirit of freedom. Revolutions? Buy one get one free in these parts.

I hope you can appreciate my brevity in telling these tales, with history as rich as this, we’d be here all year if I tried to delve any further. So for now, enjoy the sunshine, embrace the fête and save the French history lesson until the winter.