Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jolie Paris (#16)

To get to know Paris, we rode the on-off bus, and sat on top to get the best view. Our first site has become the most famous - the Eiffel Tower. Tourists swarmed the site like colorful ants, and African immigrants hawked mini Eiffel Towers and all kinds of souvenirs. Already I worried about what I could bring home to my kids.
The Tower
The highest building in Paris is the Eiffel Tower. It's almost France's most photographed building. I got it from about eight angles. I'm sure that others may have found more. It was built by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that's his real name) as the star attraction of the 1889 International Exposition, and although it was supposed to be pulled down eventually, it's still there and has become THE symbol of Paris.
The Tower needs 60 tons of paint for every face lift. It required the light of 10,000 gas lights in 1889. Today 20,000 bulbs sparkle every evening on the hour. It was the tallest building in the world until the Chrysler building was erected 40 years later in 1929.
Here's a great story about the Tower. Hitler, yimach shmo, came to the Tower when the Nazis marched into Paris. He wanted to take the lift to the top, but it seemed not to work. So he had to walk the 246 steps. As soon as he left, a mechanic fixed the hydraulic gears with a plain screw driver. Vive la France!
We continued on the bus, and in between stops, the radio played old Maurice Chevalier music and torch songs. Why is it that all Paris chanteuses are broken-hearted? "My man treats me so badly. I can't go on." I have yet to hear a happy life-is-good French song.
Speaking of music, every single building before me with its garretts and its rod iron balconies seemed perfect scenes for Gigi and her Grandmama.
The wind whipped through our hair and the sun beat down on us, as we saw Paris spread out before us - Maxim's, L'Opera (its stage holds 450 people), the place where Joan of Arc was killed in 1429, the Louvre (which began with 12 paintings and now home to one of the finest collections in the world), the Arch de Triumph, the place of the guillotine and museums, museums, museums. (While museums are free in London, they're only free on the first Sunday in the month in Paris.)
Paintings and books lined the bridges of the Seine. And the grandeur of the Loueeees was everywhere. The buildings were ornate and sculpted and accented with gold. Tourists strolled along the Seine, browsing and enjoying the perfect Parisian moment.
We enjoyed the tour bus, but the majority of tourists join Parisians in walking throughout the city. I guess that's why most Parisians are so skinny. They're always walking their boulevards and quaint neighborhoods, soaking up the Parisian atmosphere.

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