France, 2018: Up, Down, Down, Up

We moved through the crowds towards the entrance to the Eiffel Tower park. I don’t know why, but the security screening at the gate surprised us. It shouldn’t have, of course. This iconic place would be an ideal “soft target” for a terrorist.

Once through security, we headed for the far side of the Tower grounds, where Dori knew we would get the elevator to the second level, to which she had previously purchased tickets online. We were plenty early, so we waited until it was time for our group to assemble at the base of the north leg. We couldn’t help but notice the long, snaking line of people waiting to ascend the Tower from the west leg, for which tickets could be purchased at an office near the base. How thankful I was that Dori had planned ahead!

(Note: I read later, after we had returned home, that frustrated park employees had gone on strike two days after our visit to protest the huge disparity between those long lines and the quick accommodation for those who bought tickets ahead of time. We were among the last to enjoy that privilege, at least for a while.)

At 7:20, we gathered with a couple dozen other eager tourists from all over France and the rest of the world to await our turn. The elevator soon arrived, the doors were opened, and we squeezed in, seeking, like all the rest, to place ourselves next to one of the glass walls. More specifically, we followed a few who knew the terrain to the side where the door would open, so we could be among the first to exit.

As we ascended, we observed with great interest the workings of the pulleys and other mechanisms that enabled us to rise higher and higher. After we exited or, more precisely, were pushed out the door by the crush of those behind us, we found ourselves on the platform of the second level. There, before us, lay Paris.

The view was stunning, of course. Slowly, we made our way through the dense crowds to other sides of that level, finally arriving at the spot where we could see all the most famous parts of the city, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Tuileries Gardens that we had enjoyed earlier in the day.

Paris really is the City of Light, we admitted to ourselves as the city began to welcome the oncoming evening.

Aftre about an hour, we knew it was time for us to go, for fatigue had long since been gnawing at us and had now become the dominant sensation, so we descended the tower, once again enjoying the views both of the workings of the elevators and the changing scenes of Paris.

Once on the ground, Dori suggested that we had straight across the inner park of the Tower area to the avenue directly south of us, but I insisted – for some reason that now escapes me – that we return to the gates on the side where we had entered.

Crowds of men hawking various souvenirs almost prevented us from getting through the narrow gate. While a park guard shouted something to us, apparently a warning to be careful, Dori was already engaging one of the men waving little replicas of the Tower before us. Soon, she had purchased three of them, one, intended for our grandson, was a bit bigger than the others. I thought that perhaps she had been “had” by swindlers, but soon realized that she was right to grasp the opportunity rather than shopping around. (Postscript: Our grandson loves that little statue, which has lights that go on and off.)

Now we made our way wearily, stopping  once to rest on a bench,  through the lovely slightly wooded area that surrounds the Eiffel Tower park, and soon we saw the place were we’d enjoyed supper with Marie and her family. I was exhausted, but Dori, who had not slept on the flight from Texas was, in her words, “beyond exhausted.” All we wanted was to get home.

That, however, now seemed like an almost impossible task. We could barely make out the avenue in the light of dusk. It seemed very far away. How could we ever walk that distance? Trudging along on leaden legs, we glanced down each side street terminating at the edge of the park, hoping to spot a taxi.

Seldom have we both been so bone-weary. The exhilaration of the view from the Tower had dissipated into a single emotion: the desire to get “home” to our hotel as soon as possible so we could fall into bed and sleep. Our spirits were now as low as they had earlier been high.

After what seemed like an interminable trek, we neared the avenue. I could see an occasional taxi whizzing by, but none of them stopped for passengers and there didn’t seem to be any clear place where we could hail one. By now, Dori couldn’t go on, so she sat on a bench while I inched closer to the broad boulevard.

At last, I sighted a cab. Forcing myself into something like a run, I got the driver’s attention. He slowed down and came to a halt. I summoned Dori, who soon joined me. I don’t remember when I was happier to be seated behind a driver who asked where I wanted to go! We saw him as another angel sent from God.

We gave him the address of our hotel, which was nearby – so near, in fact, that I was afraid he would refuse to take us such a short distance. I needn’t have feared. He was a friendly fellow who gladly lowered the flag on his meter and drove us smoothly and quietly down the avenue.

When we got to our room, we just collapsed on the bed, barely taking the time to change into our pajamas.

Looking back on that day, I see how God took us to the edge of our resources to show us, once more, that he was with us; he knew our limitations; and he would gladly grant us simple pleasures, such as supper in the park, the gorgeous view of Paris from the Tower, and a “chariot from heaven” when we needed it.