Paris: Tour Bus and the Eiffel Tower

Obelisk at Place Concorde
On the second day in Paris we joined the "tour group". We boarded the tour bus at Gare du Nord. This was our first time with a group tour, so we were guardedly optimistic. The bus seemed full of strangers who were apparently convivial with each other. I felt the same way when one joins a new school. Everyone is friends with each other but you! This was going to be a fast stop tour of Paris. The first stop was Place de Concorde. The characteristic Obelisk (gifted by Egypt) dominated the scene. Medieval buildings surround the square. 

Arc d Triomphe
 Next we drove over the iconic Champs d Elysees to the Arc d Troimphe. Its a strangely familiar sight. Its almost a twin of the India Gate at Delhi. But its much bigger and unlike at Delhi, the monument to fallen soldiers of France interacts very closely with the visitors. One can touch it, climb it (for a fee) and feel it. 

Eiffel Tower

Palace Invalides as seen from Eiffel Tower

Soon we are on our way to the Eiffel Tower. We are being cautioned about the long lines to enter the tower, and then even more tiring wait to get to the top floor. At the first glance the Eiffel tower does impress even though it seems starkly incongruous with its environs and the city of Paris. My wife remarks that for such a "feminine" city as Paris, a mass of steel seems so paradoxical. The wait to get to the top does wears one down, particularly after an exciting day. As one reaches the top, there are shops that sell souvenirs and food. Neat commercialisation of a seemingly useless structure. The view from top is ofcourse stupendous and if one has been studying the map of Paris (I have guilty of this!), then all the big iconic structures fall into place. The shiny gold dome of Invalides Palace, the curve of the Seine river and the remarkable lack of skyscrapers are all starkly visible from top. We decide to climb down the stairs instead of taking the lift. The panoramic view from the top gradually converges to more scalable structures as one climbs down. Its not very tiring and certainly less so than waiting for the overcrowded lift. So all in all, the Eiffel Tower is an underwhelming experience and one does sympathise with the prominent Parisians who opposed the installation of the structure in the first place. Once out of the Tower, we are accosted by street vendors selling knick knacks and memorabilia. It was amusing to see the Africans speak a few words of Hindi on spotting the Indians - "sasta milega"! Truly, Indians are phenomenal hagglers, in any part of the world!

To read the previous part of the travelogue click here.


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