Friday, February 25, 2011

Notre Dame and The Eiffel Tour

We did a lot of window shopping yesterday all the way down the left side of the river. I'm cueing up a WTF Paris Blog for tomorrow that is pretty much all photos. But since Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tour are two of the biggest tourist items, I thought they could stand alone.

Notre Dame is on an island across the Seine River from the Louvre. And with all things this old and ancient I am as frightened by it as I am impressed. To go into the church is free of charge. But there are a lengthy set of rules you have to follow. The church houses a perpetual silent prayer. But they still have sermons of some kind in there because for a building that was built over a 200-year period, finishing in 1345, it had been crazily updated with large flat panel screens in areas where viewing the pulpit would be difficult. You can pay 10 Euros each to wait in line to take an elevator up to the top of the building for a view of the city and the river. We skipped that, since we were going to the Eiffel Tour later.

You can also pay a few Euros to get an audio tour of the building in various languages, too. Why does a church frighten me? You have to look at this sucker up close to really understand. Two hundred years of commitment, vision and hard work to sculpt (there is no other word) a building in commitment to God (with the big G) is awe inspiring. Really, this wasn't one man's vision. This was a collective community's devotion. But at the same time, it's totally not some place a carpenter would think God heard more of you than anywhere else in the universe, ya know? There's nothing modest about Notre Dame. There is only money, and the long list of atrocities through history that have been committed in the name of God that begins to flood through my head when I go into places like this. That and since it's Catholic, being told upon entry what all the rules are was kind of funny. They're on the door in big bold letters in many languages with pictorials. No hats, no flash photography, no food, etc. My favorite: Beware of Pickpockets.

Ahhh, Paris and pick pockets. It's definitely still an issue, because there were signs at the Eiffel Tower everywhere, too.

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower around 6 p.m. and by the time we got to the summit (13 Euros each), it was dark. The spot lights at the top of the tower had come on, and we got to see the vast view that is the city. From the Empire State Building in New York, you see a multitude of other buildings with height -- just height that's not as big as the one you're standing on. In Paris, you see all the old. You see how a height restriction makes the city sprawl out instead of up. And in that sense, it's a lot like Washington, D.C. (Thanks to L'Enfant.)

The first floor of the Eiffel Tour has an ice skating rink in the winter... and a restaurant. It's that big. The second floor has a little snack shop, some souvenir stands and two levels.  MacTroll is standing at the second level in the photo above. The summit is much smaller and has one guy, standing in a closet which has the neon words, "Champagne Bar" over it. Yes, for a few Euros you can buy a plastic cup of champagne and toast yourselves at the top.

I took this photo of the regular lights on the walk back to our hotel. This area was flooded with immigrants trying to sell everything Eiffel Tour from statues to key chains.

But once an hour for 10 minutes, they light up the tower in giant sparkly lights. We caught the tail end of it when we got back down to the ground. Sorry that it took me a minute to realize I wasn't taking a photo and had to turn the camera.

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