With our train not leaving until 9:40 we had the luxury of not having to rush this morning. We arrived in plenty of time and boarding the train, always a hassle with heavily laden bikes, was achieved reasonably easily. We even managed our changeover in Limoges with a few minutes to spare- not bad considering that in 15 minutes we had to: disembark, find the platform lift, find the departures board, find our platform, carry the bikes down two flights of stairs (no lift this time) and lug the bikes up the steep train steps. Mission accomplished!
The three hour ride to Paris passed painlessly, with lots of lovely French countryside to look at and we arrived feeling fresh and rested on time at 1:40.
With not too much trouble we were able to cycle the five km to our hotel, the delightfully quirky Hotel De Nord du Velo, right near l’Republic and furnished with the spoils of many hours scrounging every flea market in Paris. We were quickly settled in and back out, on foot, to walk westward into the setting sun towards the Eiffel Tower. The usual passing parade of Parisienne life was still evident even though the temperature was 10 degrees cooler than 3 weeks ago.
It is a long walk from Republic to theTower and we were decidedly footsore when we stopped on the Champs Ellysee for dinner. Our fellow diners at the next table were a young couple from Canada and were getting married under the Tower on Thursday. They had come alone, he in a wheelchair, both very much in love… Paris seems full of stories like theirs.
With shadows lengthening we finally walked beneath the Tower and were horrified to see the length of the queues. Was fate again going to thwart Jan’s efforts to reach the top of the tower? She had already failed twice on past holidays, once due to weather and once lift maintenance. Thankfully we realised most of the queue was a student group who had to wait for their leaders so we fast tracked through and were soon at level 1. The crowds were large but access to level 2 proved no trouble- but a long, slow moving river of aggravated looking ticket holders for the final lift to the summit stood between us and success. At 10 pm the sun had set and in the deep blue twilight the shimmer of the 20,000 lights encrusting the Tower began their 10 minute, on the hour, show. We were right in the middle of it… Wow! The queue didn’t seem to be as big a worry any more (even though the biting wind was!)
At last we were in the final lift and we rose through the iron framework to the top. Wow, again! Even the press of bodies on the cramped walkway couldn’t spoil the moment- which we celebrated with a champagne from the recently opened bar whilst the twin searchlight beams reached into the night and the “City of Lights” lived up to her name, far below us!