“Just keep walking, it’s a scam”, I shouted to the young tourist couple, hoping they understood my English. I knew something was awry when on the approach to the Eiffel Tower, I saw a young girl approach them, pretending to have found a gold ring in the sand and asking if it was theirs.
Just a minute or so earlier, an identically dressed young girl had done the same thing to me. As she bent down, “discovered” the ring and came towards me, I knew something wasn’t quite right. With one hand raised I ignored her approach, and with the other held tightly to my bag. Looking around to the right, I saw a young man who looked quite similar (an older brother I assumed by his appearance) who was closely observing the situation. I glared at him, and he looked back at me, recognising that I wasn’t about to be caught by their scam.
And then I saw the same scenario being played out again just a few metres up the track, I knew for sure my initial feelings were right, and that’s when I yelled out to warn the young couple.
In fact it was just the scenario M-H had described in blog comments a couple of days ago, where the tourist is distracted by one person, while another comes along and takes their bag. I hope the young couple took my advice, though I didn’t stay around long enough to see if they did, concerned for my own personal safety. And besides, I was in a hurry to get to the Number 1 tourist destination in Paris: The Eiffel Tower.
Not only is it a hell of a lot cheaper to walk the tower stairs rather than catch the lift (4 euros, as opposed to 11 – though I was also only charged 3 for some reason), but it was also a really great experience to do so. Similar to climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in that you really get to see the tower’s construction as well as the magnificent views.
Even being a slightly overweight forty-year old, I didn’t find the walk too much. Maybe because I was so excited I literally bounded up the stairs. And I didn’t envy the people who’d paid a lot of money to be tightly squeezed into the elevator. Coming down, needless to say, was a breeze. In fact, a couple of young blokes had a race to see who could get to the bottom first.
In all, I guess I spent one-and-a-half, maybe two hours wandering around two different levels of the tower. I was extremely lucky too, since both the weather and the views today were spectacular. It was also great just to sit and watch people have a truly wonderful experience. Young families with kids. Couples in love. All having the times of their lives. And for a few of them I was “official photographer” of their wonderful moment.
The views were even better than those I’d had earlier in the day at Sacre Couer, the church not far from where I’m staying. There’s a lift there too, though it’s something I didn’t know about, and couldn’t take advantage of, since I was coming from the other direction. The view, though, is definitely the first thing you notice when you reach the top of the stairs.
And then you notice the beautiful church itself. And, since it’s a “working church”, a lot of people (including myself) took the opportunity for some quiet prayer in the midst of the tourist jam.
Outside on the stairs, it’s both peaceful and noisy. I first took a seat on the stairs near an American bloke playing classics such as “What A Wonderful World” and “American Pie”. And when that became too much (after about two minutes), I found myself another spot near a bloke playing the harp. He was good. Really good. And the harp also seemed to suit the scene a little more too.
I must have sat there for about thirty minutes (maybe longer) enjoying the peace, the solitude (well, kinda), and the views. And then a woman asked me if I would mind moving slightly so she could hold the railing to walk down the stairs. As I instantly recognised her French was as bad as mine, I replied, “No worries”. “Oh it’s so nice to hear an English voice”, she said to me. And when I replied telling her I was Australian not English, she told me that was just as good, and that her son was an Australian.
In some ways, it’s been a day of ticking off the tourist boxes of Paris, since I also paid a visit to Notre Dame. It’s just as touristy as everywhere else I’ve visited. And no wonder, since it’s a very beautiful church. Quite remarkable.
On the way there, however, I also discovered the great little “island” in the middle of the river. Well, discovered isn’t so much the word, as the island was full of people sitting enjoying the sun, reading, eating and drinking champagne.
And of course there was some romance too. There were some teenagers tentatively holding hands. There were a couple of gay boys with their legs gently touching each other. And there was a lovely middle-aged couple holding hands too. I thought it was great to see a couple who might have been together for maybe twenty years or so quite happily showing affection in public.
Well, that’s what I thought until they decided this beautiful spot was also the ideal place to go for the “big pash”. And by that I don’t mean, a tender, passionate, romantic kiss. Hours later, the sight of tongues and hands going places they shouldn’t go in a public place still haunts me.
Not only has this one single event absolutely confirmed my homosexuality, but I think it’s also put me off sex for life. “If that’s what I look like when I’m doin’ it, then I’m never doin’ it again”, I thought to myself. I hope I’m not sounding too much like a fourteen year old teenage girl if I say, “Ooooh gross!”.
Anyway, that’s not gonna be an issue is it, since I’m staying in a youth hostel? I have, however, been lucky again tonight. Once again, I’m in a four-bed dormitory on the top floor all by myself. I’ve nicked the pillows off the other beds, so I hope no one turns up at midnight. I’ve got the window open. There’s a gentle breeze. The sounds of Paris traffic can be heard gently in the background. Could life get any better?
Post Script: I wrote too soon. Three other people arrived to share my room at about ten thirty. Shit. Shit. Shit.