The Eiffel tower was built as the entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair. It's built along the Seine River on the Champs de Mars and is 324 m tall. The Eiffel Tower is a symbol for Paris, for France even, and is one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture I've ever seen.
As I enter the Champs de Mars, the clouds are now almost gone and the tower stands still, dominating all that surrounds it. It is HUGE! I take my time approaching it, in awe of it's sheer size; the 4 legs are much larger than I ever imagined. What hits me next is the intricacy of the steel work and symmetry of all the beams within the tower making the tower symmetrical itself.
I opt for the cheaper route to the top - stairs to the 1st and 2nd floors, then elevator the rest of the way. There's no line for the stairs in the East leg and I glance to the elevator entrance at the North leg and don't see a huge crowd. Coming early was a good idea. I get my ticket for the stairs and head in. There are a lot of stairs...you can see them as they ascend up into the tower to the 1st floor...a lot of stairs.
I will be the first to admit that I'm not in shape. Therefore, I was not surprised when I was winded about 50 steps up...they number them for you...and thought how much this sucked. But I persevered, climbed all those gosh darn steps and made it to the 1st floor. Thinking it was the only floor before the top, because I didn't know there were 2, I took my time looking out every side, reading about the history of the tower, finding all the landmarks in view and wondering why there were no people around. But then I discovered there was another stairwell for me to ascend...yay.
When I finally made it to floor 2, I felt relieved and very proud of myself. Sure my legs were shaking, my heart pounding and my mouth dry, but I had climbed the Eiffel Tower. Woot. At this level the views were just as wonderful as the 1st floor but there were more people, so I can't say if it was better or not. The information on level 1 proved to be quite useful as I could spot the Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Louvre, and the Arc de Triopmhe among other sites quite easily. The light clouds were still hovering and the view in the far distance was hazy. (Yet after multiple towers in every city on even the clearest of days I learned that haze is common. A side effect from being in a city, I think.) Overall though, it was quite gorgeous.
What astonished me the most however, wasn't the panoramic views. It was the internal structure of the tower. Just like the base of the tower, the thousands and thousands of steel beams welded together in perfect symmetry visible from the 2nd floor was jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Since I was quite satisfied with the views from the 2nd floor, I debated whether I should spend the money and time for the elevator ride to the top. I'd read mixed reviews about if the view from the top was worth it or not. I was also time-conscious and wondered if I would have enough time to accomplish everything I'd planned for the day. But after thinking about it, who knows when I would be back in Paris and what I'd be doing, so why not go to the top while I'm here? I got my ticket and hopped in line for the elevator. Though I was sad to see there was a line, seeing how long the line could have been I was grateful.
The top was quite an experience. Not overcrowded which was nice, and the views were certainly different than the 1st and 2nd floor. You site spots that aren't tall, but are recognizable. You see things you didn't see before both far away and close up. The panorama view of the city is much better and it allowed me to appreciate Paris as a whole; how the city visually comes together through layout and architecture.
Though the top was well worth the elevator trip up, time was of the essence and I was slowly running out of it. Upon leaving the tower I walked along the Champs de Mars on my way to the Hotel des Invalides. The clouds had lifted completely and when I turned around to view the tower once more, I was floored by the picture I saw. The green lawn leading towards this massive, perfectly built icon sitting against a backdrop of the bluest sky you can imagine. Completely and utterly gorgeous! An image I will never forget.
However much I wanted to stay and stare at its glory though, I knew I must be off. Turning my back once again, I marched on towards the Hotel des Invalides...but not without getting one last look, and one last picture, first.