Edison and Eiffel were birds of a feather -- entrepreneurs even more than engineers -- and Eiffel's creation narrowly survived dismantling, but for its utility as a radio transmission tower in the early twentieth century. Today it's a moneymaker. Looking up ...
We arrived early to beat the crowds, and rode all the way to the top. What makes the Eiffel Tower experience so very different from other tall skyscrapers is the fact that the rest of Paris is so short. There are blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks of five- and six-story buildings. One can see far and wide, and look down at the "ants" walking around. There is one tall skyscraper -- the Tour Montparnasse -- about a mile away. It's not as tall as the Tour Eiffel, and none of the signs on the viewing platform identify it. A tourist can also ride to the top of the Tour Montparnasse and view the city from on high, so we imagine the neglect is born out of the competitive spirit!
We tried to puzzle out one sport being played on a soccer field, not soccer. There was a pitcher, in a box marked with four red dots. We couldn't make out the ball. The probable batters ran around four corners as it they were bases, but there definitely was not a baseball diamond marked out. It wasn't cricket, because there was no field behind the batter. There were no spectators, just two teams, and a few officials. No managers, no benches, no bullpens. Can anyone with a knowledge of French sports help us out?
We looked down on the Champs de Mars, stretching east to the Ecole Militaire, with UNESCO in the background. To the north was the Palais de ... and looking down Chaillot with the Jardins du Trocadero in front.
We rode down to the second and first levels, stopping for more pictures and appreciating the different angles and perspectives of Paris. We found it interesting to see on two piers the dummies to illustrate painting the Tower while on a third there were real painters to watch. They looked just like the dummies! The exhibits generally didn't work. Dan and Elsa walked down the last two levels, about 250 feet, while Bob gave his knees a rest by riding the elevator. The lacy ironwork is so beautiful, and the tower doesn't have much wind resistance, so it stands up to storms quite well -- perhaps only 4 inches bending movement at the top.
Next we headed down the Champs de Mars and then around Ecole Militaire to Les Invalides where we did the compulsory look at Napoleon's tomb -- no mention of Waterloo here -- and then viewed the WW II wing of the Army museum. We had missed this wing on a previous visit, then read about it in a guidebook, and decided to come back. We're glad we did. The museum had a decidedly French view of the war, and a decidedly Gaullist view of the French Napoleon's tomb warriors, but that's one of the reasons for visiting museums in different countries. There were plenty of signs, in English as well as French, and excellent film clips, such as the landing of French troops in Marseilles. This is not a museum to appreciate the shift from 1940 French collaboration to 1945 French resistance, for this thorny issue was not covered. But all in all, we recommend this visit.
Walking on the sandy dirt paths of the Champs de Mars or the Tuileries Gardens has the same effect on one's shoes - it turns them beige no matter what the original color! We find it curious that the Parisians prefer these walkways unpaved.
On the way to the metro we encountered "la petite manifestation." A small squad of fifteen riot police lined up on Rue de Varenne leading to the Ministry of Agriculture, blocking traffic. The demonstration was organized by a collection of small labor unions representing some of the employees of the Ministry of Agriculture, who were objecting to the proposal to move some of the Ministry to the country. So the chant was "A Paris!" as the workers wanted the offices to remain at their present location in Paris. It was all very lively and French, and was a modern-day reminder that Parisians still know about Prepared for trouble taking to the streets, and, recently in 1968, to the barricades. We've seen pictures and know that the way you barricade a Paris street is to pull up the paving stones. Yet there is no movement to switch to a more permanent paving. The books we read tell us that the street demonstrations are an unchangeable feature of French political life. In a certain sense, the revolution of 1787 is still going on! But most of these manifestations, like today's, are friendly and relaxed, with the marchers chatting easily with each other and with the passersby.
Abandoning the demonstrators, we took the Metro to St. Lazare and went shopping in FNAC and Galeries Lafayette, two of Paris' great stores. Elsa bought a bright yellow hat to protect her from the hot sun and (said Bob and Dan) to make her easily locatable in a crowd. Walking one block at a time we got all the way to Rue Victor Masse and our Paris flat on the quatrieme etage. Our legs are getting strong! We still had to return to the Internet Cafe and make notes of our day and label the photos and do another small load of laundry. All this sightseeing can wear you out!