April 7, 2015
It is barely 9am, but the busy Charles de Gaulle Etoile station at the heart of Ile de France, is pulsing with life and energy. At both ends of the station, Parisians clad in the latest fashionable winter/spring clothes, march hurriedly along a silent but frantic beat.
This is Paris, the most visited city in the world and if you are to judge with the throngs of people shuttling back and forth the metro, you will see that this day is not an exception. It seems like tourists and travelers alike from virtually all points of the planet have come to adore and explore the city of lights.
What makes Paris, the destination of choice the world over, I never really understood until I set foot in the city, barely 24 hours ago.
With only my heavy backpack as my companion,and after spending an exorbitant amount of money, 23 euros to be exact, for a 24-hour whole-day transport pass that gives me access to all of Paris’ transport systems, I arrived in central Paris near midnight.
I wanted to explore the city at nighttime but my body simply shut down after a few nights of running after buses, trains and airplanes.
Today, After a good night’s sleep however, I am fully ready to discover Paris and all her beauty.
My first stop? The Eiffel of course.
All my life, I’ve been staring at postcards and wallpapers of Paris and its most recognizable landmark.
In the silence of my childhood room, I imagined myself dancing under Eiffel’s shadows on a cold autumn day, while dressed in the latest Parisian garb. I would bow in front of the mirror, as if addressing high-born monsieurs and mademoiselles.
It took me three decades before I managed to do it. When I got my schengen Visa, I made a hasty decision to come to Paris, throwing a wrench to my already set European journey. I just had to come and visit the city and come face to face with the Eiffel.
Now I am about to realize one of my lifelong wishes and I’m beginning to unravel.
I took a few tentative steps outside the Bir Hakeim Metro station (Line 6) metro towards the Champs de Mars. All the while, my hands are sweaty and my heartbeat is racing.
As soon as I got out of the metro’s tunnels, the Eiffel materialized, standing mightily over the Parisian skyline.
Standing 324 metres, it is literally the latest structure in all of Paris. Erected in 1889 for the World Fair, the Eiffel tower has become the most visited paid monument in the world. In 2010, it welcomed its 250 millionth visitor.
It has been a global icon, and with a good reason.
Looking at the lattice steel tower, one cannot begin to imagine how such a structure can stand. Tons of steel, held together by mere nuts and bolts, and it defies the law of gravity. It is freakin amazing.
It has three levels with dining establishments in the first and second. At the third and upprmost level, you can get the most breathtaking view of Paris. Both stairs and elevators are available to ascend the tower.
There are a lot of good vantage points in Paris to view the Eiffel, with a majority of people judging that is the Trocadero across the river Seine which has the best view. But to be honest, for me, any view is just as spectacular.
The Eiffel is just larger than life and I just stood there frozen, with mouth agape, as I admire its beauty and grandeur. I looked around and I was comforted to know that there are hundreds of other people from all over the world, also standing completely still as they gaze up the tower. Admiration and wonder reflected in their eyes.
Truth be told, I teared up a bit, in honor of this moment.
I knew since childhood that I wanted to come visit Paris and see the Eiffel. But for someone who hails from a middle-class family, it was a bit difficult and unrealistic to prioritize travels over education costs, groceries and other more pressing needs.
There were a lot of challenges and hurdles along the way but I endured and pressed on with my dream.
Now, after traveling 20,000 kilometers across oceans and continents, here I am, standing at Eiffel’s feet and the feeling is just indescribable.
It’s like Christmas morning. It’s like seeing the dear friend for the very first time after years of being apart. It’s like breathing after struggling with the current deep under a dark perilous ocean.
And I wanna feel it over, and over and over again.
Still admiring its beauty, I made a silent promise, a vow really, that I will come back again someday.