Okay, confession time: I've only been up on the Eiffel Tower three times in the 14 years I've lived here. The first time was seven years after I'd already lived here, taken "against my will" by friends visiting from Minneapolis. While we were waiting in the line for two hours on that hot summer day, rumors started spreading through the crowd of the disappearance of JFK Jr's plane. All I wanted to do was go home and watch the news, not stand in line to go up (then again to go down) with thousands of tourists.
The last two times have been with tour clients (they pay me, after all, can't wiggle out of it, though I try): once at night, when the gigantic flashbulbs going off during the five minutes of "sparkling" made it feel like being on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival (minus the red carpet), and the last time a few weeks ago, the first day of the chilly fall season.
From the ground we couldn't even see the top it was so foggy, but we went up to the top anyway. The lines were relatively short, despite only one ticket window open since the painting of the Tower was being done. We only waited a half hour before getting crammed into the first elevator to the second level. Then we switched to the second elevator to the third (and top) level. As we were going up, we passed the painters, hanging like acrobats from the iron beams, paintbrush in one hand, bucket in the other.
I would have thought there were more high-tech ways to paint the Eiffel Tower (they do it every ten years to keep the structure from rusting, and it takes a year to paint the whole thing). But no. Paintbrush and bucket. The guys (didn't see any women) were attached by ropes, unlike the earlier painters who are featured in the photo gallery on the first level hanging out with no safety equipment at all. Today, even the buckets and brushes have ropes attached to them!
I should mention that it was absolutely freezing up there, and that was back in September. I can't imagine how it must feel now that the weather has been dipping into the 40°F temperatures. If you do go up, don't forget to stop at the first level on your way down (you have to be ready to hop off when the doors open, most people stay on and skip this level) to see the free photo and art exhibitions that are regularly held here. There's also a café, a post office, gift shop, and bathrooms, of course.
In case you missed the last Secrets of Paris newsletter, today at 8pm the Eiffel Tower will have the first of its new light shows to celebrate its 120th year, which will continue every night for three months. The displays will last 12 minutes - one minute for each decade the tower has stood. Citroen is also celebrating a significant anniversary, its 90th birthday, and for the first display next Thursday Citroen is positioning 10 new C3 cars around the Eiffel Tower with a camera positioned in each so everyone in the world will be able to watch the display live over the internet and change camera angles to see the display from all the different view points. Watch online from here: www.toureiffel.citroen.com