When I came to Paris I was unprepared for quite how enchanted both my children would be by the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know why I didn’t expect this: as objects go, it is utterly irresistable. Its allure lies not only in its presence, which is such a part of the Parisian landscape, but in its absence. When you are in a part of Paris where you can’t see it, you long for it, look for it, seek it out–will it appear around the next corner?
“There it is Mama!” Teddy called out triumphantly more than once on this trip, “The Eiffel Tower!” As if he discovered it, this rare and beautiful thing.
It seems fitting that we left this most important of visits until the last day of our stay. Having received dark warnings of two-hour lines, on this morning we actually did hustle out the door and arrived at the base of the tower about ten minutes after it opened. It was blustery and none of us was dressed warmly enough, but the thrill of standing underneath the tower was enough to distract us all.
How is it possible that the tower is not a cliché? It isn’t. We watched the elevators and shivered in the cool, damp breeze until finally it was our turn to be shepherded by the attendants, who wore the chicest grey and orange uniforms with foulards that were to die for, onto one of the elevators and watched as we ascended over the city that had become our own.
Lest you think all we did was wax poetic, I’ll hasten to let you know that while we waited in line Teddy and Matt came up with an alternate name for the tower: the Awful Tooter. “Toot” is the polite word we taught the boys to use instead of “farts.” There was also much hilarity at the top as well, when Matt held Teddy and sang “Oh look at the top of the Eiffel Tower, da dee, da dee, da dee, da doo” in a falsetto voice that would do Monty Python proud. It was very giggly up there.
But the boys also really enjoyed looking for all the places we’d been during the past two weeks. “Mama, there’s Sacre Coeur!” Tommy cried pointing the white dome out in the distance. “Where’s the Bois de Boulogne?” Teddy demanded until I showed him the big swath of green. “But I can’t see the rides!” he said indignantly.
We were up there for a good long while and afterward walked over a bridge across the river to picnic outside the Palais de Chaillot, but it was closed off in anticipation of Monday’s July 14th festivities. So after snapping a few quick pictures and fending off the vendors selling one-euro Eiffel Tower key chains, we ate instead in the park on the Champ de Mars next to the tower.
After lunch, we decided that our final expedition would be ice cream at Berthillon on the Ile Saint Louis. We made our way past Notre Dame and the crowds watching a blues band (complete with a bass and saxophone) on the Pont Saint Louis onto our magical little island, dubbed “Ice-Cream Island” by my two little monkeys who overheard me calling the ice cream at Berthillon “the best in Paris.” At some point on our trip (after their second visit there I believe) this morphed into “the best ice cream in the world.”
The sky cleared, there was no line, and we tasted sublime mint ice cream that was the essence of all that mint and cream should be. The boys also had cherry-plum ice cream whose charming French name was mirabelle.
A bride stepped out of a doorway, a sculptural white collar setting off her dark upswept hair. Church bells rang. Walking around to the river side of the island, we admired a pair of fish-shaped downspouts.
The boys waved to the bateaux mouches on the Seine, hello and good-bye, for after our ice cream was gone and a few gifts were purchased it would be back to our apartment and in the morning the beginning of a long trek home. But none of us thought of that then. For that perfect moment, Paris was ours and we belonged to it, wholly.