Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Audrey Hepburn makes it looks so easy

I love the movie Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. It's probably one of the first movies I saw that was set in Paris (maybe this is where the obsession began). Audrey Hepburn plays a super serious bookstore clerk who is "discovered" by Fred Astaire, a photographer for the fictional Quality magazine. He decides she's the next "Quality Woman" and this translates into a trip to Paris, several musical numbers, a fashion designer designing a line for her, a philosopher only interested in one thing (and it's not Audrey's ideas on empathy), and an awkward love story between Audrey and Fred. Oh and the magnificent Kay Thompson as the magazine's editor (yes, she also wrote the Eloise books).

This trio makes Paris look so easy. Especially Audrey's character, Jo. She's never been before but she magically knows where everything is. In one of the less "here's a song so Fred Astaire can dance" musical numbers, the three belt out "Bonjour Paris" as they tour around the entire city in the space of hours.

I don't actually think this is how Paris works. I guess you could do all these things in the space of hours (even if you literally landed 10 minutes ago since jet lag didn't exist in 1957) but it would be a challenge. I doubt you'd enjoy yourself very much either. I spent much of my first full day in Paris getting slightly turned around going from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower. I found my way but I would not have been able to make to all the other places Kay, Fred, and Audrey visit if my rate of wrong turns continued at the pace of the day. And I would have ended up being a huge grump.

Improbability aside, my favorite thing about this song is that they all end up at the Eiffel Tower (and there's the weird "let's not fight" part of the song). How could they not end up there? The Eiffel Tower is the symbol Paris (and France) for many people. It's certainly one place that I have dreamed of visiting since I was a little girl. I felt like I was playing peek-a-boo with it all morning. As I walked toward the Arc de Triomphe, I could see the very top of the Eiffel Tower from behind some trees. And then it disappeared. Then I'd see it again and it would disappear again like it was taunting me. It should be easy to find arguably the most famous monument in the world right?

You would think that's true but this is me and well, I sometimes make easy things extremely difficult.

I may love maps but I have a terrible sense of direction (most of the time) and my map reading skills leave something to be desired. Of course, my smartphone is stupid here in France so I'm unable to use it for anything. It's both frustrating and liberating to not be able to use it - I could have used it today that's for sure. Anyway, I had directions from one to the other but somehow missed one of the turns so I ended up walking along Avenue Victor Hugo and then didn't know where to go. I wasn't really going in the right direction nor was I going in the wrong direction. I eventually figured out which street was the right one and ended up taking a very circuitous path to get to the Eiffel Tower. I finally found my way to Avenue d'Iena and voila - the Eiffel Tower was just across the Seine.

I have been imagining being at the Eiffel Tower for most of my life. I've been having a hard time describing the feeling of this visit. Everything I come up with sounds like a cliche or isn't quite right. Just seeing it was awe-inspiring. The engineering and construction alone is amazing. And then add to it that you can go to the summit - the very top of the tower at something like 917 feet. Crazy.

This was the only ticket I purchased before arriving. I didn't want to wait in line all afternoon (just part of the afternoon). It took about 30 minutes to get from the base to the first stop on the second level. Here you can take pictures, buy some Eiffel Tower merchandise, and have a coffee. If you continue around, you join the line to le Sommet, the very top of the Eiffel Tower. It's only accessible by elevator (you can walk to the first and second levels if you'd like - I believe it's 300 stairs to the second level) and you have to make sure to buy the right ticket. I'm not really afraid of heights but I'm not a huge fan of weird elevators or lifts that operate on the side of mountains or 900+ feet structures (ask my family about that time we went on the Incline Railway in Chattanooga). I stayed towards the back during the ride to the second level but was front and center for the ride to the summit. Thankfully, I couldn't understand anyone in the lift with me. I'm certain they were making jokes about cables snapping and us plummeting to our deaths.

It was so worth it to go to the summit - scary but worth it. The view was stunning and I rewarded myself with a glass of champagne. There were a few people standing against the tower. They didn't want to step closer to the edge and look out. As I stepped closer, I asked an American couple to take my picture. The woman agreed but I noticed her hands shaking a bit. She said she didn't want to get too close to the edge so she'd be happy to stand back and take a few pictures. I stayed on the summit for a little while longer and then made my way back down. Less nervous this time but still in awe of being at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The day was perfectly sunny and warm - like something out of Funny Face. I like to think it was a little "Bonjour Paris" just for me.

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