You want me to go up there? (Europe Day 5)

Far be it from me to toot my own horn, but I may just be the best husband ever.

I’m afraid of heights—that’s not what makes me the best husband ever, of course. But I know that weakness, and I knew it was something I was going to have to deal with because we were going to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower on our anniversary.

It wasn’t easy.

When you see the Eiffel Tower in person, it seems even taller than you might think, probably because there’s no other buildings that tall in all of Paris. It just sits there, tall and alone and imposing. I mean, the damn thing is 1,063 feet tall.

But, I’m going up there. I’m going to do this.

So we cram into an elevator with a bunch of other people to go up to the second level. I’m not doing bad so far, relatively speaking, but I’m still well over 300 feet off the ground. So I’ll stay back from the edge, thanks.

Next is the elevator to the top. This elevator takes you about 150 miles into the air, the ride lasting somewhere around two years. OK, maybe it just felt that way to me. I’ll give myself some credit; I did look out the glass at one point. That lasted about a second too long and I put my attention back onto the person standing in front of me. Not looking out again, no thank you.

So the top of the Eiffel Tower is essentially two parts. You get off the damn elevator that you’re trapped in for days and come out into a nice, safe enclosed space. There are windows to look out but with actual walls around you, it becomes a nice safe cocoon.

There’s also the outside part above you. I chose not to take that in. That’s all Bessie. I’m going to sit on this bench and keep telling myself that this thing has stood for over 120 years so there’s no way its falling now just because I’m there.

Funny part about it all is this: going back down, no problem. I’m looking around, checking out the scenery, taking it all in. No worries.

But I’ve done it. I’ve gone to (almost) the top of the Eiffel Tower and lived to tell the tale.

And I never have to go up there again.

And I will give credit where it’s definitely due. My beautiful wife knows full well just how afraid I am of heights, and she was very supportive through the whole process.

I’m only the best husband ever because I have the best wife ever. Love you, Toots.

Are you serious? Later that day, we’re back on the Big Bus Tour, and as we’re turning a corner in the Place de la Concorde there’s an explosion.

If you’ve paid attention to the news coming out of France over the past year or two, you can understand why my first thought was the T-word. Turns out I was close, except it was a tire blowing out on the bus and nothing, you know, terroristic.

Still, not the best thing that could happen. Fortunately, there was another Big Bus a few minutes behind us, so we all jumped on that one.

Where are we going? To save some money, we didn’t sign up for any sort of international phone usage. Basically we kept our cell phones in airplane mode the whole time, and only accessed the Internet when we could use the free wi-fi at our hotels.

But that also meant we couldn’t just pull up maps when we needed to, like when we were trying to find the fancy restaurant where we were going to have our anniversary dinner.

Fortunately, we found a nice Indian couple who were able to point us in the general direction of La Fermette Marbeuf—we did have to stop along the way to confirm our directions and, oh, what a shame, buy some macarons from the nice ladies at the patisserie—and we made it to the restaurant on time.

I’m not sure how much the meal would have cost, since we had already paid for it. But it was definitely worth it. The food was magnificent, with the appetizer—green beans with grated parmesan, hazelnuts and balsamic vinaigrette—kicking things off in delicious style. Our main course was veal with “risotto”—I’m pretty sure risotto is supposed to have rice and not just vegetables, but it was still yummy—and I tried soufflé for dessert while Bessie had crème brulee.

When we go back to Paris, I’ll take out a second mortgage so we can eat there again.

Other modes of transportation. Just to show we didn’t only ride the Big Bus, two other ways we traveled while in Paris—we took a river cruise before our fancy dinner and rode in a bike taxi back to the foot of the Trocadero afterwards.

I’ll write more about the cruise on the Seine in a couple days—we took the cruise again on our last night in Paris—and there’s not much to say about a bike taxi other than it’s a neat way to get around, especially at night.

Chasing the bus (Europe Day 4)

I didn’t run as much as I intended to in Paris. For one thing, it was really damn hot the whole time we were there, and for another, we were trying to cram as much experience into our time there as we could, and I didn’t want us losing an hour or more because I’m crazy enough to go run a half-marathon again.

But boy did we run when we thought we were going to miss our bus.

A little background: as part of our travel plan, we bought a two-day “hop-on, hop-off” bus ticket with Big Bus Tours. We decided it made sense to use it on our first full day in Paris, so we would have a chance to see the sights and get a better idea of where everything was.

Like most tour buses, there’s seating up top so you can actually see the sights, and you can choose a variety of languages to listen to through the complimentary headphones. (There’s also music playing in between the recorded commentary, some of which was pretty damn catchy.)

We took one tour just to see the sights, then got off for lunch before taking the tour again to actually get off at some of the spots. As for that lunch … the first three cheeses on that four-cheese panini we bought on the street were pretty tasty. The fourth, which was some version of bleu cheese, was frankly, pretty disgusting (and I say that as someone who actually likes bleu cheese). It ruined my appetite for the rest of the evening and on into the next day.

That didn’t make it any easier on me when we were trying to catch our bus. We had got off near Notre Dame, where a variety of vendors were selling books and artwork and jewelry along the Seine. I was looking at the books, trying to find just the right souvenir, when we realized it was getting late. The problem was that the Big Bus Tour, which stops everywhere, doesn’t stop very often along that part of the route. We thought for sure we were going to get stuck hailing a taxi or even walking all the way back to the hotel, when finally we saw a bus pulling over, well ahead of where we were.

I hope we at least looked amusing dashing down the sidewalk, all the while me fishing in my pocket for our bus tickets.

A closer look. Obviously, even before we got on the bus, was a walk over to the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t keep track of how much time we spent around the tower while we were in Paris, or how many pictures we took, but I think it’s safe to say that landmark was the centerpiece of our trip. One might even say it towered over everything else.

I apologize.

Might as well start smoking again. It’s easy to forget how rare it is to experience secondhand smoke here in the U.S. anymore. Unless you’re hanging out at a bar, or with a bunch of smokers, it’s pretty easy to avoid.

Not so in Europe, where cigarette smoke is a major part of the ambiance, as it were. Even though the restaurants themselves are non-smoking venues, the habit is allowed at the tables on the sidewalk, so the smoke just wafts your way. It’s quite the treat.