Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paris' Most Identifiable Landmark

This was supposed to be just part of a blog post, but it turned out to be a big 'aside' post. I really do love the thing, as cliche as many think of it. Of course, I'm referring to the Eiffel Tower.

Our Batobus tickets were going to expire that day, so we took one last trip on it to the Eiffel Tower. The sky was clear blue and quite warm (~24 deg C), so a little smoggy, as well. The entrance line was quite small, actually. Once inside, however, the line to take the elevator up was LONG. Eventually, we landed on the 2nd level (128 metres) and there seemed to be confusion as to where to go the wait for the 2nd level elevator. Then, sirens went off and red lights were flashing, accompanied by an announcement saying (one the English translation could be heard) "we are evacuating the tower, we apologize for the inconvenience" (inconvenience!!??)

Anyone reading this around the time we went would know that, over the month leading up to our trip there had been several evacuations of the tower due to terror threats. Several arrests were made the week we were there during the raid of a suspected terror cell (with evidence of planned attacks) so the threat really was, real. The 'chatter' that security dept's were hearing is that a bombing was not being planned, but a shooting massacre (comforting, no?). Hence, the high security at all the tourist spots. I didn't mention it previously, but everywhere you went there were soldiers with machine guns mulling about.

Anyway, back to the story at hand, we waited with all the other people (by this time, a line had formed) while the people from the upper level were evacuated, probably 15 min or so. Then, the red lights and siren shut off - apparently the threat had been cleared, so we were able to go up. The line was LONG at it was hot, standing in the direct sun. But, eventually, we made it up to the summit and took in all the amazing views of Paris at 276 metres.

After descending the tower, we took a stroll through the Champs de Mars, one of the larger greenspaces in Paris, adjacent to the Eiffel Tower. While sitting on a bench, we noticed something that looked like a bright green ball, but then realized they were all over the place. They were some sort of tree fruit, but neither of us had a clue what they were. They were about the size of a grapefruit and smelled faintly of an orange/frankincence sort of odour. Upon returning home, I found out that they were osage oranges (but not for eating) - you can reat more about them on wiki.

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