Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online


I did something that Parisians never dream of doing: I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. My daughter was due to go with her German exchange student but she was given a detention by her school. Heike and I queued with Japanese and Chinese, Italians and Germans, Britons and Americans. After an hour, we reached the second floor. We queued for another half hour to reach the top.

That was a good day. My first visit to the tower was in July 1964. Almost half a century on, the tower is looking its age. The hefty steel girders and split-level, cuckoo-clock lifts are like something out of a Jules Verne novel.

The City of Paris, owner of the tower, is already on the case. €25m (£21m) is being spent to transform the first storey into a shiny, new visitor centre, with a partially transparent floor.

In theory, when the works are completed this summer, the queues will move quicker.

But queuing can be fun. I eavesdropped with amusement the banter between three young Britons and a group of young Americans.

We were passing through one of those metal mazes, in which the queue is folded over and over. The three Britons had pushed in. One young American woman gave them an earful before they moved hurriedly around a bend. One young Briton to another: "Oh God, how embarrassing. She's coming around again. We had better think of something witty to say. We are British after all…"

By the time we had reached the lift, they were all the best of friends.