The Power of a Barcode – Montparnasse Tower Gone Wrong

A while back I saw a great photo on Facebook from my friend Kate, with the sunsetting and the Eiffel tower behind her, and I knew that one day when I finally went to Paris, I MUST photograph the sunsetting behind the Eiffel Tower.  I waited patiently this week, watching the weather so I could capture the best light.  I looked up sunset times and researched how long it would take in line to get up Tour Montparnasse (Montparnasse Tower), with its observation deck on the 56th floor.  I bought tickets online in advance to speed up the process – because I wasn’t going to miss this great opportunity.

And then I almost missed this great opportunity.

We walked from here to the tower – approximately 25 minutes – a little longer than expected because the heat in the high 30’s and a day of wandering the city had our feet and bodies thoroughly exhausted.  We skipped the ticket line and went straight to the elevators.  After a 5 minute wait, we were launched to the top, where they would scan our tickets.  Except they scanned as “red.”  As best the gentleman could explain to me in his limited English “Rouge Bad.”  The other employee told me it meant the ticket had already been used.  HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

So they sent us down to the cashier.  Back on ground level.  We waited for 30 minutes as she tried to manually search through the computer to find proof of this purchase (even though my name was on the ticket).  Ray griped that is was ridiculous that their system didn’t have a search feature (she needed my date AND TIME of purchase to find it).  After 30 minutes and not being able to find her manager to help us, she finally gave in and just issued us new tickets.  We went back to the line, back up the elevator, through the mandatory photo in front of a green screen, and then ran up 3 flights of stairs to the 56th floor to TRY and catch the sunset.  The sun had already gone (it was 10pm by now), but I did manage to get a few shots of the Eiffel tower with some of the glowing embers left in the sky before it faded to dark.

But of course that wasn’t easy either.  There are holes in the plexiglass just for photographers.  But there were tons of tripods and tourists lined up with their cameras hogging the space.  I shouldn’t complain as I would have been one of them had I been there on time.  So I was in the “back row” wanting to photograph and watching the light disappear.  But the people in front of me didn’t have cameras – they were just enjoying the sunset – which they could have done JUST AS WELL 2 feet to my right, behind the plexiglass.  So after 5 minutes of waiting I very “tactfully” just started reaching my camera in between their heads and shooting photos.  They then “realized” that I was waiting and moved over to the side, while I got my 10 minutes of photos in before the light was gone.  I made sure to thank the girls kindly for moving, but it wasn’t my finest moment as a tourist either.  But, I do have a picture or two to show for it.

And thing is, the next morning I took pictures from the top of Notre Dame and found the view was WAY better….hmph.  SO moral of the story…don’t pre-pay online and print tickets for Montparnasse.  Go to Notre Dame first.  Always leave yourself extra time if it’s super important you don’t miss something.  AND, be REALLY REALLY thankful for super amazing patient supportive husbands willing to carve out space around you, hand you lenses, and calm you when you’re stressed.  They help a lot.

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