The ending of any travel adventure is a bittersweet one. Of course everyone misses home for some reason or another. For me, I miss having a place to put everything (digging through my suitcase for a hair elastic or that one shirt I really want gets tiring), and sleeping in my own bed (though I do sleep pretty well when I travel, baring the occasional uncomfortable hotel room, but nothing compares to your own bed). Also, there is that creeping feeling or work and responsibility that looms in the back of my mind on the last couple days – that the freedom that comes with travel is coming to a close. But then I eat my last croissant. And order my last crepe. Or sit in my last cafe, and drink in my last views of the city. And then I’m sad. Usually the last day involves Ray and I talking about what our life would be like if we lived ______ [insert name of city we are currently visiting]. We convinced ourselves that we would love the Florida warmth, the bikes and vla of the Netherlands, the outdoor markets of Germany, the pastries of France, and the centrality of just about anywhere in Europe. We talked about the benefits of buying a 20 acre ranch in the mountains of Montana for less than the cost of my condo, and living in the lake in Osoyoos. We questioned if we could live on pasta alone in Italy, or if we would bother owning a car if we lived in Paris, London, or the entirety of Holland. Before we go home we make this place home. And a little piece of that lives in us from here on forward.
The last day in Paris was a good one. We went to Versailles (see post here), packed our luggage (sigh), and went for one last dinner. After dinner we caught the metro down to the now dark edge of the Seine, where the Eiffel tower stands there sparkling, towering over us. The Eiffel tower by day and Eiffel tower by night are completely different experiences. Once an hour, on the hour, the yellow Eiffel twinkles with blue lights, providing a few minutes of [even more] magic.
We had reservations for 9:30 to get up the tower. Now the Eiffel tower website “claims” to have group tickets available – for a great rate. They are on sale 60 days before you travel, at 8:00 AM. So I get online at 11:00 PM our time, ready to buy them, knowing that the Eiffel tower if a major tourist site. It’s 11:01, and I select my date, time, and number of tickets. I hit submit. “Sorry, all sold out for this date. Please select another date.” WHAT? They went on sale 1 minute ago. So I rearrange our schedule and try again the following night. Same message. Again on night 3. Behind my computer even earlier, click the SECOND my clock hits 11. Sold out. At this point I’m about to throw something. How is it possible an entire days worth of tickets can be sold out with seconds? Let me tell you – a system with robots and people paid to buy max amounts (100 at a time for example) for touring companies, who then offer to sell you “no wait, timed entry tickets for only €40!” That is 4 times the price of the actual ticket. This is because when you buy the ticket you can print it, and no name is required. So third party vendors are making a fortune. But given that they are snagging up all the tickets, it’s a choice between €40, or a 2 hour line up. So night 4 comes – and it’s my last chance. I’m trying to buy for the last day, and was hoping for a pre-dinner time slot, but I know my luck isn’t good. At this point ANY tickets are better than none. So I get out my computer, Ray’s computer and 2 iPads. They are all set. The clock hits 11, and we hit submit to all 4 devices, each which chose a different time. 3 of them get the “no luck” but ONE of them gets the “proceed to payment.” 9:30 PM. Last night of the trip. Insert sigh of relief. [Yes, this is the kind of stuff that teacher travel planners stress over]. Needless to say, I was not impressed with the system.
So here we are, 9:30, ready to go. First we go through security to get into the room, a 20 minute process at best, even WITH tickets. Then we get crammed into a little elevator that holds 20 or so people. It goes up one of the 4 legs of the Eiffel Tower, all the way to the second floor. Then you get out, and get into a second line to load a smaller elevator to get all the way to the top. Of course you have to go to the top. At least the first time. Unless you are afraid of heights. So we head to the top and enjoy the windy but beautiful views of the city. And the kids are in love. It’s the EIFFEL TOWER. The symbol of this beautiful city. Insert insane number if selfies and group photos.
We head back down to the second floor, and continue with even MORE selfies. Team Becker. Team Dewinetz. Team French. Team LEAD. Team Council. Team Physics. Team Dance. Team Grad 2016. Team None of the Above. Pretty much any combination of students we could think of (FYI Picture at the top right is LEAD and bottom left is Student Council). While normally we try to get back to the hotel (and bed) at a reasonable hour (even more so with a flight the next morning), we decided to enjoy this without being driven by clocks. Because that’s how we roll in Paris.
But the time did come to head back down. A few of us took the elevator – after 4 days in Paris there was a lot of pain from the hundreds of thousands of collective steps. Of course, Eiffel Tower and all, a few did choose to walk down the 700 steps to the base. We took a few steps back onto the Champs de Mars to take in the view – just in time for the 11:00 PM sparkling that you see above. The perfect way to end our time in Paris.
I’d like to think it’s never “goodbye” to Paris, but instead “until we meet again.” I’d like to think I will one day return to many places I have visited. Because the first time you visit, you are often a tourist. The second, a traveler. And the third time, you’re home.