We waited for two hours in the queue, sitting ducks for the men who shook her likeness at us, her form miniaturised and attached to keychains, or molded from plastic and glowing. The women with their long skirts and head scarves walked up and down the snaking lines, repeating their “Speak English?” and holding their little signs. We watched as the gendarme paced up and back, automatic weapons at the ready in case someone brandished a toothpick in a public area. And we watched as the trinket men came together in a group in the centre, only to scatter like seagulls when a policeman on a bicycle rode through the crowd. Squawking to each other, they jumped fences with their long legs and were gone for all of 10 minutes, until the police left and they could return to their incessant “One-euro-one-euro-one-euro”.
Dad was prepared to climb the stairs, but much to Mum’s not-so-secret delight, we had unknowingly queued in the elevator line. We finally boarded and began The Ascension. Halfway up we had to transfer to another lift, and took the opportunity whilst queuing yet again to look out over the city. Gustave Eiffel could not have had a weak stomach, his office nestled above the city for years after completing his masterpiece. Up again we rose as the heebie-jeebies set in, then exited in a very safe, fully enclosed room, the world capitals and their distances plastered around the top of the windows.
Disappointed I couldn’t dangle my camera off the edge for a shot at vertigo, we did a lap of the room and came across a curious set of stairs leading out to the - wait for it - barely caged-in platform! Ignoring all warnings not to stick anything out between the bars, I focussed on infinity and snapped the shutter.
Dad had finished his list, Mum’s stomach was doing gymnastics and my knees were becoming a little too familiar with each other. We looked down at the people waiting for this moment, the moment when you realise you are doing something you always wanted to do, and grinned at each other. It wasn’t Everest, but it was close enough and that was good enough for us.