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Feb. 8, 2016: Paris

Today, we return to the Eiffel Tower. But this time, we’re not just eyeing it from the vantage point of the peasantry gazing upward. Instead, we’ll be surveying humanity from the heights of the structure. We just have to climb it. Because it’s there.

Our apartment window itself offers a nice view, which we now can see better in daylight hours.

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But we expect that the view from the Eiffel Tower will be a tad more majestic, as it’s in an older part of the city. So off we go, threading our way through town back to the fabled landmark.

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20160208_165127_Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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It’s possible to ride up the tower in a car, if you’re lazy and want to shell out a few extra euros.

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But we’re too hardy and thrifty for that. For us, the only option is the King Kong express.

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From up here, you get a sweeping view of the grand city below.

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Including the modern architecture of the downtown area.

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As well as a close-up perspective of the tower itself.

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With all its wheels and gears and gizmos.

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Even the bolts holding it all together.

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As well as some random nuts that serve no purpose at all.

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There’s some rain for a while, and the wind at this height whips up some chilly temperatures. Fortunately, there are indoor places to warm up — restaurants, lounges, gift shops, and even, oh joy, free bathrooms.

There’s even an ice skating rink. That’s right, on the Eiffel Tower. What’s even more amazing is that we somehow neglect to get any photos of it.

There are plenty of romantic niches and vistas up here, but just in case you need some guidance…

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Having conquered the tower in half a day, we still have plenty of time to pause for lunch and see more of Paris.

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20160208_122703_Quai d'Orsay

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It appears that Clet, the street sign artist in Florence, has been here. Or else he has an imitator.

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Those little Razors, or whatever they are, seem to be very popular among Parisian kids.

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When we were planning our trip over here, I contacted a couple of friends who’d both lived in Paris for a time, and asked their recommendations for what to see. Both of them mentioned Montmartre, so we meander there.

Montmartre is a historic, artsy little neighborhood perched on top of a hill. We don’t have much time to spend there this time — we’re basically just doing a breeze-through. And there isn’t much going on at this particular point. But we can still see that the place has its charms.

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One place we pass on a narrow street is a classic little French cafe that we just might have to go inside at some point in the future. One of the few people we encounter on the streets at this time is a portrait artist hustling business. He tries to get us to stop, saying “Just five minutes.” But we pass, and go on to check out the architecture.

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There’s a scenic overlook where you can catch a cable car down the steep side of the hill.

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And see the distant tower from which we’d been gazing in this direction only a few hours ago, now illuminated and tinged golden in the sunset.

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Continuing homeward, we encounter some rather heavy rain; and now, on our penultimate full day in Europe, we find that for the first time, we must break out those disposable ponchos we’ve been carrying around.

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A uniformed schoolboy, about 12, is battling the wind with his umbrella, and losing. A gust turns it inside out and rips it out of his hands. Kimberly comes to his rescue, retrieving the weapon, restoring its shape and handing it back to him. He very politely says thank you in English.

Then we come upon the legendary cabaret Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill), the birthplace of the can-can.

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Originally opened in 1889 (the same year as the Eiffel Tower), it was gutted by a fire in 1915, then restored and reopened in 1921.

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Making our way back home, we pass through a Middle Eastern neighborhood and stop in a little shop to buy some naan to go with some Middle Eastern food we’ve bought and will have for dinner either tonight or tomorrow night.

Nearby is a little plaza in which about 50 Middle Eastern men, apparently in pairs, are standing silently. Not talking, not laughing, not praying, and not even looking in any particular direction. Have we stumbled onto some kind of gay Muslim meditation circle? We have no idea what it’s all about, and it would probably be uncool to ask one of them for an explanation.

Back at home, the three of us decide to have a communal dinner of pasta. Kim and I, who are both accustomed to cooking, engage in a lively and prolonged discussion and deliberation about which kind of pasta and how much of it and how to prepare it, and so on — a discussion that anyone eavesdropping probably would find quite comical.

The feast prepared, we sit and eat and have some lively conversation during and after the meal.  Kim is highly opinionated, but unlike most other highly opinionated individuals, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s very informed about all kinds of topics, and all it takes is a sentence to prompt him into a lengthy riff that is fascinating and entertaining. (Among other things, he has a great sense of humor.)

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At one point I ask him how he got into linguistics, and he explains that he was originally a mathematician, but he found it isolating because nobody talks about math but other mathematicians. “I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone about ring theory, for example”, he explains, “because it takes an hour just to explain what ring theory is. But language is something that everybody uses.”

And he himself uses it quite well. Even though he’s stated that he has to catch a train into Germany first thing in the morning for a business meeting, we stay up talking until midnight.