The Kindness of Strangers

23 Oct

Paris, France 2009

Over the years I have heard that Parisians are rude.

I have never found that to be true — well, with the possible exception of *that one* taxi driver in 2002.

In fact, while visiting Paris in 2009, Carrieanna and I found the exact opposite to be true.

As noted in a previous blog post, we were in Paris to celebrate Carrieanna’s birthday.

I have viewed The City of Lights from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I wanted Carrieanna to have that same experience. It was my birthday gift to her. And we would go at night, to enjoy that spectacular view.

We had already determined that we would not attempt this on her actual birthday, which fell on a Saturday, since it was very crowded that night. Instead, we would go on Monday night and make this our last great adventure in Paris. (We would be returning to Amsterdam on Tuesday.)

There’s a miracle story here, but let me share another one first.

To understand why I call these “miracle stories,” let me quote Rick Steves, in his [mostly] very helpful book “Easy Access Europe.”

“Unfortunately, Paris … has a few sights that are best left to non-disabled travelers (or more adventurous slow walkers): … Sainte-Chapelle upstairs chapel … the top level of the Eiffel Tower ….”

We were happy to prove him wrong, with the help of kind strangers!

Earlier in the day, after visiting both the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay — yes, it was a VERY busy day! — Carrieanna and I took a taxi to the Ile de la Cité, to see the beautiful stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle.

“The interior of this 13th-century chapel is a triumph of Gothic church architecture. Built to house Jesus’ Crown of Thorns, Sainte-Chapelle is jam-packed with stained-glass windows, bathed in colorful light ….”

“… climb the stairs into the sanctuary, where more than 1,100 Bible scenes – from the Creation to the Passion to Judgment Day – are illustrated by light and glass.”

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France 2009

“Unfortunately, the upstairs chapel (with the stained-glass windows) can be reached only by climbing a narrow spiral staircase.”

Umm, maybe. Unless you encounter a kind ticket attendant, who was a charmed by Carrieanna’s smile and offered to take us the back way (which included a tiny construction elevator and a keyed door).

We were taken through the King’s Entrance (built to allow King Louis IX easy and private access the chapel) …

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France 2009

… and, voila!

We were inside the chapel, admiring the glorious stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle!

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France 2009

(Carrieanna in the chapel)

After spending an hour or more in the chapel, Carrieanna and I were escorted back downstairs and to the street, where we thanked our escorts for providing us with this amazing opportunity.

And then we enjoyed a little river-side respite and people watching …

Paris, France 2009

Paris, France 2009

… knowing that we had another grand adventure in store later in the day — ascending the Eiffel Tower!

Carrieanna’s father shared our story in his letter to Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky:

“…Jeri and Carrieanna head off by taxi to the Eiffel Tower. Our last night in town.

“They reach the second level. Carrieanna says the guards explained to her that people in wheelchairs are not allowed at the top level, although blind persons are allowed at the top.”  (We didn’t understand that logic either.)

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 2009

“She decides that despite ’17 very steep stairs’ up to the elevator to the top, she will do it. She finds a fellow American who says he was in a wheelchair for a while, who is willing to watch her chair for her while she goes up. His wife and daughter already are on their way up, and he is just waiting for them on the second level. (As it turns out, his wife and daughter came down much earlier, and he sends them home in a taxi while he waits for Carrieanna and Jeri!)

“After the 17 steps, they wait 45 minutes, with no place to sit, which is very demanding on Carrieanna’s legs. And then, the Top! And she loved it. She felt so proud of herself!”

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 2009

To quote Carrieanna, “Don’t say it can’t be done unless you try.”

Because … Anything is Possible!

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One Response to “The Kindness of Strangers”

  1. Carrieanna Hess November 3, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    As you can see in the photo, I was fairly warm and worn out, but it was worth the climb, wait, and challenge!

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