Tag Archives: Eiffel Tower

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!


April in Paris – A First Visit

1 Sep

Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky speaks French and loves Paris – she has been there many times.

In April of 2009, we three — Rich, Carrieanna and I — spent three days in Paris.

This was Rich’s first visit; he wrote the following letter to Becky:

“Dear Becky,

“Thought you might enjoy a Paris report from a first-timer.

“Our trip to Paris began aboard Thalys from Amsterdam Central Station to Gare du Nord. Rental wheelchair folded next to one seat – first class, yet! From Amsterdam to Brussels train runs regular speed;

“Brussels to Paris … warp speed!

“Was it Antwerp where we changed crew … new conductors, stewards, stewardesses?

“And there he was, our new steward … Ashken, tall, slender, young, devilishly handsome, charming, with a smile to light up any lady’s heart. When he learned that Carrieanna was traveling to Paris on her birthday … free extra small bottles of French wine … even sang Happy Birthday to her. Whoa! What an introduction to Paris!



   (Vegan meal; a little birthday dessert and wine!)

“My first impression of Paris was how LARGE it was, in terms of space, population, and most of all – architecture. Everything is huge … Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, d’Orsay, even the hotels.”

“I loved the colonnades along rue de Rivoli. Easy wheelchair entrance into Hotel Brighton, and very cordial, welcoming staff … fellow even remembered Jeri from her stop there last November gathering information for this trip.

“Carrieanna’s room is designated “Disabled Accessible” and overlooks (4 stories down) a small courtyard. The room is spacious and well-appointed; good light from tall windows. And, I go no further before mentioning that our entire time in Paris (save for the last late night) we had warm weather and bright sunshine!

“The room Jeri and I had, down the hall and around a corner, just a short walk from Carrieanna, was larger and overlooked rue de Rivoli. The tall windows opened inward and allowed access to a narrow balcony, where the three of us could comfortably stand.

”The view, as I remember it, from left to right: Towers of Notre Dame, Louvre, including pyramid, Tuileries Gardens, d’Orsay, the obelisk [in Place de la Concorde], the Invalides, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, [Pont Alexandre III], and the Eiffel Tower. Magnificent. That will be my most lasting image of Paris!

“The trip was Carrieanna’s 27th birthday gift. We dreamed of it for a long time and discussed it for an even longer time … what to see, what to do … We left each day fairly open in terms of scheduling, although we knew that in our three days and nights there we would want to visit our “Top Ten” places.

“So, we pretty much followed Carrieanna’s lead. And, no sooner did we get over “ooohing and aaahing” at the view, then she had us in a taxi on our way to Eiffel Tower … about 3:00 p.m. The taxi stand closest to Hotel Brighton, which we used often, was almost in front of the Westin. Well, out of the taxi and into the masses … “No, I don’t speak English … No, I don’t want any trinkets ….”

“We three were amazed at the size and the beauty of the tower.

“We spent a couple of hours there, taking photos and being amazed. Then we roll to the nearby Seine River boats.

“Wheelchairs on first, Thank You Very Much (rendered, of course, in French).

“Great seats, clear views, warm weather … and we cruise past the gorgeous monuments, buildings and bridges.

(Seine River Cruise, via Bateaux Parisiens)

“Taxi back to Tuileries Garden for our final meal of the day (about 7:00 p.m.). Surprisingly good food. Jeri finds baguettes, fruits, juice and French wine nearby.

“Back to the view until about 9 p.m. …

“The tower is sparkling like a Christmas tree, on the hour, and we “just have to” go back to the tower. She is drawn as if by magnetism.

“A couple of hours again, before finally getting back to Hotel Brighton about midnight.

“Jeri had earlier worked out with Carrieanna that her birthday present to her would be to take her up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. They were clear, from every source, that wheelchairs were not allowed beyond the second level. They decided this day, Saturday, was too crowded, so they would wait for another night.

[And that’s a story to be told in another post!]

“Trees budding and blooming everywhere. All sorts of flowers blooming. And military personnel with automatic weapons at the Eiffel Tower. What a great first day.”

(To be continued ….)

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