11/12/2012 07:58 am ET Updated Jan 12, 2013

What People Do At The Eiffel Tower (VIDEO)

It's a commonly shared dream to come face to face with the Eiffel Tower, a monument which has come to symbolize many things for many people -- love, romance, art, a beacon of French culture in general. And let there be no confusion, the 123 year old structure fully lives up to expectations. It's majestic, grand, climbable and (best of all in my opinion) serves no real utilitarian purpose save for the large radio tower on top. I find it hard to imagine a monument-for-monuments' sake of this scale ever being constructed in the era in which we now live.

Even after visiting the tower up close and walking the stairs all the way to the top, catching surprise glimpses of it around the city never gets old. Like a big friendly monster unsuccessfully trying to hide itself, you may walk out onto a balcony and spot its top poking up over a neighboring roof or round a street corner and suddenly see half of its profile sticking out from behind a building. The first time I unexpectedly passed it while rumbling over the Seine on the Metro line 6, I was dazzled. Though after weeks of commuting the effect admittedly began to fade, I still always felt compelled to at least look up from my book and shoot it a glance, perhaps feeling that not to do so would almost be an act of impropriety. Like bowing before a queen or taking a knee when passing a church isle, it seemed somehow disrespectful not to give something so historical and mythically grand at least a moment of my recognition.

It's a natural tendency to immediately look for "La Tour" whenever granted a sizable view of the Parisian skyline, and I must admit, when said vista does not readily reveal the iconic silhouette, it can be a bit unsettling. This is something I experienced recently with a friend in Montmartre, when we suddenly discovered that we couldn't see the tower anywhere, and began to run frantically along the streets from level to level madly searching for it, genuinely worried for a moment that it had somehow been stolen by aliens or blown-up, finally fulfilling the fantasies of so many Hollywood end-of-days prophesies.

While over time seeing the Eiffel Tower in the distance from various points around Paris can become a bit like spotting a supermodel from across the street (still always striking, but not quite viscerally affecting), approaching the monument up-close, from any one of the avenues leading up to the smooth marbled surface of Trocadéro, the large square overlooking the Trocadéro gardens, fountains and the tower itself, never ceases to thrill me. Though I normally don't plan these encounters (like a moth to a flame, my random Parisian wanderings often seem to bring me back to its locale), I am always delighted to see it -- like running into an old friend who instantly lights up your day and is 200 times as tall as you.

As my visits to Trocadéro continued, I soon began to find myself enjoying "La Foule" (the crowd) almost as much as the tower itself. Filled with awe, excitement and an extra spring in their step, on any given day you will find the square at Trocadéro flooded with hundreds of smiling citizens of the world, people who have traveled thousands of miles just to see this famous structure, to stand in front of it alone, with their family, their friends, their enemies or their fiancés, with the common goal of "capturing" this oh-so-precious moment.

Photo Op from Elizabeth McDonough on Vimeo.

View more Photos and Video from Elizabeth's Parisian travels at

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