Monday, October 5, 2009

"L'elevator? It's for handicapped people..."

I was in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe on a beautiful night in September years ago.  When I asked the security guards where to find the elevator, that was their response.  Apparently, they were making a joke, but I thought they were being serious.  Damn, I should have boned up on my French Humor 101! 

I had done a ton of research before I left for the City of Light and read that visitors could take the elevator to the top.  I mean, 284 steps is a lot!  Just think, there are about 350 steps in the Statue of Liberty. 

So there I was acting as a tour guide to two ladies from Australia, whom I'd met at the Eiffel Tour, and I was told that the elevators weren't for us.  We all looked at each other like, "Do we even want to bother?"  Nonsense!  This is Paris, not some place around the corner!  We had to go up there! 

The youngest lady went first, then me, the second lady, and a handful of some other tourists.  The stairs were narrow and very windy, so if one person stopped, everyone else would have to wait. 

I was so worried.  It was humid and I was the biggest one there.  I clearly wasn't the most in shape person out of all of us, so I didn't really want to go second, especially in front of several thin / in shape strangers.  Too late now, we were climbing.  We were going at a pretty decent pace.  Everyone seemed pretty confident, but it's easy to feel that way when you first get started.  Then we all started going slower.  The group was no longer as tight together as before. 

I made it my mission to stick as close as possible to the lady in front.  There was a good distance between us, but as long as she was moving, I was moving too.  The other Australian lady was a good distance from me, but she wasn't my concern.  I refused to be the reason why we stopped.  I wasn't giving in to any preconceived notions that any of them had about me.  God, my thighs felt like someone took a chainsaw to them! 

Eventually the lady in front took a small break.  Perfect timing!  Then we took another.  The people below us were pretty far down, so we weren't holding them up.  Shortly after that last break, we made it to the... not quite the top?  There was a small museum with pictures and pamphlets around the site. 

Where were the great views?  We noticed that there was another medium sized set of steps that lead outside to the very top of the Arc.  Someone had a cruel sense of humor.  After that hike, I never wanted to see another set of steps again, which was too bad, because I had to climb 2 flights of steps to get to my apartment, not to mention the steps I had to climb to reach street level from the Metro. 

The most important thing out of all of this was that I made it.  I had a preconceived notion as to how it would play out on those steps:  I would need to rest several times, I'd have an asthma attack, I'd hold up everyone else trying to make it to the top, etc.  My mind was racing with all of the most negative possible scenarios, but instead of giving up before I even started, I went through it and made it successfully. 

I couldn't have been more proud of myself.  I was so charged after that hike.  It didn't hurt that the air was a little cooler and the sight was one of the most beautiful things that I had ever seen.  The Arc boasted one of the best views, especially with the city lit up and the Eiffel Tour sparkling in the midst.  We all walked around buzzing and taking loads of pictures.  We marveled at the bustling headlights of the Champs-Elysees.  It was all worth the hike.  The night was perfect.

I didn't let what I though to be a major obstacle stop me from experiencing the best night that I had in Paris.  If I had let my mind stop me from ascending to the top, I would have missed out on beautiful views, a wonderful feeling of greatness, and meeting cool new people.  I pushed myself and proved that I could do it.  What about you?  What rewards have you experiences after a challenge?  How did that make you feel?


  1. Yes, I actually took this picture. I may post a few more of my Paris pictures. I'll keep you posted. :-)

  2. Serviced ApartmentsMay 5, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    I wish I was able to do the same...