Autumn colors gracefully adorned the myriad trees as we walked across the path toward the Eiffel Tower. The crisp, cool air was deep and rich, and the thick scent of the season hung like jewels suspended in air. We approached one of the world’s most recognizable icons.
Reagan, my oldest daughter, was nine years old. Like so many other girls her age, she was inclined to romantic notions of perfection when it came to Paris. Dreamily, she twirled and danced her way down the path, enticing her sisters into a swirling orbit of joy around her.
“Isn’t the Eiffel Tower just EVERYTHING you imagined it would be?” she said excitedly. “It’s so big. And look at the red and orange trees! Oh Mommy, it’s all just perfect — like a postcard!”
Smiling with shared glee, I pushed back my sunhat and peeked up at the iron tower which has symbolized the glamor and mystery of Paris for more than 130 years. Despite its height, it was stil looked friendly and inviting as it soared majestically up into the blue October sky.
I wondered if Gustave Eiffel, its French engineer, had any idea what fame his brainchild was to gain when he began its construction in 1887 in preparation for the Exposition Universelle.
We’d just come from the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where we’d spent the morning walking the fashionable streets with baguettes in hand, sipping coffee and just enjoying the Frenchness of it all.
The streets were adorned with beautiful women who laced their way in and out of the shops in their heeled boots while toting high-end handbags. Their mouths were arranged expertly into the perfect French pout, eyebrows arched to perfection. Both the pout and the eyebrows were feats I felt were achievable by Parisian women alone.
At the enthusiastic request of our youngest, three year old little Peyton, we lingered at a fanciful shop on our walk. We stayed just long enough for each of us to choose a colorful French macaron to try. The kids were spoiled for choice as they eyed the stacks of pastel delights, which teased their taste buds into agreeing to share with each other so they could try more than one.
When we had reached the close of the promenade, we came upon the Arc de Triomphe. Marveling at its intricate architecture from across the street, I told the girls the story of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Marie-Louise. The couple first passed through the Arc in 1810, which was while it was still under construction.
“Sadly, Napoleon did not live to see his vision of the Arc completed,” I shared with the family, “The Arc was only consecrated when Napoleon died and the hearse carrying his remains passed under it.
Little did Napoleon know that it would one day become a campsite for Prussian troops after the fall of the empire. And this Arc has more stories, too! Come, let’s see.”
As we crossed under the busy round-about and emerged on the other side, we were under the Arc. The girls’ eyes were wide with thought as they imagined the many stories as we stood under the four allegorical high-reliefs, which were finished after the French Revolution in 1835.
Later that night, as I tucked four pairs of arms and legs into cozy Parisian beds, I asked the girls about their favorite moments of their first day in Paris. With a happy sigh, Reagan quickly said it was hugging the Eiffel Tower for the first time and looking out over the city from the second floor, after climbing 674 steps to reach the landing.
Madison, our second daughter, said she’d loved having a picnic on the glass floor inside the Eiffel Tower and video calling various friends around the world so they could “be there” with her in person to experience it.
Devyn, who wants to be a chef when she grows up, mentioned several of the French foods she tried throughout our day — crêpes, quiche, and chocolate soufflé. Finally, I turned to little Peyton, but she was already asleep, a Parisian style beret still perched haphazardly on her small head.
Paris was bursting with history, art, impressionable people, and delectable foods to try. We were ready to take our time, immersing ourselves in it all.