If you find yourself with a “spare” day and a half—not counting travel time—is it worth it to try to see Paris? I wondered the same thing myself when I had the opportunity to tack a quick visit onto the front-side of a trip to Ireland. It is indeed possible, but be prepared to prioritize and make some tough decisions in order to maximize your limited time.
I did as much planning ahead as possible—making the hotel reservation, booking tickets for several attractions, and mapping out a tentative touring schedule and route.
Day 1 Itinerary:
Our flight arrived in Paris at 9:00 a.m. and we hit the ground running. For whatever reason, I am never able to sleep in-flight—a circumstance that is terribly aggravating—so I was fairly tired on top of the jet lag that first day. There was no time for rest, however, so we pushed on. I had arranged for a shuttle from Charles de Gaulle Airport to our hotel and the driver was waiting to whisk us away as soon as we grabbed our luggage. [Prior to meeting him, we withdrew money (in euros, of course) from the airport ATM machine (distributeur in French). This is the best option if you want to avoid terrible exchange rates and an astronomical commission charge at Travelex or similar exchange agencies. We also stopped by one of the airport T1 desks and purchased Paris Museum Passes.]
We were checking into our hotel by 11:00 a.m., Paris time.
After freshening up a bit, we headed around the corner from our hotel to eat lunch on Rue Cler. The restaurant choices are diverse and plentiful on this delightful, cobblestone thoroughfare, so we made a pass up and back before settling on Cafe’ du Marche’ for our first sampling of French cuisine. This popular cafe’ offers sidewalk seating, so we had an opportunity to people-watch while enjoying our meal. (More about Cafe’ du Marche’ in a future post.) Then we began our sightseeing in earnest…
Sightseeing on Foot – We walked from our hotel to Les Invalides and then on to Pont Alexandre III (the Bridge of Golden Statues) in search of a tour bus stop. We didn’t follow a pre-planned route…just walked wherever our feet carried us. We saw a number of high-end stores, cute cafes with red-and-white striped awnings and umbrellas, and lots of fabulous French architecture.
L’Open Tour – We purchased passes online in advance for this hop on-hop off, open-top double-decker bus tour. There are 50 stops along the route as well as multilingual commentary. In theory, this is a great way to see the city; in reality, there is a downside. We visited Paris in August and though it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I had feared, we had difficulty finding a tour bus with available space—especially in the upper deck for the best view—and often had to wait until the third or fourth bus, go to another stop, or settle for touring on foot. That said, the view of the Arc de Triomphe from the open-air, top deck was far better than anything we could have seen from the ground. Ditto the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro…got some wonderful photos of both. It was a great way to see the Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde as well. All in all, worth the money…just be prepared for delays during heavy tourist times.
Eiffel Tower – We ended our bus tour near the Eiffel Tower, then went to pick up our admission tickets. (If you wish to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower—or even visit the lower decks—you need to purchase tickets through the official web site well in advance. I did not do that so ended up booking (still in advance) through Paris Easy Pass Tours, which costs a bit more but has the benefit of an actual tour guide.) We met up with our group at the designated location and accompanied our guide to the tower, where we hopped right on the elevator and headed up to the first level. From there we went to the second level and then on to the summit. (More about the actual tour in a future post.) This is a must, in my opinion, no matter how much or how little time you have to spend in Paris.
Back to Rue Cler for supper (at 9:00 p.m.), then on to the hotel to get some shut-eye!
This was a full day—especially on top of flying all night and dealing with the seven-hour time change! We walked back to our hotel from the Eiffel Tower—a distance of half a mile—after which we were exhausted! We maximized every minute of the day and saw a lot in twelve hours!
Seeing the Eiffel Tower ablaze in all of its nighttime, twinkling glory is truly a sight to behold—and an amazing photo opportunity for anyone fortunate enough to enjoy the experience in person! Or is it?
During our last evening in Paris we took a riverboat sightseeing cruise on the Seine, which afforded beautiful views of the buildings and monuments that border the river. Most were illuminated by lamps or floodlights, and lights sparkled among the trees and reflected off the surface of the water. It was easy to see why many refer to Paris as the “City of Light.” Our journey culminated at the base of the Eiffel Tower where we were treated to the spectacular nightly light show. You have not seen “amazing” until you have seen this sight! I—and virtually every tourist within view of the tower—whipped out my camera and began shooting photos and video. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I returned to the United States and was told that photographing the Eiffel Tower at night is actually ILLEGAL! How can that be? After all, it is one of the most popular and well-known tourist attractions in Paris—or, for that matter, the world! Plus, it is a public building and who ever heard of forbidding someone to take pictures of a public building? I was perplexed, to say the least. After a bit of checking online (where a quick Google search for “Eiffel Tower at night” resulted in 24,300,000 image results) I discovered that, indeed, there are copyright issues involved with photographing the Eiffel Tower at night. But according to Steve Schlackman, a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing and a unique perspective on art and law, it might not be quite so cut and dried. In the November 16, 2014 edition of Art Law Journal, Schlackman tackles the issue…
Though the Eiffel Tower itself is in the public domain—which allows for photos of the structure—the lighting design is a recent addition, and the organization that manages the structure maintains that the lighting is an artistic work separate from the structure itself. As such, it is not in the public domain and “its various illuminations are subject to author’s rights as well as brand rights. . . Usage of these images is subject to prior request from the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel.”
As such, any night shot of the Eiffel Tower, regardless of the fact that the primary focus of the photo may be the Eiffel tower itself, includes the artistic lighting and so is a copyright infringement.
There is one caveat, however; people can take night photos of the Tower for personal use. Much like the exception for recording movies on a home DVR, French law allows for personal tourist photos.
Then to contemplate the boundaries for when we can safely use night photos of the Eiffel Tower, we must try to discover what uses the artist finds acceptable. (The following are the opinion of Schlackman—quoted directly—and are not meant to be hard rules users should follow, but instead a guide for tourists who may find themselves standing in front of the Eiffel tower at night.)
Copyright law aside, we would expect that an artist who creates such a prominent publicly displayed work would expect people to take pictures and distribute them around the web or on social media.
Millions of tourists see the Eiffel Tower each year with only a small percentage having any idea that the lighting is copyright protected. It is an anomaly for copyright protection to be attached to such an old landmark. Asserted copyright protection on the unsuspecting public would initiate a Public Relations nightmare for French Tourism.
As well, any assertion of those rights would require at a minimum a cease-and-desist letter to each violator; a costly and practically impossible implementation. For those that do not heed the warning within the cease-and-desist letter, elevating those infringements to lawsuits would create an even greater public outcry as well as increased costs unjustified by the limited potential gain. A successful lawsuit allows the copyright holder profits gained from the use or damages such as lost licensing revenue. In most cases, the costs of a lawsuit far outweigh the returns.
Conclusion: Based on those assumptions, taking night photos of the Eiffel Tower to share with friends or post to social media, should not be a problem. Even minor commercial uses such as showing in a fine art gallery, uploading to non-rights managed stock photo sites or even as part of a book compilation is unlikely to warrant any legal action.
My take: I, for one, cannot imagine any scenario in which the aforementioned, hypothetical “Public Relations nightmare for French Tourism” would be worthwhile considering that the Eiffel Tower draws millions of people to Paris from around the globe each year. The resulting boost to the economy far outweighs any trifling revenues that may be generated via arbitrary fines levied against unsuspecting tourists. If I am mistaken in assuming such, I will have to be prepared to put my money where my mouth is…but it would not encourage me to either return to Paris (sad prospect), or recommend that glorious city to anyone else as a tourist destination.
Paris or London…I would be hard pressed to definitively choose a favorite! That is primarily because—in my humble opinion—these two magnificent cities are polar opposites and, as such, make any preference of one over the other completely impossible. I visited Paris first…and immediately fell in love with its vibrance…its beauty…its charm. It was almost like stepping into a movie—or an enthralling book. A little over a week later I traveled to London and—you guessed it—fell in love all over again! Though much more fast-paced than Paris, it retains an old-world, Dickens-esque charm that is offset by the very modern hustle and bustle. So…rather than attempting to choose a “favorite” between two of the most captivating cities in Europe and setting myself up for instant, abysmal failure, I will instead compare a few of the famous landmarks.
The Eiffel Tower vs. The London Eye…
Both are iconic attractions, instantly recognizable on their respective cityscapes. The Eiffel Tower literally “towers” over most buildings in the world at 1,063 feet tall. The London Eye—though imposing it its own right—seems rather short in comparison at a mere 443 feet high.
To me, the Eiffel Tower is the quintessential symbol of Paris! When I dreamed of visiting Paris, it was a vision of climbing to the top of the tower that was uppermost in my mind. The structure itself is grand, magnificent, awe-inspiring…whether viewed from the ground or experienced from within. (Because it is so popular with tourists from around the globe, you should plan to book your tickets well in advance of your visit.) There are three floors that comprise the visitor areas of the tower—not counting ground level. On the first level you can step out onto a transparent deck and look down 187 feet to the ground; the second level offers a glassed-in, circular view over Paris. You can reach these two levels via a glass-paneled lift (elevator, for you Americans), which offers incredible views, or you can choose to climb the stairs. The third level is comprised of an open-air area as well as an enclosed area—both providing spectacular views of Paris. Definitely—in my opinion—a “must-see” in Paris! (For more info, visit the official web site at http://www.toureiffel.paris/.)
I still consider The Eye to be London’s “new” attraction. Roughly 111 years “younger” than its Parisian counterpart, this colossal observation wheel is located on the South bank of the Thames River. Also known as the Millennium Wheel, it makes one complete rotation every half hour, offering outstanding aerial views of London. You can take a ride every day of the week—morning, afternoon, or night. We chose an evening time slot and the only real downside was the setting sun, which created a glare in many of my photos as it reflected off of the glass capsule. For that reason alone, I would recommend choosing either midday or night if your interest is photographic. The thirty-two passenger capsules can hold up to twenty-five people each. While not crowded, per se, it makes for pretty close quarters. For more info, visit the official web site at https://www.londoneye.com/Experience/.)
View from the Eiffel Tower (left) and the London Eye (right)
My pick: The Eiffel Tower…hands down.
Check back tomorrow for my comparison of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Notre Dame…