Saturday 16 Feb, 2008

Paris O Postcard: City of Light

Eiffel Tower, originally uploaded by following.equator.

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower on a windy night in February is breathtaking — figuratively and literally.

Breathtaking, that is, at least to one big group of EF Group Leaders who braved the chilly temps and blustery winds tonight for the spectacular sights from the highest point in Paris. It was definitely a memorable moment on the second day of our Paris Orientation for first-time EF Group Leaders.

Following a jam-packed, productive morning and early afternoon of meetings designed to give group leaders a ton of information, helpful hints and especially secrets from a pair of experienced pros, the group hit the town. Many people followed our tour director, Nathalie, for an impromptu walking tour of Les Halles, a particularly Parisian neighborhood packed with people — but few tourists. It was a wonderful opportunity to glimpse real Parisians bustling by on a beautifully sunny Saturday.

Everybody got the chance to go their own way for dinner before most of the group met up near the Eiffel Tower. First, there was the windy visit to the top of the iconic monument. (For the record, I skipped the trip to the top for the second year in a row. My 4-year-old daughter arrives in Paris on Monday with my wife, and I promised I’d make my first trip to the top with her.)

Then, after the group caught its breath back on ground level, everyone enjoyed a leisurely (and fortunately heated) boat tour of the Seine.

Once the sun goes goes down and the lights come up, it’s not hard to see where Paris gets its descriptive moniker: the City of Light. But, by far, the most impressive display is the hourly light show on the Eiffel Tower, illuminating not only the picturesque structure but also the buildings and sites around it.

Tomorrow ought to be equally illuminating for the first-time group leaders with a guided sightseeing tour around Paris and an excursion to Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles.