by Taryn Balchunas
Photo courtesy of Taryn Balchunas
Although the origin of Paris’s nickname, “The City of Love,” is unclear, one can speculate why people are mesmerized by the city’s beauty. Maybe the people one travels with or the rich history and architecture make the city so enchanting. People come to Paris, France in order to find love; to fall in love; to fall out of love.
I came to Paris for the Eiffel Tower, the one structure I felt most attached to.
The Eiffel Tower, one of the most recognizable structures in the world, can be considered a marketing strategy. It served as the entrance arch for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, a right of passage to entering the city. Its original purpose has paid off for four centuries. People keep coming back to this symbol of Paris, an unintentional symbol according to its designer, Gustave Eiffel. Its 324 meters tower over Paris, acting as a watchman for the entire city. However, for those with a more intimate connection to the city, it goes by La dame de fer: the iron lady.
When one thinks of Paris, this infamous tower first comes to mind. One of the most cliché photographs a first-time visitor can take is of the visitor standing in front of the tower and pretending to hold it up with their upper-arm strength, a picture that is only slightly less corny than a tourist holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, Italy. I did have my travel companion snap a picture of me in front of the Eiffel Tower, but I did not resort to that touristy pose.
In Paris for the weekend, I visited the Eiffel Tower no less than three times. Paris in February left many visitors disappointed when the top of the tower was closed down due to frost. The first time, I gratefully paid the student discount fee to climb the stairs to the second level, which the cold temperature apparently does not affect.
The best spot for a picture of the entire La dame de fer in winter is right at the end of the Parc du Champ de Mars, where the edge of the sidewalk and Pl. Joffre meet. Tourists gather at this exact spot and take turns snapping pictures of their travel companions, capturing one another’s moment of glory in front of this historic monument. At night, they blend into the black sky, barely making an appearance in their own photograph. La dame de fer, the iron lady, takes up the center of attention.
Out of the nine (good) pictures I took of the Eiffel Tower that weekend, I only made an appearance once. I did not want to outshine La dame de fer’s beauty, settling for a modest pose with my left hand resting on my left hip. I noticed many other visitors taking their photos at angles which disregarded the tower’s height. People took pictures of themselves, turning their cameras around to capture their smiles in front of the iron lady. Others had their travel companions take pictures of them from the ground up, posing like posh models and pouting their lips. Some were so desperate to have their photo snapped in front of the iron lady that they asked complete strangers to do the deed.
“Take me a picture?” A handsome guy in his late twenties whom I took to be a Spaniard asked me the second night I took a trip to the tower. I obliged, backing up for the proper angle, shifting to place his figure in the frame. I pressed the button, but the flash never came. He stepped from the scene, adjusted his camera settings, and returned to his pose. He crossed his arms against his chest and leaned back against the wire fence, waiting for me to illuminate his frame in those few seconds it took the camera to flash.
After I took his photograph, we met on the sidewalk so I could show him how it turned out. Even if his figure was obscured, the view of La dame de fer was magnificent. When I handed his camera back, I felt inspired to kiss him. We leaned closer and lip-locked. I had my eyes wide open throughout the kiss, looking at La dame de fer. It was in that moment that I knew why they call Paris “The City of Love.”