Monday, February 05, 2007

La Tour Montparnasse

It was a full moon this weekend so I really have to factor that into any feelings that I have. And on a whim, I put myself just that much farther into the moon's magnetic pull by travelling to one of the highest spots in Paris, the top of the Tour Montparnasse

I was out on my morning walk and decided to hop up -- way up -- for a view. For 9 euros, the elevator takes you from 0 to 56 floors in 30 seconds, a nice little ear-popping rate, with a video showing you your virutal view as you go. Nice touch for the claustrophobics on the lift. However, this is not a place for phobics of any sort, especially not acrophobics. A dizzying panorama of Paris at the top. Unlike the view from the Eye-full, which I don't really like (it's like trying to count the ears when you're in the middle of the cornfield. And too many tourists.) Funny, from the Montparnasse, the Eiffel looks like a tinker-toy plunked down on a game board. Or like a souvenir of itself. Beautiful but wiry and lightweight.

At the top of the Montparnasse, you feel as though you are the artist of a birds-eye lithograph of Paris, a little bit on an angle and able to see into eveyone's windows. It's infinitely better than Google earth or Pages Jaunes aerial views. You can scrutinize an area at a time, get the larger picture, and make sense of all the puzzle pieces of streets that you've been walking down lo these many months. What's more, you can practically see what Mr. Handsome is being served for lunch on his terrace at the Hotel Matignon, and admire his humongous adjoining garden, surely the largest private garden on the Left Bank.

Which brings me to the first drawback. Montparnasse is great for views of the Left Bank only. Even on a crystal-clear day, the Right Bank is just a little blur of slabs except a few stand-outs such at the Madeleine, Beaubourg, and of course, Sacre Coeur. You can only surmise where the Seine is. But for Rive Gauche accros like me, this top is top-top.

I was there on a breezy, clear Saturday morning. It would be scintillating at night, with all the lights of the city to see. It gets my vote hands down for a great cheap date spot -- perfect for leaning together and looking at all the sights.

As I climbed the three flights to the rooftop, the musak was playing Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?" Did they plan that? She is so beautiful, our Paris. The windswept terrace on the 59th floor is a spectacular. You could imagine a 21st century Doisneau couple embracing there in the middle of the helipad, with la belle Paris below as a backdrop.

But I was there solo, which brings me to the next drawback. I don't recommend going to the top of the Montparnasse toute seule. Somehow when I am savoring being a flaneur in the streets of Paris, I feel embraced by the architecure. At ground level there exists a more intimate relationship with my beloved city. Maybe this explain some but not all of these full-moon woe-is-me feelings when looking at the most specatcular bien aimee from on high. Maybe I didn't like sharing my Paris with the rest of the world. Being up there made me feel tiny and alone.

But the the best thing about being at the top of the Tour Montparnasse? As the saying goes, the good news is that when you're on top of it, you don't have to look AT it.

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