By Jug Varner
My wife always wanted to go to Paris. She envisions herself in some Parisian designer's shop (her favorite was Coco Channel), lunching at a sidewalk café, enjoying the magnificent view from the Eiffel Tower, etc.
Ordinarily, I make an effort to provide whatever she desires, but for various reasons a trip to Paris never materialized, until recently. This travel opportunity came up unexpectedly, and I told her, “Pack your bags, kid, I'm taking you someplace special.”
Was she ever disappointed! Paris was a nice little town, but things did not turn out as planned.
We arrived just before noon and I asked several people if they knew the location of a nearby sidewalk café. They looked at me in a strange way and shook their heads no. We finally settled for a nice meal in a newly opened Italian restaurant in the heart of the city, thinking we could have an afternoon repast at Le Eiffel Tower. I felt certain there would be sidewalk cafés near that grand venue, maybe a chic fashion boutique as well — so we set out to find it after lunch.
That was not easy. We scanned the skyline in all directions but could not see it anywhere. It required stopping people on the street for help, but either they didn't know, or gave us confusing directions. One woman's comment puzzled me somewhat when she told me (in jest, I thought), “Don't drive by too fast, or you might miss it.” We decided that these people must have a different sense of humor than ours.
What really surprised me, other than the tower being much smaller than anticipated, was that the woman was serious. We did almost miss it. That was partly because its construction was nothing at all like my long-held concept of the Eiffel Tower.
The view was not what I would describe as “magnificent,” either. First of all, we could not go up in the tower. Even if we could have, there was little more to see up there than from ground level. On one side was a large building and on the other three sides were acres of trees and open fields as far as the eye could see.
Needless to say, there were no French shops, cafes, bakeries, fashion designers, nor anyone who could speak French. My wife had studied the language for this express purpose, but I only know a few words and phrases.
Nevertheless, the city is quite proud of the replica they built here, to which they added a large, “many-gallon” hat at the top to Texan-ize it. Unlike the usual brag that “everything is bigger and better in Texas,” however, this Eiffel replica is perhaps one-tenth the size of the real thing, and made of metal pipes connected together.
While it is clever propaganda for the Chamber of Commerce, I think the city fathers missed a real promotional coup by not making it bigger, locating it in a more convenient spot, adding some French cafes, shops, etc., and possibly working out some sort of “sister city” arrangement with Paris, France.
Of course, Parisians may look with disdain upon that last suggestion, but the other French touches could make it into quite a nice tourist attraction.
After all of my well-intentioned efforts, I still have a problem: My wife wants to go to Paris more than ever…to the REAL one, that is. Maybe if you go there you could send us an e-mail postcard.