We had a four-hour layover in Paris before heading back to The States. We had decided mid-flight that if we landed on time and were able to get off the plane and through customs with three hours to spare, we would grab a taxi to the Eiffel Tower. Our flight landed seven minutes early and we taxied up to the jet way immediately. Everything was working in our favor. We also had checked most of luggage, so we just had a few small carry-on bags (which made the whole thing that much easier).
We sprinted our way through the airport (me wheeling along just as fast as the others) and found our way out of customs and into the open air of Paris. A few yards away, taxis were lined up, just waiting for anxious passengers.
“How far is it to the Eiffel Tower?” We asked.
“About 20 minutes.”
“Ok, how much to drive us there, wait while we take pictures, and then drive us back?”
We negotiated a fee and we were on our way. We all piled into the small cab, our bags crammed into the back with the wheelchair filling the extra space. All we had in our hands were our cameras. I obviously wanted a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but more than anything I wanted to touch the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to feel and know that I had been there.
As we entered the freeway exiting the airport, our driver really stepped on it. I watched from the backseat as the speedometer went higher and higher. We wove in and out of traffic going faster than any of the other cars. I thought to myself, “I’m going to die today, all for a few pictures with a famous monument…”
Once we approached the smaller streets inside the city, he slowed to a more reasonable pace and we had a few minutes to take in the scenery. I made a mental note to myself that I needed to visit Paris again someday – the streets were beautiful and the buildings were just breathtaking. Off in the distance, I could see the top of the Eiffel Tower sticking up over the rest of the skyline, a light fog quickly lifting. And with two quick turns, we were there. There was a grassy area surrounding the base of the tower, much like a park, and our driver pulled right up next to the curb. He jumped out faster than any of us and was already pulling the wheelchair out of the back before we had time to take our seatbelts off.
I hopped into my wheelchair quickly and we rushed the 20-some feet to the base. Our driver, a middle-aged man with gray hair, stood by his car, leaning against the side with his arms crossed in front of him. The hatch to the back of the car hung open and he just smiled as we frantically ran around trying to capture as many pictures as we could. He seemed to really enjoy the excitement we brought to his day. We grabbed individual photos and group photos and photos of us touching the base (which is made of marble or granite, by the way, not of metal the way you would expect). After about 10 minutes, we were piling back into the car and speeding our way back to the airport.
We paid our driver, grabbed our belongings, and headed back into the airport. As we were waiting in the security line, I asked the others how long they thought we were gone. I looked down at my phone and responded, “Forty minutes. We were gone for 40 minutes. We saw the Eiffel Tower in 40 minutes! Can you believe that?”
I learned that day that there is never an excuse to miss an opportunity for adventure, excitement, and growth. We could have sat in some stuffy restaurant at the airport, drowning in our own sorrows about our trip being over, but instead, we found a way to turn four miserable hours into a mini adventure. It was totally worth it too
What would you do with 40 minutes in Paris?