Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Other Tower

Tourists make a beeline for the Eiffel Tower. Not a bad idea if you have bought one of those guided tours that promise to beat the queues. Each time I've tried to visit the tower the queues have been too daunting and I haven't yet committed to booking online. But there is another option. One that's taller than the Arc de Triomphe.

The Tour Montparnasse is 689 feet tall and the most serious skyscraper in Paris. Located in the 15th arrondissement it boasts 360 degree views including the Eiffel Tower. That's worth keeping in mind as the Eiffel Tower views obviously don't include that.

The visit starts at he 56th floor where there's a rather inadequate coffee shop and souvenir shop but with fully enclosed views and information on what you are seeing at each angle. 

After completing that you head up to the 59th floor for the panoramic view which is truly 360. The day i went it was windy and overcast grey so the view was rather monochrome and lacking contrast. On a clear day you can see up to 40 kms.

The lift is marketed as the fastest in Europe, whisking you up to the top in 38 seconds but it's also comfortable. I especially enjoyed the black and white photos on display showing the history of the Eiffel Tower/Paris/Monuments. As you arrive you are virtually accosted by two guys determined to take your photo and then charge heaps for it. I didn't buy.

The Montparnasse tower was opened in 1973 and has 70m deep foundations. It's handily located next door to the major train station Gare Montparnasse and there's parking available too (expensive).

For more information go to

 This is handily in English.

Next up was a visit to the Institut du Monde Arabe. People say this is a must do but I was disappointed. I had hoped to learn something abut various Arab countries and cultures but the focus was on  writing invention, parallels and differences with Christianity, a smattering of collectables for measuring gold, travelling by the stars etc. All well and good.

 Maybe it was the backache from standing around in one spot listing to a tour guide.Maybe it was the fact that due to various noise sources all going at the same time I couldn't work out what she was saying in French, maybe it was the intense pain from my shoulders distracting me but I lost interest. The way things are displayed is airy and modern but there seemed a monotony to it all.

One face of the exterior is interesting. It is made up of light sensitive panels. These panels in turn consist of many little irises which operate mechanically, opening and closing as the light levels dictate. Note the exterior, panel and mechanism photos.

The museum is funded 60% by France and the other 40% by arab-speaking countries but in effect, what with all the revolutions, coups and unrest it seems to be left to France and Saudi Arabia to foot the bill. Check out more at but be warned that the only two languages displayed on the website are French and Arabic. They don't cater to anglophones very well which is at odds to other monuments in Paris.


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