Zip line off Eif­fel stun­ning

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL - JOHN LE­ICES­TER

PARIS — What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

I was 122 meters (400 feet) up on the Eif­fel Tower, with Paris spread out in all its glory in minia­ture be­neath me. And it was my turn to jump.

Gulp.

The op­por­tu­nity to zip line from the world’s most-vis­ited tower seemed too good to turn down. Un­til I tried it.

Yes, I had a sturdy, tightly strapped safety har­ness. And, yes, the steel cable strung from the fa­mous tower’s sec­ond floor across to a small plat­form 800 meters (2,600 feet) away looked rust-free and taut enough. Still, it was a long, long, long way down.

Best not think about it. Let’s just cross this off the bucket list. One, two, three. Go!

Into the void.

Only my screams drowned out the thump­ing of my heart in my ears.

What a buzz. Not quite the raw adren­a­line high of parachut­ing, but a very de­cent sec­ond-best.

Af­ter the ini­tial rush of fear, there was time on the way down to fall in love all over again with Paris: its stun­ning tapestry of gray roofs and land­marks sim­ply mag­nif­i­cent un­der the blue skies and gray-white clouds. There, above Mont­martre, the Sacre-Cour basil­ica! And over there, the golden dome of the In­valides where Napoleon is en­tombed! The Seine River glit­tered in the sun like a di­a­mond neck­lace.

What, from the sec­ond floor of the 128-year-old tower, looked like colonies of col­ored ants far be­low turned out to be peo­ple, soak­ing up the sun on the green grass of the Champ de Mars park that stretches away from the tower’s giant iron feet.

I flew right over them, with the zip line — and me — both emit­ting high-pitched squeals. Look­ing up at the noise, peo­ple cheered. Thanks for the en­cour­age­ment!

The minute or so of flight, reach­ing a top speed, or­ga­niz­ers said, just shy of 100 kph (60 mph) zipped past in what felt like the blink of an eye.

At the bot­tom, my first thought: Please, can I do that again?

Jean-Luc Wong, a 20-year-old stu­dent from Paris, said it was the best thing he has ever done, “some­thing I’ll never for­get.” He won a tweet­ing con­test for the right to jump. Oth­ers signed up via the web­site of the spon­sor, fizzy wa­ter firm Per­rier, and were lucky enough to be picked in a draw­ing.

“The adren­a­line, the speed, the sur­round­ings. Fan­tas­tic,” Wong said. “It’s a bit scary but once you’ve launched off, you just soak it up and ad­mire. In­cred­i­ble.”

Or­ga­niz­ers said peo­ple had pre­vi­ously zip lined from the first floor of the 324-me­ter (1,063-foot)-tall tower — mean­ing they leaped from a more pedes­trian 57 meters (187 feet) up — but that this was the first time a line had ever been strung from the sec­ond floor, where the sen­sa­tion of height is more pow­er­ful.

Oth­ers, in the past, have been far more dar­ing. A Bri­tish cou­ple parachuted from the tower’s top deck, 276 meters (905 feet) up in 1984. A New Zealan­der bungee-jumped off the sec­ond floor in 1987. Some stunts ended trag­i­cally. Franz Re­ichel, a mus­ta­chioed Aus­trian tai­lor, leapt from the first deck in 1912 to test a tent-like parachute coat he had in­vented and is said to have died of fright be­fore hit­ting the ground, goug­ing a deep hole.

Glad I didn’t think about him when my turn came.

AP/KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU

A man rides a zip line from the sec­ond story of the Eif­fel Tower, 377 feet above the ground and 2,600 feet long, as part of an event in Paris.

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