La Tour Eiffel

What could be more iconic than the Eiffel Tower? As a symbol, it's ideal: beautiful, instantly recognizable, unique. As an experience, it leaves a little something to be desired. The sheer number of the tourists make the lines to visit the top an hours-long ordeal. Add to that the aggressive souvenir hawkers and the even-more aggressive beggars ("Speak English?! Speak English?!"), and I can skip it, thanks. But I love to draw it. From afar, it looks elegant, so tall and clean-lined. Up close, it changes. Looking up the open middle, it somehow becomes squat and awkward. And there are all these curliques on the arches that seem out of place on this utilitarian, steel paean to clean-lined modernism. It turns out that the arches (and the attendant curlicues) were added afterward to assuage visitors' fears that the tower was going to come crashing down on their heads any second. They weren't part of Gustav Eiffel's original plan and are completely extraneous. They are fun to study, though.

But the surrounding parks are my preferred spot from which to contemplate Paris' most famous landmark, by the picnickers and playing children, and, of course, tourists tired from all those stairs.