In order to visit the Eiffel Tower as a day trip I booked an early flight from Southampton to Paris Orly airport. After a ridiculously early 5:15am alarm call Andrea, Jamie and I finally arrived in the centre of Paris at 11am for "2nd breakfast" of fresh ham & cheese baguettes under the tower. Suitably fortified we then climbed the 669 steps in the South leg to the 2nd stage.
Here the "typically French" fun commenced - the ticket office for the lift to the top was closed, with no explanation as to when, or if, it might open! I asked a lady working in one of the shops where to get tickets and she directed us to the same closed window! We wandered round again and, amongst all the people queueing for the lift to the top or lifts back to the ground, we found a small "cubicle" with a symbol of a ticket outside containing two machines. Thankfully they were selling the tickets we needed, but for coins or credit cards only - at €6 each very few people had sufficient money in coins! We finally made it to the top and the views were as good as I'd remembered.
Back down on terra firma our next challenge was to find a local bistro serving decent steak frites... I was concerned that we were just going to find expensive tourist traps, but only one block from the tower we came across "Le Bistro de la Tour Eiffel" - superb thick, juicy steak for €15, equally good tarte tatin for dessert and in true Parisien style a table outside on the pavement. Also in typical French style Jamie's "well done" steak was still a little pink in the middle!
After a quick walk along the river to a station, it was time to head back to the airport and home. Hopefully a birthday treat to be remembered for years to come.