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.
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 grey 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 draw.
“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.
The zip line opened Monday and will operate for just one week until Sunday, with 100 flights planned per day.
Editor’s note: John Leicester has reported from France for The Associated Press since 2002. This week, he got to try zip lining off the Eiffel Tower. This is his account of his wild ride.