"I have tears in my eyes, but it is joy". Like Thérèse, around fifty visitors were present on Thursday morning for the reopening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, after more than three months of forced sleep due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a festive atmosphere, thanks in particular to a small brass band of Brazilian tourists at the foot of the building, the first visitors were able to enter around 8:00 GMT to climb the famous monument, a world famous symbol of Paris.
The big crowd was not yet back at the feet of the Iron Lady.
"We expected a lot more people. As the borders are closed there are not many foreigners," concedes Yacine Gueblaoui who controls the wearing of masks at the entrance to the monument.
If the borders with other European countries gradually reopen, many restrictions remain for visitors from other continents.
"We sold 700 tickets online today," said Patrick Branco Ruivo, managing director of the Eiffel Tower.
"What we will do in a day we usually do in an hour," confirms Federico, reception officer.
For the time being, visitors can only access the first two floors (out of three) of the famous "Iron Lady", only by the 700 steps of the stairs. The elevators will not be put back into service until July 1 and the summit, which rises to 324 meters, reopened on July 15.
Nothing to discourage Thérèse, a sexagenarian from the south of France, clearly moved.
"I am well equipped. I'm going to go up but + piano, piano +. And if I can't, it's not a big deal!", She smiles. "It's an emotional moment after these difficult months."
"It's wonderful to be here. I'm a little sad that the summit is not open, but it's going to be okay. Now we're going to have to climb the stairs," laughs Shanique Chintsanya, an American tourist, who lives in Germany.
- Enthusiasm of visitors -
Signposted route, wearing a mandatory mask and respecting distance: the reopening criteria did not spoil the enthusiasm of the first visitors.
Alex, a fifteen-year-old Dutchman, came with his mother, and was delighted to be able to visit the emblematic Parisian monument.
"It's the first time I've come to Paris, and it's really great to be here. We saw that the Eiffel Tower reopened today so we thought we should come," explains t he at AFP.
"I'm passing through Paris, I had the morning free so I took advantage of it. This is an opportunity because without the elevator, there will be fewer people," said in the queue, Patrice Laubert, a 37 year old Alsatian.
With 7 million visitors a year, according to its managers, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited monuments in the world.
It had closed on March 13, even before the containment was implemented in France, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
True emblem of Paris, it had nevertheless continued to sparkle in the evening, for five minutes, at the start of each night hour.
To attract visitors again, a large summer terrace on the 1st floor has been fitted out to offer burgers and ice creams. From July 9, DJ sets will be organized every Thursday and Friday.
© 2020 AFP