‘Long Wave 198,’ proclaimed Simon. ‘The Archers and then the afternoon play for me, I think. Ooh, lovely. I mean, why would you bother going out in Paris?’ He sipped his tea and fingered his beard sagely as we finished up a spot of tiffin.
I like a moment of calm myself – a Twining’s Pure Camomile can work marvels – but where does one draw the line? I’ll tell you where: eschewing Eiffel Towers for The Archers.
So, roistering summarily through the city like a couple of Tudor monarchs, Lewis and I headed out into the purgatory of howling, battered Citroens. ‘More quail’s eggs, my man,’ I thought, ‘and don’t stint on the Yorkshire puddings.’ Oh, it was like the good old days, when menace, hot wine and beheading a wife filled the mornings rather splendidly. Oh, OK, so we bought a ticket for the metro and took utmost care not to put our feet on the seats.
Ah, there she is – the Tour Eiffel. Completed in 1889, illuminated nightly by 20,000 lightbulbs and requiring 50 tons of paint each time she needs a touch-up. It is certainly worth going up her – all 324 metres of her. Well, you can’t, actually – not unless you want to shimmy up the UHF antenna and get arrested. But you can get to the viewing platform at 279 metres.
How do you get up there? Either take the stairs to the second stage (only 600 stairs up to the equivalent of a 43rd floor) and then a mandatory lift, or queue with the porkers for three-and-a-half euros extra. Bear in mind, however, if you’re sharing a lift with half a dozen trans-Atlantic piggies that those bottom-stage lifts are nineteenth-century, operated by water pressure. Dodgy.
Coo, what a view from the top. We’re giddy, like schoolboys in short trousers. ‘You take a picture of me and then I’ll take a picture of you,’ we gushed, no doubt a little bereft of oxygen. What man-made structure could possibly be higher? Aha, funny you should ask that.
No doubt you’ve heard of Petronas Towers and Sears Tower – the latter’s tip reaches 527m – but then there is the Really Big One. Burj Khalifa in Dubai is an extraordinary, knob-tingling edifice, topping out at 830m – by far the tallest building in the world and surely an unassailable king of all castles. Well, apparently not.
Trek west to discover some unequivocal Arab one-upmanship. The Saudis, taking the role of architectural vanguard, are in the process of sticking up two fingers at the UAE. ‘Nah nah, we’ve got more oil than you,’ or words to that effect. Jeddah’s eye-boggling, white knuckle Kingdom Tower was originally planned to be a mile high (1600m). However, owing to dodgy surrounding geology, when it’s finished in several years it’ll be nearer the paltry kilometre mark.
‘Hardly worth bothering with an extra 170 metres,’ sighed Lewis, updating his Facebook status. Yet that is a difference in height of more than a Blackpool Tower on top of the Burj Khalifa. Let’s hope they don’t get too much wind down there..