PARIS – Holiday on ice takes on new meaning when you’re high above the rooftops of Paris doing figure eights inside the Eiffel Tower.
During the 115 years of the Eiffel Tower’s existence, it has added refreshment stands, trinket shops and fancy restaurants – but nothing quite matches the skating rink in the sky that opened to the public Friday.
On an observation deck 188 feet above ground, the ice rink adds a new dimension to the breathtaking views from the French capital’s best-known landmark.
“It’s just magical. You see the whole city differently,” said Finnish visitor Hanna Patila, 20, who donned a Santa Claus hat and braved a chilly winter morning to be among the first on the ice.
“What a nice touch for the holidays,” she said, the city of Paris at her feet. “It’s like you’re skating on air.”
Lodged between two of the tower’s immense latticed steel legs, the rectangular rink is a little larger than a tennis court. It holds 80 skaters at once – half the capacity of New York City’s Rockefeller Center rink.
Few visitors seemed bothered by the rink’s intimacy.
“I’ve never put on ice skates in my life. But this, I couldn’t resist,” said Swiss tourist Cecile Giacomotti, slowly skating hand-in hand with her husband, Olivier, who summed up the ambiance in one word: “Fabuleux!”
Part of the idea behind the high-rise rink is to boost interest in Paris’ candidacy for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Banners plugging the bid ring the guard rail, and the centerpiece of the rink is emblazoned with the motto: “Paris 2012.”
The company that runs the Eiffel Tower also hopes the skating rink will attract more French people to the monument, where most visitors now are tourists from overseas. The rink is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. through Jan. 23.
If opening day was any indication, the French are as keen as foreigners. Admission and skate rentals are free after paying the Eiffel Tower’s entry fee. It costs $5.30 for adults and $3 for children to reach the tower’s first level, where the rink is located.