Security guards roused the pair “in the early morning,” the tower’s publicly owned operator SETE told AFP, adding that the pair had settled down for a sleep in an area between the tower’s second and third levels — a space that is usually closed to the public. Police believe the tourists, at some point during their visit, jumped security barriers while climbing down the stairs from the top of the tower.
The men were questioned by police, and, while they “did not pose any apparent threat,” SETE would be filing an official complaint, a spokesperson told AFP.
The tower is one of the most recognizable symbols of France, and as such is meant to have tight security: The monument has almost 40 rules in place for visitors, including a lengthy section on security that prohibits “climbing over barriers,” “entering areas not open to the public,” “running, sliding, jostling or climbing,” or “holding group picnics.”
Fortunately for Franco-American relations, French media outlets appeared more entertained than annoyed by the incident, with Le Figaro describing the pair’s time inside the monument as “a dream night that will make people envious,” and Actu Paris describing the tower as the “scene of a surprise twist.” AFP, meanwhile, joked that the two “alcoholic American tourists” had “spent a night under the stars in the Eiffel Tower.”
The unexpected discovery delayed the tower’s opening on Monday for around an hour and came after an eventful weekend at the monument, which draws around 7 million visitors each year.
On Saturday, two false bomb threats sparked evacuations after suspicious messages were posted online, French media reported, while on Monday, bomb threats were sent to at least three police stations in the French capital, although police advised against evacuating the monument, according to Le Parisien.
The incident is one of the latest cases of tourists getting into trouble — earlier this month, a teenager visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa carved a heart and initials into the 850-year-old structure. And in July, a tourist caused offense in Italy when she climbed Rome’s historic Trevi Fountain to fill up her water bottle — while another etched his name and initials into Japan’s 1,200-year-old Toshodaiji Temple — a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Academics, psychologists and travel industry professionals say that while the vast majority of sightseers are rule-abiding, there are frequent reports of tourists pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules — with feelings of entitlement, increasing numbers of travelers, and the influence of social media all playing a role.
POST AUTHOR: Jennifer Hassan