La Tour Eiffel – La Grande Dame en Fer.
What does Paris’ most famous Eiffel Tower have in common with the garter belt and the armature that adorns the statue of Liberty? The answer is an inventive civil engineer and architect of the late 19th century by the name of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel – the man behind the creation of the Eiffel Tower which is now one the most recognizable and visited monuments of the world. No other monument has ever been at the centre of so much controversy, adoration, disapproval, media and photography luring lovers from around the world to relish in its wonder and gaze from atop its observation decks. The Eiffel’s magnetic allure has been a countless backdrop or stage for romantic movie scenes, video clips, marriage proposals and has inspired artists, fashion designers and famous photographers like Erwin Blumenfeld to prop Lisa Fonssagrives, a fashion model for Vogue in 1939, from its edge without a harness and Robert Doisneau and Elliott Erwitt to highlight the romance and splendour of Paris with his famous Trocadero photographic masterpiece, “Three People and Umbrellas”. The tower’s beauty is accentuated particularly at night when it majestically sparkles with countless lights for a few minutes every hour until midnight and in turn highlights the scope and fairytale-like beauty of Paris itself with its magical projection lights that sweep across the city. For me, the tower is symbolic of a crown that sits atop the most remarkable and splendid city in the world announcing to all that it is undisputably the most grand, monumental and regal of places.
Paris is indeed the Queen of Europe and the Eiffel Tower contributes to the city’s femininity and romantic appeal particularly throughout the 20th century. This sadly wasn’t always the case as three hundred of the most prominent artists and writers in Paris, at the beginning of the Eiffel’s construction, started a petition to demolish the tower claiming it to be a monstrosity that interfered with the aesthetic beauty of Paris and insulted the good tastes and intelligence of the people of Paris. In fact this monumental wonder, built incredibly in just over two years, was to be demolished in 1909 only 20 years after completion. Gustave, however, managed to persuade the Parisians that the Eiffel would be beneficial to science and research and eventually won over the critics who had so desperately desired the “ugly” structure to be dismantled. When Gustave Eiffel and his engineering company constructed the tower for the Paris Exhibition/World’s Fair of 1889, to highlight the progress and might of the industrial age, it undoubtedly created a huge sensation. The iron lady, with her ornate lattice and lace signature design, contrasts rather strongly yet strikingly with the historic beige stone of the signature Haussmann buildings of Paris and continues the elaborate theme of black ironwork that is evident throughout the entire city in the intricate fencing surrounding prominent buildings and mini chateaux and gardens not to forget the signature Parisian street lamp posts, shop signage and over-sized metallic art nouveau awnings that command ones attention at the many metro station entry ways. Standing at 300 metres in height it was for almost half a century the tallest structure not only in France but in the world until the Chrysler building in New York came to be in 1930.
Gustave Eiffel’s clever strategy to save his beloved tower so it could be used for vital scientific research proved to be a brilliant idea. Gustave somehow knew and believed that the people of Paris would not try to take the tower down if he could prove that it could be used for a higher purpose and turn it into a monumental laboratory for science and military use. He famously claimed that “it will be an observatory and a laboratory such as science has never had at its disposal”. The areas of research undertaken at the Eiffel Tower would include radio communications, weather and aerodynamics all of which Eiffel himself worked enthusiastically towards and contributed to financially. The scientific research and radio communications conducted on the Eiffel Tower contributed to Paris, France and the world in many ways especially during the first and second World Wars where operators were able to intercept important messages sent by the Germans that would aid the French military in defeating their enemy and rescue particularly Paris from invasion.
Since the Eiffel Tower opened to the public on May 6 1889 the tower has been the most visited paid monument and today attracts millions of visitors to her observation decks, restaurants and to Parc du Champs de Mars and Place Trocadero where lovers of Paris and the Eiffel come to delight in the grandeur of the tower and for the ultimate photo opportunities. In 2007, Erika Labrie with an object fetish condition, shocked the world and drew even more attention to the Eiffel by marrying the monument. Erika changed her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel in honour of her new “partner” after claiming to have had a deep love and infatuation for the tower for years. Admittedly, I myself have an obsession for the Eiffel Tower – so much so that when mon mari and I visit Paris we have a tradition to conclude our daily explorations of the city by visiting the tower every evening at 6pm to observe the first session of the sparkling show of lights followed by dinner for two close by. Another important detail for me when visiting Paris is to have a view without the price tag or even a glimpse of the Eiffel tower from my hotel window or Juliette balcony which adds to the joy and romance factor of staying in Paris.
There are many ways to enjoy the Eiffel Tower that include a lovely picnic at the Parc du Champs de Mars or from the many delightful cafes in key Champs de Mars streets or from the ever popular cafes and restaurants or hotels in the Trocadero district in Paris’ 16th arrondissment. Another way to take in the Eiffel by day or night is to hop on one of Paris’ many river cruise boats – the most popular being Bateaux Parisiens which you can board across the road from the Eiffel Tower at Port de la Bourdonnais or simply from one of many Paris’ beautiful bridges some of which have delightful views of the tower. Visiting the tower is a wonderful experience but needs planning ahead of time as it is always a dilemma to see with the never ending queues all throughout the year, even in winter. So book your tour of the Eiffel and to the restaurants, if you so wish to dine there, way before even coming to Paris and definitely don’t leave it for the last minute. In fact, even if you don’t book tickets to go up the tower it can be seen throughout the city so you get to enjoy the Eiffel during your sightseeing and meandering through the streets of Paris or even from other key monuments. On our last visit to Paris, mon mari and I treated ourselves to a wonderful and most memorable dinner at the Eiffel’s newest casual-chic restaurant “58 Tour Eiffel” (will be posting something on it soon and highly recommend) on the first floor which made our twenty year anniversary celebration one that we will treasure and recall fondly for years and years to come. There is also the acclaimed and very formal and pricey Jules Vernes Restaurant located on the second floor of the Eiffel run by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse.
Could you, dear readers, even imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower? And were you aware that Gustave Eiffel would entertain his friends in his private room on the top deck of the tower which takes 1,665 steps to climb from the East pillar to the top? Did you know that there are 2,500,000 rivets that hold the Eiffel Tower structure together which help to support the 20,000 light bulbs that sparkle and bedazzle tourists and residents of Paris every evening? Also, every few years, the tower is given a mini face-lift with 60 tons of paint that is used in three different shades that gives the Eiffel her magnificent appeal and like le maquillage, highlights her beautiful features. Whether you’re young or old, La Tour Eiffel will steal your heart and make you swoon whenever you see it and is a constant visual reminder that you are indeed in beautiful Paris, the city of lights, culture, history, picture perfect cafe scenes, cobble-stoned rues, magnificent architecture and sheer indulgence. A monument made of lacey steel – The Eiffel Tower makes you realise that tout est possible not just in architecture and mans abilities but in everyday life where any dream can be made into a reality with determination and passion. So pay a visit to the Eiffel and visually savour Paris from the observation decks and while there reflect on the words of Vincent Van Gough, “There is but one Paris, the French air clears up the brain and does good…a world of good” – especially from atop La Tour Eiffel. Dear readers, are you entranced by The Eiffel Tower in Paris France?