Today we stay in Europe, leaving Amsterdam and her enchanting canals we head to the equally enchanting city of Paris. However no art museums on this visit as we are here to see the Eiffel tower.
An iconic symbol of Paris and one of the most famous landmarks in the world the tower was built by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel in 1887-1889. Gustave was born 15 December, 1932 in Côte-d’Or, France (which is a limestone escarpment – the east facing slope being home to some of the greatest wines of Burgundy!)
After graduating engineering college, Eiffel got first big project to manage and install a railway bridge over the Garonne river at Bordeaux. The work successfully completed on schedule and afterwards he set himself up as an independent consulting engineer. He was involved in many metal work projects including: the Budapest rail station, a bridge over the river Douro in Portugal, the Exposition Universelle building in Paris and the Garabit Viaduct (a railway arch bridge in central France).
In 1881 Eiffel was approached by French sculptor August Bartholdi who needed an engineer to help him finish the Statue of Liberty. The entire statue was erected at the Eiffel works in Paris before being dismantled and shipped to the United States.
The design of what we now know as the Eiffel tower, originated by 2 other Frenchmen who discussed the idea of a centerpiece for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. It was first sketched out as “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals.” Eiffel bought the rights to the patent on this design. In an 1885 discussion about the project, Eiffel declared the tower would symbolize –
“not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.”
Construction began in January 1887. The main structural work was completed in March of 1888. Eiffel celebrated this by leading a group of government officials accompanied by representatives of the press to the top of the tower. Since the elevators were not yet in operation the ascent was made by foot and took over an hour.
Met a giant lady lighting up the night sky
“What’s your name, you magical monster?”
“My many visitors call me the Eiffel Tower.”
“In all your attire, don’t your sometimes tire
Of being seen only as a humdrum tower?
You, a dragon, a fairy watching over Paris,
An Olympic torch held aloft in grey skies?”
“How you flatter me! So few poets these days
Ever sing the praises of my Parisian soul,
As did Cocteau, Aragon, Cendrars,
Trénet and Apollinaire… Since you’re so good
At seeing beneath the surface, you could
-If you like, when you’re back from France-
Take up your pen and write down
Why you like me -it would be nice and fun!”
“You can count on me! There’s so much to say!
I’ll write twenty lines… but who will read them?”
“Well, I know a man who’ll read your verse.”
“The President of France”
Here’s a link to the Google Street view from the Eiffel Tower observation deck – you’ll feel like you’re there!