What trip to Paris is complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower? The first time I was there I couldn’t even go up in the elevator. I have a horrible fear of heights. I even have to close my eyes when watching a movie with someone looking over the top of a tall building or cliff. However, on the second trip we were eating dinner in the restaurant on either the second or third level. Well, I don’t like to miss a meal, so I closed my eyes and stepped on.
I have to digress here for a moment because for a short time I thought I was going to be saved from having to go up there. You see, workers were on strike at the Eiffel Tower. I don’t remember what they were protesting but they were on strike, which means it was basically shut down. However, the restaurant was still open. I don’t care how hungry I was, I was not going to walk up the steps. When there is a strike in France, it is usually for a day or so, from what I understand. It is simply to get their point across. This was a foreign concept to me. If that is incorrect, someone please call me on it. This is just what I picked up while I was there and could have easily misunderstood.
Anyway, because we already had reservations, and had probably paid for the meal through the tour company, we were allowed onto the elevator. Like I said, I closed my eyes and probably held my breath too. The book, Angels and Demons played through my mind. Remember the opening scene when the elevator malfunctions? Yep, that was what I was thinking about.
My first trip up was at night. The view was breathtaking. And maybe one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because there weren’t any crowds. In fact, while we were outside looking over the City, it felt as if we had the entire Eiffel Tower to ourselves.
There was no strike on my second trip, but I found myself taking that elevator up again (closing my eyes and holding my breath). I have to admit, this view was even better because it was in the middle of the day and you could see so much. Also, the shops were open so I had to buy a few souvenirs. Who knew if I would have the guts to ever go up again?
The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champ de Mars (which has its own history that I will discuss in a later post). It was built in 1889 and was the entrance arch for the 1889 World’s Fair. It is the design of Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguir, two senior engineers, after discussions for a centerpiece for the 1889 Exposition Universelle – a World’s Fair, which would celebrate the French Revolution. Koechlin made an outline drawing in May of 1884. At first Eiffel did not have much enthusiasm for the design so he and Nouguir asked Stephen Sauvestre to contribute to the original design. Later Eiffel went on to state:
"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."
However, it was not met with enthusiasm from everyone. Some didn’t think it was feasible and others “objected on artistic grounds.” A committee including important figures of the French artists was formed and a petition was sent to the Minister of Works and Commission for the Exposition and published by Le Temps.
"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection…of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal"
Did you notice they mentioned twenty years? Yep, the Eiffel Tower was to have been temporary. It was supposed to have been dismantled in 1909 when the City of Paris became the owner. The reason it wasn’t is because it became valuable for the purpose of communication. During WWI, powerful radio transmitters were fitted to the tower in order to jam German communications. Not only did it hinder their advance on Paris but contributed to the Allied victory.
I think anyone visiting Paris should visit the Eiffel Tower. Is it my favorite place? No. That is because I prefer to be further back in history. My favorite places in France are much older and when I set stories within France, the Eiffel Tower doesn’t exist, nor has it even been thought about.
(All quotes and historical information taken from Wikipedia)