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December 2008 - January 2009
Everybody loves the ‘Iron Lady’
by Anil Mehta
No, not Mrs Thatcher; it’s Eiffel Tower. Rising in the sky above Paris beside the Seine River, it’s one of the most recognizable structure in the world. The famous landmark is a global symbol of both Paris and France as well as an icon of elegance, and simplicity. Some six million visitors a year go to the top of the tower for the spectacular views making it the most visited paid monument in the world.
Designed and built by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) for the Universal Exhibition of 1889, and to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution, Eiffel Tower was meant to be a temporary structure, but was only saved from demolition by its height which made it valuable as a communication tower, and, ironically, the potential demolition costs were deemed too high! When it was built, people were shocked by its innovative shape. Nothing remotely like it had ever been built before. It aroused amazement, scepticism and even opposition. It was branded as useless and monstrous, but finally it had become widely accepted and loved and its graceful symmetry made it the star attraction. At 984 ft (without the antenna) it was the tallest building in the world until superseded by NY’s Chrysler building (1047 ft) in 1930.
A masterpiece of the 19th century technology, the structure of the Eiffel Tower is an astonishing feat of engineering. Its innovative use of metal arches and trusses sparked a revolution in civil engineering. The iron-framed tower which rests on four semicircular arches, was erected in an amazingly short time of just over two years. Its design makes it resistant to strong winds. Before rushing for the top, stand directly underneath it to gaze at the enormous structure.
Lifts and stairs in the tower lead to three observation decks. Bars and restaurants are on the lower two to allow the tourists to praise and enjoy the panoramic views of the city. The lifts have limited capacity so on busy days be prepared for long queues as most visitors prefer Lifts to stairs. Needless to say, the view from the top deck is nothing less than stupendous. You can also see here Gustave Eiffel’s sitting room.
Beautifully floodlit at night, Eiffel Tower is the most spectacular night time sight in Paris. Additionally it is illuminated by thousands of twinkling light bulbs for 10 min at the beginning of every hour and at the same time a lighted beacon rotates at the highest point. Quite fascinating.
Another way to view the tower (along with other Parisian landmarks including a mini version of the Statue of Liberty) is by boat trip. The trip (with continuous commentary) lasts for one hour and gives an overall idea of the city centre landmarks.
Eiffel Tower, affectionately known as the ‘Iron Lady’, is one of the world’s premier tourist attraction. It takes centre stage in every national celebration in France. It’s also the setting for the spectacular fireworks displays. Paris just wouldn’t be Paris without its most famous ‘lady’.