What do the Eiffel Tower, The Statue of Liberty and Budapest Station (Hungary) all have in common? You can no doubt guess – they were all designed by one man, Gustave Eiffel (he designed the metal frame for the statue of Liberty along with the sculptor Bartoli). Eiffel was a master engineer, entrepreneur and also avid scientist, a polymath of sorts. The engineering involved in the design and construction of the tower resonated with this blogging former engineer! (in case you can’t tell from the post!)
In 1798 Napoleon addressed his troops against the backdrop of the pyramids, “Soldiers, imagine from the summit of these pyramids, forty centuries of history look down on you”. Napoleon recognised the incredible feat that the construction of the pyramids represented, and Eiffel similarly wanted to create a structure to inspire France. Built for the World Fair in 1889, the Tower commemorated the centenary of the revolution and was an engineering light-year ahead of its time. In just over 120 years it has become one of the modern symbols of France.
To appreciate the scale of the task, one has to understand that at the time, the tallest building in the world was the just completed Washington Monument at 169 metres tall. The tallest building in France at the time was 105 metres. 300m was a symbolic height that represented technological and engineering nirvana of the day. Eiffel’s firm won the contract for the design of the Tower as part of the World fair, and in 2 years, 2 months and 5 days, his team of 250 workers removed 39000 square metres of earth, erected 7300 tonnes of steel frame comprising of over 18000 parts, and fixed over 2 1/2 million rivets. The Tower eventually achieved a height of 324 metres. An engineering feat! Not only that, but it looked pretty sharp as well. So on our final day in Paris, we found ourselves at the base of this engineering marvel. And marvellous it is.
MamaBear elected to wait at the base with all our luggage (we were en-route to the bus station!) and the rest of us elected to walk to the second level of the tower. The two older boys also chose to brave the queues and catch the lift all the way to the top. I am not sure of the actual elevation of the second level lookouts, but the view from there was stunning. From the Arc de Triomphe, the tower had looked as if it sat in a slight depression and was slightly lower than the Arc, but from the tower’s second level it was obvious that the tower did tower above everything. The boys absolutely raved about the view from the very top – the view was ‘almost scary’ they confessed.
The view from the second “floor”
A view from the top!
An additional highlight of the day was being able to catch up with some friends from Romania – Sam and Adina with their daughter Dorotia. They had won a trip to Disneyland and just happened to arrive in Paris on the same day we were due to leave, so we managed to have lunch together in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. It was great to be able to catch up again and renew old friendships.
We couldn’t linger too long as we needed to jump back on the Metro to get to the international bus station to catch our bus to Leon, Spain. Our time in Paris has flown by, but we could not have kept up the pace any longer! All the children were starting to wilt from our frenetic sightseeing, and we had all reached sensory overload. There is just too much to see and take in in such a short time – we all have fond memories that we will hopefully be able to digest further as we slow down to walk the Camino. Au revoir Paris, until next time!