The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, La Tour Eiffel in French, that iconic symbol of France, was the main exhibit of the Paris Exposition or World’s Fair of 1889. It was constructed to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and to demonstrate France’s industrial prowess to the world

Eiffel Tower
The History (and some little known facts)

Building the tower wasn’t all plain sailing. “many were against the building and voiced their concern in a letter entitled “Artists Against Mr Eiffel’s Tower“, stating the tower to be a threat against the aesthetic nature of Paris. An iron tower erected smack in the heart of Paris was considered unacceptable, a stark contrast to the elegance and refined beauty of the city. For example, Verlaine nicknamed the Eiffel Tower the “Skeleton of Beffroi” to demonstrate the giant tower’s ungainly appearance that was bound to “disfigure” the city.” Paris Vision History

Iron was a new building material, previously only used in unimportant buildings or as internal bracing where appearance didn’t matter. (Eiffel also designed the internal iron structure of the Statue of Liberty in NY).  Eiffel’s design used iron as a design element for the tower. He created an intricate lattice-work that structurally made the iron as strong as stone. 

Engineering Wonder

Each of the 18,000 pieces used to build the tower was constructed specifically for the project in Eiffel’s factory on the outskirts of Paris. The wrought-iron structure comprises four massive arched legs. These are set on masonry piers that curve inward until joining in a single, tapered tower.  The tower is 300 metres tall and 328 metres wide at the base.

Eiffel Tower

Construction of the tower required 2.5 million thermally assembled rivets and 7,300 tons of iron. To protect the tower from the elements, workers painted every inch of the structure. A feat that required 60 tons of paint. The tower has since been repainted 18 times, on average, every seven years Going from a reddish-brown colour for its opening to yellow, yellow-brown, and chestnut before taking on the ‘Eiffel tower brown’ in 1968.  The tower is painted in three shades. Each shade is progressively lighter as the height increases, to augment the tower’s silhouette against the sky.

Eiffel Tower
Never planned to be permanent

Originally the tower was intended to be pulled down after 20 years. However, Gustave Eiffel provided 80% of the cost of the towers building budget. Therefore, he was allowed to manage it to recoup the costs.  After this, it was passed to the Parisian Government, who planned to pull it down and sell it as scrap.  Seeking to save the tower, Gustave erected a radio antenna on top and financed experiments with wireless telegraphy beginning in 1898.  In 1909 when the concession expired, the government saw the benefit of using it for wireless messaging This was especially for the military and decided to keep it up. 

During WWI, it played an essential role in interception German radio messages. On one occasion enabling the french to organise a counter-attack during the Battle of Marne. Three years later they intercepted a message that led to the capture of Mata Hari.  Today there are over 100 radio antennas atop the tower.

Our Visit

We met our guide at the appointed location. We had a fast track entry ticket, and the host was to take us through security and into the correct fast track lane before she left us.  Having the host smooth our way through was fantastic… we would have been totally lost without her.  Eight million people visit the Eiffel tower each year, making it an excellent magnet for terrorism seeking a PR victory. Initially, the tower was open with grassy parks under each leg. Now it’s surrounded by inch thick bombproof, bulletproof glass. Aarmed soldiers patrol the base, and getting in through the checkpoints is no easier than passing through airport security. How I would have loved to have seen it like it was 20 years ago before ISIS and terrorism reared their ugly head.

in the queue, waiting to go up

The ground floor elevators take you to the second level. From there, you change elevators and take another to the top level.

The Eiffel Tower – second level
Going Up

Naturally, the 360-degree views are superb. There are gift shops, and cafe’s on the second floor. Outside wasn’t too bad, inside was packed with people

Second Level
Top level as the sun goes down

We took the elevator to the top level, the views were great on all sides. However, the sun was setting on one side, the view was great on that side, and to the left. But, to the right and around the back the wind was blowing us over. So we stuck to two sides

Sunset over the Seine
sunset over the Seine
From the Top

At the top of the tower, Gustave Eiffel’s private apartment/office is on the third level.  He used the space for entertaining and work. While invitations were rare, he did host a few ‘important’ people there.  The space wasn’t large, but it was furnished comfortably with wallpapered walls, chintz furniture,  even including a grand piano!. 

Remaining largely untouched over time,  you can’t enter the apartment but can view through the windows, still furnished and with wax mannequins of Eiffel and his daughter hosting Thomas Edison for a visit.

Gustave Eiffel’s apartment

We were booked on the Illuminations tour – so we were mindful of time. We did, however, drag our feet longer than we should as the sunset looked like it was going to pop.

Sunset. I get lens flare with my Olympus 7-14 – which I quite like though this was a bit much.
Blue Hour

Then the sun went down. The lights came on. Considering how much I didn’t enjoy the illuminations tour – I wish I had stayed here and got some more night shots

Eiffel at Night

Reluctantly leaving the tower to meet the rest of our travelling party for the illuminations tour, we waited forever for a lift.. we got one down to the second floor and had another long wait for the next left.  In the end, we decided to take the stairs.. we were only on the second level, after all, umm the second level isn’t like the second floor – it was 376 feet up!.  About 400 steps and jelly legs later, we reached the bottom… and got some last-minute shots on the way out of the tour lit up.

the one the hour light show – there are five billion lights on the tower
The Illuminations tour

Ummmm, nothing good to say about it.  It was part cruise part bus.  The boat part was on a huge boat that seemed to seat half of Paris… no outside area, so if you didn’t get a window seat, you had no hope of getting any sort of photo, let alone a decent one.  The boat moved quite fast along the river, which added to the challenge even if you had a window.  Landmarks moved past too fast to get anything better than phone pics or happy snaps on a camera.  Ditto for the bus. They drive down the roads. Tell you what they are going past, not slowly, but by now, it’s in the rearview mirror.  The only hope for photography is if they have to stop at the red light.

I didn’t take one image on the boat (I wish I had stayed at the Eiffel tower) and settled for street photography at red lights.  The worst tour we ever did.  (Before Salzburg)

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