Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Joyeux anniversaire, tour d'Eiffel

by Armadillo Joe

Sorry I missed this one yesterday, caught up as I was in all that Detroit versus Wall Street stuff, but yesterday, March 31st, was the 120th Anniversary of the opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Some years back, the observation deck way up at the tippy-top was the place I asked Mrs. Joe to become, well, Mrs. Joe and I did it way before Tom Cruise did. As a result, it is more than just a convenient symbol for the city of Paris to the two of us. It is the magical place where I asked and she said yes.

I also spent a couple of months in France a few years ago for work. I took the picture at the left on my last day in Paris as I zoomed around the city trying to take in all the things I had missed in the previous weeks due to, well, working the whole time.

I snapped this picture on a blind whim as the Metro train I was riding raced across the Seine. In all I had about 30 seconds from her first appearance outside my window until she vanished behind a building - and I still had to unpack and turn on the camera! It turned out to be one of the best out of the hundreds I snapped while I was there. Note the silver orb in the middle section: the Rugby World Cup was in full swing while I was there (France got her ass kicked in the first round) and it was there as a promotional stunt.

I love this picture. It is completely spontaneous, not framed or planned at all and once you know it was taken from a moving train, you get the sense of motion in the picture, too. As well, I think this photo is just so evocative and haunting as the Iron Lady basks in that beautiful light of a late September afternoon, the sunset of my final day quickly gathering behind me. I always thought that would make a great title for a novel: "My Last Day in Paris".

Some of my favorite factoids about The Eiffel Tower:
  • She was built as the winning entry in a contest for the 1889 World's Fair -- the Paris Exposition -- also a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the French Revolution.

  • She became the tallest building in the world -- a title taken from the Washington Monument -- from 1889 until the Chrysler Building opened in New York City in 1930.

  • She was openly despised by the Parisian glitterati of the day. Novelist Guy de Maupassant hated it so much that he ate at the onsite restaurant every single day because it was the only place in Paris where he wouldn't have to look at it.

  • Originally slated to be torn down after 20 years, she was by then in use as a platform for a radio transmission tower and thus preserved for commercial purposes.

  • The French Resistance cut the elevator cables before the Nazis took Paris. Due to war time shortages, they were not replaced until after the war and Adolph Hitler never visited the observation deck. He ordered her demolished as the Nazis evacuated Paris, an order that was mercifully ignored by General Dietrich von Choltitz, the Nazi military governor.

  • The Eiffel Tower has been painted "Eiffel Tower Brown" since 1968. Prior to that, she was painted -- from bottom to top -- red, orange & yellow to enhance the sense of height. Eiffel Tower Brown is actually three shades of the same brown that do the same thing.
She's a mighty beautiful sight, La Dame de fer, and the slide show from at this link pays tribute.


ZenYenta said...

That has got to be the best proposal ever.

Anonymous said...

Yes Ma'am, it was. Thank you :)

~ Mrs. Joe