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The Eiffel Tower is undoubtedly the most-recognized landmark in Paris, and probably in France. It was built by the engineer
Gustave Eiffel (and some other guys) between 1887 and 1889 for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, and at 1000 feet easily
exceeded the previous record-holder for tallest man-made structure, the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument, which had been
completed five years earlier. It remained the world’s tallest until 1930, when it was exceeded by the 1047-foot-tall
Chrysler Building in New York City. A radio antenna was added to the top of the tower in 1957, bringing its height to 1063
feet (its current height), but by this time both structures had been exceeded by the Empire State Building (and since by a
variety of other buildings and towers).
The original plan for the tower was to leave it in place for 20 years and then dismantle it (one of the requirements for
its construction was that it be easy to disassemble). During its construction it had many detractors in the artistic
community, who called it such things as “useless” and “monstrous”, and to them 20 years seemed almost intolerably long.
But public reaction to the completed tower was overwhelmingly positive, and Eiffel wasted no time in setting up shop
(actually a laboratory) at its summit in an effort to show how useful the tower could be. He began with a variety of
scientific and meteorological experiments. But eventually, use of the tower as an antenna to perform wireless communications
over great distances was demonstrated and seen as possibly valuable, and in 1909 it was decided the tower could stay where it
was for the time being. And a good thing it did, as the wireless communication capability was to prove quite useful during
World War I. As World War II was winding down in 1944, the Nazis planned to destroy it on withdrawal (and much of Paris as
well, apparently just to be jerks), but the General in charge disobeyed the order, sparing the city. Since then a rat’s nest
of communications paraphernalia has grown atop the tower and the tower has become the world’s most visited paid monument.
In the past, the line to board the elevators up the Eiffel Tower has been very long and very slow. Shortly before our trip,
they started a reservation system on their website with which you could
prepay and make an appointment, and you would be able to wait in a much shorter line. But you’d better be on time for your
appointment, as there wouldn’t be any refunds. (By the way, the Eiffel Tower is one of the few Paris attractions not included
in the Museum Pass.) We tried this out, and it worked very well for us. We planned out our Metro route in advance (we still
had eight tickets from the carnet we’d bought the previous night) and made sure we got up early enough to eat breakfast
downstairs and get to the tower with time to spare for our 9:45 appointment. And a good thing, as the walk from the Bir Hakeim
Metro stop to the tower was a little longer than we thought it would be. We saw a long line when we got there (for those who
didn’t make reservations), but we showed our confirmation and passports and walked in almost directly to the elevator waiting area.
There are three levels on the tower, and the elevator (travelling at an incline, as it was going up the north “leg” of the
tower) bypassed the first one, taking us directly to level 2 (420 feet from the ground), where we had to disembark. We
walked around on this level a little while and took some pictures, as the view was already pretty good.
When we felt like continuing to the top (level 3), we got in the line for the separate elevator that travels the last leg.
This line is pretty long and pretty slow, and everyone who wants to go to the top has to wait in it (you must already have a
ticket). The line winds past the Jules Verne restaurant, which has its very own elevator and must be very expensive.
Eventually we reached the elevator, which took us straight up the last 500+ feet.
The view at the top was amazing, but the observation deck was surrounded by a large-mesh “cage”, I guess to keep people from
throwing large objects (or themselves) over the edge. It’s somewhat cooler at the top, being 1000 feet higher in elevation,
and in our case it was windy. Apparently the tower is very good at standing up to the wind, swaying only a few centimeters
when it’s particularly windy.
After taking our pictures through the wire we went down a short stairway, where we discovered another observation deck
which was glassed in. It was warmer but more crowded, and the glass wasn’t as clean as it might be, so it was a good
thing we’d taken our pictures upstairs.
We eventually found the elevator back to level 2, where we again had to switch elevators to get to the one that went the rest
of the way. There was an option to get off at level 1, but we didn’t take it, as we’d really already seen what we’d come
for, and we had more plans for the day.
We returned to the ground and crossed a bridge across the Seine and ascended the Trocadéro hill, on the way passing a
large fountain that didn’t have any water in it, some statues and a swell view of the Eiffel Tower.
Behind the buildings we found the Trocadéro Metro station, from which we took a train to our next stop, the Musée du Louvre.
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