Opening Statement



Thursday, 10 July 2014

Paris Oooh La La! The Eiffel Tower!

Updates added for Teacher Summer News + Views @ News!  + Ford Nation blogs @ Ford


I have many pleasant happy memories of our trip to Paris in June. None seem to stick with me so clearly as that of the Eiffel Tower. I know it might sound cliché. There is so much to see and do, and this quite obvious postcard image is the best I can do? Far from it!

The Eiffel tower is an impressive steel edifice. It’s very modernist in a sense: Man over nature, a huge free standing pointed steel girder and brace structure. A triumph of 19th Century architecture and Science over the elements. The center piece of the 1890 Paris Exposition. At 1000 feet the tallest standing man made structure in the world at the time.


Today, in our postmodern world, where architecture no longer is no longer as constrained by the laws of physics, the Eiffel Tower has been dwarfed in size many times over. Until recently our own Toronto CN Tower was the world’s tallest free standing structure, a huge sleek concrete needle in the sky. Its unobtrusive lack of colour, perhaps at first brush rather unimaginative and dull, nonetheless allows it to blend into the Toronto skyline while also providing a focal point to the city.

The CN Tower is not without its own charms.  I do not think it is fair to compare it with the Eiffel Tower. They were created in different times. One might wonder if the CN Tower will still be standing a 124 years from now. Maybe? Maybe not? No matter. Each exists in a world of its own.

The stark magic of the Eiffel Tower by day is one of amazing technical ingenuity, if not from a time long past. As sun sets the bronzish copper Eiffel Tower turns gold in proportion to the growing propensity of Paris and the night. Most notably down at the Champs de Mars fountains and walkway. It is transformed into a mad carnival of life; gawkers, hawkers, lovers, artists, performers, Parisians, tourists, Gypsies and thieves. They all come to watch. At nightfall Janet and I would sit on the steps, or perhaps cuddle together on an embankment to drink in the magic swirling about us.



 As the tower becomes a throbbing beacon of gold in the night, spotlights from the top slice through the dark on a perpendicular angle, swaying hypnotically back and forth as the excitement builds. At 11 pm it’s the finale everybody has been waiting for. Flashing white lights explode all over the tower. Everybody gasps. Cheers. It is quite breathtaking. Perhaps unnecessary. It’s a glitzy finale and no doubt the finishing touch. However on our visit this June it was cut mercifully short leaving us with the fittingly magic and magnificent golden vision in its own rite.

On Friday we at last joined the hour and a half lineup to the top. I kept putting it off. I hate lineups. Here they are unavoidable unless I suppose one is either an early riser or up all night, neither of which for us would fit the bill. It was well worth it. At each level we stopped to gaze at the magnificent city of Paris grow smaller and smaller below. From the top two observation decks it had become reduced to a majestic map. All the familiar landmarks can be seen from on high stretching off to the horizon; the Seinne, the Arc de Triumph, Grand Palace, Cathedral and Opera House to name but a few. The mad cacophony of curving streets twist among long, flush lines of greenery stretching out like fingers here and there across the city.


The view from the Eiffel Tower was extremely breathtaking to say the least! I have been up higher before on mountains, in buildings, and on an airplane. It is the sheer beauty of it all that is the point in an age where sheer height no longer need amaze. Totally exhilarating. We arrived back to earth quite breathless, even dizzy as we stepped off the elevator onto the ground, swallowed up into the Paris crowds once again. It is an experience I can’t encourage enough should you ever visit the city. The Eiffel Tower will always remain a snapshot in my mind to savour as I will during more trying or mundane times, a most enriching life experience.


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