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Yes, the Eiffel Tower

July 22, 2013
A view of the Tower at night from the second level.

A view of the Tower at night from the second level.

I know what you are thinking–what else could he possibly have to say about the Eiffel Tower? One of the most iconic sites and images in the world. One of the few structures where you could show a picture to just about anyone on earth and they would recognize it instantly. It has been filmed and photographed as many times as there are rivets in it (2.5 million). There are fake versions at Epcot Center in Florida and in Las Vegas. It is the ultimate tourism cliché.

And yet…if you have actually been to the tower, you know when it is standing before you, none of that matters. It is an awesome structure. I don’t think you can really appreciate just how impressive it is until you find yourself dwarfed at its feet. You expect the Empire State Building to be huge, and it is. You expect the Burj Khalifa to have a view of what looks like the entire Arabian Peninsula, and it does. Perhaps because the Eiffel Tower exists for no other purpose than to look at and from it, we don’t anticipate its sheer power. That is part of what I think overwhelms us in its presence.

It is also a work of architectural genius. Built in slightly over two years, it boasts a modular design that allowed it to be assembled in pieces. Once the lower pieces were fastened, the tower could then support the weight of the next piece to follow. Given the tower is comprised of almost nothing but iron girders, air and wind easily passes through it so it never shakes or rocks. I think the most amazing thing about it is that the iron in the tower is used so efficiently that if it were melted down, and the liquid were spread out across an area the size of the tower base, it would be…two and half inches deep.

We visited the tower at night, courtesy of a Skip the Line tour from a company called Easy Pass. I highly recommend this, because you do indeed skip the long queue waiting to enter, and find yourself at the second level very quickly. Our tour guide was a smart, funny, charismatic young woman named Ellen. Ellen hails from Dublin, so we learned about the tower, Gustav Eiffel and much of Paris through the sound of a charming Irish brogue. If I had been a single man in my early twenties, I probably would have proposed to Ellen right after the tour.

But I am almost none of those things, so I instead enjoyed the tremendous views and the absolute wonder that is the Eiffel Tower. It is not what you would expect. It is so much more.

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