Monday, April 19, 2010

Eiffel Tower and Patriots Day

I recently returned from a glorious trip to London and Paris with some of my favorite people. La Tour Eiffel is certainly breathtaking, designed and constructed by the engineering firm of Gustav Eiffel, Eiffel et Cie, for the International Exhibition of Paris - 1889 World's Fair. It commemorates the Centenary of the French Revolution (the collapse of centuries of Monarch Rule) and was initially criticized by the French artistic community as a "truly tragic street lamp". At 1063' and 100 stories, it was the world's tallest building until 1930 when the Chrysler Building, NYC, surpassed it (1048' + 180' spire), followed shortly thereafter by the Empire State Building, NYC, (1250' + 222' spire). Construction took just 300 steel workers a little over two years to complete, with 1652 internal steps, 7,000 tons of steel, 18,000 pieces of wrought iron, and 2.5 million rivets! As a feat of engineering wonder, the tower sways up to 4.7" during the occasional 100 mph wind, as well as accommodates height fluctuations of up to 5.9" due to ambient temperature changes. This lovely steel beauty was almost torn down in 1909, but for the antenna and its importance to the military.

Every 7 years the Eiffel Tower is repainted with 40 tons of paint (a milk chocolate color known as 'Eiffel Tower Beige') in 3 tonal colors - darkest at the top - to accentuate its height. It is painted by hand, which takes two years to complete, and it is visited by millions annually, requiring 2 tons of paper tickets. The Tower is illuminated with energy-efficient sodium-discharge lamps producing the most lovely orangey yellow light and contributing spectacularly to La Ville-Lumiere - The City of Lights. (Paris earned this name in 1828 as the first European city to utilize gas lamps along the Champs De Elysees.) On a clear day 40 miles of panoramic views of Paris can be experienced making the Eiffel Tower a Parisian marvel not to be missed. Gustav Eiffel's firm, known today as Eiffel, still specializes in complex steel construction.

To add more interesting history to this story, it was Gustav Eiffel who engineered and built the framework for the Statue of Liberty in France and shipped it over to the U.S., piece by piece, for its unveiling in 1886. At that time, it too was the tallest structure in NYC, standing at 305'. Its French sculptor and designer - Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi - had this to say: "Everything in America is big....Here, even the peas are big." (It is funny that all the references to things being bigger and taller seem an important consideration to success....But is it really true?!..) The Statue of Liberty symbolizes our "sisterhood" with the French people, who provided arms, ships, money and men to the American colonies during their defeat of the British. About 100 years after the American Revolutionary War, a French intellectual, Edouard Renee de Laboulaye, who opposed Napoleon III's oppressive regime, discussed his admiration for America's success in establishing a democratic government and noted the "flow of sympathy" between France and America. He hatched the idea "to give the U.S. a great monument as a lasting memorial to independence and thereby show that the French government was also dedicated to the idea of human liberty." Today, the statue known as Lady Liberty stands tall as a "keeper of the flame of liberty...holding it high for the world to see." And so on this Patriot's Day, we commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord (the first Battles of the American Revolutionary War, 1775) which symbolize the turning point in the long struggle for Independence between the American Colonies and Britain. Let Freedom Reign!
( A most heartfelt thank you to Audrey for insisting the 3 hour wait - in line, with wind, without dinner - would be worth it. You were SO right!!!! And, a Happy Patriots Day Birthday to my Hubby!)

"To the sculptor, form is everything and is nothing. It is nothing without the spirit - with the idea it is everything." - Victor Hugo, 19th C poet & novelist - Les Miserables & The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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