The Eiffel Tower was built to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution and a theme of the 1889 International Exhibition. Ironically, it was inaugurated by a king and an English one – the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. It has since evolved into an iconic symbol of Paris, a tourist must-do, and the world’s most visited structure.
Many opposed this puddle-iron riveted, latticed structure including artists, Guy de Maupassant, Emile Zola and Dumas the Younger. It was slated to be dismantled in 1909 but its usefulness as a radio and telegraph antenna stayed that execution.
The structure is so well designed that it sways no more than 4 ½ inches in strong winds and there is a 15cm increase or decrease in height depending on the temperature. The four pillars are aligned to the compass points.
In most photographs the Eiffel looks rusty-orange, because of the effect of sunlight. However, its paint is variously described as dark brown, bronze or chocolate. Though the structure consumes about 7.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually it is based on one of the most energy efficient systems. The lights turn the Tower golden at night.
You can enter the basements of the eastern and western pillars to see the monstrous machinery that drives the elevators. You could also take a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Eiffel and see what most tourists don’t get to. A lot of people also opt in to go for a meal with a breathtaking view, at the famed Eiffel Tower restaurant.
During the season it may take several hours to get and to the top of the Tower. Shortest lines are at opening and closing times or in bad weather. It attracts nearly 7 million visitors a year, so the Eiffel Tower tickets always remain in great demand.
Owned by the City of Paris, it is operated by the Société Nouvelle d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (New Eiffel Tower Operating Company). The whole multifaceted structure is run by about 500 people – including those from the gendarme (police), fire department, shopkeepers, telescope and lift operators, waiters, and cooks and cleaning staff.
During its construction there was only one death. It was not work related. In keeping with Paris’ appeal it was romance that did it. An off-duty worker tried showing off to his girl friend and fell.
The Tower has its own post office on the first level where you can get special Eiffel Tower stamps and its own website – http://www.tour-eiffel.fr.