Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower. You know how when you see some iconic things they actually look smaller in real life than you pictured them- like the Hollywood Sign, the Statue of Liberty, or the Mona Lisa? Not the Eiffel Tower. It is, in fact, very large in real life. It is 986 feet tall, about as tall as an 81 story building. 

When it was built in 1889 it was almost twice as large as the next tallest structure in the world at that time, the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. It stayed the tallest structure in the world for forty years until the Chrysler Building was completed in 1930. 

So it seems almost unbelievable that they built it to just be a temporary structure- for the World's Fair celebrating 100 years from the starting of the French Revolution. Since the designer, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, paid for 80% of the cost to build the Eiffel Tower they let the tower stand for 20 years before letting the French government take control over it and disassemble it. Fortunately for the French, before it was disassembled they found another use for it, as a radio tower.

 It's also been used to intercept German signals during WWI, as a giant advertisement for an automobile company, and as a place to conduct science experiments.

 This is the view from across the Seine at the Trocadéro. Another selfie. This was where we spent the afternoon/evening of our actual anniversary.

With the river.

After we walked around a while we headed underneath the tower to get in line to go up. There were three lines open- one line at each of three of the legs, but there were still a lot of people in each line. I wondered how they could fit everyone up on the tower.

The underside of the Eiffel Tower as we were waiting in line to buy tickets to go up.

Here's a shot without us blocking the picture. You can see the new glass floor on the first floor, which we did not see. We went straight to the second floor, then all the way up to the top. On the way back down we didn't want to stop on the first floor and then have to wait in line again if we wanted the elevator to take us down the rest of the way.

This is a view from the second floor looking towards the city center. You can see Basilica of Sacre Coeur on the hill (Montmartre) on the left side. Just left of the center is a tiny ferris wheel that marks Place de la Concorde, and the gold Dome des Invalides is on the right side of the picture.

Looking up at the rest of the tower from the second floor.

Another view from the the second floor, of the Champ de Mars.

Looking down at the Seine, you can see the mini Statue of Liberty facing west towards the large Statue of Liberty in New York.

The Trocadéro from the second floor, the tall buildings in the background is La Défense, the business district of Paris.

Then we went to the very top. It was cold, it was windy, and it was misting rain. But it was still an awesome view.

A zoomed in picture.

The Trocadéro looks a lot smaller up here.

Robert liked the English translation for this, "way down."
Earlier in our trip Robert had mentioned that French labor unions are always going on strike so there is usually someone on strike in Paris. We both laughed when we saw this in the door of the closed gift shop on the second floor.

We stayed at the top until sunset.

Arc de Triomphe

I think this picture does not accurately portray how windy it was up there!

Then we wandered around the bottom of the tower. That little bubble at the bottom of the tower was a giant life size snow globe put there for Christmas. It was as big as a house and here it looks tiny.

Every hour at night they turn on the "twinkle" lights for five minutes. And, as you can tell, a spotlight going around the top.

We had fun doing some light painting before we left. Later we came back and had dinner at a fancy restaurant next to the Eiffel Tower and walked around again (and saw the large rats that come out when it gets less busy). It was a beautiful 10th Anniversary.


 The morning of our anniversary we went to see one of the most famous churches in the world, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Construction first began 1163 and it has been expanded (and restored again and again as it ages) over the centuries. Is it weird that I kept thinking of the Disney movie the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and that the song God Help the Outcasts was in my head the whole time? Now I want to go back and re-watch the movie to see what they got right with regards to the cathedral.

For some reason this one keeps uploading side ways, I give up. The sideways Notre-Dame. But note that you can see the River Seine in the background. Notre-Dame is actually on an island in the middle of the Siene called the Île de la Cité. It is the oldest part of Paris, where the Parisi Gauls first settled in the second century B.C.

 There was a really long line to get it, but it moved really quick and once we were inside we were able wander around freely and stay as long as we wanted. It is still a working cathedral so you are able to come and worship if you can deal with all the sightseers.
 Joan of Arc statue.

 From the front looking back.

This was the largest cathedral I have ever visited, but what impressed me the most was not it's size,
but the beautiful stained glass windows. The two rose windows, one on the north side and the other opposite it on the south, were built in 1250 and 1260, but have had to have been restored several times. Underneath are stained glass windows of 16 prophets painted in the 19th century. You might just barely be able to make out that the four center prophets- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel- are carrying four figures on their shoulders- the evangelists Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.

As you can see, very large, with a lot of stained glass.

From the back looking towards the front.
 Then we went back outside and took pictures of more detail of the outside- statues on the front.

 Above the front door.

Lots of gargoyles. We were planning on paying to climb up to the bell towers, but once we saw the line we decided to skip it and use our time doing something else. So we just used our camera to zoom in really far...

 A view with the statue of Charlemagne on the right.

Side view with the famous flying buttresses. Notre-Dame was one of the first cathedrals to use flying buttresses.

 Selfie with the outside of the rose stained glass window.

Before leaving the island we walked down along the river to Pont Nuef. It was built in 1578 and is the oldest standing bridge in Paris across the Seine. When it was completed King Henry IV road across it on his white horse and now there is a statue of him on his white horse at the center of the bridge.

 I thought the view looking away from the bridge was cool because it was just typical Paris. Paris has definitely been my favorite major city so far to visit, but it's also the only European city I have ever been to (all other major cities were either U.S. or Latin America). More European travel for us in the future? Somehow I doubt any other city has as much charm and meaning all in the same place as Paris.

Seen in Paris

Even though it was cold in France in December (but not freezing!), it was still fun to see all how Paris dresses up for Christmas. We saw a lot of Christmas lights, even a mini-Eiffel Tower made out of lights.

The Champs Elyées had Christmas lights on all the trees.

We did a little Christmas shopping on the Champs Elyées. Robert saw someone with a Paris Saint-Germain (Paris's Soccer Team) scarf and asked them where they got it. They said the Paris Saint-Germain store on the Champs Elyées, so we had to go back to the Champs Elyées on our last day in Paris. We also got some soccer stuff for the boys.

Micah loved his Paris Saint-Germain backpack and soccer ball-that we actually did not get here. We got it from a sporting goods store at a mall by our hotel.

I was pretty impressed with the Paris metro. It wasn't exactly clean, but not horribly dirty either...and it was very efficient. We never had to wait more than a couple minutes for a train and we could get to within almost a block of wherever we needed to go. It was uncharacteristically empty at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning when we were heading to Versailles. 

We got to know the subway ads quite well. This one made me think of Julia every time we saw it. Elsa has taken over the world!

The view from our hotel. It was much cheaper to stay a couple miles away from the city centre and all the touristy places. It took me a while to figure out what we were looking at here. Turns out we just missed out on a view of the Eiffel Tower, this is looking towards the city center and the Eiffel Tower is just on the left, out of view of our window. Since all the most famous places are pretty flat besides the Eiffel Tower you couldn't really pick them out from this angle, except for Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.