We left our turret at the château last week to head for another tower: that famous one in Paris. La Tour Eiffel was built in 1889 to withering reviews, and here I am 122 years years later, buying an Eiffel Tower cookie cutter as a souvenir. Amazing, the enduring mystique of this strange structure.
In Paris we always stay near the Trocadèro, the classic high viewing point for the tower at the top of the Champ de Mars. There are many ways to view the tower, and my favorite is to circumvent the teeming masses gathered directly under it and stroll around to the east side, where there is a wide sandy path and a shady little park, lined with ornate mansions on the other side. It’s quiet here, and the tower looms through a leafy frame, with only a meandering pond tucked between its massive base and the path. It’s also fun to see the La Dame de Fer, or the Iron Lady as the French call her, from the water, now that there is the riverboat shuttle service called Batobus. One ticket buys you a leisurely tour of Paris, with eight stops. You can get off and on at all the main attractions along the Seine. Along with the city buses, it’s my favorite transportation alternative to the efficient but airless Metro.
Do you know your Eiffel Tower trivia? It was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair, at a time when exposed ironwork was an unheard of architectural element. Three hundred illustrious Frenchmen of the day signed a petition against the ‘useless and monstrous’ tower. It survived but was nearly torn down again in 1909.
For 41 years the Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world. It is 81 stories tall, or 324 meters (1063 feet). Should you care to skip the elevator and walk up, there are 1652 steps. Parachuters have jumped from it, mountaineers have scaled it, bungee jumpers have illegally dived from it, a guy flew a plane through the arches, and someone once rode from the first level down on a bicycle. It is said to be the most visited monument on the planet.
My favorite thing: to celebrate the millennium In 1999, the tower was turned into a giant sparkler with the addition of 20,000 flashing light bulbs. It was so popular that the lights were retained, and at nightfall it twinkles briefly on the hour.
So I thought la belle tour at least deserved a memorial cookie, in this case a French sable, which is simply a classic butter cookie. Tune in next week for Paris trend-spotting, a restaurant report, and a recipe from a famous Paris chef.
Favorite Reads & Films: Ah, Paris! Want to keep the mood going? Try these flicks: Paris, Je T'Aime (Paris, I Love You), Amelie , and Before Sunset. On my bookshelf, Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Murder in the Marais (from Cara Black's Paris series), and A Moveable Feast
In the Comments this week: Page checks in from Birmingham, the spiritual home of fried green tomatoes. Welcome Genie and Kat, fellow Furman folks. Genie I want to try those uptown green tomatoes, and Kat, good luck with the shrimp and grits! Maureen, have never made green tomato chutney but I must try it. Carol, fried green tomatoes in NY, who knew? And Cynthia says her tomatoes may never see red. Recipe alert: Carol H sends another rum cake recipe, and Anne and Rachel are thinking limencello, brilliant! Suzanne, I think most any rum will do, I used the cheap stuff. LOVED reading all the great comments!
Our reader's blogs: Unexcused Absenses is about a couple who are taking an extended break, crusing on the French canals.
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