Travel

The New See-Through Eiffel Tower

For the tourists in search of intense emotions, it is now possible to walk on a floor made of clear glass on the first level of the tower, seemingly walking on air.
10/20/2014 11:17am ET | Updated December 20, 2014

Something new has happened at the Eiffel Tower. A rare update on the old Grande Dame, mostly unchanged since it was first erected in the City of Lights. For the tourists in search of intense emotions, it is now possible to walk on a floor made of clear glass on the first level of the tower, seemingly walking on air. How romantic indeed!

The walk on the transparent surface is not for the faint of heart. At a cost of 30 million Euros, the upgrade includes a little museum, several pavilions, and solar panels to provide half of the tower's hot water, in an effort to modernize the classic structure. All of the tower lighting is 95 percent LED. At 57 meters above the ground, where a hole used to be, now a new floor is definitely a new attraction in Paris.

Since opening this month, it has become a must-location for a daring selfie. There is now a new line forming for those visitors just wanting to take a picture of themselves suspended above the French soil. Ok, it's not entirely the whole first floor. Where the surrounding concrete walkaround was is now a path of glass with an incline towards the scary drop. Visitors still get to walk over support beams and feel the security of a railway. Watching the little ants below is nevertheless somewhat dizzying, and many will probably stay away.

Since 2004, the very same first floor has been turned into a very popular ice skating ring for a few weeks during cold weather, mostly around Christmas. Not available every winter though, as the temperature must meet certain requirement -- so if you go, check before packing your blades. Every seven years, the tower is entirely repainted to avoid rusting. There are at least 30 replicas around the world, one of them famously located in Las Vegas. The tallest structure anywhere from 1889 to 1931, the Chrysler Building in New York City took that rank away from her (yes, it's a she) in 1930, and was itself surpassed 11 months later by the Empire State Building.

Inaugurated in 1889, the Eiffel Tower attract some seven million visitors each year, 85 percent of those from foreign countries. This is the most paying visited monument in the world, with revenues of 73 millions in 2013. The famous iron lattice was erected as the entrance arch to the World Fair, and was slated to be demolished after the building permit expired 20 years later. After adding the aerial spire atop the Eiffel Tower in 1957, it is now again taller than the Chrysler Building by 17 feet. But of course, that is debatable.

When my youngest daughter was five years old, we went to my home town for a visit and did a lot of touristic things I had never done growing up there. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, my cutie goes: "Mom, are there any alligators in that river?" -- People around us asked us where we were from, and I gladly obliged, indicating that we lived in Miami, and my daughter was born there.

Can you believe that Mr. Eiffel himself was not too keen at first by the proposed design originated by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, the two original architects working for the Eiffel Company? Designed to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution, another architect, Charles Sauvestre, came onto the project to add some specifics, and this time the project was approved by Eiffel -- who then became its biggest supporter.

Responding to the many artists of the time who contested the planned monument, Eiffel started comparing his tower to the Egyptian Pyramids: "My tower will be the tallest edifice ever erected by man. Will it not also be grandiose in its way? And why would something admirable in Egypt become hideous and ridiculous in Paris?"

Then in 1909, the date when the city of Paris had planned to tear it down, the 80-story high tower (1,065 ft) proved valuable for communication purposes and so was allowed to remain. Gustave Eiffel used his apartment on the top level to carry out weather observations and experiment on the action of air resistance on falling bodies. Hopefully, none were thrown.

There are 300 steps to reach the first floor, and 704 to the top. If you want to avoid the long lines to the tickets booth, you may climb it, it's exhilarating and pretty safe. When the wind is too strong, the steps' entrances are closed. It slowly became the emblem of the city and along the years, of France. Who could now imagine the city without it?

Millions of people around the world know the famed shape and can recognize it, without ever having been to France. The enormous symbol became a marketing tool in itself, with collections of clothing, décor, and junk items carrying its image for over a hundred years now. A young entrepreneur in Paris, Christophe Charrier, 24, came up with a new idea: to bottle the water from the River Seine in cute little bottles in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

While walking along the river banks, the thought came to him that so many tourists buy multiple souvenirs bottles Made in China, shaped as the tower, why not offer them a little more? That gave him the idea to collect water from a spot near the tower, filter it, fill in the said bottles and sell them to the tourists, et voilà! "Why couldn't the tourists bring back water from Paris? A little bit of romance -- one can bring back desert sand. It's the same principle than (the water) from Lourdes, minus the religious side" says Christophe Charrier.

Some have trapped the air of Paris in tin cans, now we have bottles of water from the Seine River -- don't drink it though, my recommendation.

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