The Eiffel Tower

Paris Sunday October 27, 2013 123Here she is…affectionately known as La Grande Dame, La Dame de Fer or even La Dentelle de Fer (Iron Lace).  I ended up here one gray October Sunday without really intending to.  I usually avoid tourist traps in this city.Paris Sunday October 27, 2013 126As if the tower isn’t already spectacular, the city is planning to make it even more spectacular…encore plus spectaculaire !!!  La Grande Dame is having a makeover.Paris Sunday October 27, 2013 133Two new pavilions with shops, a food court and projection room, and the redesigning of the first-floor restaurant to increase capacity and lower prices.  Oh god, I hope they’re not going to turn it into a cafeteria.

There’s also less sparkling at night as the city reduces the tower’s energy consumption. The tower used to sparkle 10 minutes per hour, now it’s been cut down to five.  I must admit that one of the most dazzling sights in this city is when, every hour on the hour, starting from nightfall to 1 a.m. and using 20,000 small bulbs, the tower bursts into a glittering display of scintillating sparkle.  The first time I witnessed the event, I was crossing the river via one of the bridges near the tower.  It was a clear winter’s night.  Suddenly, as I was midway across, she lit up all aglitter and I gasped. I stood rooted to the spot, awestruck, at the beautiful sight.  That’s what I call an MM (magical moment.)

Paris Sunday October 27, 2013 136Did you know that the Eiffel Tower generates more revenue than any other monument in the world?  An estimated 7 million people visit the tower each year.  Imagine that they spend 14 euros each.  That’s 98 million euros. I wonder how this compares with revenue from the Empire State building.Paris Sunday October 27, 2013 122If you look closely, you can see names engraved on each side of the tower under the first balcony, 72 names to be exact: Lavoisier, Regnault, Le Verrier, etc.  They were leading French scientists of the 19th century to whom Gustave Eiffel paid homage. I have a feeling they are all male names…no women.Paris Sunday October 27, 2013 161

Off to Belgium (again)

Today’s a national holiday in France: November 1st is All Saints’ Day – another Catholic holiday in this supposedly secular country. Florists love All Saints’ Day. Cemetaries all over the country will be crowded today as people take flowers to the graves of deceased relatives.

And I’m off to Bruges located in the Flemish region of Belgium called West Flanders. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to discover the delights of Belgium. Maybe because it’s right next door to France and, up until now, I had always set my sights on destinations further afield. I’ve already planned to return to Belgium again over Christmas… Antwerp.

Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The city houses a very fine collection of medieval and early modern art, including the world-famous collection of Flemish Primitives.  Various masters, such as Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, lived and worked in Bruges.
Because of its many canals, Bruges is often referred to as “Venice of the North.”
bruges-canals-01The only blip is the weather forecast for this weekend: rain.  Oh well, we will console ourselves with Belgian chocolate, waffles and their famous fries (and beer.)