On this week’s episode of Join Us in France we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower. Should you go see it? What’s so great about it? We talk about the man behind it and the technological innovations that made it possible. Elyse also tells us that while some Parisians hated it, most loved it right from the start. We talk about recent improvements that are going to make the Eiffel Tower even better, and why it still takes our breath away. How should you visit the Eiffel Tower? What’s the best vantage point? All of that and more on today’s show. Enjoy!
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4:50′ The icon of Paris and France is the Eiffel Tower.
5:15′ It’s called the Eiffel Tower because of the name of the man who built it.
5:50′ Cast Iron made it possible to build large iron structures. Many beautiful buildings are made of cast iron and glass.
7:00′ Eiffel was a bridge builder who entered into a competition to design the entrance way into the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.
9:26′ The World Fair was to be held on the banks of the Seine river, so that’s where they allotted space for the entrance structure.
10:00′ The people who commissioned the Eiffel Tower wanted something new. The Google Cultural Institute has great pictures of the whole construction process. It is called “The Birth of the Eiffel Tower”
11:20′ Eiffel did not design it; he is the one who built it.
12:10′ Construction began in 1887 and it took two years.
13:20′ People insisted on adding rounded arches in order to make it sturdier, but it turned out to make it prettier.
15:00′ Uproar in the intellectual and artistic community of Paris. The petition of the three hundred who were against the tower.
17:00′ Eiffel and his company built the Statue of Liberty also.
18:00′ The tower was supposed to be torn down after 20 years, but so many people were visiting it that they never tore it down.
18:30′ The Otis company designed the elevators for the tower, that’s why Otis opened a branch in France and they’re still here.
19:30′ The first wireless telegraph antenna was on the Eiffel Tower.
20:00′ The French jammed signals from the tower so the Germans could not use the signals during WWI.
20:40′ It was the tallest structure in the world at the time and lots of famous visitors came, including Thomas Edison, and Buffalo Bill Cody, who were some of the first people to go up the tower.
21:50′ It became an instant success with all the people who wanted to go up the tower.
22:00′ Two ways to go up the tower still to this day: take the elevators or walk. There are 3 levels total. The first level is 300 steps up from the ground. The second level is another 300 steps up. And then there are 1100 steps to the very top.
23:20′ What happened to the tower during WWII? Germans are occupying Paris and Parisians cut the cables so the Germans could not use the tower elevators. At the end of the war the Germans sent a an officer by foot to the top to fly a Nazi flag from the top of the tower. It was blown away by the wind within a few minutes. 🙂
24:15′ Most visited paid monument in the world: in 2010 it went over 250 million people all the way to the top.
25:00′ There are three levels. What’s on each level? Wonderful restaurant called the Jules Verne run by Alain Ducasse on the second level quite expensive and reservations needed.
26:40′ They are renovating the elevators, so only one bank of elevators is open. The lines are longer now because of these renovations. If you go soon be patient. If you buy your ticket in advance you skip the ticket line, but you still have to line up for the elevator.
29:00′ The elevators going all the way to the top are made of glass, beware if you’re afraid of heights. The very top is great to take photos, but you take photos from behind the Plexiglas. It’s cleaned daily.
30:30′ There is a Champagne Bar on top of the tower
32:00′ They are planning to build a museum of the history of the Eiffel Tower on first level, and a souvenir shop with nicer souvenirs, and also a cafeteria with better food offering than what’s there now. They will also make part of the floor Plexiglas so it’s transparent under your feet.
33:50′ The tower requires an enormous amount of upkeep, it’s painted every other year.
34:10′ Visiting hours. The best way to see the Eiffel Tower at night is not from being on it, but from being nearby. For instance take a river cruise on the Seine river (Bateau Mouches) which all go to the tower and turn around right in front of it. They all stop there so you can see it lit up. Or you can walk along the Seine
River. Or you can see it from the Trocadero.
34:50′ The tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour starting at sunset. It changes colors for different holidays.
35:15′ French people don’t call Bastille Day “Bastille Day”, they call it “Le Quatorze Juillet”.
37:00′ If you’re jet-lagged, slept in one day, and now you need something to do late afternoon and evening, the Eiffel Tower is a great choice because it stays open late.
37:00′ Why are the Bateaux Mouches called that? The Bateaux Mouches are a tourist boat that offer cruises on the Seine River. Those are fun. It could be translated “Fly Boat”, but they look nothing like flies. The name comes from Monsieur Mouche.
39:00′ Bad weather days are not ideal for the Eiffel Tower. It’s nice to walk across the bridge away from the tower, you go up monumental stairs (3 floors) and you get to a wonderful esplanade from which you get a great view of the Eiffel Tower. This area is called Trocadero. A great thing to do even though lots of people don’t know about it.
42:00′ The area right around the Eiffel Tower does not have a lot of restaurants. You will find catering trucks. You can bring a picnic and enjoy it on the grass!
43:30′ Annie tried her Capitol One credit card without a chip or pin number at gas stations and toll booths in France (and Spain) and it didn’t work. It sounds like there are cards being issued in America right now that do have a chip and a pin, but someone told me that those don’t work without being specific enough for the information to be useful. Elyse has a US credit card with a chip but no pin, she says it worked for her. We want feedback from our listeners, can you use your US credit card in France?
46:00′ Next week Reims and Epernay.
47:00′ We need more reviews so we can be more visible on iTunes. Thank you!
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In this episode Elyse takes us on a trip to the wonderful world of Champagne. She tells us about the history of the Champagne Region (part of the “Grand Est” Region in France) and how monasteries played a big part in it. There were some lucky breaks and the English helped things along. Dom Perignon is the one who came up with a great solution to an age-old problem, and thankfully, we all benefit today. “À consommer avec modération”, most of the time anyway. It’s all in today’s episode! Subscribe and listen!
If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.
1:30′ Where is the Champagne Region geographically? How big of an area is it?
2:40′ Most northern wine-producing region in France.
3:00′ Nine Hundred Anniversary of the charter of Champagne that designates officially what makes a wine Champagne.
4:00′ Champagne without bubbles?
5:00′ Romans introduced grape vines in France and started producing wine in the fourth century.
6:00′ How Romans drank wine: a brew of red wine, water, and spices.
7:00′ How monasteries played a vital role in the development of wineries in France.
9:00′ Wine was shipped in barrels, glass bottles were not used early on, and wood barrels were used for centuries.
10:20′ Sometimes the wine in the barrels formed bubbles. That was not desirable and when that happened the wine was considered spoiled.
11:30′ Every monastery had people who understood wine and they tried to control what happened in the barrels.
12:20′ Royalty drank a lot of wine, commoners drank a kind of beer or cider.
13:30′ Why the English had a big part to play in the development of Champagne. One early version of wine was called Clairette.
14:30′ Consumers were unhappy when their barrel of wine had “turned” and had too many bubbles. Then an Englishman realized that perhaps the secret to controlling what happens to the wine was to seal it better inside of a glass bottle. This happened in the early 1600s.
15:30′ The English promoted the idea of wine in glass bottles to the French. The idea was to put the wine in glass after fermentation and seal it up with wood (no cork yet) and cover the wood with a cloth.
16:30′ The wine with two fermentations: wooden barrels + inside bottles.
17:40′ Monks realized that they needed really thick bottles. The English also introduced the use of cork instead of wood. Why cork is better than wood. Why there is a wire over the Champagne bottle.
19:00′ Dom Perignon
20:30′ Dom Perignon started to mix different grapes to make his wine to get to a flavor he wanted.
21:00′ The three varieties of grapes used in Champagne making are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier and they are always mixed in various proportions. A 100% Chardonnay drink made in the Champagne area is called Blanc de Blanc, not Champagne.
22:00′ Pinot noir is a red grape with white flesh inside, if they don’t want the wine to have a red color (most Champagnes don’t), they remove the skins as soon as they’ve pressed the grapes. Dom Perignon wrote a book about how to mix grape varieties to get various wine flavors. You were supposed to taste first thing in the morning before you had tasted anything else!
23:00′ The French court immediately adopted this wine Dom Perignon made and so did the English court. By the late 1600s Champagne was THE drink of the aristocracy in Western Europe.
24:00′ The rules for making Champagne. Only 5% of Champagne has a “millésime”, and those are the most expensive bottles. Otherwise wine is not dated as other wine is.
25:40′ Consumers find a brand of wine that they like and stick to it and then year after year they’ll find that same flavor. Tastes in wines have changed, they used to be a lot sweeter, now a slightly sweet wine is called “demi-sec”.
27:00′ Rosé Champagne. Buying Champagne for an event and how we drink it in France.
28:00′ Statistics about Champagne and the business of Champagne.
31:00′ Magnum bottles vs small bottles. How to get a good deal on Champagne. Some of the big names are Veuve Clicquot, Moet et Chandon, Taittinger, Lafitte, Pommery, Ruimart (oldest official), Martel (not exported). There are over 200 brands of Champagne.
33:00′ Buying Champagne from a “caviste”. A “caviste” is someone who does not specialize in any one kind of Champagne, they sell many wines and Champagnes and can advise you on what you need for your event and your particular taste. In English: wine merchant?
35:30′ Champagne tasting at the various Champagne houses.