Paris: The Eiffel Tower turns 120 (and shares some beauty tips)

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Repainting the Eiffel Tower. Photo by Theodora Brack.
Repainting the Eiffel Tower. Photo by Theodora Brack.

Reflecting recently on the grace and beauty of the Eiffel Tower on her 120th birthday, I stopped to consider how she still looks so smart. After all, sight-seeing during the rainy winter months in Paris can wreak havoc on the complexion! So how has she managed to look so good after standing around for 120 years?

But first, don’t leave Paris without checking out the Tour Eiffel’s special 120th birthday exposition, “L’Épopée Tour Eiffel” (“Epic of the Eiffel Tower”).  The exhibit features pictures and a history of the famous structure, along with a gallery of 300 reproductions of the Tower and a collection of artwork inspired by the “Lady of Iron.”

The festivities will run through December 31, 2009. Elevator access to the tower is open from 9:30 AM to 11:45 PM.

Eiffel Tower

Photos by Theadora Brack.

Some riveting facts

The Eiffel Tower is made with 2.5 million rivets holding together 20,000 square meters of intricate iron latticework projecting 1,046 feet high. She was the tallest structure on earth from 1889 until 1930. Wind, the dominant natural force affecting her, is strongest at the top, but most of it blows through her and not against her because of her airy wrought iron. (Well, almost. She has been known to jiggle on a gusty day–but only a few inches.)

The Tower’s beauty regimen involves 60 tons of paint, which must be applied at least every seven years to protect her from rust. Each paint job takes 15 to 18 months. Thinking ahead, Gustave Eiffel nailed it when he said, “The more meticulous the paint job, the longer the Tower shall endure.” The most recent paint job started in March 2009, just in time for her 120th birthday celebration.

Down through the years the colors have varied from dark red to a rather bright yellow, and from dark chocolate brown to her current “Brun Tour Eiffel”—a special grayish-brown hue. To emphasize her fabulous silhouette as seen from the ground, there are actually three different shades of the hue that change from dark to light, the higher up you go.

Beauté tips from the Eiffel Tower employees

Like the great iron spire jutting directly above them, the employees who run the Tour Eiffel’s lifts have to protect themselves against the elements. “It’s windy up there!” one lift-operator told me. Daily she makes some fifty round trips to the first and second levels, and at least twenty more to the third level. “So moisturizing is key. Neutrogena is the most famous around here. We also wear hooded parkas!”

The Tour Eiffel uniform, strikingly stylish in olive green with bright orange piping, was created by couturier Jean Charles de Castelbajac. The coordinated ensemble includes a tight-fitted pantsuit, scarf, and a matching purse on a string.

The lift operator grinned. “I especially like the sacs. We all carry our beauty products in them and talk about them often. We also share.” she said. “The favorite lip-moisturizer here is LaBello, strawberry flavored. All my colleagues use it. I suppose that’s because of the color and shape.” She winked. “We all wish to look pretty, but not too sexy. After all, la Tour is a family place.”

Her co-workers also pack Nivéa Crème. (Tip: Cheapos, all products mentioned can be purchased for just a few euros at grocery stores or pharmacies in Paris.)

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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