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Posts tagged ‘Turkey’

No. 65: Gustave Eiffel: Magician of Iron


“The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use.”

— Gustave Eiffel

Anyone who knows me well knows that j’adore la tour Eiffel.

I’ve written a lot about it in the past, and I’ve read many books and articles on its construction. Every time I read something new, I am stuck (again) by Gustav Eiffel and his vision. Because I am a woman obsessed, I just spent the last couple of days, reading even more about this fascinating man and his iconic structures. Every time I tried to stop myself and get on with some paid work, I got sidetracked by another enticing story or structure.

Yes, structures, plural. While most of the world knows him and loves him for his “tragic street lamp”, la tour Eiffel, I am equally enamored with his less known, but certainly not less beautiful, creations.

Born in Dijon in 1832, to a family of weavers, Eiffel graduated from the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1855 as a civil engineer and began to specialize in constructing with metal. Initially he made his name designing bridges for the French railway network, but as we all know, he didn’t limit himself to bridges only.

Here are some Eiffel’s structures I find most interesting—some already visited, but most on my Gustave Eiffel bucket list:


Passerelle Eiffel Iron Bridge in Bordeaux, France, 1858passerelle1861

At only 26-years-old, Eiffel was the construction designer of an iron bridge in Bordeaux designed to link the Orleans rail station to the Midi rail station. Imagine the spectacle before the bridge was completed, when carriages were transferred between the two stations on a ferry across the Garonne River.

Suspension Bridge, Parc de Buttes Chaumont, Paris, 1867

The suspension bridge designed by Eiffel was one of two bridges used to access the park’s “Temple of Sybille” in one of Paris’ most beloved parks. It is 64 meters in length and 8 meters above ground. Unfortunately it is currently closed to foot traffic.


Church of San Marco, Arica, Chile, 1871-1875

© - Barbara Boensch

© – Barbara Boensch

In 1871, the Peruvian President José Balta commissioned the workshop of Gustave Eiffel to build this church. The all-metal prefabricated building was manufactured in France and shipped to South America in pieces to be assembled on site.


Bon Marché, Department Store, Paris, 1872-74

Eiffel collaborated with the architect. L.A. Boileau on the first glass and cast iron department store in Paris. This popular and fashionable store still stands, albeit with its masonry skin added in the 1920s.


Les Halles (Dijon Covered Market), Dijon, France, 1875

Beautiful, light and airy, this historic covered market in Eiffel’s hometown features his iconic iron columns and glass and is a wondrous market to visit.


Statue of Liberty, Internal Frame, 1876

When the Statue of Liberty’s initial internal engineer unexpectedly died, Eiffel was hired as the new engineer. Eiffel created a skeletal system for the statue that relied on the internal metal structure to support Bartholdi’s copper plates and sculpture. EIffel and his company built the statue from the ground up and then dismantled it for its journey to New York.


Nyugati Railway Station, Budapest, Hungary, 1877

Budapest railway station (

Budapest railway station (

One of the earliest examples of the combined use of metal and masonry, this train station is definitely high on my list to visit. Where you might have seen it: The 2011 film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol took place in and around this station.


Ruhnu Lighthouse, Estonia, 1877

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

A lighthouse with a red metal cylindrical tower made in the Le Havre plant in France and shipped and reconstructed on the highest spot on Ruhnu Island, in 1877. It is the only lighthouse of its type left in the Baltic Sea region.


Ponte Maria Pia, Oporto, Portugal, 1877

One of Eiffel’s most famous bridges which spans the Douro River in Portugal. No longer in use, two Portuguese architects want to transform the bridge into a monument by moving the disused structure from its present location to the city center (as seen above).


The Eiffel Bridge, Viana do Castelo, Peru, 1878

The Eiffel Bridge crosses the River Lima near the mouth and connects the city of Viana do Castelo. Its two stories are more than 560 meters in length and a spectacular feat of engineering.


Observatory Dome, Nice, France, 1879

Moving away from bridgework, Eiffel created the dome for the astronomical observatory in Nice, France. It is most notable for a revolving cupola that opens to the sky. The building itself was designed by Charles Garnier (architect of the Opera Garnier and one of the most prominent critics of the Eiffel Tower).

Where you might have seen it: The 1999 film Simon Sez.


Garabit Viaduct, Ruynes-en-Margeride (Cantal), France, 1884

Maybe Eiffel’s most famous bridge, this engineering marvel spans the River Truyère (near Ruynes). It significantly shortened the rail route between Paris and Marseilles.

Where you might have seen it: Henri-Georges Clouzot 1964 film The Inferno (L’Enfer)


The Eiffel Tower, Paris 1887-1889

A subject of another detailed post soon. Meanwhile see: The Sparkling Tower.


Konak Pier, Izmir, Turkey, 1890

Originally built as a warehouse and French customs office and restored in 2003, it is now an upmarket shopping center, featuring seaside restaurants and cafés.


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Main Post Office, Vietnam, 1886-1891

saigon central post office, 1886-1891 (wikimedia commons)

saigon central post office, 1886-1891 (wikimedia commons)

Designed and constructed by Eiffel when Vietnam was part of French Indochina.

Do you have other favorite Eiffel creations? If so, let me know, I’d love to add them to my bucket list.

No. 63: le boucher (the butcher)

One thing I love about celebrating Thanksgiving in France is the fact that I can’t make my own turkey because my petit four (small oven) is too petite for monsieur Tom Turkey to fit a few legs in, let alone his whole body.




So for the past two years, I simply head to my favorite boucher, Olivier Kermorvant, on rue de Grenelle, and order a turkey a week before the big day. Et voilà, on feast day, he expertly roasts it for me, and I send Superman to pick it up. Easy-peasy! Talk about taking the stress out of a busy day. I am spoiled.

No. 62: American Christmas or French Thanksgiving

The French have reluctantly taken on a few of our American holidays and traditions…Halloween, bachelorette or hen parties, and lavish weddings, for example. Luckily, Thanksgiving is still a mystery to them. As it should be, given that the history of the holiday is exclusively tied to America.

They don’t have a good handle on what it is all about (and I might add, neither do our dear British allies…).

As I set out on my annual scavenger hunt to find all the necessary ingredients for our feast, I watched several shop keepers have their “AHA moments”, when I told them I needed so-and-so for le jour de grâces.

I even tried: le jour de l’action de grâce.

After repeating it several times, a smile would spread across their faces, and they would say, “Madame, vouliez-vous dire Noël américain?”

“No, kind sir, I don’t mean American Christmas! I mean Thanksgiving.”

Humph. Noël américain.”

So this year, I decided to celebrate American Christmas in a very French Thanksgiving-ish way. I chose to host a wine tasting Thanksgiving chez nous. Complete with foie gras and strange French farce (stuffing).


My precious friend and wine expert Hélène chose a yummy menu of four wines (two white and two reds) and a bubbly magnum of champagne to sample over the course of the evening. Who knew wine could taste of grass and honey, dirt and mold, black berries and grapefruit. It was a hoot and a delicious way to remember to be grateful for the wonderful group of international friends we have in Paris…

…and to enlighten a few of our French friends on the finer points of American Christmas Thanksgiving.



le jour de grâces / le jour de l’action de grâce: Thanksgiving

“Madame, vouliez-vous  dire Noël américain?”: “Madam, do you mean American Christmas?”

Noël américain: American Christmas.


Autre Vocabulaire (curtesy of Laura K. Lawless,

autumn, fall   l’automne

colony   une colonie

family   la famille

feast   un festin, un banquet

football   le football américain

grateful (adj)   reconnaissant 

harvest   la récolte

horn of plenty   la corne d’abondance

native (adj)   indigène

(Native American) Indians    les Indiens (d’Amérique)

November   novembre

parade   une parade

Pilgrims   les pèlerins

settler   un colonisateur

to share   partager

thanks   les remerciements

Thursday   jeudi

tradition   une tradition

traditional (adj)   traditionnel

treaty   un pacte

tribe   une tribu

Some traditional dishes served on Thanksgiving:

food   la nourriture

bread   le pain

corn   le maïs 

cranberry   la canneberge

gravy   la sauce au jus de viande

mashed potatoes   la purée

pumpkin pie   la tarte à la citrouille

stuffing   la farce

sweet potato   la patate douce

turkey   la dinde 

yam   un igname