Christmas at the Eiffel Tower - Ice skating above Paris
It's difficult to talk about Paris without mentioning the Eiffel Tower. Last year, the management company and the French government began a major renovation of the tower. It had been over thirty years since the last renovation. More than just an icon of France, the tower (built in 1889) is a huge tourist draw and has seen more visitors in the past 23 years than it did during the preceding 100 years. Time has taken a toll.
The eiffel Tower is immensely popular and a must-see when visiting Paris. Forgive the pun. Indeed, you can't miss seeing the tower from points all over Paris, but first-time visitors to Paris should definitely consider a visit to the interior a priority. Going up, into the interior, is the only way to comprehend its true scale and to get a feel for what people must have felt in 1889 when they first climbed to the summit.
It's not just the impact of so many visitors that makes the renovation necessary. Since the last renovation, there have been huge leaps in technology which will be used to make the tower more energy efficient and handicapped accessible. LED lighting, solar panels, wind tubines and geo-thermal piping will be used to electrify and light the tower once the renovations are complete. New elevators will increase the number of people who can ride to the upper levels at one time, and these new lifts will be powered by modern hydraulic systems which are more environmentally friendly than the old systems which used oil and a tremendous amount of water each day. The first floor layout will be modified to allow better flow of foot traffic and will accommodate disabled visitors in ways which were not possible before.
The public spaces on the first floor had become dated and not used to their best potential. They will be completely rebuilt with glass-walled meeting rooms, a restaurant and pavillion spaces nestled under and fitted to the shape of the four pillars. Visitors will be able to walk on a glass floor up to a point where new glass safety rails will allow you to look 187 feet down, through the center of the tower, to the plaza at ground level (see photo's above). The renovation is scheduled to be finished in 2013 at a projected cost of 25 million dollars.
The new space will be amazing and was certainly overdue, but I wonder if one of my favorite Eiffel Tower events will return after the renovations are complete. For two months, during the Christmas season, the tower opens an ice skating rink on the first floor (remember - 187 feet above the ground). There are two more floors above, but the first floor has its own unique and beautiful view which is somewhat of a wonderland with the lighting effects on the ice and the skaters gliding around between the pillars. For me, it's the one time of the year when the first floor can actually compete with the floors above. There is such a great holiday feeling and everyone seems to be enjoying Christmas on the ice.
Christmas decorations throughout the public spaces, but I hope they will find a way to bring the ice skating (la Patinoire) back to the tower after the renovation. It was such a great memory of Christmas in Paris. There are temporary skating rinks throughout the city each winter, but nothing is quite like skating inside the Eiffel Tower. You can see from the photographs (left and below) that the experience and location are incomparable and the views are outstanding. I realize that the renovations are necessary to bring the tower into this century and to make the spaces more marketable and environmentally sound, but I'll be sad if this oh-so-Parisian event becomes just another part of the faded history of the tower. I know they will plan other seasonal events and celebrations on the first floor, and I'm certain that it will be financially and aesthetically improved by the renovations. I'll be sure to post photo's of the new spaces when they are complete and I'll be one of the first to brag on changes that are sensitive to the design of the tower and are ecological improvements. However, the ice skating rink was like an exclamation point on the run-up to Christmas. I'll always have a great memory of the old first floor and ice skating above Paris at Christmas. I'll let you know if they bring it back after the renovations. Mimi