French word of the day: La Rouille (7/3/2024)

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I learned a new word last week, which doesn’t happen so often any more after living in France for so long: ‘la rouille‘.

Used in a sentence, that would be “la Tour Eiffel est rouillée” which translates in English to “the Eiffel tower has rusted”. And of course the reason I learned this word is because, in effect, the Eiffel tower is currently rather badly rusted.

To back up a bit, that emblematic oh-so-French landmark was closed to visitors for 5 days last week because the people working at the tower went on strike.

Amongst other demands, one of the main points the strikers noted is that Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s architect, left strict instructions that the Eiffel tower is to be repainted every 7 years to prevent catastrophic rusting.

So it made national news across France when the strikers pointed out that it has been 14 years since the Eiffel tower was last properly repainted.

It is the Mairie de Paris, the Paris Mayoral office, that is in charge of managing the Eiffel tower so that would be our favorite Mayor Anne Hidalgo. And she’s kinda been busy you know, planning the Olympicsrunning for President, and chasing SUVs off the streets of Paris.

Enter into the ring her favorite nemesis, a certain Madame Rachida Dati, the new French minister of Culture and mayor of the richisseme 7th arrondissement of Paris. (Yes, Paris has a mayor and each arrondissement has a mayor, and no one is quite sure what all these people do.)

Anywhoo, Madame Dati proposed that “heck, maybe we should make the Eiffel Tower an official historic monument?” Cue the general public’s shock of “what do you mean it isn’t already a historic monument!?”

So apparently the Eiffel tower (built in 1888) is a ‘monument‘, but not a ‘monument historique‘, because the mayor’s office has refused to give it that status. A ‘historic monument’ would give more control of the tower to the French government, not the city of Paris, hence the mayor’s reluctance.

While all this arm-wrestling is going on, of course no one can start the rust removal and repainting now, when the big Olympic show rolls into town in less than 5 months.

Visitors will be thrilled to know however that the price of tickets to climb up that rusty tower will go up this summer from €26 to €31. Because somebody has to pay for this repainting, no?

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