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The Eiffel Tower turns 130 years old

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AFP
The Eiffel Tower turns 130 years old

It is to Paris what Big Ben is to London and the Colosseum is to Rome - and on Sunday the 300 metre metal giant celebrates its 130th birthday.

More than seven million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year which, despite its age, remains in rude health.

But, when it was built in 1887 by Gustave Eiffel for that year's Universal Exhibition, not everyone took a shine to the metal monolith.

One group of intellectuals that included Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant published a letter in the newspaper Le Temps. In it they protested against the building of the "useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower" and dismissed it as an "odious column of sheet metal with bolts."

It was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Universal Exhibition and he used the third floor, both as an office and an apartment for his family.

Relatives of Eiffel, who had had an office and apartment on the third floor, used to put it good use however.

Savin Yeatman-Eiffel recalls how his grandmother used to climb it.

"My grandmother, when she was young had asthma; a doctor had recommended the good air of the heights. And every Thursday afternoon, she would go up to the Eiffel Tower in this office and enjoy the good air of Paris at 300 metres,” he said.

And today, climbing its 1,665 steps remains a Parisian rite of passage.