and back across the country to climb to the top of more things … to the top of one of my favorite places in San Diego, Point Loma. the Lighthouse isn’t why I enjoy Point Loma as much as I do, but it was a good selling point for visitors. there’s a surprising lot to do on this southwesternmost point of the continental United States.
beginning in 1855, what is now known as the “Old” Point Loma Lighthouse was a beacon over San Diego Bay for 36 years. the year after California became a state, a coastal commission selected this location for its seemingly convenient and useful vantage point, 422 feet above sea level on a peninsula that overlooks both the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and construction began three years later (in 1854). workers used sandstone from the surrounding hills for walls and tiles from a nearby abandoned Spanish fort to cover the floor. the 3rd-order Fresnel lens (cutting-edge technology at the time; Fresnel lenses now go up to the 6th order) didn’t arrive from France until almost a year after the Lighthouse building was completed.
after illuminating the light for the first time in November 1885, however, it quickly became apparent that the position of the light at some 462 feet from sea level was rather less than ideal. on clear nights, the beacon could be seen some 25 miles out to sea. on foggy nights (of which there are plenty in San Diego, no matter what you hear about the weather), the light was in the middle of the cloud bank and useless to sailors navigating into San Diego Bay or up the coast. to compound the situation, there was no foghorn so, on foggy nights, the Lighthouse’s longest-serving keeper, Captain Robert Decatur Israel, would stand outside firing a shotgun into the sky to warn off ships.
while it operated, the Point Loma Lighthouse was home to a bustling family, whose quarters are recreated in the building as part of the museum. the tablecloth folded back on the table to make room for a game of solitaire, instruments propped against the wall in the children’s bedroom upstairs, a glimpse of the root cellar out back. access to the lantern room is restricted, but you can climb up those last few steps anyway and peek up into the space where the lens once resided. the light was extinguished for the last time on 23 March 1891 and duties were transferred to the “New” Point Loma Lighthouse, located at the bottom of the hill a mere 88 feet above the water.
more information from the National Parks Service and Wikipedia
instead of taking the elevator and going up in the Eiffel Tower, Becca and I climbed the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
totally worth it. again.
I first climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at the age of 16, while visiting Paris at the beginning of a three-week tour with classmates from West. following the organized morning activity, Leah and I spent our afternoon at liberty walking from the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs Elysee, to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where we met up with the remainder of the group several hours later. a pair of American teenagers (and looking very much the part) meandering along the most famous boulevard in France, window shopping and commenting on the locals. the sun was setting as we reached the top, and I’ve got a fun picture of a group of us with the Tour Eiffel in the background, the sky fading to indigo at the horizon. (but not scanned onto my computer.)
View Larger Map
(really, what did we do before google maps?! my mental map of Paris would be even better than it already is …)
the Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle and is the linchpin of the axis historique, a sequence of monuments and thoroughfares that runs from the heart of the Louvre to the outskirts of the city. it stands 50m high (160ft) and is the second highest triumphal arch in existence. after the victory parade following the end of World War I, a pilot flew his biplane through the center of the arch. it was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon following his success at Austerlitz. during the Bourbon Restoration, construction on the Arc was halted, and it was not completed until the reign of Louis-Philippe in 1836.
the body of Victor Hugo lay out overnight in 1885 before he was buried in the Panteon. beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War, inscribed with the phrase ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918 (“Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918”), which is also the site of the first eternal flame lit in Europe since the Vestal Virgin’s flame was extinguished in 394 CE.
the second time I visited the Arc de Triomphe, Becca and I climbed to the top as night fell. as it was mid-November, it grew dark well before the laser show put on at the Tour Eiffel, but we enjoyed all the lights offered by the City of Light. we climbed the 294 steps to the top and thoroughly enjoyed the panoramic view of nighttime Paris.
more, including information about the art and architecture from Wikipedia