Old Quirino Bridge (Bantay, Ilocos Sur)

The old Quirino Bridge

The old Quirino Bridge

The scenic Old Quirino Bridge, also called Banaoang Bridge, is an old Parker-type (camelback) bridge named after the late former Philippine President Elpidio Quirino, who hails from Vigan. Spread across the Abra River, it majestically connects the two beautiful, transcending rocky mountain slopes of the town of Santa and the tail end of Bantay, both in Ilocos Sur.

The mighty Abra River

The mighty Abra River

Considered as one of the country’s most beautiful bridges, this arch bridge, next to the Vigan Gap,  is considered an iconic symbol of Ilocos Sur. Aside from its magnificent views, it is also widely praised for its marvelous engineering and grand architectural design. The approach to the bridge is as scenic as the bridge itself.

Quirino Bridge (5)

The original bridge trusses

At the height of Super Typhoon Feria (which devastated the province from  July 4-6, 2001), one of its steel spans was damaged and washed away.  The old, 4-span bridge was reconstructed, with a different third quarter K-truss portion, and is still presently passable.  However, on December 2007, Chinese engineers and a local construction company started to build a new, 456 m.-long replacement, a stone’s throw (350 m.) from the original bridge.

The replacement span

The replacement span

The new Quirino Bridge is a component of the Japan-funded Urgent Bridges Construction Project for Rural Development which plans to replace old bridges with new bridges, on national roads that lead to urban centers all over the country. On December 30, 2009, it was officially opened by then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The old truss type bridge, currently preserved as a tourist attraction, doubles up as a backup in case the new main bridge is damaged by typhoons.

The new Quirino Bridge

The new Quirino Bridge

Old Quirino Bridge: Vigan Gap, Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Bangui Wind Farm (Ilocos Norte)

Bangui Wind Farm

Bangui Wind Farm

From Pagupud, Melissa, Almira, Albert, Jandy and I again rejoined the others in our bus as we returned to Bangui for our much awaited visit to its Wind Farm, fascinating landmark of the town. From the highway, we could already espy these gorgeous giant fans.

Bangui Bay

Bangui Bay

The windmills, officially referred to as the NorthWind Bangui Bay Project, is the first “Wind Farm” in the Philippines and is considered to be the biggest in Southeast Asia. The site, a graceful arc reflecting the 9-km. long and 100 m. wide shoreline of Bangui Bay, create a fusion of technological and natural elegance. Bordering the West Philippine Sea, it has a windswept area of 5,281 sq. m. (56,840 sq. ft.).

DSC08234

Its 20 units of 70-m. (230-ft.) high Vestas V82 1.65 MW wind turbine-generator units (WTGs), all arranged in a single row, were supplied NorthWind Power Development Corp, a Danish power firm.  Spaced 326 m. (1,070 ft.) apart, their three 41 m. (135 ft.) long, vertically-oriented rotor blades, on top of a 50 m. high tubular tower with a 6 m. diameter base, have a rotor diameter of 82 m. (269 ft.). The nacelle (casing), which encloses the generator, the gear box and the yaw mechanism (which turns the blades into the wind), is at the rear of the rotor blades.

A restaurant with viewing deck

A restaurant with viewing deck

The sight of the giant man-made wonders was astonishing and any picture with the windmills, whether near or far, is truly charming. You can come close to them, touch them to feel its vibration but you can’t hug them as they are just too big and wide. A must-try experience, there’s definitely no other place like it in the country. Locals even picnic under them and they could hear the whirring of the blades of these tall and imposing structures from above, all of them rotating in unison.   However, the picturesque beach in the area is not good for swimming as its waves are too strong.

The windmills as a backrop for photo shoots

The windmills as a backrop for photo shoots

Now a busy tourist spot, along the stretch are restaurants with viewing decks where you can eat and stalls selling souvenirs like windmill key chains, bags, T-shirts, ref magnets, miniature windmills and pen holders. Seaside horseback riding is also being offered here. You can also watch the spectacular sunset and ocean view while listening to crashing of the ocean waves. The best part o our visit here is that there are no entrance fees. You can shoot all you want. There are no restrooms though. Prepare yourself for the unrelenting winds that batter you from the open sea. There’s not much of an adventure there but it’s still worth visiting.

Souvenir shop

Souvenir shop

How To Get There From Laoag City, take a Cagayan-bound bus (a 1.5-hour trip) towards Burgos. After reaching Burgos, watch out for the directional marker on the left side of the road that leads to the Bangui Bay. Follow the dirt road leading to the bay. Some wind mills will already be visible from this point then make a right turn to the bay.

Paris (France) to Stuttgart (Germany) via TGV

The high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) train

The high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) train

At Gare de l’Est  Train Station, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I boarded the 7:50 AM high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or “high-speed train) train bound for Stuttgart (Germany). One of the fastest high-speed trains in Europe and the pride of the French rail system (it is operated by SNCF – the French  national rail network), the iconic TGV serves around 150 destinations across France, as well as a number of international destinations.  Our 629.5-km. long journey to Stuttgart was to take about 3 hours and 40 mins., with stopovers  at Strasbourg in France, and Karlsruhe, Ulm and Munich, all in Germany.

The First Class, second level cabin

The First Class, second level cabin

Much of the TGV service, recently redecorated (the interiors were said to have been designed by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix) and rejuvenated to provide comfortable and clean interiors. The service offers a range of train types plus three classes of travel available to passengers – Standard Class, First Class and TGV Pro (Business Class).

Stairs leading to the second level

Stairs leading to the second level

The gangway between carriages

The gangway between carriages

In First Class, passengers can choose to have Solo seats, which are single seats, which each facing the back of the one in front. Duo seats are available to all classes (two seats next to each other, facing the backs of the ones in front). Pairs of seats facing each other across a table are available in all classes, whilst first class also offers single seats facing each other. TGV Pro customers get the extra legroom as well as a welcome service on some services, as well as access to business lounges, dedicated carriages and travel packs.

Electrical socket for portable device charging

Electrical socket for portable device charging

TV monitors indicate time and train speed

TV monitors indicate time and train speed

We all rode First Class on a dual-level, TGX Duplex train, Grace, Cheska and Kyle in one coach (Coach 11) while Manny, Jandy and I stayed at the adjoining Coach 12. The TGX Duplex was first built in 1994 to increase TGV capacity without increasing train length or the number of trains. They weigh 380 ton and are 200 m. (660 ft.) long, 2.9 m. (9.5 ft.) wide and is made up of two power cars and eight carriages. They have a maximum speed of 320 kms./hr. (200 m./hr.).

Jandy

Jandy

The author pensively looking out the window

The author pensively looking out the window

Our carriage had two levels, with access doors at the lower level that took advantage of the low French platforms.  All of us stayed on the upper level where the gangway between carriages is located. A staircase gave us access to the upper level.  We were allowed to bring two bags or suitcases on board (unlimited weight), as well as one piece of hand luggage.  Beat that low cost airlines!

Our meal

Our meal

Our carriage, with 512 seats (it also has a wheelchair accessible compartment), was very spacious and comfortable. We chose pairs of power-assisted seats facing each other across a table, with plenty of legroom, plus drop-down tables and access to electrical sockets for portable device charging. First Class and TGV Pro Class customers may choose to have their meal served at their seats, if travelling between Monday and Friday.

The French countryside

The French countryside

The German countryside

The German countryside

Since we travelled on a Monday, our meals were served at our seat.  Our meal (croissant, omelet, jam, butter, coffee, Tropicana orange juice, yoghurt, etc.), which showcase local cuisine, was tasty and balanced.  Everyone also has access to a buffet car which serves hot and cold food, as well as drinks. There are also vending machines for snack purchases.

Karlruhe Hauptbahnhof (HBF)

Karlruhe Hauptbahnhof (HBF)

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

If there is one word to describe the TGV, it is “Fast!”  The TGV train is a world speed record holder.  It zips from city to city at up to 322 kms./hr. (201 mph), sweeping you from Paris to Saarbrücken in under 2 hours, to Mannheim in 3 hours 15 minutes, and to Frankfurt in under 4 hours.

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Manny

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Manny at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

This high-speed French  network, with Paris as its hub, offers passengers the chance to travel anywhere within the country in a matter of hours, making it an attractive alternative to the plane. The service was fast, efficient, comfortable, reliable and cheap (Paris to Stuttgart or Munich fares start from €25 single if booked in advance, closer to the day of travel, this rises to more like €80 each way).

Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. This iron lattice tower, located along the Champ de Mars, was named after the French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower in 1889. Erected as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair (which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution), it was started on  January 26, 1887, completed on March 15, 1889 and opened on March 31.

L-R: the author, Jandy, Grace, Kyle an Cheska

L-R: the author, Jandy, Grace, Kyle and Cheska

It was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design (saying it had too much engineering and not enough art to be considered good architecture) but now is widely considered now to be a striking piece of structural art, often featured in films and literature. Here are also some interesting trivia regarding the Eiffel Tower:

  • Gustave Eiffel did not design the Eiffel Tower – senior engineer Maurice Koechlin did.
  • The design for the tower was decided by a contest. Contestants had to submit their designs for consideration. Eiffel’s design won.
  • It took 3 years of lobbying to approve the Eiffel Tower in 1887.
  • Public funds only covered a quarter o the cost of the Eiffel Tower.
  • On February 14, 1887, all the big names of the world of arts and literature, including Charles Garnier (who built the famed Opera house), Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas Jr., Leconte de Lisle, and Sully Prudhomme, united to stop its construction in what is known as the ‘Artists Protests.”
  • Eiffel’s firm produced 5,329 drawings (1,700 generals an 3,629 detailed) of the Eiffel Tower
  • Only one person died in the construction of the Eiffel Tower
  • The French name for the Eiffel Tower is La Tour Eiffel. It also has the nickname La dame de fer which means “the iron lady,” the same nickname as Margaret Thatcher’s.
  • Famed novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower but ate lunch there every day. When he was asked why, Maupassant answered that the only place in Paris where he couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower was the Eiffel Tower itself.
  • It is the most-visited paid monument in the world.
  • The tower, the tallest structure in Paris and the  second tallest structure in France (not including broadcast aerials), after the Millau Viaduct (completed in 2004, the world’s tallest bridge is  taller, at 343 m.). It was the tallest until the construction of a military transmitter in the town of Saissac in 1973.
  • During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the 555-ft. high Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. In 1957, after the addition of the aerial, the Eiffel Tower it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 m. (17 ft.).
  • Famous visitors to the tower during its opening included The Prince of WalesSarah Bernhardt“Buffalo Bill” Cody (his Wild West show was an attraction at the Exposition) and Thomas Edison.
  • Eiffel had a private apartment for entertaining friends at the third floor of the tower. He  made use of his apartment at the top level of the tower to carry out meteorological observations, and also made use of the tower to perform experiments on the action of air resistance on falling bodies.
  • Gustave Eiffel was also behind the design of the Garabit Viaduct (1884), the Pest Railway Station in Hungary, the dome of the Nice Observatory and the interior elements for the Statue of Liberty‘s spine. He was also involved in a disastrous attempt by the French to build a canal in Panama, and his reputation was badly damaged by the failure of the venture. He died while listening to Beethoven‘s 5th symphony.
  • The Eiffel Tower was originally intended for Barcelona, Spain, but the project was rejected.
  • It served as a military radio post in 1903, transmitted the first public radio program in 1925, and then broadcast television and digital TV.
  • Sir John Bickerstaffe, Mayor of Blackpool and an attendee at the 1889 World’s Fair, was so impressed with the Eiffel Tower that, in 1891, he had a similar structure (Blackpool Tower) designed and built on the English seafront to surpass the Eiffel Tower in height.  However, it was unsteady, never completed and demolished in 1907.
  • Eiffel’s permit for the tower allowed it to stand for only 20 years (it was to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris). As part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it should be easy to demolish, the city had planned to tear it down. However, the tower was proved valuable for communication purposes (it was repurposed as a giant radio antenna) so it was allowed to remain even after the expiry of the permit.
  • In 1905, local newspaper L’Equipe organized a stair climbing championship at the tower. A M. Forestier won a bike, taking three minutes and 12 seconds to reach the second level.
  • On February 4, 1912, French tailor Franz Reichelt attempted to fly from the first floor with a spring-loaded parachute suit of his own design. However, he crashed 187 ft. to the ground instead.
  • During World War I, using the Eiffel Tower’s wireless station to intercept enemy messages from Berlin, the French military, in 1917, intercepted a coded message between Germany and Spain that included information about ‘Operative H-21’ otherwise known as the Dutch-born exotic dancer Margaretha Geertruida Zelle  MacLeod (stage name: Mata Hari) who was spying for the Germans. Based on this message, the French were able to arrest, convict and execute Mata Hari for espionage.
  • At the First Battle of the Marne, in 1914, the tower played a part in the Allied victory when one of its transmitters jammed German radio communications, hindering their advance.
  • By 1918, after Guillaume Apollinaire made a nationalist poem in the shape of the tower (a calligram) to express his feelings about the war against Germany, it became a symbol for Paris and for France
  • In 1923, Pierre Labric cycled down the stairs of the tower, winning a bet but was arrested by local police.
  • On February 28, 1926, 23 year old French aviator Leon Collot attempted to fly his plane under the tower but was killed when he was blinded by the sun and became entangled in the aerial from the wireless station, crashing in a ball of flame.
  • On 2 separate occasions in 1925, con artist Victor Lustig, pretending that he was the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs, “sold” the Eiffel Tower to a scrap metal dealer.
  • Between 1925 and 1934, French car manufacturer Citroen used the tower as a giant billboard (recorded as the world’s biggest advertisement by the Guinness Book of Records), the company name was emblazoned on the tower using a quarter of a million light bulbs.
  • During the German Occupation in World War II, when Adolf Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that he would have to climb the steps if he wanted to reach the top. Nazi soldiers also attempted to attach a swastika to the top, but it was so large it blew away and had to be replaced with a smaller one.
  • In 1944, as the Allies approached Paris, Hitler ordered Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, to demolish the tower, along with other parts of the city. The general refused.
  • In 1960, Charles de Gaulle proposed temporarily dismantling the tower and sending it to Montreal for Expo 67. The plan was rejected.
  • In the Beatles song I Am the Walrus, Semolina Pilchard climbs the Eiffel Tower.
  • For its 75th anniversary, there was a televised broadcast of mountaineers climbing up the tower.
  • The tower appears in the 1985 Bond film A View to a Kill. There is a scene in the Jules Verne Restaurant, and a fight in the stairway.
  • In 2007, a woman with an objects fetish named Erika La Tour Eiffel “married” the Eiffel Tower, changing her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel in honor of her “partner.”
  • According to the Societe de la Tour Eiffel, since the tower first opened in 1889, there have only been 349 successful suicides. Some were jumpers, while others were people hanging themselves from the beam. Those who did attempt to jump from the first level don’t always die.
  • At night, it is illegal (you can be fined) to take a photograph of the tower because the light display is considered artwork and therefore protected under copyright law.
  • Zoning restrictions in Paris limit the height of most buildings to 7 storeys high. Thus, only a small number of taller buildings have a clear view of the tower.
  • The Eiffel Tower being so popular, its design has been recreated around the world, with over 30 replicas including the half scale replica at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in Nevada, USA, the full scale Tokyo Tower in Japan and one at the Window of the World theme park in Shenzhen, China.
  • To counteract atmospheric perspective, multiple types of colors are used to paint the Eiffel Tower. Darker shades are used at the top and, gradually, lighter hues are painted toward the bottom.
Names of 70 scientists and engineers inscribed in surrounding panels

Names of 70 scientists and engineers inscribed in surrounding panels

  • The names of 72 engineers, scientists and mathematicians are engraved on the side of the tower, each of whom contributed to its construction.
  • To mark the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s completion, the British Virgin Islands has launched a special tower-shaped $10 coin.
  • In the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the tower is toppled by an airstrike.
  • Lego set number 10181, containing 3,428 bricks, are for those who wanted to build your own Eiffel Tower.
  • To keep the operations up and running 365 days a year, the site requires a large staff of 280 people.
  • To validate admission, cashiers sell 2 tons of tickets every year and the cleaning crew uses 25,000 garbage bags annually.
  • More than just a tourist attraction, the tower also houses gourmet restaurants, art exhibitions, concerts, a newspaper office, a post office, scientific laboratories, and the first level becomes an ice rink every year.
  • In 1984, two Britons parachuted from the tower without permission.
  • The Eiffel Tower Light Display, dating back to 1985, was invented by Pierre Bideau, an electrician and lighting engineer. Consisting of projectors equipped with high-pressure, yellow-orange sodium lamps, when illuminated, they give the impression that the Eiffel Tower is sparkling with gold. In under 10 mins., the projectors are turned on and activated by sensors. In 2004, they were replaced with energy-efficient projectors, resulting in 40% energy savings.
  • For the landmark’s centennial, tightrope walker Philippe Petit walked the 2,296 ft. between the Palais de Chaillot and the Eiffel Tower.
  • In 2002, Hugues Richard climbed the tower on his mountain bike , breaking his own 1998 record.

Here are some amazing facts about the tower:

  • The Eiffel Tower is 324 m. (1,063 ft. including antenna) tall (about the same height as an 81-storey building) and its base is square, 125 m. (410 ft.) on a side.
  • 98 million people ascended it in 2011 and the tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010. In 2012, there were 6,180,000 visitors (75% foreign) and an average of 25,000 people ascend the tower every day. The majority of visitors are French (10.4%), followed by Italy and Spain (8.1% each), USA (7.9%), Britain (7.4%), Germany (5.8%) and Brazil (5.5%).
Bottom of first level platform

Bottom of first level platform

  • The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants (including the internationally renowned Jules Verne Restauranton the first and second. The third level observatory’s upper platform, the highest accessible to the public in the European Union, is 276 m. (906 ft.) above the ground,
  • 1,665 steps are needed to climb all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The climb from ground level to the first level (187 ft.) is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level.   The height of the third level is 905 ft.
  • There are 336 floodlights and 20,000 (5,000 per side) special light bulbs that twinkle (for 5 mins. on the hour, every hour, from nightfall to 1 AM) on the Eiffel Tower. Its light beam can be seen 50 miles away. 25 mountain climbers were required for the 5-month lighting installation. 50 miles of electrical cable and 60 tons of metallic parts cover the tower. Total cost was over $5 million
  • Its 6 elevators make 100 climbs per day. Every year, elevator trips total 103,000 kms. (64,000 mi.), enough to go around the globe 2.5 times.
  • Annually, it consumes 7,500,000 KWH of electricity, the same amount of electricity used by a small village annually.
  • Every 7 years, around 50 to 60 tons (49 to 59 long tons; 55 to 66 short tons)of paint, weighing as much as 10 elephants, are needed to paint the 2,690,750 sq. ft. surface of the Eiffel Tower to protect it from rust.
  • It cost 7,799,401 gold francs to build. If the Eiffel Tower was built today, it would cost about US$35 million.
  • It took a total of 2 years, 2 months and 5 days to build 180 years fewer than Paris’s other great attraction, Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Despite its height, the Eiffel Tower was designed to be wind resistant, swaying only a few inches in the wind.
  • Depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18 cm. (7.1 in.) because of thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun.
  • The Eiffel Tower weighs 11,133 tons, around 7,300 of which represents the metallic structure..
  • The height of the Eiffel Tower varies by 15 cm. (5.9 in.) due to temperature.
  • 300 workers, 18,038 pieces of wrought iron and 2.5 million rivets were needed to build the Eiffel Tower.
  • The puddled iron (wrought iron) structure of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tons, while the entire structure, including non-metal components, is approximately 10,000 tons. If the 7,300 tons of the metal structure were melted down it would fill the 125-m. square base to a depth of only 6.25 cm. (2.5 in.), assuming the density of the metal to be 7.8 tons per cu. m.
  • A cubic box surrounding the tower (324 m. x  125 m.  x  ) would contain 6,200 tons of air, almost as much as the iron itself.
One of the main pillars

One of the main pillars

Eiffel Tower: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France. Tel: +33 892 70 12 39.  Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift (elevator) to the first and second levels. To avoid long queues, tickets can also be purchased online. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is generally only accessible by lift (€15).

Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France)

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

We arrived at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport on a Sunday morning and, after checking in at the Ibis Paris Gare de l’Est 10th, we decided to hit two birds with one stone by taking the Paris Metro to get to the historic  Notre Dame Cathedral, among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world, where we plan to hear Mass and do sightseeing later.  It was already raining when we left the hotel and, when we arrived,we still had to queue to get into the cathedral through the right door.  The Gregorian Mass we attended was said in French.

The Gothic-style facade

The Gothic-style facade

The magnificent, awe-inspiring Notre-Dame Cathedral, also called  Notre Dame de Paris, (French for “Our Lady of Paris”) or simply Notre-Dame, is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, its pointed arches, thinner walls and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass  in stark contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. The cathedral treasury is famous for its reliquary which houses some of Catholicism‘s most important first-class relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails. The cathedral, with a cruciform plan, was made famous by Victor Hugo’s famous, larger-than-life novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” (about the hunchback bell ringer, Quasimodo, who falls madly in love with the beautiful gypsy dancer, Esmerelda). Notre-Dame is composed of a choir and apse, a nave with double aisles and square chapels. It is 226 ft. high, 420 ft. long and has a total surface area of 5,500 sq. m. (interior surface 4,800 sq. m.).

The pointed Gothic arch of the main entrance

The pointed Gothic arch of the main entrance

Construction of the cathedral began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII. Bishop Maurice de Sully devoted most of his life and wealth to the cathedral’s construction. Throughout the construction period, numerous architects worked on the site resulting in differing styles at different heights of the west front and towers. The choir was built from 1163 until around 1177 and the new High Altar was consecrated in 1182. After Bishop Maurice de Sully’s death in 1196, Eudes de Sully (no relation), his successor, oversaw the completion of the transepts.

Gallery of the Kings of Judah

Gallery of the Kings of Judah

He also pressed ahead with the construction of the nave which was, at the time of his own death in 1208, nearing completion. The western facade had also been laid out by this stage but it was not completed until around the mid-1240s.   Between 1210 and 1220, the fourth architect oversaw the construction of the level with the rose window and the great halls beneath the towers. The cathedral was essentially complete by 1345.

The rose window

The magnificent rose window

In the mid 13th century, the transepts were remodeled in the latest Rayonnant style and, in the late 1240s, Jean de Chelles added a gabled portal to the north transept, topped off by a spectacular rose window. Shortly afterwards, from 1258, Pierre de Montreuil did the same on the southern transept. Both transept portals were richly embellished with sculpture.  The south portal features scenes from the lives of St Stephen and of various local saints, while the north portal featured the infancy of Christ and the story of Theophilus in the tympanum, with a highly influential statue of the Virgin and Child in the trumeau.

Gargoyle waterspouts

Gargoyle waterspouts

In 1548, features of Notre-Dame were damaged by rioting Huguenots  who considered them  idolatrous. During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, as part of an ongoing attempt to modernize cathedrals throughout Europe, the cathedral underwent major alterations. In 1786, a colossal statue of St Christopher, standing against a pillar, near the western entrance, and dating from 1413, was destroyed, as well as tombs and stained glass windows.  However, the north and south rose windows were spared.

The cathedral interior

The cathedral interior showing the sexpartite vaulting on the ceiling

In the 1790s, during the radical phase of the  the French Revolution , many of Notre-Dame’s religious imagery and treasures were either damaged, destroyed or plundered. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The 13th century spire was torn down and the statues of the biblical kings of Judah , located on a ledge on the facade of the cathedral, were beheaded as they were erroneously thought to be kings of France. Many of the heads were found during a nearby 1977 excavation and are now on display at the Musée de Cluny. However, the cathedral’s great bells managed to avoid being melted down.  In 1793, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and, later, to the Cult of the Supreme Being. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.

The altar area

The altar area

In 1845, a controversial  and extensive  25-year restoration program was initiated and overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (responsible for the restorations of several dozen castles, palaces and cathedrals across France, he always signed his work with a bat). The restoration included a taller and more ornate reconstruction of the flèche (a type of spire) as well as the addition of the chimeras on the Galerie des Chimères.

Stained glass windows

The very beautiful stained glass windows

During the Second World War, several of the stained glass windows on the lower tier were hit by stray bullets but were remade after the war.  They now sport a modern geometrical patterns not the old scenes of the Bible.  In 1991, a major program of maintenance and further restoration intended to last ten years was initiated.  It included the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures which is an exceedingly delicate matter. By 2014, much of the lighting was upgraded to LED lighting.

Ornate wooden pulpit

Ornate wooden pulpit

Among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports), Notre-Dame was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave.  However, after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. To remedy this, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls.  Later additions continued the pattern.

The cathedral's pipe organ

The cathedral’s pipe organ

Around the exterior, many small, individually-crafted statues, including the famous gargoyles and chimeras, were placed to serve as column supports and water spouts. Most of the exterior as well as the statues were originally vividly colored but the paint has since worn off, exposing the  gray stone.

The huge bronze equestrian statue of Charlemagne et ses Leudes (Charlemagne and his Guards)

The huge bronze equestrian statue of Charlemagne et ses Leudes (Charlemagne and his Guards)

As we were on a tight schedule, we didn’t have time to join the extremely long queue climbing several narrow (387 step total, no elevator) spiral staircases, in 3 stages, to the top of the 90 m. high South Tower.  Upon reaching the top, it is possible to view, in close quarters, the cathedral’s Emmanuel Bell, the largest and most famous bell, the flying buttresses and its gargoyles as well as have a spectacular view of the Ile de la Cite. At Notre-Dame, there are 14 millions visitors per year or an average of 40,000 tourists per day.The area around the cathedral has lots of book stalls and cafes.

The author at the Zero Point Marker

The author at the Zero Point Marker

One of several interesting things I did see around Notre Dame was the huge bronze equestrian statue of Charlemagne et ses Leudes (Charlemagne and his Guards), created by brothers Louis and Charles Rochet in 1878. Charlemagne, the King of the Franks and the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 800 A.D. until his death in 814 A.D., is holding a lance or staff while being guided by two leudes, which are believed to be the figures of Oliver and Roland.  Also within the square in front of the cathedral is the Zero Point Marker where all mile markers start from.

L-R: Manny, Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

L-R: Manny, Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

Notre Dame Cathedral: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France. Tel: +33 1 42 34 56 10. Website: www.notredamedeparis.fr.   Open daily, 7:45 AM – 6.45 PM (7:15 PM on Saturdays and Sundays). Photos without flash are allowed. For those who want to  visit the South Tower (admission: 8,50 €, open 10 AM), the entrance is located outside the cathedral, on the left side of the front at Rue du Cloître Notre-Dame. Even with a Museum Pass, you still have to wait in line just like anyone else.  There are also free organ recitals at 8 PM on most Saturday evenings.

How to Get There: the closest Paris Metro stations to the Notre Dame Cathedral are St-Michel Notre Dame (RER B Train Line, blue), the St-Michel Notre Dame (RER C Train Line, yellow) and the Cité – Line 4 (fuschia). By bus, Lines n°21, 38, 47, 85, 96 (Stop Cité – Palais de Justice);  Line n°47, Balabus (Stop Cité – Parvis de Notre-Dame); Lines n°24, 47 (Stop Notre-Dame – Quai de Montebello); Lines n°24, 47 (Stop Petit Pont); Lines n°24, 27, Balabus (Stop Pont Saint-Michel – Quai des Orfèvres); Lines n°24, 27, 96, Balabus (Stop Saint-Michel); and Lines n°21, 27, 38, 85, 96 (Stop Saint-michel – Saint-Germain).

Ambuklao Dam (Bokod, Benguet)

After lunch and freshening up at Ambangeg Country Road Restaurant in Bokod,  we continued on our way back, along winding zigzag roads, to Baguio City.  About 36 kms. (22 mi., an hour’s drive) northeast of the city, we made a short stopover at Ambuklao Dam, in Brgy. Ambuklao.

Ambuklao Dam

Ambuklao Dam

One of Southeast Asia’s earth and rock-filled dams, is is one of the oldest power plants in the country and was among the first large hydroelectric power plants constructed in the Philippines. It impounds the waters of the upper portion of the turbulent Agno River (the longest waterway in Northern Luzon) which originates from Mt. Data, and its tributary, the Bokod River.

View of the dam from the lake

View of the dam from the lake

The adjunct irrigation system on the delta of the Agno River, it was the first in the Philippines to be served from a reservoir dam and it dams the river with 6,504,000 cu. m. of rocks, gravel and cement together with 1,000,000 cu. m. of clay earth at its core.  Its picturesque, manmade lake has a small picnic area along the shore (no restaurants though) and boats can sometimes be hired for pleasure rowing.  It is also teems with freshwater fish such as crimson snapper (maya-maya), tilapia and silver carp.

Ambuklao View Deck

Ambuklao View Deck

The dam, once ranked among the world’s tallest dams, is 131 m. high, 426 m. long at the crest and has a base width of 565 m..  The elevation of its crest is 758 m. and the roadway that runs through the top of the dam has an elevation of 756 m.. It was once the highest power dam in Asia and the second highest of its kind in the world.

Ambuklao Dam and Lake (8)

As early as the late 1940s, the development of the Agno River, for purposes of hydroelectric power generation, flood control and irrigation, had been conceived and preliminary investigations for development at Ambuklao and Binga Dam sites were undertaken, under the direction of Pres. Manuel A. Roxas, (in cooperation with Westinghouse International) as early as January 1948.

The dam's spillway

The dam’s spillway

Started in July 1950, it took 6 years and 5 months, at a cost of PhP132 million, to complete and the operation of this hydroelectric facility finally started on December 23, 1956. Its civil works contractor was the Guy F. Atkinson Company and the engineering consultant was Harza Engineering Company of Chicago. To build this engineering feat, a diversion channel was first cut to allow the Agno River to flow naturally away from ongoing work.  Then the gorge was narrowed through a series of blasts inside a mountain, thus trapping the water and forming a manmade lake.  Its water turbines, loaded on huge flatbed trucks (operating in tandem), was brought up the coast via the Naguilian Rd. and brought down via the specifically-built Ambuklao Rd. from Pacdal (Baguio City).

Tainter gates

The 8 Tainter radial gates

The dam has 8 Tainter radial gates at the dam’s spillway. Each spillway measures 12.5 m. by 12.5 m. and is 127 m. in length. The gross storage capacity of the dam’s reservoir is 327,170,000 cu. m. (265,240 acre·ft) and it has a usable storage capacity of 258,000,000 cu. m.. The drainage area is 686 sq. kms. and is 11 kms. long with a maximum width of 1 km..  It once generated 75 megawatts (MW) via three 25 MW generating units placed in an underground 17-m. high, 30-m. long and 9-m. wide power house cut from the solid rock.

Manmade Ambuklao Lake

Manmade Ambuklao Lake

On July 16, 1990, a massive earthquake hit Luzon, damaging the dam’s spillways, turbines and reservoir, resulting in siltation and technical problems that affected the plant’s operations.  In 1999, the Ambuklao Dam was decommissioned.  However, on November 28, 2007, SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet, Inc. (SNAP-Benguet), a joint venture between SN Power of Norway and Aboitiz Power, won the public bid for Ambuklao Dam and Binga Dam, its neighboring power facility in Itogon, which were sold (for US$325 million) as a package under the power sector privatization program of the Philippine government.

Transmission towers bring power from the dam to the Luzon grid

Transmission towers bring power from the dam to the Luzon grid

In December 2008, SNAP-Benguet began a massive rehabilitation project that restored Ambuklao Dam to operating status, increasing its capacity from 75 MW to 105 MW. The project required the construction of a new intake, headrace and penstock, elevation of tailrace tunnel outlet, de-silting of tailrace tunnel and replacement of electro-mechanical components. On June 1, 2011, Unit 3 became the first turbine unit to go on-line, followed by the other two units. On October 2011, Ambuklao Dam was formally inaugurated. Ambuklao Dam, designed as a peaking plant, is capable of delivering energy and providing ancillary services needed to maintain the grid.

Nicole, Violet, Rose, Almira and Lorelei at another dam view point

Nicole, Violet, Rose, Almira and Lorelei at another dam view point

How to Get There: The dam is accessible from the inter-provincial road going cross-country to Cagayan Valley through a scenic 36-km. mountain highway stretching across the crest of the dam to Kabayan.

Drive Back to Baguio City (12)

For group tours, you must apply one week in advance at the following:

National Power Corporation: Bonifacio St., Baguio City, Benguet.

National Power Corporation: Agham Rd. cor. Quezon Ave., Diliman, Quezon City.  Tel: (632) 921-3541.  Fax: (632) 921-2468.  E-mail: postmaster@napocor.gov.ph.

The Taipei 101 Building

The rain had stopped when we returned to the mall and, after snacks at a MacDonald’s outlet at Jason’s Marketplace, the mall’s 1,000-pax basement foodcourt, Jandy, Isha and I exited the building to avail of this window of opportunity.  We all walked, some distance, to a nearby park to appreciate the enormity and grandeur of the 357,721 sq. m. Taipei 101, the first record-setting skyscraper to be constructed in the 21st century. From afar, its repeated segments and inclined  tiers simultaneously recall the rhythms of an Asian pagoda, a tower linking earth and sky (also evoked in the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)’ a stalk of bamboo, an icon of learning and growth (also emphasized by  its blue green-tinted windows) or a stack of ancient Chinese ingots or money boxes, a symbol of abundance.

Our worm’s eye view of Taipei 101 Building

In 2004 (until the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010), Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center (until 2003), was officially ranked as the world’s tallest  building, displacing the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (check out my visit here at http://worldstotrek.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/kuala-lumpur-new-years-day/), by 56.1 m (184 ft).  It also displaced the 85-storey, 347.5 m. (1,140 ft.) high Tuntex Sky Tower in Kaohsiung as the tallest building in Taiwan and the 51-storey, 244.2 m. (801 ft.) high Shin Kong Life Tower as the tallest building in Taipei. That same year, it also  received the Emporis Skyscraper Award. In July 2011, the building was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED Platinum certification, becoming the tallest and largest green building in the world.  Its own roof and façade recycled water system meets 20–30% of the building’s water needs.

Curled ruyi figures, appearing throughout the structure as a design motif, are ancient symbols associated with heavenly clouds that connote healing, protection and fulfillment. Each ruyi ornament on the exterior of the Taipei 101 tower stands at least 8 m. (26 ft.) tall.

An icon of modern Taiwan ever since its opening, the structure appears frequently in travel literature and international media.  Taipei 101 was designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners and  constructed primarily by Samsung C&T and KTRT Joint Venture.   It  comprises 106 floors, 101 above ground and 5 floors underground.

The circular motif, the “zero” in Taipei 101, is also the shape of a traditional Chinese coin, a potent symbol of wealth

Architecturally created as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition, this building’s Post Modernist approach to style incorporates traditional design elements and gives them modern treatments. Designed to withstand typhoon and earthquakes, Taipei 101, upon its completion, claimed the official records for:

  • Ground to highest architectural structure (spire): 508 m. (1,667 ft.). Previously held by the Petronas Towers 451.9 m. (1,483 ft.), the record  now rests with the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (UAE): 828 m (2,717 ft).
  • Ground to roof: 449.2 m. (1,474 ft.). Formerly held by the Willis Tower‘s 442 m (1,450 ft), the record briefly passed to the Shanghai World Financial Center in 2009 which, in turn, yielded it to the Burj Khalifa.
  • Ground to highest occupied floor: 438 m. (1,437 ft.). Formerly held by the Willis Tower 412.4 m. (1,353 ft.), the record also briefly passed to the Shanghai World Financial Center and then to the Burj Khalifa. .
  • Fastest ascending elevator speed: designed to be 1,010 m. per min., which is 16.83 m./sec. (55.22 ft./sec.) (60.6 kms./hr., 37.7 miles/hr.),  34.7% faster than the 12.5 m. (41 ft) per second (45.0 kms./hr., 28 mile/hr.) speed of Yokohama Landmark Towers‘ elevator, the previous record holder.
  • Largest countdown clock which was displayed on New Year’s Eve (fireworks launched from Taipei 101 also feature prominently in international New Year’s Eve broadcasts).
  • Tallest sundial: The  design of  circular Millennium Park, which adjoins Taipei 101 on the east, allows it to double as the face of a sundial. The tower itself casts the shadow to indicate afternoon hours for the building’s occupants.
  • Taipei 101 is the first building in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height.

Taipei 101: Xin Yi Rd., Xin Yi District, Taipei City, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 8101-7777. Website: http://www.taipei-101.com.tw.

Taipei 101 Tuned Mass Damper

From the Inner Observatory, Jandy, Isha and I proceeded to see Taipei 101’s much publicized, massive Tuned Mass Damper (TMD).   Also called a harmonic absorber, a tuned mass damper is a device mounted in structures to reduce the amplitude of mechanical vibrations, moving in opposition to the resonance frequency oscillations of the structure by means of springs, fluid or pendulums. Their application can prevent discomfort, damage or outright structural failure. Taipei 101’s TMD was specially designed to reduce movement caused by strong gusts of wind.  This motion can be in the form of swaying or twisting, and can cause its upper floors to move more than a meter. Certain angles of wind and aerodynamic properties of a building can accentuate the movement and cause motion sickness  in people.

Isha trying out the Interactive Hallway

On our way to the TMD’s interior viewing platform, we were entertained by a dimly-lit interactive hallway where clouds cleared as we stepped on them, revealing a satellite top view of Taipei City. Once inside the platform, we espied the much hyped up, sphere-shaped mass block/wind vibration damper  suspended from the 92nd floor to the 87th floor by 8 steel cables.  Measuring 42 m. in length and 9 cm. in width, each cable is comprised of over 2,000 smaller cables to ensure flexibility and durability. A tuning frame supports the suspended steel cables, monitoring building vibration and adjusting cable movement to regularize building movement and optimize damping. The TMD cuts building vibration by up to 40% and can, on occasion, move by as much as 35 cm., moving with the building at the rate of one oscillation every 7 secs..

The Tuned Mass Damper

Taipei 101’s TMD, the largest, heaviest and only publicly visible damper sphere in the world, consists of 41 circular steel plates, each with a height of 125 mm. (4.92 in.) being welded together to form a 5.5 m. (18 ft.) diameter sphere.  It has a gross weight of 660 metric tons (728 short tons). The TMD was designed, manufactured and constructed by Motioneering, Inc. (Canada), at a cost of NT$132 million (US$4 million), while Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers along with Evergreen Consulting Engineering, Inc. were responsible for the overall structural design.The pinnacle, at 450-508 m. in height, features 2 smaller TMD units of 6 tons  (7 short tons) apiece. The pinnacle may oscillate up to 180,000 times a year due to strong wind loads.

Again posing with another Damper Baby mascot

Beneath the TMD, a specially designed bumper system of 8 primary hydraulic viscous dampers automatically absorbs  and dissipates vibration impacts, particularly during major typhoons or earthquakes where movement may exceed 150 cm. The TMD’s movements are not always visible.

The Taipei Metro

After our short visit at Shandao Temple, Jandy, Isha and I now entered the Shandao Temple MRT Station where we plan, for the first time, to try out the Taipei Metro, more commonly known as the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit or Metro Rail Transit) or formally as the Taipei Rapid Transit System, to get to Taipei City Hall, the gateway to the iconic Taipei 101 Building.

Shandao Temple Station Entrance

This rapid transit system, Taiwan’s first metro system, was built and operated by the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) and it first began operations on March 28, 1996.  It consists of 96 stations and 110.1 kms. (68.4 miles) of revenue track. The system, an essential part of life in Taipei, carried an average of over 1.66 million passengers per day in December 2011.

Token vending machines

The Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) System operates in all 69 stations of the network. We  purchased our IC Single Journey RFID (radio frequency identification) tokens (in our case, blue as we were traveling along the Blue Line) from a token vending machine (NT$30 each).    They are valid only on the day of purchase.  These tokens replaced the existing magnetic single journey cards in 2007 (turnstiles were also replaced with speed gates during this time). We then have our tokens scanned at the speed gates to enter the station.  Upon reaching Taipei City Hall Station, our tokens were retrieved, again at the speed gates, once we exited the station.

IC Single Journey RFID token

The MRT system operates daily, from 6 AM to midnight, with extended services during special events such as New Year festivities. The trains operate at intervals of 1.5 to 15 mins., depending on the line and time of day. Stations become extremely crowded during rush hours, especially at transfer stations such as Taipei Main Station, Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and Minquan West Rd.

Station speed gates

Automated station announcements are recorded in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka and English. High-traffic stations, including Taipei Main Station, Zhongxiao Fuxing Station and Taipei City Hall Station, have platform gates to prevent passengers and other objects from falling onto the rails.

Taipei City Hall MRT Station

Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC): 7, Lane 48, Sec. 2, Zhongshan North Rd., 10448, Taipei City, Taiwan. Tel: (+886-2) 2536-3001.  Fax: (+886-2) 2511-5003. Website: http://english.trtc.com.tw

The Iconic Bridges of the Singapore River

Upon reaching the end of South Bridge Rd., Jandy and I were now at the banks of the historic 6-km. long (19,690-ft.) long Singapore River. Here, we viewed a  number of pedestrian and vehicular bridges that span this river, serving the needs of Singaporeans and visitors alike by connecting residential, commercial and entertainment areas.  They also add history (rickshaws, ox carts, cattle, horses, etc. used to pass here), high technology and color to the Singapore skyline. Three of these bridges – Anderson Bridge, Cavenagh Bridge and Elgin Bridge – were, on November 3, 2008, selected for conservation as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s expanded conservation program. The Anderson Bridge and the newer Esplanade Bridge also forms part of the Singapore Grand Prix‘s Marina Bay street circuit which debuted on September 28, 2008.

Singapore River

The Cavenagh Bridge, opened in 1870 (the third bridge to be built in Singapore) to ease access between the civic district on the north bank and the commercial district (now Raffles Place) on the south bank , is the oldest among the original bridges spanning the Singapore River.   It spanned the lower reaches of the Singapore River in the Downtown Core. Before this bridge was built, people could only get to the 2 districts via a detour over Elgin Bridge or by paying 1 duit (¼ cent) for a boat ride across the river.  Originally known as the Edinburgh Bridge (to commemorate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh), it was renamed in honor of Maj.-Gen. William Orfeur Cavenagh, the last India-appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements (1859-1867). His family’s coat-of-arm scan still be seen atop the sign at both ends of the bridge.

Cavenagh Bridge

Cavenagh Bridge, originally designed as a drawbridge, is also Singapore’s first and only steel suspension bridge, with elaborate suspension struts. During construction, numerous steel rivets were used and steel casting methods commonly used during that era were employed. Its parts were manufactured by P & W MacLellan, Glasgow Engineers (Scotland ) at a cost of S$80,000, built and tested in Glasgow to withstand a load 4 times its own weight, shipped to Singapore in parts and it reassembled by Indian convict labor. Subsequently, in the late 1880s, the bridge became overloaded due to the flourishing trade on the Singapore River and vehicular traffic volume overtook the capacity of the bridge.  Added to this was its low draught which was insufficient for the passage of boats during high tide.

Cavenagh Bridge

The bridge was  eventually spared from demolition by conversion to a pedestrian bridge.  In the 1990s, lighting was added to accentuate its architectural features at nightfall. It now complements the renovated Fullerton Hotel (formerly the Fullerton Building) beside the bridge. At the southwest abutment of the bridge are sculptures of a family of Singapura cats (kucinta or drain cats), recognized as one of the smallest breeds of cats in the world. At both ends of the bridge are preserved police notices  restricting the passage of vehicles that weighed beyond 3 CWT (152 kgs. or 336 lbs.), including cattle and horses.

Anderson Bridge

Cavenaugh Bridge’s replacement was the century-old Anderson Bridge, near the river’s mouth, which provided sufficient clearance for vessels to pass under during high tide. Connecting the financial district directly to City Hall, this bridge is also located near the Fullerton Hotel and the former Merlion Park.  An excellent combination of intricate plaster and metalwork, this elegant bridge has 3 steel arches with supporting steel ribs across them, 2 rusticated archways and a fluted pier on each end.  The abutments were built by the Westminster Construction Company Limited. Started in 1908, it was officially opened on March 12, 1910 by Sir John Anderson (Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States from 1904–1911) after whom the bridge was named. During the 1942-1945 Japanese Occupation, the severed heads of criminals were hung on the bridge as a warning to discourage citizens from breaking the law.

Anderson Bridge – Western Approach

The slightly younger, concrete Elgin Bridge, a vehicular bridge in the Boat Quay area linking the Downtown Core to the Singapore Planning Area located within Singapore’s Central Area, was named after India governor-general (March 21, 1862-November 20, 1863) Lord James Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin.  Elgin Bridge is believed to have existed, as early as 1819, at its current location as an unnamed footbridge linking the Chinese community, on the southern side, to the Indian merchants of High St. on the northern side.  As this was the first bridge across the river, the two roads leading to it were named North Bridge Rd. and South Bridge Rd. accordingly.

Elgin Bridge

In 1822, this footbridge was replaced by the Presentment Bridge, a wooden drawbridge (also called the Monkey Bridge, as its narrowness limited the number of people crossing at a time, therefore using it required some agility) was built by Lt. P. Jackson. In 1843, a wooden footbridge, built by John Turnbull Thomson replaced the drawbridge (also called the Thomson Bridge).  In 1862, an iron bridge was built but, in 1925, the iron bridge had to make way for the new, existing bridge which was opened to traffic by Sir Hugh Clifford, Governor of the Straits Settlements, on  May 30, 1929.

Elgin Bridge – Approach

At one end of the bridge is the crest of the Singapore Municipal Commission. Its elegant cast iron lamps, on both sides of the bridge, were designed by the Italian sculptor Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli whose signature graces the bronze plaques beneath the lamps, each with a lion standing in front of a royal palm tree engraved on it. Elgin Bridge is known as thih tiau kio in Hokkien, meaning “iron suspension bridge.”

Esplanade Bridge

The 260 m. (850-ft.) long, 70 m. (230-ft.) wide, low-level concrete arched Esplanade Bridge, a vehicular and pedestrian bridge along Esplanade Drive, in front of the mouth of the Singapore River, was built, from early 1994-1997, to provide faster access between Marina Center and the Shenton Way financial district.  After completion, it was found out that the bridge blocked views of the iconic Merlion statue from the Marina Bay waterfront, causing the statue to be transferred from the back to a more prominent place at the front of the bridge.

Esplanade Bridge

The Esplanade Bridge has 7 spans and supports two 4-lane carriageways and walkways along both sides.  The bridge offers panoramic views of Marina South, the rest of  Marina Bay and both sides of the Singapore River.  As such, it is often subject to occasional road closures during National Day and New Year’s Eve and the street lamps along it are shut off to allow spectators, pedestrians and revelers who pack all 8 lanes of the bridge a pleasant and unadulterated view of the fireworks.

Helix Bridge

The Helix Bridge, next to Bayfront Ave., was opened on July 18, 2010.  Previously known as the Double Helix Bridge, it is the world’s first curved bridge. This 280 m. (918-ft.) long pedestrian bridge is (Singapore’s longest) is located beside the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and is accompanied by the Bayfront Bridge, a vehicular bridge. The Helix Bridge links the hotels, commercial buildings and shops of Marina Center with Marina South in the Marina Bay area (a body of water formed through land reclamation at the mouth of the Singapore River).

Helix Bridge – Approach

The bridge has 5 strategically located viewing platforms sited at strategic locations.  They provide stunning views of the Singapore skyline and events taking place within Marina Bay. The bridge also functions as a gallery where children’s paintings and drawings are exhibited for public viewing.  The bridge is illuminated at night by a series of lights that highlight the double-helix structure, thereby creating a special visual experience for the visitors. Pairs of colored letters “C” (cytosine), “G” (guanine), “A” (adenine) and “T” (thymine), representing the bases of DNA, are lit up in red and green.

Helix Bridge – Approach

The Helix Bridge was designed by an international consortium including the Cox Group of Australian architects, Arup engineers, and Singapore’s Architects 61 and was fabricated and erected by TTJ Design and Engineering.  The bridge’s design features a series of connecting struts that hold together two spiraling steel members that resembles the structure of DNA (the building blocks of life), symbolizing life and continuity, renewal, abundance and growth, with the aim of attracting happiness and prosperity to Marina Bay.

Helix Bridge – Detail

It used approximately 650 tons of duplex stainless steel and 1,000 tons of carbon steel tubes to create the bridge’s major and minor helix that spirals in opposite directions. To provide shade for pedestrians, canopies made of fritted glass and perforated steel mesh were incorporated along parts of the bridge’s inner spiral.

View of Marina Bay From Helix Bridge

The Coleman Bridge, a vehicular bridge linking Hill St. and New Bridge Rd., near Clarke Quay, was the second bridge built across the Singapore River and the first built in masonry.  Part of the bridge demarcates a boundary between the Downtown Core and the Singapore River Planning Area, both located within the Central Business District. It first started out as a 9-arched brick bridge, built in 1840, designed by and named after Irish architect (Singapore’s first) George Drumgoole Coleman (1795–1844). It was referred to as the New Bridge, lending its name to New Bridge Road, the roadon its southern end.

Coleman Bridge

In 1865, the brick bridge was replaced by one made of not well constructed wood and, in 1886, an ironbridge was built to replace it. Considered one of the most attractive spanning the Singapore River, this iron bridge, however, was unable to cope with the increasingly heavy traffic flow between New Bridge Road and Hill Street and was finally demolished in 1986 and was replaced by the present concrete bridge. However, in recognition of its historical significance, the new bridge incorporated several features of the iron bridge such as the decorative lamp posts and iron railings. The Coleman Bridge is known, in Cantonese, as yi ma lo khiu (“the bridge at the second road”).