Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Heidi Stevens reports, Chicago couple Olivier Crenon and Barbara Kaufman "have their little slice of Paris on the Boulevard — and a crowd of admirers, cheering them on from near and far."
Their mission wasn’t necessarily a joyful one, though it was rooted in plenty of love and nostalgia.
Chicago couple Olivier Crenon and Barbara Kaufman set out Sunday to build an Eiffel Tower out of the 10 or so inches of snow blanketing their Logan Square neighborhood. It was an homage to Crenon’s home country, whose borders were closed Friday in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We thought, ‘If we can’t go to Paris, we’ll bring Paris to us,’” Kaufman said.
The couple married in January 2020 and planned to travel to France every three or four months. Crenon’s adult children live there — a daughter in Burgundy, two sons in Lyon, another son in Provence. He still has professional contacts there.
But COVID-19 kept them from traveling abroad, even after Crenon’s mother died in March. And the border closing last week left them feeling like a trip isn’t on the horizon anytime soon.
“It’s not easy,” Crenon said.
Crenon and Kaufman are graphic designers, and fashioning an Eiffel Tower from snow seemed an appropriate way to channel both their longing and their talents. So they spent a few hours Sunday morning building a perfectly delightful Eiffel Tower on a small patch of Logan Boulevard between Mozart Street and Francisco Avenue.
They strung lights from bottom to top to illuminate it at night and placed a little French flag on its top.
“We got so into building this little icon,” Kaufman said. “We kept saying, ‘It has to be a few feet taller! The proportions aren’t right!’”
My daughter and I drove by it on Sunday afternoon on our way home from grabbing bagels for lunch. We pulled over and snapped a photo, which I posted to Twitter after I got home.
By Monday morning, the photo had been liked by @LaTourEiffel, the official Twitter account of the actual Eiffel Tower, and retweeted by @franceintheus, the official Twitter of the Embassy of France in the United States.
“Love at frost sight!” the French Embassy tweeted.
Hundreds of Twitter users offered applause and accolades — a refreshing departure for a site often affiliated with vitriol and doomscrolling.
“We’ve just been so amazed at this connection of events just from building this for fun,” Kaufman said. “I love how many people are missing France and rooting for it.”
Crenon and Kaufman met on the dating site OKCupid. Crenon was in Chicago on business and the app matched him to Kaufman, who was living nearby. The relationship had its obvious obstacles — namely the 4,000-plus miles between their homes. But they bonded over their careers and other similarities and eventually fell in love and married.
“I’m 56; he’s 60,” Kaufman said. “You never know if you’re ready for that kind of heavy lift at that stage in life. But we were.”
They did make it to Paris together once — in October 2019, a few months before their wedding. But they didn’t visit the Eiffel Tower.
And next time?
“Oh, my God,” Kaufman said. “As long as France opens back up, we will go and we will be at the Eiffel Tower. First thing.”
For now, though, they have their little slice of Paris on the Boulevard — and a crowd of admirers, cheering them on from near and far. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.