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World

Must See: California Ghost City, Secret Eiffel Tower Apartment

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Next, a report on a high point in architecture, as well as a grand design that never was. Our guide to both places is David Plotz. He directs the website Atlas Obscura, and he is our regular guide to unexpected places around the world. Our first stop this morning is a place that never really became a place.

DAVID PLOTZ: So what's the third-largest city in California? It's got to be San Diego? It's actually a city that you've probably never heard of, a city called California City - not a great name. California City was the product of a real dream back in the '50s. A real estate developer named Nat Mendelsohn was going to build the city to rival Los Angeles - 320 square kilometers, the Mojave Desert turned into a vibrant community. He had bulldozers carve the street. They carved the cul-de-sacs, and then nobody came. It remained a ghost city.

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PLOTZ: Almost anyone who's been to Paris has a fantasy about living in Paris, and you think you're going to have a great little apartment on the left bank and go buy baguettes every day. There is an apartment in Paris that is the greatest apartment ever built, but you'll never get to live in it. And 1889, Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower, built his wonderful tower in Paris. And he built himself a secret apartment at the top of it. A thousand feet above the city, he built himself a cozy little apartment just for himself. He had visitors. Thomas Edison famously came up and visited him there. Eiffel's apartment was sealed off and you weren't allowed to visit it. Now it's been open to the public, and you can go and see it. And imagine what it must've been like to sit and drink tea and talk about science and engineering all the way above this most beautiful city in the world.

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WERTHEIMER: David Plotz from the travel website Atlas Obscura. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.