Little Known Facts About Paris

Posted on 14. Jan, 2014 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France, Press Trips

Little Known Facts About Paris

I am well aware that Paris travel articles are pretty much the least original thing a travel writer can publish. I have written quite a few myself, and in fact, I feel like there is very little left to say that hasn’t already been said when it comes to the City of Lights.

But after touring the main sights of Paris (in nothing less than a convertible, iconic 1980s’ Citroen) with a new perspective, thanks to the knowledgeable folks over at 4 roues sous 1 parapluie (literally “4 wheels and an umbrella”), I have came across interesting trivia about the legends and events that occurred in the city throughout its long, tumultuous history.

And this is why I like to go on a guided visit every once in a while — no guidebook or Wikipedia reading session will ever be as efficient or captivating as having an expert tell you the tales in the very place they happened. My ride with 4 roues et un parapluie proved that again. Here are, in no particular order, fun facts I learned during my last visit to Paris.

Little Known Facts About Paris

  • If you look carefully, you will notice that there are no Art Deco métro entrances nearby or across important monuments, for the simple reason that cast iron wasn’t considered to be a noble material at the time. The entrances located by, say, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower or the Opéra are all made out of stone and designed in the neo-classical Greek-Roman style.
  • Originally built as a palace for Louis XIV’s daughter, what is now the Assemblée Nationale on the left bank used to be called Palais Bourbon. Napoleon ordered major renovation works for the palace in the early 19th century, as part of his “monumental Paris scheme” — and if it feels like you are not entirely estranged to this building, it might be because the classicizing portico mirrors almost exactly that of the Madeleine Church, which is located right across the Seine on the right bank, thus creating a perfect symmetry between the two banks.
  • The Place de la Concorde is one of the most important French Revolution excursion sites for two reasons: not only is it precisely where both Louis XVI and his queen consort Marie-Antoinette were beheaded in 1793, but the square’s pavement is actually made out of the stones salvaged from the ruins of la Bastille fortress. The storming of la Bastille is often considered to be the flashpoint of the French Revolution.

Little Known Facts About Paris

  • The Buttes Chaumont, located in the 19th arrondissement (and also heavily pictured in Monica Geller’s living room), are entirely man-made; the park is, in fact, built over what was once used as a refuse dump, and then as a place for cutting up horse carcasses and as a depository for sewage. I bet it is much cuter now than it was n the 19th century!
  • In order to prevent the destruction of thousands works of art, the Louvre Museum secretly moved its most significant pieces to the basement of Chambord Castle and Valençay Castle in the Loire Valley in the early stages of World War II. After just four months of packing and moving, the museum was almost cleared of works.
  • A couple of years after the French Revolution took place, the Notre-Dame-de-Paris Cathedral was almost teared down because of how it represented both the monarchy and the clergy’s power, which obviously did not sit well with the raging, hungry locals. It was only saved because of Victor Hugo’s influence and the immense success of his now-iconic novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
  • Speaking of destruction, the Eiffel Tower, which was built as part of the 1889 World’s Fair, wasn’t meant to remain standing after the fair was over. It was built to much controversy, and it wasn’t wiped off the map simply because it was the highest man-made structure in the world at the time, serving a many scientific purposes. Eagle-eyed travelers have probably noticed that the names of many scientists, such as Lavoisier, Gay-Lussac, Fresnel and Foucault, are inscribed on the four sides of the tower.

Little Known Facts About Paris

  • Legendary French author Guy de Maupassant regularly dined at the Eiffel Tower’s restaurant despite his notorious hatred for the iron lattice, pretending that it was the only place in Paris where he couldn’t see the tower.
  • Rumor has it that the mirrors located in the changing rooms at the Opéra Garnier are covered in scrapes and scratches. Ballet dancers and opera singers were regularly given diamonds by wealthy spectators, which they scratched against mirrors in order to test the gem’s authenticity. Diamonds were the only gem capable of scraping glass back in the days.
  • Every night at precisely 10 o’clock, the iron lady gives her best performance of the day, twinkling brightly for a few minutes. But did you know that over 10 000 light bulbs and 80 kilometers of wire are necessary to the illumination of the Eiffel Tower, requiring over 580 000 kWh per year?

Little Known Facts About Paris

Disclaimer: I toured Paris as a guest of the Paris Visitors Bureau. And as you can probably tell, I enjoyed myself immensely!

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8 Responses to “Little Known Facts About Paris”

  1. Dakota

    23. Jan, 2014

    I had no idea Place de la Concorde held such importance. I knew it was beautiful but I didn’t know that’s where the King was beheaded!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Patrice

    23. Jan, 2014

    I think the illumination of the Eiffel Tower is well worth the energy expense even though Parisians hate it!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      27. Jan, 2014

      I agree! And I think that Parisians secretly love it, but they are too proud to tell. :-)

      Reply to this comment
  3. John

    23. Jan, 2014

    God I love Paris. History on every corner.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      27. Jan, 2014

      Me too! That’s why guided tours are so awesome.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Great facts! I really like the one about metro signs! But I actually like those art-deco black iron ones. it is crazy how many of pictures of those I always bring from each trip to Paris :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      03. Feb, 2014

      They are so iconic though, that’s why they are so popular nowadays :)

      Reply to this comment

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