Fun Facts about Paris

What is unique about Paris? Here are some surprising facts to read before coming to Paris

The Bakery Challenge

Every year, a bakery in Paris gets an award for making the best baguette in Paris of the year. The winners will deliver fresh baguettes to the French President at the Elysee Palace for a year.

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The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building

Until 1931, the Eiffel Tower, 324 meters, was the tallest building in the world.

Before the Eiffel Tower existed, we didn't build higher buildings than the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt = 139 meters until 1889.

Today, the Eiffel Tower is not even in the top 10 of the highest buildings in the world - Burj Khalifa is 828 meter high.

The Eiffel Tower was meant to be temporary, built for the 1889 World Fair in Paris, the iron lady was not dismantled in 1909, as it was originally planned. 

It stayed up thanks to its useful antenna.

Today she is the symbol of Paris! 

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The Small Rats of the Opera

Did you know that the young pupils of the prestigious National Ballet school are called “small rats“? 
That is because when the school first started, the ballet classes were in an attic. And in that time people used to keep their groceries in attics so the rats lived there as well.
When standing in a room under the attic the sound of the children's feet dancing has the same impression as the rats running around the groceries. Hence the name.

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Paris has a twin sister

Paris city is twinned with Rome, and only with Rome.
While other major world capitals are twinned with several cities (New York for example, which has 13 twin cities, including Madrid, London or Cairo), Paris and Rome are the only ones to have an exclusive love. 
A pact signed in 1956 in the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall of Paris). The mayors still visit each other until today.
“Only Paris is worthy of Rome; and only Rome is worthy of Paris”

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Paris Honey

For a few years there have been several bee hives installed in Paris. One of them is on the roof of the Opera house, another on top of the Meurice hotel and a third in the Luxembourg gardens. You can purchase the honey only if you are fast and lucky, the jars are sold out very quickly.

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The Eggplants

Until a few years ago, the job of giving parking tickets was held by women dressed in dark purple uniforms. They were the most unpopular women of Paris. 
The city and the Parisians called them eggplants because of the color of their uniform.

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Streets made of Wood

The streets of Paris are covered with asphalt or stone boulders like all

European cities.

Until the 1960-s, the large boulevards were actually covered with wooden tree trunks.

Parisians over 65 can still remember the particular, loud noise it made when buses and cars drove over them, which is the reason why they disappeared.

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Paris was protected by 7 different city walls

Did you know that in the 2400 years of the existence of Paris, the city had built 7 different concentric city fortification walls? 
During its evolution, Paris was a commerce port on the Seine river and she was repeatedly attacked.
When walking through the city you can still see remains of two walls from the middle ages and two toll houses that were part of the last city wall, built in the 1700-s.

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3 Kings after the French Revolution

Did you know that after the French Revolution, even though King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded by the Parisians, there were 3 more kings, and 2 emperors in Paris?

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History facts and events 

In a nutshell, what made Paris, Paris !

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The Roman Paris

Paris, the capital city of France traces its history as far back as 3rd century BC when Parisii, a Celtic Gauls’ tribe, built a fortified settlement on the banks of River Seine. 52 BC was a culmination of centuries of conflict, when Romans conquered the Parisii occupied fishermen village and consequently established Lutetia, a Gaul-Roman town (Bonner, 2012). Following the conquest, Lutetia grew up to be a successful city decorated with entertainment joints including theatres and religious establishments such as temples. Saint Denis, the pioneer Bishop of Paris introduced Christianity in the 2nd century AD (Bonner, 2012). In the 4th century AD, Frankish King Clovis renamed Lutetia to Paris after the native tribe of Parisii (Bradwell, 2014). The arrival of Franks in the 5th century AD heralded the end of the Roman rule. Paris flourished in prosperity under the Franks’ domination (Bonner, 2012). The Merovingian dynasty first ruler, Clovis the Frank made Paris his capital city in 508 AD. This led to a period of gradual migration by Franks to the capital city of Paris. Consequently, the massive settlement of the Franks in Paris marked the birth of the Parisian Francien dialects. The Vikings invaded Paris in 845. The French King offered to pay the Vikings a sum of 7000 pounds of silver in consideration for them to leave. The election of Hugh Capet at the helm of the Capetian dynasty marked the beginning of Paris growth to prosperity in the ensuing periods from the middle ages to 21st century.

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The Medieval Paris

Paris grew at a rapid rate in the middle ages to become one of the largest cities in the medieval Europe. The population rose to 200,000, a remarkable standard at the time. In a bid to bolster administrative power, King Philippe built a wall surrounding Paris between 1180 and 1223 (Miller, 2014). Louvre Fortress was also built during the reign of King Philippe. Seine in Medieval Paris became a busy inland port with a beehive of goods coming in and going out from its wharves.
Towards the end of the 12th century, Paris had transformed into a political, educational, religious and cultural hub in France. For instance, the establishment of Paris University followed by the growing number of scholars exemplified the education tag of the city to the outside worldwide (Wei, 2012). It was also during this period that Maurice de Sully, the bishop of Paris began construction of the Cathedral de Notre Dame, the most famous cathedral in the eastern extremity.
The transformation of Paris in the late 12th century cannot fail to acknowledge the enormous contributions of King Philip Augustus. He oversaw the extension of Louvre fortress with an aim of bolstering defense against the increasing river invasions particularly from the west. The building of the first walls and reconstruction of bridges between 1190 and 1215 took place under his reign (Wei, 2012). In 1190 he oversaw the transformation of the Paris’ cathedral learning center into a student-teacher organization that would later become the much known Paris University attracting students across the world.
In the late Middle Ages marking the Hundred Years’ War between 1337-1453 characterized by armed aggressions with intermittent truces between the Kingdoms of France and England, the Burgundian pro-English forces occupied the city of Paris (Miller, 2014). The entrance of Henry V of England into Paris in 1420 marked another period of English forces occupation until 1436 notwithstanding the resistance to liberate the city meted by Joan of Arc in 1429.

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The Renaissance Paris

Paris recovered from the Hundred Years War at the beginning of the renaissance period characterized by Cultural, artistic, economic and political rebirth in Europe following the happenstances of the middle Ages. The tranquility saw King Francois move his court to Paris in 1528 (Letellier, 2015). Once again after long periods of armed aggressions and political suppression, Paris began to flourish.

However, in the 16th century, a wave of reformation swept through France where the Catholics orchestrated a mass persecution of Protestants. The culmination of the persecution was the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 where the Catholics martyred approximately 2,000 Protestants in Paris (Kingdon, 2013). The mass persecution was followed by the assassination of King Henry III in 1589 leaving the throne to Henry of Navarre, a Protestant (Knetcht, 2016). He faced massive resistance from the Catholics and in 1593 he underwent conversion to Catholicism, a thing that gave him a leeway to enter Paris in 1594. Once in Paris, he initiated the construction of great buildings including Pont Neuf in 1607. However, in 1610 a Catholic Fanatic assassinated King Henry IV in 1610. His widow continued with his infrastructural development following his demise when she built the Palais de Luxembourg.

The construction of great buildings continued in Paris in the 17th century under Louis XIV. In addition to the great buildings, numerous cafes decorated Paris. It was during this period that Paris became famous for its reputable philosophers. However, despite the transformation, severe poverty rocked Paris. An enchantment of enlightenment philosophical schools emerged whose tenets were premised on equality, logic and freedom (Solomon, 2015). Philosophers the likes of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau promulgated the enlightenment by championing the need for socio-economic equality that heralded the revolution and the fall of the monarchy.

Following the Parisian uprisings, Louis XIV relocated his court to Versailles palace in 1682. Albeit, dethronement from holding the capital status of France, Paris played host to arts and sciences harboring institutions the likes of French Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Painting.

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Modern Paris

In the late eighteenth century, Paris staged the French Revolution in the summer of 1789. The Parisians attacked the Bastille seizing the arsenals and getting away with thousands of ammunitions and guns (Chartier, 2015). The governor was compelled to give in. On the 3rd of September, 1791, King Louis XVI ratified the pioneering written constitution (Bongie, 2022). In 1799, Napoleon became France Ruler. He initiated the building of Pont des Arts, La Madeleine and Arc de Triomphe.

The Industrial Revolution, which took shape in the mid-nineteenth century in France started to transform Paris into an industrial hub. Albeit, majority of the people languishing in poverty, Paris experienced rapid growth. However, during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Prussian forces took control of Paris (Varley, 2021). The following 4 months of captivity rendered the Parisians into starvation prompting the surrender of the city of Paris. The French Government entered into a truce with the Prussians. However, the Parisians revolted against the peace treaty on 18th March 1871. Consequently, Paris Commune was constituted.

Paris went through a period of recovery in the late 19th century culminating to prosperity and more growth. It was during this period that the unveiling of the famous Eiffel Tower took place in 1889.

During the First World War, which took place between 1914 and 1918, France survived the ramifications unscathed. In the aftermath of the war, Paris rose to prosperity again. However, during the Second World War, Paris fell to the Nazi Germany on the 14th of June 1940 (Pouillard, 2020). However, the defeat of the Germans led to the reclamation of Paris by the allied forces on the 25th of August 1944.

Paris experienced another wave of prosperity in the late 20th century marked by the erection of buildings such as Tour Montparnasse in 1973 and Pompidou Center in 1977 and Les Quatre Temps Shopping Mall in 1981. In the 21st century, Paris has enjoyed massive growth and infrastructural development with the establishment of stores Beaugrenelle Shopping Mall in 2013. Currently, Paris is a prosperous city with a booming tourism.

References

Bongie, C. (2022). Zoïle’s pilgrimage: Abbé Ouvière’s Journal du Port-au-Prince (1791) and the struggle for free colored rights in revolutionary Saint-Domingue. Atlantic Studies, 1-33.

Bonner, S. (2012). Education in Ancient Rome: From the elder Cato to the younger Pliny. Routledge.

Bradwell, A. (2014). Derbyshire Roman Lead Pigs and'Lutudarum'. Mining History, 19(2).

Chartier, R. (2015). The cultural origins of the French Revolution. In The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution. Duke University Press.

Kingdon, R. M. (2013). Myths about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres, 1572–1576. In Myths about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres, 1572–1576. Harvard University Press.

Knecht, R. J. (2016). Hero or Tyrant? Henry III, King of France, 1574-89. Routledge.

Letellier, A. (2015). Medieval and Renaissance art in nineteenth-century Paris. Journal of the History of Collections, 27(3), 297-307.

Miller, T. S. (2014). The Beguines of Medieval Paris. In The Beguines of Medieval Paris. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Pouillard, V. (2020). Recasting Paris fashion: Haute couture and design management in the postwar era. In European fashion (pp. 35-62). Manchester University Press.

Solomon, H. M. (2015). Public Welfare, Science and Propaganda in 17th-Century France. In Public Welfare, Science and Propaganda in 17th-Century France. Princeton University Press.

Varley, K. (2021). Memories not yet formed: commemorating the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune. Journal of War & Culture Studies, 14(3), 231-250.

Wei, I. P. (2012). Intellectual culture in medieval Paris: theologians and the university, c. 1100-1330. Cambridge University Press.

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