Small Parisian anecdotes

From 26 april 2021 to 25 april 2028

Paris is the dynamic centre of French creativity and know-how. The capital manages to distinguish itself in many fields, including culture, art, fashion, gastronomy and cosmetics. Paris also has many anecdotes that contribute to its history.


The Eiffel Tower: participation in the war effort


Tour Eiffel The Eiffel Tower is THE symbol of the capital. Appreciated every year by millions of tourists from all over the world who come to take its picture, the Eiffel Tower has not always had its moments of glory.

At the beginning of its presentation in 1889, the Iron Lady amazed and impressed. A real success for its engineer, Gustave Eiffel, the Tower was originally a temporary project built for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889. But little by little, its success and fame diminished, leaving room for the doubt and uncertainty of an enormous iron structure that was taking up space.

In order not to put an end to this creation, which was synonymous with France's industrial progress, Gustave Eiffel found a solution: to use the Eiffel Tower for military purposes. During the First World War, this metal construction was used as an observation post, as telegraphy tests carried out beforehand had made it possible to achieve links of up to 6,000 kilometres. With this technique, France could follow the movements of German soldiers via their mobile stations.


The Eiffel Tower: protected by law at night.


To continue on the subject of the Eiffel Tower, a most surprising fact that is probably still unknown to many: it is forbidden to photograph the Eiffel Tower... at night! This prohibition is a legal matter. Indeed, the Iron Lady is a private property and is therefore protected by law. But it is not the Tower itself that is problematic since it has been in the public domain for 28 years. It is its lighting, provided by the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, that poses a problem for photography. To legally divert this constraint, it is necessary to obtain an authorization from this company.


The Arc de Triomphe: originally an elephant...

In 1836, the 50-metre high Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated. Commissioned by Emperor Napoleon I in 1806, the monument was not completed until 1836 under the reign of King Louis-Philippe. The Arc de Triomphe is directly inspired by Roman traditions and their arches, symbolising the end of the fighting and the recognition of the soldiers who fought for the fatherland. The monument is engraved with numerous events and battles, including the departure of the Volunteers (1792), the capture of Alexandria and the battle of Austerlitz. 660 names are inscribed on the inner sides (mostly officers, including those who died in battle). Today, the Place de l'Etoile and its Arch form a commemorative place where each year historical events are commemorated (Armistice of 1918, end of the Second World War in Europe, storming of the Bastille...). If the historical elements of this Arch are more or less known by all, the initial project of Napoleon Bonaparte is less known... Originally, Napoleon Bonaparte wished to place a monument to the glory of his army on the Bastille square. The shape was completely different too, as he wanted an elephant with a museum celebrating the emperor inside. The Little Corporal's advisors finally succeeded in making him change his mind, but the project was not completed until a few years after his death in 1821.


The Place de la Concorde: a once bloody place

Place de la Concorde avec l'obélisque de LouxorThe Place de la Concorde, located at the entrance to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, is one of the most famous squares in Paris.

Its obelisk from Luxor (Egypt, 33 centuries ago), its fountains and its hotels around the place contribute to the charm of the famous square. And if today we cross the paved alleys and stop to admire the landscape, we could not do so a few centuries ago... Formerly named Place de la Révolution, this space was used as a guillotine display. 

After two moves (Place de Grève and Place du Carrousel), the beheading machine was installed on the Place de la Révolution and saw many personalities of the time, judged during the French Revolution, pass through. For thirteen months, 1120 people were beheaded in full view of the public. Among the victims, the first to be beheaded were King Louis XVI and his wife Queen Marie-Antoinette, followed by the feminist and politician Olympe de Gouges, the politician Danton, the chemist Lavoisier, and the controversial Robespierre...


Do you know any other anecdotes about the City of Light?

Other amusing and sometimes surprising tales make the capital a well of stories where myths and reality are mixed. The anecdotes are numerous and surround the whole city. Do you know any others? Which ones surprise you the most?

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