What you might not know about Paris History by Anu Vydehi
I’ve always loved travelling, and with family and friends I have travelled extensively in Europe the past few years, in fact a friend of mine calls me a ‘travel-junkie’ and though I wouldn’t want to be a junkie of any kind, I realise it’s probably very apt for me. I love looking at beautiful landscapes, meeting people from different cultures, seeing different styles of architecture, tasting new and interesting cuisines. I love every aspect of travelling and coming from India, Europe and indeed France has a lot to offer.
For me what makes a trip really meaningful (and thus memorable), is not just what you see, but how much you understand and know about what you see. The interesting story behind a small memorial at the street corner, the history of a church facade, the meaning of a broken branch on a tombstone or a funny anecdote about the position of the horse’s tail on a statue is what makes travel and exploration fascinating!
I think Paris is a truly marvellous city, and like a lot of old cities, has a long history of wars and accessions, of waves of poverty and affluence, of works of art and genius, a history of racism and tolerance, betrayals and acts of bravery beyond belief. It has a unique flavor, and a particular mix of old and new, which makes Paris, Paris.
For example, Did you know that…
- The Musée D’Orsay was used as a mailing centre for sending packages to prisoners of war during the Second World War?!
- Paris is called the ‘City of Light’ because it was one of the first European cities to adopt gas street lighting.
- Montmarte was previously called “Mountain of Martyrs” (Mons Martyrum) because Saint-Denis the first bishop of Paris was beheaded there when he would not renounce his faith.
- The Eiffel Tower was considered a ‘useless monstrosity’ by Paris intellectuals when it was erected. One such intellectual, Guy de Maupassant (the famed French writer), used to insist on eating at the restaurant at the top of the icon as that was the on!y place he could be sure NOT to see the structure!
- The French police are called ‘chickens’ (poulet). This term originates from the tragic events of the Commune of Paris in 1871. When the buildings of the Parisian police burnt down, the new barracks on the Île de la Cité was built on the site of a poultry market! Who knew?
- There is a group in Paris called Les UX that spends most of its time repeatedly breaking into historical sites and monuments to secretly repair them, building (literally) underground cinemas, and staging clandestine artistic events.
- During WWI, France built a ‘Fake Paris’ near the capital city to confuse German pilots.
- A famous brothel in Paris named “Le Chabanais” was frequently visited by King Edward VII. King Edward would fill a bathtub full of champagne to bathe in along with women. That bathtub was then sold to Salvador Dali in 1951!
Whether its modern or ancient history, it is fascinating to uncover the hidden stories behind a city to add perspective. Having been here for three years, I have decided to take this love of history one step further and start sharing more of what I have learned. So as a Mama who loves history, I would like to invite you join me on walks through Paris where I will share my insight with you and hopefully tell you a lot about what you might not know about Paris. If you would like to understand how people, events and places are interconnected, join me on a walk down memory lane.
Currently I’m walking through the Jewish Quarter – which is so rich in history – from the metro Cité, past Notre Dame, to a small and almost hidden memorial behind it, and right up to Rue des Rosiers. Did you know that France has the highest Jewish population outside of Israel and the United States? The highest concentration is in the Marais district of Paris. ‘Le Marais’ so unique? And there are so many questions. Like, what is it’s significance in the history of Paris? How is it connected to the “Ile de la cite”? What is the story behind its changing fortunes? What’s the history of the ebb and flow of the Jewish population here?
If you’ld like to know about this and more, join me on a tranquil walk packed with tons of information and fun.
Next walk: 21st of May 2015. From 10:00am to 12:30pm.
Starting at: Metro Cité. Price: 15 euros. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Anu for all these great facts about Paris. We look forward to hearing more interesting stories about this city from you here on the site. MLP has been on the Anu walk and it is truly fascinating Mamas – great conversation fodder and brilliant exercise!
Anu Vydehi is a Mama of two beautiful children, lives in the 15th arrondissement and always has her head in a book!
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