40 Peculiar Facts about Paris

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1Inside the Paris Catacombs

Inside the Paris Catacombs

In 2004 while searching the Paris Catacombs, police discovered a cinema in one of the caverns. It was equipped with a giant screen, seats for the audience, a fully stocked bar, and a complete restaurant. The source of its electrical power and the identity of those responsible remains unknown.

2. "Le Grand K" is a hunk of platinum kept in a vault in Paris, that until recently was the international prototype for a kilogram of weight. A kilogram's weight is now defined based on the laws of the universe so as to avoid a physical object that decays over time.

3. In 1719, prisoners in Paris were allowed to go free, under the condition that they marry prostitutes and go with them to Louisiana. The newly married couples were chained together and taken to the port of embarkation.

4. When Paris was liberated in 1944, British and American commanders wanted only white soldiers to be involved in the leading French unit, despite the French army being only 40% white. All black soldiers were taken out of an available unit and replaced by white ones from other units.

5. During the 1870s Prussian siege of Paris, supplies and food were so dire that after slaughtering all the farm animals and pets, eventually the animals in the zoo were killed. There is even a copy of a restaurant menu from the time that included dishes like elephant consommé and roast camel.

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6Moving Sidewalk

Moving Sidewalk

Paris used to have a moving sidewalk around the year 1900. It moved at 6 miles per hour.

7. There is a grocery store named "Thanksgiving" in Paris that sells U.S. "cuisine" like Pop-Tarts, Heinz ketchup, and Skippy peanut butter to homesick ex-pats.

8. Paris has a Counterfeit Museum which displays the most impressive and accurate knock-offs of popular goods that the authorities have confiscated.

9. In 1867, a jar was found in Paris containing a human rib among other artifacts, and a label claiming that they belonged to Joan of Arc. Tests conducted in 2006 revealed that they came not from Joan of Arc, but an Egyptian mummy.

10. It was illegal for women of Paris to wear pants, till February 2013, when France lifted the 200-year-old ban.

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11Teddy Bear Hospital

Teddy Bear Hospital

Sorbonne University in Paris has a “Teddy Bear Hospital” that introduces child patients to the medical field via teddy bears to help overcome their fears, while also training medical students to adapt their explanations of medicine to young patients

12. In 1240, King Louis IX of France put the Jewish Talmud on trial. Four rabbis defended the Talmud, but to no avail. The trial ended with 24 carriage loads of Jewish religious manuscripts being set on fire in the streets of Paris.

13. Lafayette’s grave in Paris is filled with dirt from Massachusetts as he wished to be buried in American soil. Additionally, the flag remained in place during World War 2 because the Nazis never looked behind the private cemetery’s walls.

14. Until 2015, French law prohibited bakers in Paris from taking vacations at the same time, to avoid a bread shortage like the one that helped cause the French Revolution. Bakers meet to decide who would be open in July and who would be open in August.

15. Giant Iron Balls were rolled through Paris' sewers to clear blockages.

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16Eternal Flame Extinguished

Eternal Flame Extinguished

The eternal flame at Arc de Triomphe in Paris has only been extinguished once: by drunken Mexican football fans who urinated it after the final of the 1998 World Cup when France defeated Brazil.

17. Paris had a pneumatic post system, where you could send your mail through tubes until 1984.

18. Paris Metro trains drive on the right rather than the left and its tunnels are narrower than main-line ones in order to prevent them from being absorbed into the national railway network.

19. During 19th century construction of Paris' underground sewers, workers found lost medieval dungeons, jewels, and the skeleton of an orangutan that had previously escaped from the zoo.

20. The University of Paris existed for 820 years from 1150 AD to 1970, when it was broken up for being the main source of student revolutionaries who nearly overthrew the French government in May 1968.

21Lafayette, we are here!

Lafayette, we are here!

In 1917, during World War 1, U.S. troops in Paris stopped at the grave (composed of soil from the U.S.) of French Revolutionary War Hero, Marquis de Lafayette, and proclaimed “Lafayette, we are here!”

22. Paris was the first western capital to have a black mayor. Severiano de Heredia became the mayor Paris in 1879.

23. Before 1976, American wine had a terrible reputation internationally until an event where Stag's Leap, an American winery, won first place against French wines. The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 thus became known as the Judgment of Paris. In 2006 the same vintages were re-tasted and Stag’s Leap beat all French wines and took 2nd place.

24. The opera house in Paris that the Phantom of the Opera is based on actually has an underground lake beneath it, just like in the book and musical.

25. When Paris's Cemetery of the Innocents was moved, the human remains (decomposed to mostly fat deposits) were made into candles.

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