Paris Facts and Trivia

Here are a few fun facts about Paris:

Every body is dying to go there

Cemetery in ParisNapoleon established the Père Lachaise Cemetery in 1804, after inner city cemeteries had been banned in the 1780s, due to health concerns. At first, he could get no customers, as it appeared to be too far from the city proper.

So, with great fanfare, the remains of the famous lovers Abélard and Héloise were transferred there in the year it opened. The publicity paid off and within a short time, the population jumped from a few dozen to over 30,000.

The cemetery is known as the last resting place of major figures in the arts world, ranging from Sarah Bernhardt, that diva of the stage; author Oscar Wilde; American-born dancer Isadora Duncan; and of course, Jim Morrison of the Doors. On seeing the grave, one of Morrison's fellow band members declared it was "too short", and ever since, there has been a rumour that the grave is empty.

They had a lot of "gaul"

Contrary to what some may think, the city was not named after Paris, the King of Troy's son who fell in love with Helen, and carted her home.

Instead, it was got its name from the Parisii, a tribe of Gauls who settled on the Ile de la Cité between 250 and 200 B.C.

That's brilliant!

No, Paris is not called the City of Lights due to the wattage put out from the Eiffel Tower every evening.

The "Lights" of Paris actually referred to the intellectual residents which made Paris a world-renowned centre, drawing other artists, writers and sculptors. But the lightbulbs help.

You're not leaving that thing there, are you?

The Eiffel Tower in ParisYou may be surprised to learn that the Eiffel Tower, erected for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, was only meant to stand for 20 years.

As its end neared, designer Gustave Eiffel suggested to the military that it would make an excellent long-range radio tower.

Contact was made with bases around Paris in 1903, and the installation of a permanent base in the tower in 1906 ensured its survival.

Those Who Can-Can

While reliefs in Egyptian tombs already show dancers in that "over the head" kicking position, the Can-Can is still the fervently claimed property of the French who, as far back as 1549, danced the Triori in South Brittany, with a similar high kicking move.

Reported to be an amalgam of the polka and quadrille, the name was once interpreted as "scandal" (no explanation needed) or "edge", since it was always danced at the very front of the stage.

First danced publicly around 1822, the "immoral" performances were soon shut down by the police. But after "les gendarmes" loosened up a little, the Can-Can became a staple of French music halls between 1830 and 1844, and it is still performed today.

What Goes Up...

The first human beings to take flight did so in Paris, in 1783, when the Marquis d'Arlandes rose majestically into the sky in a hot air balloon and managed to stay there for 20 minutes, on November 21.

In the same year, Louis Sébastien Le Normand took two umbrellas, jumped out of a tall tree and survived. It wasn't quite like the complicated drawings Da Vinci had made of a parachute, hundreds of years before, but it was a work in progress...

Two years later, in 1785, Jean-Pierre Blanchard attached a small basket to a parachute and dropped it from a hot air balloon —with a dog as the unwilling pilot. The dog survived.

But it wasn't until October 22, 1797, that André-Jacques Garnerin climbed out of a hot air balloon and into a similar parachute and basket affair, and descended (successfully) on Paris.

Of course, anything he can do, she can do at least as well: His wife became the first female to parachute, in 1799.