Paris is nicknamed the "City of Light," but for a short time in 1918, it was all about staying in the dark. World War I was nearing an end, and while Allied forces appeared poised for victory, the French weren't taking any chances regarding their beloved capital. German pilots were still dropping bombs, so to make sure Paris stayed off their radar, French military planners dreamed up a plan worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster: They'd build a faux Paris. The detailed scheme included a mock Champs-Elysées and Arc de Triomphe, multicolored lamps that gave off the impression of operating factories, wooden building replicas, and phony trains and tracks. The "city" would lie just outside of the real Paris, along a similar stretch of the River Seine. The only problem turned out to be time. Unlike in those dramatic war films, the plot thinned instead of thickened, and no climactic scene ever developed: The pretend Paris was still under construction when Germany launched its final air raid of the war in September 1918.
The light side of the "City of Light":
- Despite being one of the busiest cities in the world, Paris has no stop signs.
- Eighty percent of the visitors to the Louvre -- or about 30,000 people per day -- come to see the "Mona Lisa."
- Every major train station in Paris contains a piano, which anyone is invited to play.