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French Culture – Architectural Oddities Posted by on Mar 3, 2020 in Culture, Language, Vocabulary

The news from France doesn’t stop (apparently some people think that Emmanuel Macron is more than just a bad president) and I do want to touch on the spread of Covid-19 in France, but in times like these, we can all use a little bit of divertissement (distraction).

L’architecture … hmmm … de Paris?

Everyone knows that Paris is one of the world’s great architectural cities. From Notre-Dame (avant le feu) to the Louvre Pyramid to the berges de la Seine, everywhere you look, Paris has something spectacular to see. But would you believe that everything is not always as it seems?

I recently learned two interesting facts that I wanted to share with you. Paris it turns out has a fair number of buildings that hide secrets behind their fronts1Their fronts are nothing but fronts! 😉.


First, it turns out that there are a number of buildings in Paris that aren’t what they seem. In a city famous for les façades de ses immeubles (it’s building fronts) some of the fameuses façades are nothing but … façades!  These façades factices (faux fronts) hide ventilation shafts for the city’s public transportation system, elements of the electrical grid, and more.

You can see images of some of these secret places here and here.


Another interesting detail you may see walking around the city is des portes ou des fenĂȘtres bouchĂ©es (blocked doors or windows). Why, you might ask yourself, would anyone want to block up their access or their view in one of the world’s great cities (and across France). The answer, as is often the case, is money.

After the revolution, the French government needed to raise money. One way they did this was through real-estate taxes. But since they didn’t want to have to go into everyone’s home to measure the area, they used the number of windows and doors in a building as a proxy for the space inside!

And what did the enterprising French do to save money? They blocked up their windows and doors to reduce their impÎts (taxes)!


Le Covid-19 is sadly spreading in France comme ailleurs (like elsewhere). As of le 2 mars, 2020 (March 2, 2020) “11 des 13 rĂ©gions françaises sont touchĂ©es” (11 of France’s 13 regions are affected)2Note: If you watch the accompanying video you will hear that “douze (12) des treize (13) rĂ©gions sont affectĂ©es” … a difference from the printed report with 191 cases and “trois dĂ©cĂšs” (three deaths).

As in many countries, the spread of the virus remains unclear and “les Ă©pidĂ©miologistes tentent de remonter la chaĂźne de contact” (specialists are trying to follow the transmission pathways).

Primary Photo by Lex Photography from Pexels
Stethoscope photo https://www.pexels.com/photo/computer-desk-laptop-stethoscope-48604/

  • 1
    Their fronts are nothing but fronts! 😉
  • 2
    Note: If you watch the accompanying video you will hear that “douze (12) des treize (13) rĂ©gions sont affectĂ©es” … a difference from the printed report
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.