Saturday, September 16, 2006

Journées du Patrimoine, Paris; Part I

Journées Européennes du Patrimoine

Each year in September, for one weekend, the governments of European nations open the doors to buildings, monuments and sites to the public, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. The thought is to widen access to the government and foster good will among the people of the nation. This event, Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, European Heritage Days or Doors Open Days, started in France in 1984 and spread to other European nations over the years. Other nations even on other continents are sponsoring similar events.

Exceptional Openings

This year was the third year I was able to enjoy this grand event, sponsored by the Ministre de Culture. Memorable visits have included visiting the once-per-year opening of the Sénat de France, Manufacture des Gobelins de Beauvais et de la Savonnerie (hand woven carpets in the ancient tradition), Opéra, Hotel de Sens. Each visits offers a special look at France and it's culture.

Palais de l'Elysée

Last year the thought crossed my mind that to visit the Palais de l'Elysée would be excellent. Palais de l'Elysée is the residence and offices of the President of France, Jaques Chirac. This thought must have crossed the minds of many hundreds of other people's minds last year and much before I arrived at the line end of the line it streched as far as I could see. The guard said it was too late to visit.

This year I planned ahead, I rose early and arrived at the line at 8:20am. The tour started at 10:00am giving me plenty of time. Of course there was already a crowd in line and I walked to the end of the line. Walking to the end of the line took over ten minutes. The wait in line to the front door was three and a half hours.

In the end, the visit was worth the wait as one can see from the photos.

Most impressive was the State Dining room with a large table dwarfed by the immensity of a the dining room surrounded by curtains with a huge painted ceiling above. The table was perfectly set, chairs removed for the visitors to have a perfect view. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling high above.

Hotel de Marigny

Hotel de Marigny is the residence of visiting foreign states of head or other dignitaries. Hotel de Marigny is located directly across the street from the Palais de l'Elysée so those foreign dignitaries need not take the long motorcades across Paris. I was impressed by the luxury of the Hotel. Remember that Hotel once meant hostel since there was not really the concept of traveling like one does today. Hotels were permanent residences that sometimes hosted travelers.

Hotel de Beauvau

Hotel de Beauvau is the residence of the Secretary of the Interior, one of the most important posts in the French government. The post is currently held by the conservative Nicolas Sarkosky who is very popular and likely the next president of France. I did not take a photgraph of "Sarko's" desk. No computer was visible.

The Hotel de Beauvau is quite large, not as elegant as either Hotel de Marigny or certainly the Palais de l'Elysée. There are many bureaucratic offices and functional rooms, without interest. Interestingly during World War II, there were interrogation rooms for French resistance fighters. Hotel de Beauvau was taken over by the Germans during WWII for their use, particularly by the German Gestapo.

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