Monday, September 26, 2011

la journee de patrimoine

It’s a Saturday morning and it’s 6am.  Why am I up and leaving my apartment at this hour?  Well because it’s the weekend of La Journee de Patrimoine and I’m off to meet a friend and stand in line for (as it turns out) 3 ½ hours to take a little tour through Le Palais de l’Elysee.
La Journee de Patrimoine is a weekend event held once a year where many state owned properties are open to the public for free to discover and learn more about French heritage.  It is, however, more than just heritage.  Many articles mention the difficulty in adequately describing the initiative in english, because it is more than just heritage.  I decided to look it up and translated, ‘Patrimoine’, means ‘Heritage’ but also ‘Inheritance’.  It is Inheritance, it is ownership, it is the French Inheritance.
It says, ‘this is a part of you’, ‘be proud of this’.  An exciting and privileged position which enables you to get a rare glimpse inside these historic buildings, to learn a little bit more about the Savoir-Faire Francais.
J informs me that the tour starts at 8.30am but he advises me that there will be a queue so we should be there about 7am.  OK, so I’m there at 7am thinking this will be fine we will get in have a look around and then go have a late breakfast…….mais au contraire……the line was winding its way all the way back to the US Embassy! That’s about a kilometre away people!  So J and I entertain ourselves with stupid IQ games and around 11am we are shuffled across the street into the fort knox that is their security system.  (I mean I know my bag has a lot of pockets, but seriously did you have to go through ALL of them?) Bref.
To say that it was incredible is a clear understatement. Nearly 300 years of history in that one building.  It was originally built as a townhouse in 1722 and saw many different owners including the Marquise of Pompadour, Louis XV, Louis XVI the Duchess of Bourbon, Emperor Napolean 1st, Louis XVIII….
Once a private home, then a townhouse to accommodate Extraordinary Ambassadors* and foreign State guests who came to Paris, it eventually became part of the Crown estates and was finally named the official residence of the President of the French Republic around 1874.
Although the Palace as it stands today is due to a renovation completed in 1853, it still contains many pieces from the early 18th century.  Tapestries made by Gobelins from 1763, furniture sculpted in the 1700s, portraits of European Heads of State, furniture from Louis XVI. 
The design may not be to everyone’s tastes and although heavily ornate I found it to be magical.  The intricate mouldings on the walls, the thick curtains, the delicate embroidery and floral walls and my absolute favourite, the carpets!  But it’s not only for its rich layering of textiles, colour and detail but also because these things describe history.  Imagine Madame Pompadour sashaying through the halls, her taffeta-silk skirt scrunching as she rounds the corner.  Napolean sitting in the Salle d’Argent writing his abdication.  Waltzing under the grand chandeliers in the Salle de Fete with Louis XV, XVI or XVIII!  Taking a turn around the gardens……yup I’m a dreamer AND a complete unashamed romantic….
There is so much I could share with you, but this will have to be enough for today….hope you enjoy this stately inheritance...

a quiet champs elysees

J preparing himself for the splendour ahead...

soldiers arriving for carpool

we're getting closer!

and we've arrived.

Napolean 1st's abdication letter

my favourite room (Madame Sarkozy's office)

yes I could live here

Le salle de Fete

menu's from state dinners...this one was 1896!

the carpets were my favourite!

the portrait room - a private office for NS where he has added a contemporary touch

Queen Victoria

not sure.....but he looks russian...

Madame Pompadour

NS work office (with a rather inspector gadget style phone system)

the plethora of vehicles

slightly more conventional staircase

and me being....patriotic...

*what makes an EXTRAordinary ambassador?
*La Journee de Patrimoine was on the 18th & 19th of September 2011

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