Last weekend was the once-a-year Journées Patrimoine, when various historical & artistic buildings are opened to the public (when they're normally off limits). 2008 marks its 25th year, and Le Figaro said attendance was high again. Over 12 million people took advantage of the open doors, with over 20,000 people alone visiting the Elysée (France's equivalance of the White House). We went to the Elysée last year. Eric woke up early that morning, and while watching the morning news, he learned about the event. (I was working so much then that I didn't even know what day it was, let alone what was happening in Paris!) Next, he woke me up & we literally got out the door in 5 minutes or less. We rushed to get in line at 8:00....well ahead of the 9:30am opeing.... and still, it was a 6 hour wait. But we became fast friends with our neighbor, waited it out with the crowd, and once we were finally rewarded with the entrance tickets, we walked in building and we were amazed & awed at every corner we turned. Luckily, it was worth the wait. Too bad we forgot the camera at home!
This year was equally unplanned. On Saturday we were on our way to some mysterious address to exchange our cable box (at a Tabac of all places), and as we were passing through Palais Royale, we noticed lines were forming for the event. So, of course we did a detour & headed straight in. What we saw here were grandiose offices of the Minister of Culture & Communication, the Conseil d'Etat, and Le Conseil constitution, each overlooking the interior gardens of the Palais Royale. These guys work in class! All of it was incredible. The architecture is amazingly fluid and majestic and breathtaking. All the gilded rooms were over-the-top beautiful that can only be beautiful in spaces such as this, I think. And guess what, no camera again on this day, too!
Sunday was going to be different on the pictures front. We decided to check out places "dans nôtre coin" (in our neighborhood). We went to the Bank de France. This is an enormous series of buildings, in the Haussman style, with various courtyards hidden inside. I thought we might see the lobby of the bank, which is very magestic in it's own right (turn of the 20th century I would guess). But no, what we saw were rooms & rooms filled with antiques, and more gilded mirrors and moldings! This time there are pictures to share. We also went to the Bibliotèque Nationale (picture on right). It's going under a renovation right now to restore it to its original glory, so next year it won't be open for this event. All the books have been removed from the shelves in preparation for the restoration, but that didn't mask the sense of history and revrence. We learned that this library was really cutting edge technology for it's time. It even had a pneumatic tube system installed where all book requests would be sent to the back warehouse, where someone would receive the tube & find the book out of shelves & shelves of inventory! We also learned that there's quite a large collection in the coins museum. I might've expected to see that at the Banque de France, but oh well, who says things always need to be logical!