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O Fim duma Viagem

Chez François Hollande

FRANCE | Thursday, 24 September 2015 | Views [764] | Comments [1]

Saturday and Sunday were the journées du patrimoine. "Journées du patrimoine" being French for "for two days, and two days only, we open a lot of buildings to the public for free."* Saturday plans being what they were, I didn't have the opportunity to take advantage of this. I mean, I'd seen a courthouse, but that was kind of underwhelming. (Not enough harps in it. All courthouses could be improved by the presence of harps.) So on Sunday, I knew I had to make up for it.

Which is why, when my alarm went off at five in the morning, I got up. And I got ready, and I made my way to the Palais.

When I got off the metro, I was greeted with the closest sight I'd had of the Eiffel Tower this trip. (Note to self: go visit the Eiffel Tower.) And it was still night, so she was lit up. It was very nice.

Place de la Concorde

What was less nice was Google's lack of awareness of how I should get to the Palais Elysée. So I ended up walking about fifteen minutes around to the back only to find out that if I'd started off walking the other way, I would have found the queue right away. (And it would have been shorter.) In the span of time it took me to settle into my spot, send a text, and turn around, the line behind me had grown to the point where I couldn't see the end. It was kind of crazy.

Four things you should know about the Palais Elysée: it is the official residence of the President of France, it is considered one of the most beautiful houses, it is only open to the public for the journées du patrimoine, and, because of the above factors, it has a truly exorbitant number of visitors (I think I read ~20,000) when it is open. So to visit, you need to show up early and be prepared to spend your entire day in lines. And when I say “lines” understand that I don’t mean neat or orderly lines. I really mean a clump of people packed tightly together and occasionally being expected to move forward.

Although I probably could have found people to go with me, because I’d decided the night before and mainly on a whim to do this, I waited in the line alone. This had the advantage of allowing me to sneak forward in line slightly (when everyone’s clumped together, it’s rather easy for a single person to work her way farther ahead. It’s really hard for, say, a family of five) and the disadvantage of forcing me to stay in the line instead of being able to leave it and trust my companion to keep my place for me.

The line brought us closer and closer to the entrance, and then to the first security checkpoint. They rattled off a list of items they wanted to know if I had, and I admitted that I did have scissors. So I showed them to her, and was told that at the next checkpoint I should let them know right away. And then I was through!

To another line. Waiting for another security checkpoint. Truly, it was an exciting day.

After showing them the scissors, handing over my bag, and emptying my pockets, I passed through a metal detector, took everything back, and passed through to the gardens. And, for a little bit, I lost track of the line. But, assuming I wanted to actually enter the house I’d been standing in line for about four hours, I had to go stand in another line. The scenery was better, though.





The line in the gardens led to a line in the house that trickled through all of the rooms we were allowed access to before leading us out the back. If all you wanted was to see things quickly so you could get a cheeseburger and Coke for lunch, this would presumably have been aggravating. If you were happy to take your time in the rooms, looking around and taking a lot of pictures, the pace was just fine. And, in some areas, the rooms had few enough people that you could move through them easily, which resulted in a change of the people you were around. My favorite kinds of people to be around were Japanese tourists and French children, since eavesdropping on their conversations was informative and interesting. Though the person who offered a picture-exchange (I took his picture and he took mine) was nice too.

Picture on stairs

The first room was a dining room. There were tables. As one might expect from a dining room. However, one might not expect every table to be set differently, with their own matching glasses, silverware, plates, napkins, and tablecloths. And I imagine that when there are events that require using every table, the tables match each another. But, for presentation purposes, the variety was pretty neat.

Table Setting #1


Table Setting #2

After that, we moved into a smaller room that contained gifts from other foreign leaders. They were all ornamental, and on the fairly impractical side of ornamental. Like miniature glass violins or scaled boats that took up about half that room. All of them were from the last year. Which begs the question… what do they do them the rest of the time? Is it like the stereotypical “mother in law’s visiting! Better pull out the furniture and handknit sweaters that she insists on sending us!” scenario?

Model Boat

We went back through the dining room, which was fairly dull. I imagine the conversation between people designing the layout went something like this.”

“There has to be something else we can show them.”

“There really isn’t.”

“It’s a working house. Even if we shouldn’t literally show them the president’s dirty laundry, there must be other things.”

“Well, it still need to have the theme of dining.”


“Do you want to taunt people who have been standing in a line all morning with food?”

“Hmm, probably not. What about pots and pans?”

“Who wants to see pots and pans?”

“What else are they going to do? Leave?”

Pots and Pans

So that was the main attraction. Behind us was the “winter garden,” which was two potted trees. Turns out winter is not a great season for gardens.

Fortunately, the house picked up again after that with beautiful rooms, paintings, chandeliers, and even objects of interest, like the original of a document signed by Napoleon and the medal for the Grand Master of the Legion of Honour (uncoincidentally, also the president.)

Picture of a picture

Napoleon's Letter

Legion of Honour

Other highlights include Napoleon III’s library, the clock that, during a meeting, lets you tell who’s the President, who’s the Prime Minister, and who else is kind of unimportant, the Salle a Manger Paulin (requested by Georges Pompidou and his wife) and the president’s office.

Library of Napoleon the Third


Salle a Manger Paulin



President's Office

In many ways, I found the Palais Élysée prettier than Versailles. It didn’t have the same “I’m the king, I will do whatever I want, and you need to go along with it” feeling that Versailles had. So it’s beauty was more that of an elegant bride, whereas Versailles felt more like an overly made-up prostitute trying to attract attention.

Palais Élysée was also a lot more cohesive. You walk from one room in Versailles to another, and it barely feels like you’re in the same building. You walk from one room to another in the Palais Élysée, and, although the decorations are noticeably different, they keep elements (usually smaller details) similar enough to give a sense of continuity.

Silver designGold


By the time I finished the tour of the house, it was 13:30 and I’d nearly killed my phone taking pictures. It was time to go home, sit down, eat an actual meal, and relax for the rest of the day with the knowledge that I had taken advantage of it being a Journée du Patrimoine.

If you’re ever in Paris in the third weekend in September, I do highly recommend you go there yourself. If you’re ever in Europe for an extended period of time, you may want to consider a weekend trip to Paris for the third weekend in September just to check it out. It would probably be beneficial to read up on the Palais Élysée, France, and Presidents of France, since one thing that is lacking is specific information on what you’re seeing. But the sights are stunning, and it’s well worth the line. Just bear in mind that Google maps tries to bring you to the wrong entrance.

* That's not a literal translation at all. You should never trust me

Tags: beautiful houses, palais elysee, president



A beautiful set of photos. Thank you for waking up early!

  Barry Sep 24, 2015 7:56 AM

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