About a week ago, I hopped on the Eurostar at St. Pancras Station in London, and two and a half hours later, I found myself in Paris ready for an extended weekend.
A friend had rented an apartment in Paris for a couple of months, and I jumped at the chance to visit both her and the city I adore. Lucky for me, it was the weekend of the Journées du Patrimoine, or Heritage Days as it is translated, when hundreds of buildings not usually open to the public, throw open their doors for the weekend.
I started out early Saturday morning at the Luxembourg Palace.
The palace was built for Marie de Médecis, the mother of Louis XIII. She lived there from 1625-1631, and then she was forced out by her son.
The opulence and the luxury were almost overwhelming.
I could have stayed all day in just one room of the enormous palace, taking in every detail, but there were other buildings on my list for the day.
Before moving on though, there was time to peek into the Senate room. The palace has been the scene of many fascinating events through the centuries, including serving as a museum from 1750 until the French Revolution, a prison during the Revolution, the home of Napoleon, headquarters for Goring during the Nazi occupation of France, and finally serving as the seat for the French Senate until the present time.
Next stop--Hôtel de Ville. L'Hôtel de Ville houses the city's administration, including the mayor's office. King Francis I decided to build the original building in the Renaissance style, but it was burned by the revolting Commune in the late nineteenth century, leaving only a shell of the building.
It was rebuilt in the original style during the years of 1873-92, and at that time the interiors were decorated in a lavish Third Empire style.
Views from the window show the Seine river flowing by, and who do you think takes care of these beautiful locks and latches through the building?
This man does, as you see him exhibiting the "hardware" used throughout. For the weekend, l'Hôtel de Ville took a novel approach. They decided to feature the employees of the magnificent building who keep it looking as beautiful as it is.
The cleaning crew showed off its cleaning tools, along with the cleaning supplies and even its toilet paper.
The awesome Salle des Fêtes is a ceremonial room with elaborate murals and decor. Can you imagine a party here?
There you could watch the in-house florists in all their creativity,
and wouldn't you like this gentleman to clean your chandeliers for you?
In addition to all the beautiful formal rooms, serious business takes place in the City Council room.
A last minute choice for the day was a big surprise. I went into the Hôtel de la Marine on the Place de la Concorde, not knowing what to expect. Originally built between 1757- 1774, it was used as the garde-meuble, which was a storage house for the furniture belonging to the Crown. At the time, the public was allowed in to view the furniture on selected days.
When Louis XVI was brought back to Paris from Versailles in the final days of the Revolution, the Naval Secretary was housed there,
and since that time is has functioned as the home of the Ministry of Naval Affairs. Can you imagine having your meetings in this room,
or in here?
Do you think they are ever distracted by all the opulence?
The location is historical--overlooking the Place de la Concorde as it is known today, but formerly known at the Place Louis XV. It was during the dark days of the French Revolution that is was also called the Place de la Révolution when the guillotine was erected in this square. Many were executed here, and I wonder who watched from this very window as King Louis XVI, and then later Marie Antoinette lost their lives. In one of the darkest months of the summer of 1794, 1300 people were beheaded here. Truly a dark period in France's history.
Hope this post wasn't more history than you enjoyed, but the history, art and architecture of Paris are my passions. Stay tuned for more to come in future posts about some beautiful embassy buildings.