IMG_4749During the second weekend of September, France opens the doors on many buildings that normally are off-limits, in honor of les Journées de Patrimoine, or Heritage Days. It is the perfect opportunity for the curious/nosy/antique-lovers to eyeball  how the French really live and work.

For example, I found my dream office, pictured above and below.IMG_4754Don’t you agree it meets all the criteria? Awesome chandelier? Check. Amazing drapes on French doors that open to Juliette balconies? Check. High ceilings and moldings? Check. Mega mirrors, gilt? Check. Silver candlesticks (in case the lights go out, probably)? Check. Herringbone floors with carpets? Check.IMG_4751Gigantic Aubusson tapestry that coordinates with the Empire (?? feel free to correct me) seating.

Sigh. I could be very productive in an office like this. It’s at the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie, in the hôtel de Murat, an 18th century building. It was built by the family of a local judge, but the proprietors fled in 1792 during the Revolution and the property was confiscated. IMG_4767That includes their amazing library and its 13,206 books. In addition to the classics in French, Greek and Latin, there also are precious manuscripts dating back to the 14th century.

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The smell of a library is a heavenly perfume.
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View toward a courtyard. Perfect.

 

 

Check out the jib door covered with fake books!

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Today it’s a meeting room. With a very functional, not-of-the-époque folding table…and the typical French ingenuity for electrical wiring (look in the fireplace). IMG_4762

But that mantle! And the mantle clock!

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They don’t make ’em like they used to.

The stairwell was a work of art.

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Molding on the stairwell ceiling.
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All the right curves.
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Had I known that acorn was just screwed on I would have come prepared. Note: Phillips screwdriver.
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A modern, but not too, light fixture. I like the one in the office better.

We also visited the Palais de Justice. I didn’t get a shot of the biggest of the three courtrooms because a mock trial was under way. I got lost in the back and forth of the trial–dogs biting cows, a fight, a broken phone….my kid informed me afterward that the witnesses kept changing their stories. No wonder I was confused. The audience was full of nonchalantly chic French parents with their mostly teenage kids, everyone riveted by the proceedings. I have never seen such a concentration of good haircuts. IMG_4727

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Nice ceilings.
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Fancy above, but simplicity below.
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Marianne in another courtroom.
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One of three holding cells in the basement. Only two were empty; the third was full of books and document boxes! Our guide was a judge, who wore a simple black outfit with a fabulously vivid long jacket.

We also popped into the Musée des Beaux Arts. Most museums are free during the Heritage Days. I prefer to focus on the buildings that aren’t usually open to the public, rather than just avoiding a museum entry fee. Plus, we’ve been to the museum before. But we were walking in front of it, so we went inside.

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The plate on the back of a massive fireplace in the museum entrance.
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A pineapple this time! And a straight screw.
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These doors have seen better days. I love that they haven’t been fixed up, painted, or, worst of all, replaced.
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THAT’S a hinge worthy of the name.

The museum was actually purpose-built, in 1836. It isn’t huge and it doesn’t have big-name artists. I find that’s a plus–no crowds jostling for a photo of a painting (I understand wanting to get close to examine, but why a photo? just buy one at the gift shop!) or a selfie with a sculpture. People actually look at all the works, rather than passing over the “nobodies” in search of the Famous Artists. The benefits of Carcassonne–small and civilized.

Tell us your stories about les Journées du Patrimoine! Last year’s visit is here.

 

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35 thoughts on “Journées de Voyeurism

  1. I have wanted to see the inside of the Grand Theater in Bordeaux since my first trip there a year ago. When I learned it was open for this, I booked a nice, cheap weekender ticket and was on my way! Once I finished there, I did the same as you and tried to find places not normally open to the public, but there was one stop that I made because I only learned of it from the guide – it turned out to be one that is open to the public for a fee normally.

    I’m excited for the event next year! The only debate is whether to wander around in Poitiers (close to home) or take a train to a larger city and enjoy the full event. I wish I had spent the full weekend in Bordeaux instead of just the day because there were concerts and other events on Saturday night 🙂

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    1. They post the list in advance, so you can make lists and compare. There were some private châteaux a bit out of town that I didn’t have time for (the mock trial ate up a chunk, but was interesting). Next year!

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    1. Around here, lines are unheard-of, for almost anything. The benefits of a small city. When I would do the Journées de Patrimoine in Paris, I rarely found crowds, perhaps because I went to off-beat ministries, and the hordes tend to stick to the best-known places. I also would sign up for the tours, which offer not only wonderful back story but also entry to some rooms that are too special or private to just leave the doors open.

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  2. *makes notes for next year’s calendar*
    The perfume of a library is better than anything from a bottle. Well, with one or two exceptions, both French. 🙂 And, oh!, that room and glorious chandelier.

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    1. Oh, definitely, if you are off-season, you must take advantage! I had a list of private properties, but just as a parent never says no when a kid asks for vegetables, so too a parent never says no when a kid wants to learn about careers, especially those of being a lawyer or judge! So the mock trial it was, and too bad for the chateaux. Next year!

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  3. What a wonderful opportunity to be able to do this. I’m always curious about places that are closed off from the general public….behind tall walls…..beyond closed door.
    Ali

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  4. YES! check. check. check. I could be amazingly productive in an office like that. Absolutely swoon worthy. Thank you so much for taking us with you on the tour, I love it! xo Lidy

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  5. I was in Paris one year during this weekend and I cannot even remember what I saw but it was fabulous! It was a Hotel Particulier and currently serving as an embassy. IT was the only building we saw because the lines were so long. But it was still fun.

    I love your photos, this library looks magical. I could imagine creating a lot in that office.

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    1. Yes, in Paris the lines can be huge. That’s one benefit of taking a tour there–you pay for the tour but you pass the lines. In smaller cities like Carcassonne, there are no lines at all.

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