Behind the Doors of the French National Assembly

Journées du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days) is a wonderful event that takes place over a weekend in September. During the weekend, many buildings and monuments are open to the public and often for free. While many standard tourist destinations are open for free or reduced entry (such as the museums), what makes this weekend extra special is that many sites only allow entry to the general public over these two days of the year.

I recommend taking advantage of these exclusive openings, or at least going to places that are difficult to see during the year. Start planning right now - Les Journées du Patrimoine is this weekend, September 20-21!

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This Weekend in Paris: Journées du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days)

Bon lundi!

Have you ever walked around Paris and imagined what decadent interiors lie behind the walls of the buildings? I had always wondered this about Paris’ town hall, Hôtel de Ville. Until the weekend came when I no longer had to imagine the grandeur behind the normally closed-to-public doors and got the opportunity to go inside, for free.

That same special weekend is upon us (September 20-21, 2014): Journées du Patrimoine.

For one weekend, many museums, historical buildings, and points of interest open their doors to the general public and often do so free of charge. This weekend is part of the European Heritage Days. The idea to make certain buildings and monuments accessible to the public originated in France, and now it is a weekend observed throughout Europe. This means if you are not in Paris but elsewhere in France or Europe, see if there are any happenings going on where you are. It's a wonderful weekend of getting to see places that are part of the fabric of European heritage and history, open to all.

If you are lucky enough to be in Paris, there are countless sights to choose from so consult the official website ahead of time and make a plan of attack! 

Many sights and monuments that are already normally open to the public participate and offer free entry (such as Sainte-Chapelle or the towers of Notre-Dame). My personal preference would be to visit buildings only open to the public this one weekend out of the year. And I would start with the beautiful Hôtel de Ville:

Hôtel de Ville was so magnificent inside I want to go again this year!

More to follow on this, but for some immediate inspiration check out my past posts on two sights I saw last year, Hôtel de Ville and Musée des Arts Forains. Stay tuned! 

After Christmas Special: Le Musée des Arts Forain

Nestled in the Bercy neighborhood of Paris lies an unexpected surprise - the largest museum in Europe featuring fairground art. Le Musée des Arts Forain is Jean-Paul Favand's private collection and can normally only be viewed by appointment. However, there are a handful of days that the collection is open to the public (with an admission fee). This year it was open during the Journées du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days) and will also be open from December 26, 2013 - January 5, 2014.

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Carnivals and Carousels

Bon lundi!

Intrigued by this photo? The arm coming out of a tree is not a Halloween gimmick, but part of a museum in Paris dedicated to fairground art: Le Musée des Arts Forains

Let's stay with that last thought...there is actually a museum in Paris full of carnival rides and carousels, and it is open to the general public for a very limited time each year.  Mark your calendars for the next opening, from December 26, 2013 through January 5, 2014, and stay tuned for an insider's look later this week.

When a Hôtel is not a Hotel

If you are like me, an initial visit to France can leave you quite confused what the meaning of the word hôtel denotes in French. I felt encouraged my first short vacation to Paris when I seemed to be picking up on a few French words. I got off the line 1 metro stop at Hôtel de Ville, looked in amazement at the building in front of me, and turned to my husband asking, "Wow, how much do you think it costs to stay there?" Then I looked across rue de Rivoli and saw a department store called BHV (Bazaar de l'Hotel de Ville). And a little later I found that many museums in the Marais neighborhood are housed in hôtels. It appeared that the French just called anything a "hotel" in the city.

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