Secrets from basement of France’s presidential palace shared
PARIS » The French presidential wine collection holds 14,000 bottles deemed so precious, few people are allowed to enter the cellar where they are stored. The president’s chefs use 150-year-old copper pans. But the flowers displayed at the presidential palace have a shelf life of a couple of hours, lest the blooms appear past their peak freshness.
These and other behindthe-scenes quirks of the Elysee Palace had a rare public airing Saturday, when the home of French presidents since 1848 opened its heavy and typically closed doors to a small, but lucky group of ordinary citizens.
A few hundred people were invited inside to see the Elysee’s underground kitchen, cellar and florist rooms on Saturday and Sunday. Across France, other usually offlimits sites had weekend windows of accessibility as part of European Heritage Days.
The private tour of what takes place behind the scenes in France’s presidential palace included a chance to buy souvenirs from a new boutique to help finance palace renovations expected to cost 100 million euros ($117 million) over the next seven years.
An underground world exists under President Emmanuel Macron’s office and the Elysee’s 18th-century golden reception rooms, occupied by a small battalion of workers that makes the whole place tick. They labor out of sight in a maze of austere corridors and narrow rooms with artificial light and gray and beige walls.
Every morning, the basement comes to life when fresh produce, fish and meats are delivered to the kitchen and checked for quality. Most of the food — except items like coffee and chocolate — is sourced in France.
The kitchen staff of 28
In this Thursday, Sept. 13photo, a florist prepares flowers in the flower atelier of the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. The French president’s wine cellar contains 14,000bottles so precious that only a lucky few can enter it.