Se­crets from base­ment of France’s pres­i­den­tial palace shared

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - TRAVEL - By Sylvie Corbet

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

SYLVIE CORBET - THE AP

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.

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