It's that time again: The 32nd annual Journées du Patrimoine takes place this weekend, September 19 and 20, in cities and villages all over France. The program was created by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's also called European Heritage Days). It's one of my favorite weekends of the year.
The idea is that thousands of historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates and domaines are open to the public for special weekend visits and events...along with many private sites that are normally, um, private. Most sites have a guide on hand leading tours and answering questions...and most (but not all) offer free entry. Some sites or events may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. The website with all the participating venues is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main Patrimoine website lists just eight participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But the village itself has published its own terrific guide and map featuring 21 participating sites...you can see it here (and a map is here).
For other villages and cities in the South of France, here are some Patrimoine schedules I could find online: Aix, Arles, Marseille, Avignon, Carpentras/Mont Ventoux, Nimes, Uzes, Tarascon, Vaison la Romaine, Orange, the Vaucluse region, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Cassis and St. Tropez.
For others, here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence.
The main Patrimoine website in English is here and you can also download region-by-region schedules here.
Finally, a bit of advice for those of you who speak little or no French: get a fluent friend to join you (offer to buy 'em lunch--that always works). While you can still enjoy the site itself--whatever it is--most of the narrations are in French only and learning from the experts on hand is a big part of the appeal.
Vive le Patrimoine de France!
Photos: Get out there and explore! A few of the thousands of sites offering Patrimoine events include The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar (Alsace), the fantastical houses of Jacques-Emile Lecaron in Clamart, the Théâtre Antique d'Orange, La Cite Radieuse by Le Corbusier in Marseille, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Cap Ferrat, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the recently re-opened museum Hotel du Sade in St. Remy, the Jewish Cemetery in St. Remy, the Maison du Riz in the Camargue, the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, the Heliport of Paris (photo coutesy Nicolas Gauthier), The Chateau de Thouzan in Thouzan and of course, the Eiffel Tower.