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Thousands visit presidential palace on Heritage Days

Article published on the 2008-09-21 Latest update 2008-09-21 13:58 TU

Nicolas Sarkozy (C) and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy walk inside the Elysee Palace(Photo: Reuters)

Nicolas Sarkozy (C) and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy walk inside the Elysee Palace
(Photo: Reuters)

Over 10,000 people visited France's presidential palace on Saturday, the first of two open days which are part of the annual Heritage Days observed throughout the country. Over the weekend 15,000 public buildings, along with gardens and artisans' and artists' studios, are open to the public free of charge in a tradition which started in 1984.

As well as an advance showing of a television documentary on the history of the Elysée Palace, early visitors could meet the president and his world-famous wife before they left for a weekend in New York.

Sarkozy will attend the UN General Assembly on Monday and Tuesday.

By the end of Saturday officials were hailing a "historic success" with 10,247 visitors to the presidential palace, compared to 15,000 for the whole weekend last year.

Visitors were able to see the president's office and three rooms never before open to the public, the library, the Silver Room and a dining room decorated by designer Pierre Paulin under the presidency of Georges Pompidou in the 1970s.

The Heritage Days, which began in 1984, take place every year on the third weekend of September.

All was not harmony this year. Trade unionists leafleted the official opening at the Culture Ministry to protest at alleged degradation in their working conditions and the services they aim to provide.

Paris also saw the tenth annual Techno Parade. Organisers claim that 500,000 people joined the procession between the city's two opera houses, police put the figure at 80,000.

With help from the city council, 100,000 earplugs were disributed free as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of tinnitus.