This past weekend I visited the Palais de l’Elysée, home to French Presidents and thus the current residence of Nicolas and Carla Sarkozy. The Palais is only open to the public 2 days each year during the Journées de Patrimonies (Patrimony Days), along with all the other important government buildings. This year, the weekend coincided with the Techno parade so Paris was inundated with tourists, French people visiting their important sites, and teenagers with dyed hair, ripped neon tights, and converse sneakers.
I gained many insights into the French psyche while visiting the Palais, the greatest of which I learned while still in line to get in. I spent approximately 2.5 hours in line to get inside the grounds. While in line I was able to examine all the others around me. There were the Japanese tourists taking pictures with their iphones, the Spanish talking fast and picnicking in line, the German tourists continually leaving the line once they realize it would take to long, and the French abhorring all the other tourists. Instead of miserably but decently waiting in line, they would just cut in front of whatever group was busy in front of them. I watched 2 French people cut about 50 people in small increments before getting inside. The French, it seems, have no respect for The Line, a principal my good American self learned in elementary school. They cut boldly, making eye contact and glaring you down. The foreigners just look surprised, but don’t resist. As for the French who get cut, they merely bide there time than return the favor. They do not confront, but instead silently combat. I have since been noticing this same principal everywhere. The French thrive on having rules merely to disobey them, which is almost respected. The love cross walks so they can know the one spot not to cross, and lanes in the road so they can relish not driving in them, and many a time do you see a French person smoking next to a no smoking sign. It is a culture that (not surprisingly) thrives on a million little revolts every day.
Once inside the Palais, I was delighted by the ornate splendor of it all. Note the picture ofSarkozy’s office for a perfect example. Furthermore, the very nature of the items on display was amusing. There was one small plaque denoting the room in which Napoleon I signed his abdication, but an entire chamber devoted to framed menus of what all the important heads of state have eaten while at the Palais. But then who could expect less?