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This post is about a short visit I made to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in the late 2000s.
In France, we sometimes simply call it the Quai d’Orsay. It is a metonymy as the building is located on the Quai d’Orsay, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, between the Invalides and the Palais Bourbon (aka the National Assembly). You also may have heard of the Musée d’Orsay, located nearby too.
Here is what the main building looks like, not from the street, but from the inner gardens.
This building is a bit unique among all of the historical government buildings in Paris as it was designed and built (between 1844 and 1856) for such a function. All older government buildings had different purposes when they were created, they only became government buildings later.
Yes, it took 12 years to build it. There is a simple reason for that, it’s called the Revolution of 1848 (the construction probably was stopped for a while, political instability can do that).
I had the chance to visit the Quai d’Orsay when I lived in Paris between 2005 and 2010. This visit had nothing to do with my old job (you know, the one that brought me to the most unique places such as the Prime Minister’s office, or in the room where some of the most precious artifacts of French history are stored).
I could visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanks to the European Heritage Days. Every year, in September, all public buildings are open to the public (as they’re public buildings) for a weekend. It was one of these weekends.
It’s always quite interesting to see such a building from the inside. And not just because it shows us the “reality” of the people that govern us, and how different it is from ours.
It also allowed us to see some pretty interesting artifacts:
The Treaty of Rome
I remember being surprised by how small and basic that desk was. The minister was Bernard Kouchner at the time. And I wouldn’t be totally surprised if his choice for that desk was in order to give a specific image (of sobriety, of “always busy and all around the world, I never have time to sit at my desk for too long” and such). Let’s not forget that the man was a mediatic figure decades before getting involved in politics. He knew how to control his public image, he even was pretty good at it.