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how others do it – France from NY Times

More than 10,000 privately and publicly owned landmarks in France will be open to the public during the annual Journees Europeenes du Patrimoine weekend festival on Sept. 21 and 22. Most of these sites — government offices, factories, convents and chateaus — are off limits for tourists the rest of the year. Nearly all will be free of charge.

In Paris, the late-19th-century orchid collections in the Luxembourg Gardens greenhouses will be open to the public, as will the Art Deco amphitheater at the Institute of Political Science, on the Rue St.-Guillaume. Visitors can also admire the Ministry of Justice, 13, place Vendome, near the Place de la Concorde, and, in the Seventh Arrondissement, the prime minister’s council chamber in the 18th-century Hotel de Matignon and the Assemblee Nationale in the Palais Bourbon and the Hotel de Lassey, as well as the Ministries of Youth and Education, and Agriculture. In the scenic Pays d’Auge countryside of Normandy, the 16th-century half-timbered Manoir de Cauvigny, ancestral home of Charlotte Corday, will open its doors for the weekend. On Sunday, Strasbourg celebrates the 250th anniversary of its School for Equitation, Fencing and Dance with riding, saber demonstrations, Baroque dance and a two-hour parade through town. Children at the 11th-century Loches Dungeon near Tours can try their hand at copying the graffiti cut into the stone by medieval prisoners.

Detailed schedules will be posted at regional tourist offices throughout the festival. In Paris, a Journees du Patrimoine information kiosk at the Jardins du Palais-Royal is open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 16 to 22. Information: (33-1) (from Sept. 16) or online at (French only). CORINNE LaBALME

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