This is big weekend in France, Les Journées du Patrimoine (lay shjoornay due patreemwohn) or Heritage Days. One weekend a year for the past 28 years, the doors to properties that are otherwise closed to the public are open to thousands of visitors. Museums offer special free or fee-reduced exhibits to tempt you inside. One of the big draws is usually the Elysées Palace, the home of the President of France. This year, it’s under extensive renovation, but you can visit the home of the Prime Minister as well as many embassies. Pretty cool! Since 1991 the idea has spread from France to 49 other European countries. There truly is a sense that the important national buildings belong to the people – all French people are part owners of Notre Dame, par exemple. Maybe that’s why historic preservation in North America is in a pretty sorry state; we don’t feel any personal and collective stake in the outcome of a beautiful old building. How I’d love to be in France this weekend to check it all out!