You may have heard of the plan to open a small number of luxury hotel rooms on the grounds of Versailles. The news shocked me because it struck me as so very un-French. Well, the backlash has been growing against the idea, as reported by Claire Rodineau (Versailles: mauvaise réception pour l'hôtel du château, August 18) for Le Figaro (my translation):
"Versailles is not a slot machine!" cries Arnaud Upinsky. The president of the association Coordination Défense de Versailles is strictly opposed to the plan to transform several buildings on the site into a luxury hotel. At the beginning of August, the leadership of the château launched a call for proposals to create a hotel of 23 rooms in the Grand Contrôle, the Petit Contrôle, and the Pavillon des premières cent marches. The three locations have been unused since 2008 and require work costing around 7 million euro. According to the château management, this plan "is part of the politics of renovation and improvement of the space [...], defined some years ago by the Minister of Culture and the Secretary of State for Tourism."Other politicians and activists are also coming out against the plan. Jean-Jacques Aillagon, former Minister of Culture and former director of Versailles, approves the project, noting that the site the hotel will occupy is not in a central part of the grounds.
For his part Arnaud Upinsky sees in it more the symptoms of a "business-ification of Versailles, in the clutches of shop owners and soup sellers." The essayist laments, "The emblem of France is in the midst of becoming Disneyland, and that will not bring profit to the town of Versailles, no more than it will to French people. This will bring profit only to the business owners. A symbol like Versailles, there is only one of them."