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France’s Versailles to re-open Saturday after COVID-19 lockdown ease

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France’s sumptuous Palace of Versailles, built in the 17th century by the “Sun King” Louis XIV, throws its doors open to the public again on Saturday but with little certainty over when tourists will return as lockdown curbs are slowly eased.

Workers on Friday dusted the Hall of Mirrors and polished its gilded statues ahead of the reopening, which will see visitors required to wear face masks and follow a one-way route through the opulent 2,300-room complex.

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The coronavirus crisis has dealt a heavy financial blow to the palace and France’s other leading cultural attractions. Ticket sales to the eight million people who passed through the palace gates in 2019 made up 75% of revenues. Four in every five visitors is foreign.

“This financial model has been devastated. We have to start again,” Catherine Pegard, who runs the palace, told Reuters. “We’re not the only ones.”

Louis XIV craved the palace as a symbol of France’s prominence as a European superpower and his perceived divine right to wield absolute power. It remained the principle royal residence until the French Revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy nearly eight decades after his death.

The palace is one of the most visited sites France, itself the world’s favorite tourist destination.

But as France emerges cautiously from lockdown – its borders remain closed to most outsiders – the palace anticipates only a fifth of the 20,000 visitors it used to host on peak days. Tickets must be bought in advance.

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A roped walkway will guide visitors through the famed Hall of Mirrors, where Germany and the Allied Nations signed the treaty ending World War One, and the ornate King’s Grand Apartment.

“We’ve cleaned the mirrors, dusted the chandeliers and the torches. Conditions are exceptional,” Pegard said.

(REUTERS)


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Kayleigh McEnany says she has no ‘data’ on whether Tulsa rally increased COVID — but city official says it likely did

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At Wednesday's White House briefing, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was confronted with the fact that President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma led to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Her reply was to plead ignorance: "I have no data to indicate that."

However, according to a health official in Tulsa, the pattern of cases indicates it is "likely" that it did just that.

"President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests 'likely contributed' to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday," reported Sean Murphy for the Associated Press. "Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday."

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New Hampshire Republican officials aren’t interested in attending Trump’s upcoming rally

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President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was supposed to be massive, but one of the main problems that came up for the team is that thousands and thousands of people signed up for tickets, who never attended. This time, they think they've figured it out, said the New York Times.

"Campaign officials believe they will be able to prevent the kind of ticket prank that helped turn Mr. Trump's rally last month," the report said, noting that the crowd was a "far smaller event than expected — but they still can't say for sure."

"Registering for a rally means you've RSVPed with a cellphone number, and we constantly weed out bogus numbers," campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh said. "These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking. What makes this lame attempt at hacking our events even more foolish is the fact that every rally is general admission — entry is on a first-come-first-served basis, and prior registration is not required."

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One-third of Americans couldn’t pay their rent or mortgages this month

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On July 1, 32 percent of Americans weren't able to pay their mortgage, CNBC cited a survey from Apartment List.

The high unemployment rate has turned into people being unable to afford to pay their bills anymore, and the stimulus checks seem to be gone.

"About 19 percent of Americans made no housing payment at all during the first week of the month, and 13 percent paid only a portion of their rent or mortgage," said the report.

To make matters worse, it's the fourth month in a row of record-high numbers of Americans who couldn't pay their housing bills on time or in full. It was 30 percent in June and 31 percent in May.

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