Versailles Takes On A New Role: Luxury Hotel France's Palace of Versailles, famed for its Hall of Mirrors and home to the French monarchy since Louis the XIV, is a monument to France's royal grandeur and absolutism past. But this most cherished of cultural museums may soon house a chic five-star hotel.
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Versailles Takes On A New Role: Luxury Hotel

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Versailles Takes On A New Role: Luxury Hotel

Versailles Takes On A New Role: Luxury Hotel

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

As Eleanor Beardsley reports, a part of France's most cherished cultural landmark will soon be turned into a luxury hotel.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Hundreds of shivering tourists line up across an immense, cobbled courtyard to visit the Palace of Versailles. Home to the French monarchy since Louis XIV, Versailles is a monument to royal grandeur. Soon, the palace may also become known for its five-star hotel.

MIKAEL HAUTCHAMP: UNINTELLIGIBLE

BEARDSLEY: Known as the Hotel du Grand Controle, the mansion was built in the 1680s to serve as the offices and home of the king's treasurer, where he lived with his family and servants. The Hotel du Grand Controle was evacuated, along with the rest of Versailles, during the French Revolution. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it fell into further disrepair.

HAUTCHAMP: The walls here, it's completely crumbling in parts. Many parts of this building are in this very damaged situation. It's very difficult for us, because our mission is to save the heritage.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

BEARDSLEY: The restoration is the first in a series of commercial projects aimed at saving French monuments, and visitors will now have chance to see what it felt like to sleep at the palace of Versailles.

HAUTCHAMP: So, when you're here in the bedroom, you open the window and you have this view. So we can see here the Orangerie. And here you can see the castle.

BEARDSLEY: Louise Grether is managing the project for the Belgium hotel company, Ivy.

LOUISE GRETHER: It's quite a pioneering initiative in France for somebody to be able to have the right to take on a project like this in such a historic monument and transform this into an economic project.

BEARDSLEY: Pour quoi pas, says Denise Mosset.

DENISE MOSSET: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: It surprised me at first, says Mosset. But if we don't have the money to restore it, this is better than letting it fall into ruin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SQUEAKY DOOR)

BEARDSLEY: Near the palace, bookshop owner Serge Bessiere says he thinks the new hotel will be a fabulous place to stay and celebrate any occasion. Partying, he says, is part of Versailles' history.

SERGE BESSIERE: (Through translator) Louis XIV never stopped throwing sumptuous feasts and parties to show he was the Sun King and to keep everyone at his mercy.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley, in Versailles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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