The Venetian Room
I didn’t actually realize it was a city-wide open house weekend; I had received an e-mail from the French consular services about an open house and tours of the French Consulate and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, just a few blocks north on 5th Avenue, in the Upper East Side.
Unfortunately the details of the e-mail were incorrect so I wasn’t able to tour the Consulate. And the self-guided tour of the Cultural Services was a complete waste: just a few offices you were able to poke your head in.
Ground floor of the Albertine book shop
However, I’m still glad I made the trip to the UES, primarily because it was a great day to walk through Central Park, but also because I discovered that the nicest parts of the Cultural Services are open to the public daily anyways. Housed in the Payne Whitney Mansion, the Venetian Room on the ground floor is the most impressive room, second only to the book store.
The bookstore, named the Albertine, is a two-story oasis with armchairs for reading and a wide selection of books in English and in French.
Ceiling of the second floor of the Albertine
Albertine Books also hosts almost daily events (nearly all free): discussions, book signings, story hours. A calendar of events can be found here.
So while the “special” tours were a flop, it was worth the trip to see what is open to the public anyways!