July 04, 2014

French Friday: America in Paris



It's the 4th of July and all over the USA we are celebrating America's birthday with picnics, parades, and fireworks. In honor of Independence Day, today's French Friday highlights the special relationship that has existed between these two great republics for over two hundred years. In fact, the United States of America was officially recognized as an independent nation on September 3, 1783 at the Hôtel d'York, 56 rue Jacob, where our founding fathers signed the Treaty of Paris. Americans in Paris can see tributes to their own country all over the French capital. There are streets dedicated to American statesmen: Franklin, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Jefferson, as well as an Avenue de New York. There are plaques in the neighborhoods of Montparnasse, Saint-Germain, and Montmartre commemorating venues where American expat writers and artists including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Sylvia Beach, and Gertrude Stein lived, worked, and played.

Perhaps the most enduring symbol of Franco-American friendship, the Statue of Liberty, is visible throughout Paris. The original bronze model of the statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartoldi, stands in the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank. Another replica of the statue perches on the point of the Île aux Cygnes in the river Seine, near the Pont de Grenelle. Given to the city in 1889 as a gift for the centennial of the French Revolution, this Lady Liberty, whose table bears two dates: IV juillet 1776 and XIV juillet 1789, faces southwest toward its big sister in New York. There is also a life-sized copy of the Flame of Liberty above the entrance to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel where Princess Diana's car crashed in 1997. Since then the flame often serves as an unofficial memorial where fans and mourners leave flowers, photographs, and letters.

Although, the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays and I will be celebrating my American heritage with all my heart today, I am eager to return to Paris. After all, one of history's most famous Americans in Paris, Josephine Baker, may have said it best, "J'ai deux amours: mon pays et Paris." (I have two loves: my country and Paris!)