On October 26, 1776, Benjamin Franklin departed the United States for Paris to take up the post of ambassador and drum up support for the formation of a crucial Franco-American alliance two years later. My enemy’s enemy is my friend and all that.
Much loved and celebrated by the French, the Franklin charm never wore off in France. On news of his death in 1790, the National Assembly went into mourning for three days, making it the first political body in the world to pay homage to a simple citizen from another land.
American links are all over the city. Here are a few you will probably see as you tour Paris:
George Washington. Now, there is a statue of Washington in London, which might seem strange, but it is tucked into the north side of Trafalgar Square in front of the national gallery. Here in Paris, no such reticence, and the Place d’Iena forms a marvelous space for the statue placed there in 1900.
Lines 1 and 9 on the Metro share the stop Franklin D. Roosevelt (along the Champs-Élysées), and Presidents Wilson and Kennedy also have streets named after them.
In Paris, you will find three copies of the Statue of Liberty. One stands in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It is believed to be a bronze model used by Bartholdi as part of the preparatory work for the New York statue. The second Statue of Liberty in Paris is near the Grenelle Bridge on the Île des Cygnes (above), a man-made island in the river Seine. Inaugurated on July 4, 1889, it looks southwest, downriver along the Seine, toward New York. Its tablet bears two famous revolutionary dates:
July 4, 1776, and July 14, 1789. A third copy, also produced by Bartholdi, is located in the rather superb Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Finally, a life-size copy of the torch, Flame of Liberty, can be seen above the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel near the Champs-Élysées. It was given to the city by the International Herald Tribune in 1989 to celebrate 200 years of the revolution. Because it is located above the car tunnel in which Princess Diana died, the torch has become an unofficial memorial to her (left). A couple of blocks up the road is the American Cathedral in Paris.
Of course, there are plenty more, fortunately someone has started a list. Let me know if you find any others.
(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)