Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Seeking The Statue of Liberty in Paris

Everyone knows that when you head to New York City, the Statue of Liberty is high on the list of popular sights to see. How about when you head to Paris? That's what we did when visiting the  Île-de-France last June.

A little background history

France has been wrapped up in the United States of America's history since the USA took its first baby steps to becoming a free nation. In an effort to stick it to the British, the King of France helped to fund the American Revolutionary War and sent his soldiers over to fight under George Washington. The United States won their freedom, and France was left with a debt that's the equivalent of 13 billion U.S. dollars in today's money.  The French citizens were deeply displeased with spending money on a foreign war while their own people went hungry. It was a major cause of their own push to end sovereign rule, otherwise known as the French Revolution. Isn't it ironic (a la Alanis Morissette)?

Fast forward to America's 100th birthday when France proposed a gift as a symbol of the friendship between the two nations. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was tasked with designing the privately funded sculpture that was to be in the classical tradition of the Colossus of Rhodes. It's official name is Liberty Enlightening the World. Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame designed the inner metal skeleton that supports the outer copper plates. For a few weeks in 1884, the 46-meter-high statue towered over Paris as the workmen did the final assembly. It was taken apart, shipped overseas, and finally inaugurated at the entrance of New York Harbor on October 28, 1886. On its pedestal, it reaches 93 meters up into the sky. Over the years, the statue morphed from being a tribute to America's independence and France's friendship to a powerful symbol of emigrants' hope for a better life in the New World.

The copper statue was brown when it was erected. Over thirty years, the copper oxidized and turned green. Have you ever used ketchup to clean a penny? My kids have wondered how much ketchup it would take to restore the Statue of Liberty to its original copper brown color.

Senate building at Luxembourg Garden.
(Psst... this is NOT the Statue of Liberty.)

Searching Luxembourg Gardens

On our first day in Paris, we searched Luxembourg Gardens for one of the Statue of Liberty replicas. Numerous guidebooks and blogs mentioned it, but I never bothered to find out exactly where it was. We found a bunch of other statues and stopped for a while to play with the sailboats in the pond. We walked all over the place (which is in itself quite an enjoyable way to pass the time). We asked other people if they knew where La Liberté was. Someone pointed us in the general direction of the tennis courts. We never found it. Jetlag overcame us, and we gave up.

On Île aux Cygnes by the Pont de Grenelle

Sneaking up from Behind

We finally caught sight of another Statue of Liberty replica while on the Eiffel Tower. You can see her from the back, standing 11.5 meters tall on the Île aux Cygnes next to the Pont de Grenelle. Frankly, she's kind of small when you're looking at her from that high up.

Her tablet has two dates. One is "IV JUILLET 1776" (July 4, 1776). It refers to the date America's Declaration of Independence was signed, and it is on the tablet of the New York City statue, too. The other date is "XIV JUILLET 1789" (July 14, 1789) which marks the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.

My family later tried to get a closer look at this replica by taking the Bateaux-Mouches Seine River cruise. However, a sign on the ticket window dashed our hopes by announcing it did NOT go by the Statue of Liberty. I guess we weren't the only hopeful tourists wishing to get a better look. Oh well.

The Flame of Liberty at the Place de l'Alma

Do you have a light?

While walking from the Eiffel Tower to the boat cruise, we stumbled across the Flame of Liberty at the Place de l'Alma. It is a gold-leaf and copper, actual size replica of the torch from the New York Statue of Liberty intended as a symbol of Franco-American friendship. Dedicated in 1989, it became a makeshift memorial to Princess Diana who died in 1997 in the nearby tunnel beneath the Pont de l'Alma. When I look at the picture above, I wonder what the lady in front of the statue is thinking.

La Liberté at the Musée d'Orsay

A Work of Art

We finally found a Statue of Liberty that we could see up close at the Musée d'Orsay. She is the best know work of sculptor Bartholdi, so it's only natural to examine it in an art museum setting.

Here's the surprising thing... (which I only figured out as I was researching this post)

This is the same statue that we were looking for in Luxembourg Gardens! No wonder we never found it there. When it was standing outside in the gardens for 115 years, La Liberté was subjected to pollution, weathering, and vandalism. In an effort to preserve the statue, it was removed from Luxembourg Gardens in December 2011, restored, and introduced at the Musée d'Orsay in July 2012.

Some sources say that this 3 meter tall bronze statue was the original model for the bigger version in New York City. Other sources say it is a study done after the New York one was put in its final place. Bartholdi offered it to Paris' Luxembourg Museum, and it was displayed in the garden because the museum interior was out of room.

If you find one still standing in Luxembourg Gardens, it is newly cast from a mold made of Bartholdi's original in the Musée d'Orsay. It's a replica of a replica. Got all that?

Liberty Arcade at Disneyland Paris


Disney Imagineers always goes the extra mile in creating an authentic setting. What better way to connect Disneyland Paris to Main Street U.S.A. than an exhibition on the Statue of Liberty? The large sign evokes the excitement of the day when France's gift to the American people was inaugurated in New York Harbor.

See the sights and hear the sounds on that exciting day
Step inside the darkened alcove to experience the tableaux of the celebration. From the viewpoint of a boat in the Harbor, watch fireworks explode over the statue and hear the excited murmurings of the people around you.

It really is a Small World after all.

Our last sighting of the Statue of Liberty in Paris was on the It's a Small World ride. I've always considered it a symbol of America, but after our trip to Paris, I realized that the French embrace it as part of their country, too.

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox and "On the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. Oh my goodness, I don't think I knew any of this. . .what a fun treasure hunt you took us on today!

  2. Hi Michelle, such a beautiful historical account of the Lady Liberty. I wasn't aware that a replica, which could possibly the original model, existed in Paris. I'm glad your search paid off and finally found her. I like your very last statement - that the French embraced America as part of their country, too. After reading you post, I realized that too. It may come as a surprise to some Americans who think that the French hate them:)

  3. What persistence! Thanks for the history lesson, Michele. I'll have to do this next time I'm in Paris.

  4. We didn't find Lady Liberty at Luxembourg Gardens and that was before she was moved :) Glad to see you guys finally found her in various places. I love the designs on that Liberty Arcade in Disney Paris. Thanks for a wonderful history lesson and a great treasure hunt.

  5. I would not have thought to find the statue of liberty in Paris! I'm glad they got it inside, out of the pollution.

    Are you sure that first guy isn't the right one? He looks like he could totally fit in if you put him in New York harbor with a torch.

    1. Imagine what people would think if that 1st guy suddenly replaced Lady Liberty in New York harbor overnight.

  6. Well, I learned a few things from you here... I was just saying to a pal that I'd love to take the teens to Paris one day. I have never ever taken the Chunnel train and would love too... we're going to Scotland for Xmas this year but only to Scotland this time... hmm... and this is a good post to refer back to when we do have a real plan. thank you.

  7. Oh wow, Michelle, with all of the travel blogs I've read about the Eiffel Tower. This is the first time I learned that view of the State of Liberty replica exists! That's so cool! :)

  8. Thanks for the hint... "this is not the statue of liberty" ! hee!


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