France S – U

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Statue of Liberty

She stands at the entrance to New York harbor . . . a 46m high statue of a woman holding up a book and a torch. ”La Liberté Éclairant le Monde” (Liberty Enlightening the World) was a gift of friendship from the French to the USA to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American independence.  Her American name is the ‘Statue of Liberty’ and she not only presides over New York’s harbor, but also Swan Ally Island (l’Allée des Cygnes) in the River Seine in Paris and also Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens.  There are indeed three Lady Liberties!

Architect and sculptor Frederick Auguste Batholdi was probably inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who commented in 1865 that any monument raised to American independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American The original life size cast of the Statue of Liberty  stands  magnificently amongst the ornate gardens and fountains of Paris Luxembourg Gardens (home to the French Senate).  Another, yet larger Statue of Liberty stands upon a small island called Swan Ally, Paris in the Seine.  This exact Statue of Liberty replica was offered to the French by the American residents of Paris as a remembrance to commemorate the Centennial of the French Revolution.  It was inaugurated on November 15, 1889 and was placed so that it faced the Eiffel Tower .However, it’s creator Bartholdi insisted that it be turned to face the New York location of the Statue of Liberty.  The tablet on the Swan Alley Statue of Liberty has the dates IV Juillet 1776 et XIV Julliet 1789 (the dates of the US and French revolutions and our national days to this day).

Finally there is America’s Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, known affectionately as Lady Liberty. The statue was a gift to America from the French in honor of the Centennial of American independence.  It is known worldwide  as a symbol of political freedom and democracy.  The statue arrived in NY on June 19, 1885.  The statue then took four months to rebuild.  On Lady Liberty’s tablet is inscribed “July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals, Day of America’s Independence from Britain: July 4, 1776”, and inscribed upon the base for the statue is an excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” – 1883. An excerpt reads :

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-lost to me.

This famous statue, that I so look forward to seeing this July, embodies a message of friendship, freedom and peace between France and the USA ; long may these sentiments continue.

Tour de France

Even those with no interest in the world of international cycling have heard of the Tour de France. Its fame and infamy hit national headlines every July.

The first Tour de France race was held in 1903. The winner was Maurice Garin of France. Garin was 32 years old and completed the race in 94 hours, 33 minutes. I love watching black and white footage of the early tours on basic equipment, wearing caps not helmets, almost no support team and definitely no enhancing medication!!

Sharing a friendly Cigarette on the Tour de France

Each year the Tour de France covers a variety of terrain- flat, hilly and mountainous terrain, with speed and distance sections, though the race is known to be won or lost in the grueling mountain climbs.

The longest ever Tour de France was held in 1926. This race was 5,745 kilometers (3,569 miles long). These days the race covers around 3,500 kilometers (2200miles) and always finishes in Paris (where I have enjoyed the crowd thrill of watching these incomparable athletes arrive and the first to cross the line to put on the final victor’s famous maillot jaune (yellow jersey).

As I am sure many of you are aware, the renowned and challenged Lance Armstrong, raced 13 times and won the Tour De France seven consecutive years (1999 to 2005). He beat the record of five Tour de France wins by several other cyclists. Avid cyclist friends of mine have come across Lance in the mountain roads above Nice, where he often trained.

For any of you with genuine interest you can see the 2011 Tour:


Just some quick linguistic advice. For those of you who have learnt some French, but always struggled with the pronunciation of the letter U, as in ‘tu’ (an acute sound, quite foreign to many languages- phonetic symbol /y/) try the following, pretty much guaranteed tip. Pucker your lips into into a tight circle as though to vocalize a long ‘oo’ sound, but instead try and say a wide “ee” sound (phonetic symbol /i/). If done correctly you should have a decent French ‘u’ coming out. Now try it with a few consonants beforehand : tu – cru – vu.


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8 Responses to France S – U

  1. Diane says:

    Well I have learnt something here… I never knew that the State Of Liberty was gifted to the USA from France.
    Thankyou for that Joanna.
    Now as for the Tour de France, yep, my husband and I watch that every year……lol Who hasn’t heard of Lance Armstrong…. quite a guy!

    et merci Joanna.

    • Joanna says:

      I suspect what is even less common knowledge is the two smaller Dames in Paris!

      Lance Armstrong’s autobiography, “It’s not about the Bike” is a decent read, if you are interested.

      de rien 🙂

  2. I had no idea there were two other Lady Liberties! I learn something with each of your alphabet posts, Joanna. Thank you! (And now my brain is singing “Le Marseillaise”.)

    Good pronunciation lesson as well. I remember our Grade Seven French teacher (who was from England!) struggling with the class to get us all pronouncing that “u” correctly!

    • Joanna says:

      That “u” really does not come naturally to most Anglophones and this trick is so simple, yet very effective!

      We often focus on conflict and contrast between nations, so it is nice to see gestures of friendship and recognition of things in common rather than differences.

  3. Make that “La Marseillaise”. Gah. My knowledge of French seems to have flown out the window!

  4. Patricia Tilton says:

    I new that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, and that another was in France. But, I didn’t know there was a third. Loved the history lesson about the Tour de France. Didn’t realize it dated back to 1926, though. Have you ever ridden in it?

    Tried French two weeks, and changed to Spanish in High School. Studied both Spanish and Russian in college — Russian my favorite. But, if you don’t use it, you lose it — so common in the U.S. Enjoyed your lesson.

    • Joanna says:

      The Tour de France is for the real pros, and then some 😉

      Impressed you did some Russian at college. We have many Russians in school and I am ashamed to say I have picked up very little over the last few years.
      Thank you, Pat.

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