Thursday, August 27, 2009

August in Paris: Ile des Cygnes (aka Liberty Island)

Our next adventure was to Paris’ own Liberty Island, known here as the Ile des Cygnes (Island of the Swans), an 890-meter long by 11-meter wide (2,789 ft/36ft) park in the middle of the Seine. Though not far from our apartment, it’s a place we rarely think to visit.

It was late afternoon and the sun’s position in the sky set the City of Light aglow. I grabbed the Uber-Mensch and we headed toward the river. We crossed the Pont de Mirabeau to the 15th arrondissement and walked along the Quai Andre Citroën, ogling the river cruisers, until we reached the Pont de Grenelle. From there, it was a short hop to the middle of the bridge and the western end of the Ile.

We strolled its length to the most-eastern point at the Pont de Bir-Hakeim along the tree-lined All
ée des Cygnes, mesmerized by the soft, dappled light peeking through a canopy of leaves and branches. Tourist boats slipped past us on both sides, on route to and from the island’s most memorable feature: a 22-meter high replica of Fédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty.
This Statue of Liberty, placed here on 15 November 1889, was a gift from French expatriates living in the US to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. Like her counterpart in New York, Paris' Lady Liberty holds a book her left hand. It bears the inscription "IV Juillet 1776 = XIV Juillet 1789", equating both the French and American struggles for independence.

Paris’ Liberty originally faced east, toward La Tour Eiffel. She turned westward, in the direction of French overseas possessions, at the time of the 1937 World’s Fair when the Ile des Cygnes hosted the “Pavilion of Overseas France”.

Dating to 1827, the Ile des Cygnes i
s a former river dike erected to protect the once vibrant port de Grenelle, the area now marked by modern high-rise buildings clustered along the left bank. It wasn’t until 1878 that the Allée des Cygnes was added and trees planted to turn the dike into a beautiful island promenade for pedestrians.

The Ile des Cygnes is a transporting little get-away right in the middle of a bustling city, a gem hiding in plain site. And, as it turns out, the perfect place for us some-time New Yorkers to feel a bit closer to "home".

Next post: Parc de Saint Cloud, a favorite spot of Queen Marie Antoinette.


The Ile des Cygnes from the Eiffel Tower, by Arpingstone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The western-most point of Ile des Cygnes with Lady Liberty in the foreground, by Greudin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of the Ile des Cygnes from the Eiffel Tower at the turn of the 20th century, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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