|The Independent Traveler's Newsletter PAGE FIVE|
LORRAINE & ALSACE continued
. . .
COLMAR'S AMERICAN CONNECTION . . . the Statue of Liberty
A little museum exists in Colmar honoring a native son, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (August 2, 1834 - October 4, 1904), the creator of the Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi's childhood home remained in the family after his widowed mother moved with Auguste to Paris. It was in Paris that his mother encouraged him to pursue his artistic education. They traveled to London and extensively in France to see the great châteaux. Bartholdi attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris earning his BA in 1852, followed by the study of architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He became an apprentice of Ary Scheffer in his studio on the rue Chaptal which is now the Musée de la Vie Romantique. Eventually, it was sculpture that consumed him. By the age of 21 he had already completed several major pieces of bronze statuary. His travels to Egypt and Italy gave him inspiration, and many cities in France purchased his statues for their parks. One of the favorites is his Lion of Belfort shown below. His work was refined showing his dedication to every detail of a figure including posture, form and facial expression. The Colmar house was donated to the city in 1907 to become the very special Musée Bartholdi.
When France's Third Republic was established (1870-1940) following the collapse of the Second Empire, it was suggested that a proper memorial be created to show the close friendship between the United States and France. The Union Franco-Americaine was formed by Edouard de Laboulaye. For Bartholdi, these times were disturbing as his Alsatian home town of Colmar passed from French to German control in the Franco-Prussian War. This turmoil influenced his own strong interest in liberty, independence and self-determination. He joined the Union whose members were well-respected and admired. They approved his idea for a statue as a memorial and raised over one million francs throughout France for its construction. The United States issued Bartholdi design patent D11,023 in 1879 allowing the sale of small copies of the statue to raise further funds. Although sufficient funds were unavailable for many years, everyone was enthusiastic about the work and, finally, through much effort the Union raised money to cover the cost. On July 4, 1880 the statue was formally presented to the American minister in Paris.
Prior to beginning the statue, Bartholdi had visited New York City and spotted Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island) in the harbor. It was his dream that the statue should stand there. The United States was able to raise about $300,000 to build a pedestal on which it would stand. On June 17, 1885, the statue arrived safely at New York harbor in hundreds of crates on the French steamer Isère. It was October of 1886 when the Statue was officially presented to the nation and all those who dream of freedom and liberty as a gift from the French and American people. At first it was called "Liberty Enlightening the World - La Liberté éclairant le monde". It is exactly 151 feet 1 inch tall base to torch and 305 feet 1 inch ground to top of the torch. There stands a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Paris on the Ile aux Cygnes, a small man-made island in the Seine in the 15th arrondissement, facing west and said to be in alignment with its big sister in New York Harbor.
[Painting Statue of Liberty Unveiled by Edward Moran, 1886. Bartholdi sculpture, Lion of Belfort, 1870-71.]
COLMAR CHRISTMAS MARKETS by PJ Adams
In the last issue of FRANCE On Your Own, we reviewed two books, Intoxicating Paris and Intoxicating Southern France,
both by author and Francophile P J Adams. Now, we are pleased that she has written something exclusively for us about her
recent experiences at the Christmas Markets of Colmar in Alsace. Unfortunately, it didn't make it into our December
issue, but we know you will find her experiences interesting and enjoyable nonetheless. We hope her visit to Colmar and
our feature on Lorraine and Alsace encourage you to spend part of your next vacation in this unique region of France.
Colmar is one of the most delightful towns in France ~ especially during the holidays. Located in the eastern Alsace region near the German border, Colmar opened its 2015 Christmas Markets in mid-November. I had the chance to be there to sample the marvels of the Christmas Markets in person. I can tell you it's an experience I will never forget!
Founded in the 9th century, this bustling town of old sensibilities and new age wizardry is situated on the Alsatian Wine Route. Colmar considers itself the capitale des vins d'Alsace (capital of Alsatian wine). Thus, when the holidays arrive, the town fills with the smell of vin chaud (warm wine), and Christmas chalets (stalls) pop up in five dazzling Christmas Markets scattered along its city center byways. Colmar is famous for offering 'Christmas in the Land of Stars.' And, as a first-time visitor, I was certainly star-struck by all the holiday sparkle.
As I wandered along the holiday stalls on a brisk afternoon, I felt like a child on Christmas morning. Everywhere Christmas lights twinkled. Giant Christmas ornaments and garlands climbed up the ancient buildings. Immense Christmas-decorated pines greeted me on every square, while dozens of glittering stalls tempted me with holiday treats. Among them were charming ornaments, savory gingerbread and Alsatian cookies, Alsace beers, fine craft goods, winter hats and scarves, and much more. Christmas tunes filled the air, and the sound of happy people laughing made me feel like I was a guest at one gigantic party.
Of course, great vats of warm wine spiced with cloves and cinnamon offered me a tempting brew to imbibe as I sauntered along. I confess I came home with several of these warm wine cups ~ I like the durable French cups as well as the wine inside. In fact, I'm sipping some mulled wine in one of my Colmar cups as I write these words back in California!
Unlike its nearby big brother town of Strasbourg, which has an even larger Christmas Market extravaganza, Colmar's is a bit more rustic and intimate. Among the five markets in the heart of the city, I particularly enjoyed Little Venice. Here, Christmas stalls nestle along the canal running through the town. Over each tiny canal bridge, townspeople have laid long bunches of pine branches and shimmering ornaments. My photos reflect the beautiful vistas of Christmas threading through this canal fairyland.
There's also a giant Father Christmas Post Box where the local children come and post their letters to Father Christmas. (Every letter is answered, they tell me.) Each Wednesday at 4 pm during the season, Father Christmas hands out presents to each and every child who gathers to greet him. For ice skaters there's also a huge skating rink at Place Rapp. The entrance fee and skate hire is only one euro.
I can offer several tips for visiting Colmar at holiday time. First, you can easily travel to Colmar by train, grab a taxi at the train station then have the driver drop you at the first of the five Christmas Markets. The rest of markets are so close, you can wander along and visit all five without getting into a vehicle. Second, I stayed in Strasbourg (about half an hour away by train) and easily did Colmar in a day. I would add that I traveled to Strasbourg from Paris CDG airport via train in about 2 hours. I can't tell you how easy and relaxing it was. And I never had to rent a car. Third, if you buy lots of holiday gifts, I've discovered the best way to get them home is to find La Poste, and buy one of their prepaid International shipping boxes. I stuffed all my goodies inside, then shipped them home so I didn't have to carry anything in my luggage.
Finally, I had a wonderful time meeting families from other locales ~ despite my fractured French and limited German. I discovered that many people come to the Christmas Markets from Switzerland, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, the US, and elsewhere just to soak up the holiday cheer. Many chatted with me about my visit and offered advice on dining options and favorite Colmar holiday events.
One more tip: If you can spend a week or two in Alsace for the holidays, you may be able to expand your festivities since Christmas Markets are held in most of the towns nearby. All are accessible by train or taxi. I would highly recommend a visit here; it will keep sugarplums dancing in your dreams for the rest of your life!
Contact John Birkhead and P J Adams
at Meandering Trail Media [www.meanderingtrailmedia.com]
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