Lifestyle & Culture

Beth Hoke in Paris: There’s a little bit of America every place you look

(Editor’s note: Terry Boyd also contributed to this post on Paris.)

During a recent visit to Paris, I was surprised to see signs of an American influence everywhere I looked.

From the streets named after American presidents, inventors, composers, and writers, to the English language bookstores and the replica of the Statue of Liberty at Pont de Grenelle, there are enough bits of Americana peppered throughout the city to make any American expat feel right at home. If you’re feeling a bit homesick, here are top ten things to do in Paris to satisfy your longing for all things U.S.A. 

1. Statue of Liberty Replica (Pont de Grenelle)

Though there are conflicting reports about the reasons for France gifting the Statue of Liberty to the United States, this monument of freedom was dedicated in New York Harbor on the afternoon of October 28, 1886 in a ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland. 

Three years later, the American community in Paris reciprocated, presenting the French with a quarter-scale replica to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and to reaffirm the commitment of the two countries to the ideals of a republican government and way of life. 

There are also replicas of the original statue in Musée d’Orsay and the Musée des Arts et Métiers and a life-size replica of the flame in Place de l’Alma.

2. Breakfast in America

We’re referring here to the restaurants, not the Supertramp album. The Breakfast in Americas – 17, rue des Ecoles and 4 Rue Malher – are true American diners in Paris. Owner Craig Carlson is now a NYTimes best-selling author, with his book “Pancakes in Paris” about his adventures as an American entrepreneur in Paris. This is an American treasure. Wait, a French treasure. Whatever ….

3. Berkeley Books of Paris

Established in 2006, this indie bookstore is owned and operated by three American expats. It specializes in used and rare books and is located in the 6th Arrondissement. 

4. Streets of Paris

Paris has a tradition of honoring those who have contributed to the city’s history, arts, and culture by naming streets after them. This article from the American Center France tells the story of naming the streets after Americans and citizens from other countries. 

The honored include American presidents from Jefferson to JFK.

5. Harry’s New York Bar

Harry’s has been the “go to” place for American expats since the Roaring Twenties when it was frequented by legendary American expats including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is rumored that George Gershwin composed “An American in Paris” at Harry’s, though that claim has been disputed. 

One interesting fact: Harry’s Bar was literally shipped over from Manhattan, or at least the interior.

6. The American University of Paris

The American University of Paris (originally named the American College in Paris) was founded in 1962 and catered to the children of American service members and expats. Now it has a more diverse student body taught by faculty members from 30 nationalities. In the past, the university has hosted notable speakers like news legend Tom Brokaw, author and feminist Rebecca Walker, and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

Check out their calendar for upcoming events.

7. The American Library in Paris

The American Library in Paris also grew out of a need to serve the American military community in Europe. Established in 1920, it is the largest English-language lending library in Europe. The library hosts regular events for children, teens, and adults. Their event calendar lists a wide range of things to do from story hours to book clubs to author appearances. 

8. Thanksgiving

Need American food staples that you simply can’t find anywhere else? Visit Thanksgiving in the Marais neighborhood. Thanksgiving stocks “authentic American fare,” including bagels imported from New York City, California wine and, in November, everything you need for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

9. Disneyland Paris

You can’t get much more American than Disneyland. The most visited theme park in Europe, Disneyland Paris opened in 1992 and hoses “2 theme parks, 7 resort hotels, 7 associated hotels, a golf course, railway station, a large outlet centre and a large shopping mall (Wikipedia). Been there … great for kids 12 and under. Not so great for parents with limited budgets.

10. Mary Cassatt at the Musée Jaquemart-André

American impressionist Mary Cassatt was astoundingly talented. Yet, Cassatt didn’t receive the same level of acclaim and recognition as the male French impressionists. No surprise there. But which worked against her more … being a woman, or being an American? You could argue it was the latter. Degas “discovered” Cassatt, then brought her into his group and apparently considered her an equal. Degas was influenced by Cassatt, and of course, the American was influenced by the French master.

See her work through 23 July at the Musée Jacquemart-André.

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