The Hermione in NYC

The Hermione in NYC

In 2005, I was doing an internship in Saint Estephe at a Maison du Vin. At the suggestion of new friends, I took an extended train trip to explore the seaside towns on the Atlantic Coast of France. This led me to Rochefort, where during my stay I visited the docks where the Hermione was being constructed. (For more information on the replica of Lafayette’s 18th century frigate, see our magazine feature story.) At the time, it seemed like a daunting project and so labour intensive with a long way to go to be completed. Of course, being in my 20s, the future always seemed so distant. I had no clue that I would be living in New York City, being a native of California, and now bearing witness to the completed ship. Personally, it was one of those moments where I can mark how quickly time flies.

On July 3rd I went to see the Hermione docked at the South Street Seaport after the transatlantic voyage. The ship was spectacular with vibrant hues and so majestic in presence. There were so many ropes and lines, how on earth do those volunteers keep everything organized?! While, the ship is built to the specifications of its sister ship, La Concorde, the builders did add a few upgrades like metal reinforcement bolts and a bathroom. Today, the smell of varnish and tannins waft through the Harbor; according to the volunteer reenactor, this was not the case in 1778 post-transatlantic crossings. Now the excitement was building; I was even more tickled and could hardly wait to join the boat parade– or as I was corrected several times: flotilla!

On a gray windy day, perfect for sailing (not ideal for a barbecue), some friends and I met at Chelsea Piers to join the Classic Harbor Line on one of their sailboats. Cruising along the Hudson River making our way past the Statue of Liberty– another example of Franco-American cultural partnerships– it was a surreal juxtaposition. The event included many classic and motorised boats registered to be a part of this historic event. The day also included fireboats which displayed a celebratory water show. All while passing fluidly under the iconic Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. In total, the trip was 3.5 hours. It was a once in a lifetime experience! To exclaim vive La France! on July 4th was a first for me. Going forward I will think more about the French efforts to secure our nation and the long history of Franco-American friendship.

Now, how will I spend Bastille Day?

For more information on the Hermione please visit the website:

Valerie O’Halloran is the France Today Ambassador for New Yor

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  • Martha Sessums
    2015-07-15 17:10:42
    Martha Sessums
    Valerie, I wish I had been there to see the Hermione pass by the Statue of Liberty. The online clips were good, but being there would have been perfect. Thanks for sharing your day and observations. Martha