My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Sunday, July 5, 2015
L'Hermione, historic French frigate, in Baltimore
The French war frigate L'Hermione took the Marquis de la Fayette in 1780 for his second trip to the United States. Lafayette had first come to the USA in 1777, aged 19 years old, against the wishes of the French Government. Wounded, he returned to France in 1778. But he longed to return to fight with the American War of Independence. He lobbied French King Louis XVI for two years. Finally winning the king's support Lafayette returned on board L'Hermione arriving in Boston on 28 April 1780. Below are paintings of Lafayette and L'Hermione by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy, French, 1736-1804.
About 20 years ago, a small group of people dreamed of building an exact replica of General Lafayette's 18th century ship. They assembled in Rochefort, France (the same city where the first Hermione was built) craftsmen/women from all over the world who used 18th century ship-building techniques to build this authentic Tall Ship replica - the first and largest one built in the last 150 years. They used 2,000 oak trees from French forests for the 400,000 hand-sculpted pieces for the hull. One ton of oakum for caulking was utilized. Many of these techniques had to be re-invented and forge re-kindled including old-style manufacture of 26 cannons for the battery deck and 8 cannons for the quarter-deck. By 2011 three million people had donated funds to support this new Hermione. (Photos courtesy L'Hermione Association.) Please click on collage twice to enlarge and read better.
To re-affirm the historic friendship between the United States and France it was decided that L'Hermione's first voyage would be across the Atlantic to the US. In mid-April 2015 L'Hermione sailed the 3,819 miles (6.146.08 km) from Rochefort, France to Yorktown, Virginia. I followed its departure on the French Internet. (Photos courtesy L'Hermione Assoc.)
Our 48th wedding anniversary was on 17 June 2015. I noticed that L'Hermione would arrive in Baltimore Harbor on the 19th of June. After a quick check with airlines I found some flights on sale from Atlanta to Baltimore. Our trip to Baltimore on June 18th was the anniversary present to ourselves. On June 19th we were on Baltimore harbor. To say I was beyond excited to visit this amazing historic ship would be an understatement! Below is a picture of an information panel that was hanging on L'Hermione.
In Baltimore the visit of the ship was free to the public (in other ports admission tickets had to be purchased,) starting at 11:00 am, based on a "first come, first served" basis. My husband joined people waiting in line to visit the ship. I went toward a group of people standing and watching the welcoming ceremony that had already started. The French national anthem "La Marseillaise" was being sung and I joined the singing, then the Star Spangled Banner was sung by a lady in period costume. I was behind several person and could not see very well. There were chairs in front for the VIPs and a lady going toward the chairs told me that a seat was vacant in the front row and to go ahead there. So I did. I had then a perfect view of the ceremony. There were remarks made by several dignitaries: the Deputy Mayor of Baltimore, Colin Tarbert, followed by US Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin (shown below,) followed by the French Naval Attache, the US Navy Commanding Officer and more.
The VIPs were first to visit the ship. While we waited, the ship crew sang some period French shanties.
It was our turn then to board the frigate L'Hermione, also called The Frigate of Freedom. We could only visit the top deck. I took many pictures of course (actually about 350.) I had never been on a tall ship before and loved looking at everything - the ropes, the canons, ect.
Crew members, wearing period 18th century sailor clothes, explained life on ship.
Looking up, the mast seemed so tall. Then looking down I could see the 8 canons on the quarter-deck. A visitor (?) was playing his guitar next to a Hermione lifeboat.
A French company made the cannons. It took almost four tons of molten metal to 1,600 degrees Celsius - or 2,912 degrees Fahrenheit. The guns weigh a total of 45 tons of cast iron, a weigh that helps to balance the ship.
After our visit of the museum ship we went back down dockside and visited the Traveling Exhibit. It is a photographic panel display of Lafayette's role in the American Revolution and the building of L'Hermione replica.
I learned there that the Oneida Nation, a Native American tribe, were precious allies of Lafayette during the 1778 battles and kept ties of friendship with the French and the Marquis de la Fayette for years. The Oneida called Lafayette "Kayewla" (The Great Warriaor.) The Hermione next stop was in Philadelphia and Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation came to the welcoming ceremony. He is in the picture below with Benedict Donnelly, President of L'Hermione La Fayette Association (courtesy L'Hermione Assoc.)
A video was showing the building of L'Hermione's replica in Rochefort. I took several pictures from it. (Don't forget to click on collage to enlarge and see better.)
We came to Baltimore from Thursday 18 June, 2015, through Sunday 21 - L'Hermione was staying in Baltimore Inner Harbor until Tuesday 23rd. There were many educational and cultural activities and events pier-side and beyond during those days - we could see just a few of them. There were demonstrations of sail making, spinning and weaving, shipboard cooking, small guns demonstration, rope making and more by period clothes re-enactors. The two fellows sitting below - one is from Rochefort, France and the other from Quebec, Canada.
A re-enactor from the Fixed Regiment of Spanish Louisiana (active from 1769 to 1821) explained the Hispanic involvement in the Revolutionary War and the military and financial support they provided. It is a part of history not well known - you can read about it on their website here.
It was a very warm and humid day. We decided to take a rest and went up to a second-floor Spanish restaurant name La Tasca. The waterfront patio dining, next to the harbor, was perfect to keep watching the activity around L'Hermione, berthed just a few feet away. After a salad "Ensalada de aguacante" - shrimp and sliced avocado served over mixed greens with an avocado vinaigrette, we ordered tapas - my husband had "Mejillones con chorizo" - fresh sauteed mussels, chorizo in a ginger broth. I had "Calamares a la Andaluza" - fried squid, in lemon aioli. Both were delicious. For dessert my husband had "Trufa de chocolate" - a decadent dark chocolate truffle croquant topped with traditional vanilla ice cream.. I had "Compota con helado" - dried fruits: cranberries, apricots, raisins, prunes, mango and pineapple sauteed in oloroso wine, with cinnamon ice cream. Yum!
Well rested and fed, we returned to the Inner Harbor and witnessed a cannon firing demonstration.
Most of our time in Baltimore was spent around the Inner Harbor. I had been to Baltimore three times before - when I first came to the US I spent several days visiting my English pen pal who lived there. Another time we came to stay a week with our youngest daughter who was getting her Master's Degree at Jones Hopkins University, then a few years ago, another week to babysit our two grandsons while our daughter and son-in-law were attending a medical seminar - so we had seen many of the main sights there. We did return to eat in a restaurant in Little Italy - and I'll have posts on all this later on. But this visit was to see the French frigate replica of L'Hermione - and we had a great time with the ship and all the activities.
I just wished we could have traveled to New York City this past week-end when the Hermione was there for the 4th of July. The French Minister Segolene Royal as well as the Mayor of Rochefort, Herve Blanche, made speeches. An evening of dance and music was performed by the Orchestra des Champs-Elysees of Paris. The Hermione, joined by 300 ships, took part in the People's Parade with a sail-by Salute past the Statue of Liberty. (Photos credits: Abaca, GeWoessner and L'Hermione Assoc.)
L'Hermione will go up the coast to Boston, Castine (Maine,) Lunenburg (Nova Scotia - Canada) and St. Pierre et Miquelon (France in No. America) and then will return to mainland France. But there are some good news: I just read on an online French magazine that there are definite plans for L'Hermione to return to the US around 2018-2019 and stopping in North Carolina, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami, Key West, Tampa, Pensacola, Mobile and New Orleans up to Lafayette in Louisiana. The Tour de France also just started - life is good! I'll end up with a beautiful rendition of L'Hermione drawn by my friend in New York City of the blog "Bowsprite." Please visit her there.