Paris, the “the romance capital” of the world. Every street, every cafe, park and bridge can become the perfect place to fall in love. Just listening to the language gave me the feeling that the man of my dreams will suddenly appear, right in front of me, and I’ll fall deeply and madly in love with him. We would sit along the canal and enjoy fresh fluffy French croissants to the background music of the accordion. He would tickle my ears with his romantic french dialect, and send shivers down my spine every time he’d look me in the eyes and whisper, “Je t’aime”. We would watch the sun setting over Paris from the top of the Eiffel tower and he would show me the true meaning of the “french-kiss”. Our night would end with a walk along the Pont de l’Archevêché bridge, where we would place a lock inscribed with our names to “lock” in our love for ever and ever and ever and ever…
…”mom!”. Until reality would strike me like the most violent thunderstorm ever seen or heard. I was there with my son and parents by my side 24/7. With the millions of beautiful young women visiting Paris each year, I’m sure all the best French men have been “locked” already anyway. I mean, just take a look at this bridge. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a slight curve to it under the weight of all these love locks. There are locks attached to other locks as there is no more space to attach them to the bridge. There are many other bridges being decorated with these expressions of undying love.
A couple engraves the padlock with hearts, initials, names and/or dates and attaches it to a bridge. They then throw the key in the Seine river as a sign of their love. It must be quite a site for the fish with all these keys littering the base of the river.
Beware of the bridge you choose to seal your lock to. The bridge behind Notre Dame is Pont de l’Archevêché. There is another bridge in Paris called Pont des Arts. Supposedly, Pont des Arts is for your committed love (your boyfriend, fiancée or spouse), while Pont de l’Archevêché is for your lover.
Think Thrice Before You Place a Lock
We walked this same bridge in 2010 and I don’t remember being so awed by all these locks then. I looked back in my photos and realized there were no locks. After doing some research, I found this practice of attaching padlocks to monuments and bridges and throwing the key away, has become a problem. These locks have proliferated many popular tourist attractions worldwide since early 2000 but has not become popular in Paris until early 2008. As a result, padlocks are placed on not just bridges but to fences, monuments, lamp posts and anywhere these couples consider significant for them. As romantic as it feels, and I must say, as beautiful as it looks, the local municipalities don’t share the same feeling. They consider this vandalism and litter. It damages historic structures and can at times be dangerous. In June 2014, on the Pont des Arts bridge, it was reported that a section of the rail collapsed inwards. If it fell outwards, it could have fallen on a passing boat and cause injury.
On the night of May 11, 2010, all the locks on Pont des Arts bridge mysteriously disappeared. I say mysteriously as the administration denied having any part in it. Wikipedia claims this was an act by a student at École des Beaux-Arts who used these locks for an art sculpture.
I wouldn’t be surprised if 2010 was the year of the most broken hearts in the world. This horrendous act of violence on these “love-struck” lovers hearts didn’t deter people from continuing this custom. It continues to spread and become ever more popular.
By the time we went back in 2013, the bridge was filled to the max. You can bring your own special lock from home, or you can purchase one in one of the shops on the streets of Paris. Yes, they will actually engrave the lock for you if you like.
As romantic as the idea seems, there is obviously a downside. As a result, I believe I will just stick to taking photos of these amazing phenomena, unless they come up with a great solution. Perhaps Russia can be an example and inspiration to artists and cities? They have solved this problem by placing metal tree statues in the middle of their bridge where tourists adorn them with their love locks. I don’t believe there is any way of stopping this trend but at least there can be other options.