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Pont Notre-Dame love padlocks

The irrestible Paris love padlocks outbreak

Since 2008, love padlocks have invaded a few bridges of the City of Lights. Is it a good tradition or a disgrace to the Seine river ?

As the sun sets over the Trocadero Palace, a passer-by walking on le Pont de Carroussel and looking towards the Island of the Cité could think he needs to pay a visit to his ophtalmologist. Litterally, hundreds of golden sparkles seem to ornate the famous Pont des Arts, that pedestrian bridge built in 1804 to go from the Louvre to the Fine-Arts School on the left bank. What is that all about ?

It’s, pretty much, a new tradition. A tradition that existed in a lot of other places -Germany, Hungary, Serbia- but not here. A tradition which consists in taking your lover to a bridge, writting both your names on a padlock, tie it to the bridge fence, throw the key in the river and show the cosmos the eternity of your feelings, while leaving it to the authorities to know what to do with hundreds of unsollicited padlocks on city properties.

In Paris, that tradition really appears after the book « I want you » was published in Italy by Federico Moccia. At least, that’s what a quick research teaches you. Because, frankly, outside of Italy, I’m not sure that writer is known… However, the outbreak started after the book was released.

And suddenly Paris became the mecca of padlocks.

Of course, Paris like any other touristy city doesn’t escape from the usual tourists traditions. You will see people dumping coins in fountains in Paris. But it never really picked up… Yet this time we’re dealing with something much stronger. Because, in fact, Paris is the capital of love…

It’s all over the movies, and several times a year I get sollicited by visitors who want to propose or celebrate an anniversary during their stay. How can you then resist this everlasting ambiance, the pinkish gold on the Paris sandstones monuments, the scream of the swallows, the buzz of champagne and the peaceful accordeon playing for you (and your wallet) ? How can you then resist the pleasure to participate, to leave something, something that’s gotta be a bummer to take off, in that aeternal setting ? How could you resist mixing your microlove story with the walk of History ? The outbreak of padlocks take place because, darn !, you’re in Paris, Paris is the city of Love, and your love story deserves Paris. And rightly so.

If I was greedy, I would open a padlock shop by the river. Because, although it’s a bit kitsch, I believe it is a gorgeous tradition. Not many places offer things to do involving your feelings, especially when you travel in Art Cities in Europe. And besides the beauty of that tradition, it is definitely adding more flavor to Paris.

Not to mention that the three bridges where this padlock frenzy takes place are perfect for it : le Pont des Arts, le Pont de l’Archevêché (besides Notre Dame) and la Passerelle léopold Sédar Senghor have pretty pointless fences, that are really magnified by this gilded coating of padlocks.

Yet, Paris remains a conservative city, and in the City Hall, people are talking, saying it is threatening the architectural legacy of Paris. Well now these are the people that blew up the Halles and set a highway on the medieval shores of the river, so they probably know what they are talking about… But as far as I’m concerned, I think it is making our architectural legacy more alive and more interesting.

Except when you’re dealing with people who just don’t get what the right bridge is. Some people, with lower intellectual capacities, will put for instance a bike lock on the stone fence of the Pont Saint-Michel. Or pathetically try to put a love padlock on the wonderful art nouveau bronze fences of the Pont Notre-Dame (on the picture of this article). Well that’s the limit of that tradition. In these cases, it is definitely hurting the beauty of the city, and taking the magic out….

Is there a way to keep the locks where they should be ? Maybe a solution could be to set three shops with special Paris locks on these bridges, and allow only these locks to be tied on the bridge where they come from. And allowing people to be creative on the locks… But the town hall is surely not that creative, and I can bet that within the next five years, there will be a special fine created for « padlocking bridges »… Love and politics do not match that well, after all…