A love lock, off course, is a padlocked attached to a bridge or other public place by two lovers who then throw the key to the lock into the river as a symbol of their indestructible love. Many cities around the world have certain spots that have become popular for these love locks, and in Paris one of the most popular is the Pont des Arts.
This bridge over the Seine was built in the early 1800s but completely renovated in the 1980s. Parisians and visitors alike have always enjoyed meeting in couple or small groups to sit on the bridge and enjoy a bottle of wine and a platter of cheese and crackers. And at certain times of the year the view of the late day sun as it seems to set into the river itself is astounding.
But over the last five years a huge number of locks have completely filled the fencing along the sides of the bridge and obliterating those views. But more important than the views is the fact that the combined weight of those locks, estimated to be some 45 tons, was placing stress of the old bridge and its supports.
This summer the city began removing all of the fence panels along the bridge. The plan is to replace them with Plexiglas panels to protect the bridge’s historic grillwork while once again providing the marvelous views from the bridge. The city is considering ways to recycle all of the locks, but they have no plans to recover the 700,000 keys that are estimated to have been tossed from the bridge and into the Seine.
Another one of my most favorite bridges in Paris is located just three-quarters of a mile southeast of the Pont des Arts. This plain masonry bridge is the Pont de l’Archeveche and it connects Paris’ Left Bank with the eastern tip of the Ile de la Cite. Take a hot café and a fresh croissant to the middle of this bridge early in the morning and you’ll have the most spectacular view of Notre Dame as the morning light paints the old stones of the cathedral.
The Pont de l’Archeveche was built in 1828 and now its old parapets are also in danger of crumbling under the wright of love locks. In fact, if you search for “love lock bridge” Google Earth will take you to two bridges – the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’Archeveche. The city is taking steps to remove the love locks from this bridge as well.
Lovers, no doubt, will continue to place love locks on other bridges in Paris. But at least now the city realizes the dangers and will be taking steps to preserve its historic bridges and their views for posterity.