« L'amour est plus fort que toutes les raisons. » - Madame de Sévigné
Le Pont des Arts, linking the Grand Louvre on the Right Bank to the posh St. Germain district on the Left, is one of Paris' loveliest bridges. Originally constructed in 1804, the footbridge has long been a favorite venue for strollers and artists who linger to appreciate its sweeping vistas.
I first spotted a few padlocks neatly fasted to the Pont des Arts in early 2009, and learned that this tradition originated in Florence on the Ponte Vecchio where lovers began imitating a romantic rite mentioned in two contemporary Italian novels. By 2007, the Italian authorities had outlawed the locks in both Florence and Rome, but by that time, the tradition had spread to Paris and as far as London, Germany, Stockholm, Hungary, Russia, China, and even Brooklyn.
Each year, when I returned to the Pont des Arts, there were more and more locks...
Eric and I traveled to Paris together in November of 2011. Since this was his first time in The City of Love, we participated in all of the clichéd, romantic traditions: strolling hand-in-hand, snuggling on a bateau mouche, kissing under Le Pont Marie, watching the Packers on Thanksgiving in the Latin Quarter -- OK, maybe that is only a romantic tradition for Wisconsinites ;-) Eric engraved a lock previously used on our boat, attached it to our chosen spot on Le Pont des Arts, and threw the lock into the Seine. At the time, it was romantic and I never imagined that we were contributing to the eventual structural damage of the iconic bridge.
The number of locks continued to multiply and the bridge became both a safety hazard and an eyesore, with plywood temporarily installed to help maintain its structural integrity. Finally in 2014, the locks were removed, the ironwork was restored, and 110 specially-treated, shatter-resistant, anti-glare plexiglass panels were installed to prohibit future locks and graffiti.
Yet, somehow love always finds a way...