Le Pont des Arts

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I cannot remember when I first became aware of the Pont des Arts.

I thought maybe it could have been in the movie Before Sunset, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which is set in various locations around Paris. Maybe it appeared in Paris, J’taime? I’m not sure. (In fact, a quick internet search on the locations in both movies indicates “probably not.”)

What I do know is that I read a post at fellow blogger Carolyn’s site this past April: My Sydney Paris Life: Lovelock on the Pont des Arts, and after reading it thought, “What a romantic idea,” and, “I’d like to try to visit there, and maybe find her and her husband Clive’s lock.”

Not long after that April post, Paul ran into an article, similar to this one in the Telegraph, about how many Parisians feel the locks are an eyesore and how the city sent out workers to cut them off of the bridge. I’d read the article and its explanations about how not long ago the locks of love started turning up on the bridge and what the possible roots are of doing something like this. While part of me empathizes with how the locks could crowd and “junk up” the bridge, most of me thinks the creativity and romance of it touching. It’s a little like the lipstick kisses on Oscar Wilde’s memorial in Père Lachaise Cemetery: people either seem to really dig stuff like that or think it is disgusting. I’m very much in the “dig it” camp.

Carolyn and her spouse, Clive, returned this summer to discover that their lock had been removed, but they put up a new lovelock in its place not long after.

I was therefore most pleased when a couple of weeks ago, Paul said that he had an idea for a piece of micro or “flash” fiction for his blog and that he wanted to go check the bridge out to get some photos.


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Me being me, I really like to learn more about people, places, and things, and not just take them at face value. I like to go a little deeper with my experiences to find out the background information. So I waited a while to give myself time to read and discover more about the bridge before posting about it. I also wanted the experience to sink in a little before figuring out what to say about it that maybe has not already been said on anyone else’s posts.

Here’s a little of what I learned.

The pedestrian bridge links the Right Bank to the Left, from the south side of the Louvre palace to the L’Institut de France, home of the famous Academie française, arbiters of what officially goes into the French language. In total, five academies reside at this institute, which is a “learned society” (Wiki). That’s “learn-ED,” as in “someone who is very educated.” Wikipedia informs us that a “learned society” is a “is an organization that exists to promote an academic discipline or group of disciplines.” The entry goes on to say that, “their activities typically include holding regular conferences for the presentation and discussion of new research results and publishing or sponsoring academic journals in their discipline. “

It’s an important place.

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It’s also one that sounds really stuffy to me, like it is full of men over 65 who have bad comb-overs, old-people breath, and completely constipated attitudes about life. Maybe I am way off, but given the patterns of history, I am relatively certain that it is an institute dominated by men. I don’t think I am making a really wild guess now, do you think? A look at the list of current members of the Academie française indicates that while there are a few women members, most are indeed men. A random pick of a name on the list confirms at least some of my suspicions about the demographics of the institute members. Ah, yes indeed… The entire membership roster, with photos, can be found at the Academy’s website. I’m pretty much right on the money. It’s not surprising, is it.

On to more about the bridge.

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The current bridge, made of steel and with concrete piers to replace the original stone ones, was constructed from 1981 to 1984 (sources here and here). In the mid-70s, the original bridge, which dated from 1803, was found to be stressed, and damage from both World Wars as well as barge accidents made the bridge structurally unsound.

The Pont des Arts (1867) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

(Image source linked to the image.)

This is a painting by Renoir of the original bridge, which was commissioned by Napoléon I and constructed between 1802 and 1804. It was Paris’ first metal bridge following an English design.

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Since 1984, the bridge

has sometimes served as a place for art exhibitions, and is today a studio en plein air for painters, artists and photographers who are drawn to its unique point of view. The Pont des Arts is also frequently a spot for picnics during the summer (Wiki).

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What the bridge has become known for recently are the “lovelocks” which hang from the metal mesh of the sides of the bridge.

I found some interesting ones while walking up and down the length of the boardwalk.

Lovelocks on Pont des Arts

A declaration of love is not so unusual.

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And neither are these words in French (although “my choose” is a cute way to refer to one’s love of loves).

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This one could be a little less stereotypical, if Max and Patrick are both men. I love the idea that love is not bound to gender-specifics. May Max and Patrick live long, free, and happy lives!

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This one is a little more odd. I found this braided lock of hair — still a love “lock,” just not one of the metallic kind.

It’s a new twist on keeping a lock of hair of a loved one in a locket.  The tiny flowered beads were very pretty, even if seeing hair like this feels a little creepy to me. (Have you ever seen Victorian Hair Art? It’s kind of amazing and gross at the same time.)

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The one that takes the cake for most unusual, however, has to be this one:

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A steering wheel “club.” Huh. I’m not so sure I like the potential symbolic messages of this one: “I want to keep you from having your hands on the wheel of your life” or “You’re going nowhere now!” It did make me laugh out loud, though.

If you decide to visit the Pont for a picnic, be aware that some have had trouble with BYOB, although I saw folks with a bottle of rosé, enjoying it on what was a hot summer evening. (A read of the original Le Parisien article states that alcohol is prohibited from 4 pm to 7 am. I guess this means that a brunch or lunch with wine is okay! We were there at about 7 pm, though. Maybe as the evening moves along, the enforcement of this policy is more stringent.)

You might be tempted with the alcohol ban to partake at one of these quai-side barge restaurants.

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But according to my fellow blogger MJ at An American Mom in Paris, unless you are in the mood for an absurdist, Ionesco-like experience, you might want to avoid it.

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The bridge is definitely a free place where one can observe people, listen to music, watch a painter paint, or just absorb the atmosphere of Paris at its most laid back and romantic best.

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For more photos, see my set on Flickr: July 2010.

For more reading about the Pont des Arts, see these links:

After all this, I also finally realized where I had seen the Pont des Arts before. Maybe one of the best kisses on film ever, don’t you think? I got a little verklempt seeing that. *sniff*

(Small Addendum: Can you believe this post is only 1,300 words, give or take? I astound even myself… Also, no new news on the Homeless Hippie Couple, but I still have plenty to post about with goings on in the plaza in front of our place. There are also updates on the Ghetto Garden, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and many other activities. Soon, my friends, soon. Until then, you all have a lovely weekend. Stay cool, have fun, and don’t let the bedbugs bite.)

Hasta la pasta, and ciao for now.

Karin

(an alien parisienne)

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33 thoughts on “Le Pont des Arts

  1. keckstein2002

    Haven’t had time to read it yet – just wanted to be the first!

  2. keckstein2002

    Astounded of Brittany here! Only 1,300 words! Lots of very nice photos though!

    All the best

    Keith

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the relatively short read. Thanks for the kudos on the pics, too!

  3. Hi there Karin good to know about Le Pont des Arts, lovelocks, padlocks of love I enjoyed the rich photos of the old structures very nice we must keep the Faith put a lock on the fence over the river nice.

    Nicely done Karin keep a Writing my friend Eric

    • Thank you, Eric, for stopping by and taking a look at the post. I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  4. Wow! You finished a post in one day and everything!

    It was a lot of fun and I love the photos you took, as usual. Also, thanks for a little more of the history…

    I’m looking forward to our next adventure!

    Paul

    • I did, I did. I’m happy that I could do a post like this. It feels more of what is the “norm” out there in Bloglandia, and even though I don’t mind being unique, it does feel good to crank one out that is more typical now and then.

      I’m looking forward to more adventures, too.

      *mwah*

  5. “many Parisians feel the locks are an eyesore and how the city sent out workers to cut them off of the bridge”

    kinda messes with the notion of Paris being a city of romance, but at the same time one thinks of the limits one would tollorate on PDA’s (two kids locking lips is cute, but would you want to see a guy in leather bind a partially latex clad woman to one of the trees in your plaza, whip her then mount her?). The balance between between art and obsene has always been tenuous.

    “Paul said that he had an idea for a piece of micro or “flash” fiction for his blog and that he wanted to go check the bridge out to get some photos”

    so, it was not immeadiate inspiration, but an idea followed by the act of going and recording. How interesting to now see the process in how that came about.

    “But according to my fellow blogger MJ at An American Mom in Paris, unless you are in the mood for an absurdist, Ionesco-like experience, you might want to avoid it.”

    It would be a beautiful place to simply sit and take in the view, I believe that the entertainment of the surroundings would be a plus if one came in with the right expectations.

    • “The balance between between art and obsene has always been tenuous.”

      Very true. I am empathetic to the bridge getting cluttered like I wrote, but I’m with you in that insofar as having a romantic reputation, cutting off the locks seems like a very non-romantic thing to do.

      I think with Paul’s process it was a little “both/and.” I know he wanted to write a piece and then he wanted to go to the bridge for some more specific inspiration.

      “I believe that the entertainment of the surroundings would be a plus if one came in with the right expectations.”

      Yes, it is a good place for a view. As far as MJ’s experience, though, one would have to go with NO expectations, lol! Customer service is different in Paris from the US, but still…

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Ken!

  6. Hi Karin , a very interesting post.. I remember Carolyn and Clives first padlock (love Lock) how sad that is was removed, I think they should be left alone. City of Love, let it be that then ♥

    Take Care Anne

    • Thanks, Anne! I really liked Carolyn’s post, too. It was a very sweet one, and really stuck with me.

      You take care, too! 🙂

  7. I’ve never heard of this “lock” phenomena! It’s so beautiful and symbolic; I can’t wait to visit it one day and look through all of them just like you did. I love the collage of photos too; my favourite lock was definitely “my choose.”

    • Thank you, Brittany. I hope one day you get to visit and bring your own lock, if you like.

  8. Amy

    I guess I didn’t see the bridge with the locks in the Ethan Hawke movie because I got tired of all the conversation and abandoned the movie. I was in the mood for a mindless romance rather than anything cerebral that day. I should have known an Ethan Hawke movie would be full of dialogue.

    All the locks there are neat. Ya know … “Max” could be short for “Maxine”. Just sayin’. Also, the hair is a bit creepy. Makes you wonder if the person is still alive more than the other locks do. Did you and loverboy put up your own lock? (Or did I miss that in my skimming internet reading style which really sucks).

    • Yeah, Before Sunset and its predecessor Before Sunrise were talkative movies, huh. And definitely more cerebral than a lighthearted rom-com, lol.

      I know, “Max” could be a nickname for “Maxine” or just a nickname not in relation to a similar name at all, and Max could be a girl. I was just so taken with Max and Patrick being guys and the thought made me most happy. So that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it. 🙂

      About the hair — I kind of wondered that, too — like, “Is this a memorial for someone?” Kind of nice but also kind of creepy, for sure.

      Nope — we did not put up a lock, lol. I don’t know why not — while I love the idea, it also does not feel like a really “Paul and Karin” thing to do.

      Thanks for stopping by, Amy.

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  10. I just love this bridge. Love love and love, along with the gorgeous arches of Bir-Hakeim Bridge, my second favorite. Being somewhat an artist, I used to ride the subway to Pont des Arts with my sketchbook and draw away what the lovely place spurred in me… sometimes what I saw, sometimes what my heart told me.

    Wishing you a sweet Sunday and excited about meeting you in less than a week, if all goes as planned, huh!? We’ll be in touch!

    • Hello, Susa! This is a really great bridge, for sure. I got to go back past it yesterday on the way home from checking out Serge Gainsbourg’s former home, and the Seine was sparkly with sunshine, the air was so refreshing, and it really was so very pretty to see this bridge again!

      See you soon, and hope that your week goes well. 🙂

  11. While I am one of the ‘torn’ people as to whether the locks are an eyesore or a mark of creativity and romance, I adore Le Pont des Arts… gazing over to the tip of Ile de la Cité, or down past the Tuileries, is one the best moments in Paris.

    • I can absolutely understand feeling the ambiguity of the locks’ presence on the bridge, but there is no doubt that the Pont des Arts is a fantastic bridge. It’s very “Paris,” for sure.

      Thanks for reading, Sweet Freak!

  12. I love your site! Great pictures, great stories! We have to get together soon.
    Have a great week!

    • Hi Brigitte!

      So glad you had fun here. 🙂 I hope you have a great week, too, and yes, I’d love to see you soon. Let’s see if we can work out a day/evening in the coming week, maybe?

      Take care.

  13. Karin, the depth of your post/interest in exploring Parisian landmarks (or whatever) is stunning — I loved reading this, and thanks for the references to Clive’s and my various attempts at romance on the Pont des Arts!

    I understand the mixed feelings about visual clutter/pollution/eyesore vs. romance, clean and harmless … and that the locks aren’t for everyone. And I too think the hair (eek!) and the other larger ‘items’ — umbrella! — and various ENORMOUS padlocks — aren’t ‘appropriate’ either — but who’s to judge what’s appropriate!??!

    Really enjoyed the bit from Sex and the City re the kiss – don’t think I’ve ever seen a full show of that, only little blurbs, but still got the idea of a big kiss on the bridge – lovely.

    Cheers to you for your continued excellent posts! Enjoy.

    • Hi Carolyn! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading, and I really have *you* to thank so much because of those posts you did about you and Clive’s experiences on the bridge!

      You know what? I have seen Seasons 1-5 of SatC, but never actually had the chance to see the entire Season 6 — the one that takes place in Paris. I’ve seen just bits and pieces of that one. I had a good friend of mine who adores the show summarize the entire season for me just before going to see the first movie, which was also the day I left for Paris. I was really happy to see the video of the kiss up on YouTube. It was a good show while it lasted. And that is a great kissing scene, I think!

      Thanks for stopping by and see you ’round the bloghood, Carolyn!

  14. I have not been back to the Pont des Arts since they rebuilt it. I remember the old pont and mostly the song my favorite singer, when I was growing up, sang about it. His name was George Brassens. I am sure they still have his songs on the radio. The song was called “Le Vent” here is the beginning of the lyrics:

    Si, par hasard,
    Sur le pont des Arts,
    Tu croises le vent, le vent fripon,
    Prudence, prends garde а ton jupon!
    Si, par hasard,
    Sur le pont des Arts,
    Tu croises le vent, le vent maraud,
    Prudent, prends garde а ton chapeau!

    you can hear it on you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58lS9FudnQI&feature=fvsr

    • Hi Vagabonde! It’s good to see you back. Thank you for reading.

      I have heard of George Brassens. I love that song! I like how the wind is such a scoundrel in it! (The part about the skirt is very cute.) Yes, I recognized the voice and style, although I don’t think I could have named the artist if I’d heard it without knowing.

      What I always love about your comments is that I learn so much background information about Paris and France. This makes things easier for me — to know the history, culture, and background behind things. I’m sure you feel the same about the US — knowing more about what has happened enriches your experience there.

    • P.S. Next time you come and visit, let’s the two of us meet up and go there, eh? 🙂

  15. WOW– gosh that is beautiful! Next time I am in Paris (hopefully ASAP!) I will go look for that!!!

    • It’s a very cool place, so I hope you get to see it one day very soon. Thanks for the visit, Jake!

  16. I need to stay in touch with these France blogs. Otherwise… I just miss France too much! Thank you again for your excellent blog!
    Jake

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