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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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).
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.
A declaration of love is not so unusual.
And neither are these words in French (although “my choose” is a cute way to refer to one’s love of loves).
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!
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.)
The one that takes the cake for most unusual, however, has to be this one:
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.
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.
For more photos, see my set on Flickr: July 2010.
For more reading about the Pont des Arts, see these links:
- City of Paris website (En): Pont des Arts
- Pariswater.com (En/Fr): La passerelle des Arts
- Paris Mysterious (ParisBestLodge.com): Le Pont des Arts
- Flickr Group: Padlocks on the Pont des Artes [sic]
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.
(an alien parisienne)