I’m a dude. That means I love football, beer and working out. It also means that I’m not always good at spotting romance. In Paris though — love screams in your face. It’s everywhere. I heard a guy propose to his girlfriend on top of the Eiffel Tower, I watched couples holding hands while walking down the Champs-Elysees, and I saw love literally locked to the side of a bridge — the Pont des Arts.
My mom and I started our second day in Paris at Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame Cathedral. After we finished there, we started walking toward the Champs-Elysees. Instead of staying on the main streets, my mom and I walked the foot paths along the Seine River. I highly recommend this, especially if you’re looking for a romantic route around the city. There aren’t many people down there, it’s a really nice stroll, and you get where you need to go.
According to Wikipedia, there are 37 bridges (or ‘ponts’ in French) that cross the Seine River in Paris. All of them have their own unique features, but one of the coolest bridges is the Pont des Arts. As my mom and I approached the Pont des Arts (a pedestrian bridge that leads to the Louvre), we quickly noticed a bunch of small, shiny things (a lame description, I know — I couldn’t think of anything better) glistening on the bridge. We thought it was just the design, but we quickly noticed it was much more than that as we got closer.
Those small, shiny things are actually padlocks attached to the grates of Pont des Arts. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of padlocks, and all have names and/or little messages written on them. My mom and I didn’t know what the purpose was; we only knew it was cool looking. I took several pictures of the padlocks, noted where we were (I didn’t know it was the Pont des Arts at the time), and planned on investigating the bridge later that night. Luckily, my mom is a talker, so my investigation wasn’t necessary.
As we started walking away, my mom sparked a conversation with a couple strolling along the river. My mom asked the pair if they knew the purpose of the padlocks on the Pont des Arts. The woman (who was luckily American and spoke English) knew the answer and wasn’t shy to share it with us. Here’s how it works:
Couples place a padlock (with their names/message on it) on the bridge, lock it up, and then throw the key into the Seine River below. The gesture is meant to symbolize the couple’s everlasting love. The woman and her husband who explained the meaning to us were actually newlyweds, so they were going to take part in the romantic ritual later in their trip.
I had never seen anything like the padlocks on the Pont des Arts before, but I thought it was a pretty neat idea. It seems to be catching on elsewhere too. After our visit to Paris, I noticed bridges in other European cities being used for the same thing (but not nearly to the same level as the Pont des Arts).
The Pont des Arts is just another shining (literally) example of romance in Paris. Around every corner, on top of a tower and even locked to a bridge — love is everywhere in the “City of Light.”
Have you ever seen the Pont des Arts? Even better — do you have padlock on the Pont des Arts? I’d love to hear all about it! You can simply leave a message below, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more fun travel stories and tips. If you can’t travel the globe, experience the world with me!