Paris Lockdown

I’ve just returned from my third trip to Paris. (Lucky me!) I went in 1998 with my son, 2011 with my family, and now 2014 with my co-worker. Some things about Paris never change, but some things do. Take the locks of love, for instance.

In 1998, there were no locks on the Pont des Arts bridge along the Seine, so I don’t have a picture. But sometime in the past few years, people started expressing their undying love by attaching padlocks, often with names or messages inscribed on them, to the bridge as had previously been done in Italy. When we were there in 2011, it looked like this:

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2011

2011

 

Just three short years later, the bridge is in a state of disrepair with the weight of all the locks. Now it looks like this:

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The locks are hooked onto other locks and onto bike chains. They’ve stretched beyond the bridge itself to the fences along the sidewalk. I picked up a wad and was astounded by the weight. The cluster of locks linked together in my hand had to have weighed nearly 20 lbs.

It’s beautiful, but dangerous. In June of this year, the bridge was evacuated after a five-foot section of the bridge rail crumbled under the weight of the padlocks. Paris officials replaced that section with Plexiglas. Other sections are blocked off with plywood. The locks behind them are still intact, but I think that’s temporary. Soon there will be no more chain link fencing. There will be nothing left to attach locks to.

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Still, hawkers are set up on the bridge selling a variety of padlocks to young lovers. While I was there, I saw three more locks attached to the bridge. I think they’re probably only going to be there temporarily. The plywood signs are on the wall: the locks are going down. The next time I go to Paris, I expect to see a completely different scene on this bridge. As evidenced in my three visits so far, things change.

What do you think about the love locks?

42 responses to “Paris Lockdown

  1. Wow, great post! Its incredible the huge difference between 2011 to nowadays. Last time I was in Paris was in December last year and I wondered if they would let all those padlocks there… or if they would take them out once in a while…. you just answered to my question.
    I left one there, it was fun, because I left in August last year and a few months later in December I went there and saw that my padlock was still there…. it was good feeling 😀
    But its true that its not safe if people keep putting them there… though it will be sad if they take them all out 😦
    Thank you for sharing this story 🙂

  2. Call me miserable but I don’t get it. Especially when the majority of the relationships expressed there will have failed by now – the stats don’t lie. Still, if it makes people happy (apart from the bridge maintenance guys).

    • We’re so different, Roy. I find it so romantic. I hate that it’s destroying the bridge, though. And undoubtedly the water in the Seine that’s deluged with metal now from all those keys…

  3. I remember Jess from Notes of Nomads doing a vlog on this subject, something I didn’t know about since I hadn’t been to Paris in a decade. I would call myself a romantic in many ways, but I can’t get on board with this. I suppose it started off innocently enough. Clearly, the weight of those locks would compromise the bridge over time. Whoever started the tradition should have gone with something lighter. 🙂

  4. I think there were even fewer during our 2008 visit. It is sad that beautiful bridges the world over are being vandalized because of these crazy notions of everlasting love.

  5. I’ve seen a few of these bridges and/or fences in different places now – and I agree, they are fun and romantic. But I hate that they actually destroy the bridges eventually. But it’s a hard thing to police!

  6. It might be romantic, but I prefer the bridge without the padlocks! Maybe it’s because I used to live in Paris in 2001 and Pont des Arts bridge (without a single padlock) was my favourite bridge…. A nice spot to enjoy the view of Paris and the river Seine.

    • I may realize what you’re saying myself. We have a Purple People Bridge in Cincinnati over the Ohio River and people having started putting locks on it now, too. I will hate to see the bridge destroyed.

  7. I had gone to visit Paris earlier this year, a few months before the news came out that the bridge had partially crumbled and needed to be repaired. I like the idea of the locks but I’m also a bit superstitious and putting a lock on it (see what I did there?) feels almost ominous to me, like you’re jinxing the relationship. I know Namsan Tower in Seoul is also a popular destination for love locks, though I have no idea how safe that is either.

  8. I’d heard all about the collapse of the Paris bridge Juliann, as well as the plexiglass fix. Thanks to your post, now I’ve seen recent photos to document the bridge. As to what people think about the LOL phenomenon, I just published a post on the LOL bridge in Cologne, and if you read the comments from my readers, you’ll see that most people have a pretty strong opinion one way or the other. Check it out:

    http://gallivance.net/2014/11/14/colognes-locks-of-love-bridge-a-romantic-fad-or-steel-graffiti/
    ~James

  9. Great photos! I think the love locks are a lovely idea but in practice they’re destroying the beautiful bridges. The problem is now the idea of love locks have taken over. You see them all around the world now!

  10. I find them really frustrating. I love the idea of doing a small something to commemorate your love on your romantic trip, but the bridge locks are so dangerous and expensive for cities to deal with. (And they’re not just on bridges – when I was in Paris in July I saw some locks on a random piece of residential fencing in Montmartre that happened to be near a view of the Eiffel Tower!) I think it’s time to start looking for a new tradition so people can still celebrate romance without damaging the city they’re visiting.

  11. The love locks concept is good. People just need to be smart. I probably won’t include one if I already seen there’s too much there. I’m always the picture-taker anyway, rarely the contributor. It’d be sad for them to discontinue this gizmo. They need more fences. 🙂

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