I was recently sent a photo of padlocks on a bridge across the river Seine in Paris by a Facebook friend from Australia after she and her family visited Paris. A lovely photo which I shared with everyone on Facebook (below).
It seems to have kicked off a bit of a debate…
No one really knows when or why the tradition of attaching a padlock to a bridge in Paris began. The idea is to convey love for eternity – usually by two lovers who engrave or write their initials or names on a padlock, attach it to a bridge and throw the key into the water below. The Pont d’Art, the Pont de l’Archevêché and several other bridges which have railings are home to thousands of padlocks and even families are now declaring their love for their children, grandchildren or parents in this way.
It’s a relatively new phenomenon; some people relate it to a book called “Ho Voglia di Te” (I want you) by Federico Moccia who is Italian not French. In the book he has two lovers engrave their initials on a padlock, attach it to a lamppost on a bridge in Rome and throw the key into the River Tiber.
It certainly seems like a romantic thing to do.
However… you knew that was coming didn’t you! The Paris authorities have been threatening for ages to remove the padlocks as they say the weight of the tens of thousands of “love locks” that now adorn the bridges are too heavy and will cause problems. Over the last few years some padlocks have mysteriously disappeared but the Paris council denied any responsibility and even declared they didn’t have a problem with the shiny locks. The Police also said it wasn’t them and hadn’t seen anyone doing it. The lovelocks have gradually been building up again and once more the authorities are muttering ominously about collapse.
Amongst my friends opinion is not that much divided. Peter, a journalist in the UK hates it. He says it makes the bridges look messy and they will collapse under the weight. He is not alone in voicing such a view – but the vast majority of people I know love the idea, the romance of it and almost all of them plan to attach a lock or dream of attaching a lock.
The love locks certainly are a tourist attraction – for those who want to declare their love on the bridge to those who love to photograph the shiny jumble interspersed with wispy white chiffon ties left by brides and created from their wedding veils. Sarah, an advertising executive in America, told me she actually plans to come back to check that her love lock – which she placed there with her then boyfriend/now husband three years go – is still there.
It might not be if the Paris authorities decide to remove some of the padlocks – from a practical point of view, the locks can’t just keep building up or it will create a problem, and it’s not like they can even be undone and put somewhere else – they have to be cut off.
Apparently those falling out of love have been known to return with a pair of bolt cutters to destroy the evidence of something that no longer exists. I suppose they can’t really don a wet suit and dive into the Seine to sift through thousands of keys!
Ernest Hemingway said: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”.
I think people feel like that about the Paris love locks in some way… that if you are lucky enough to have attached your love lock in Paris, then wherever you go the rest of your life it stays with you, after all it is known as the city of love.