On a dreary May morning during a recent trip to Paris, I made my way across the Pont des Arts enroute to the Jardin des Tuileries and ultimately the Orangerie for my first viewing of Monet’s famous lilies in all their glory. Somehow I’d missed them on previous trips to Paris, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again.
I didn’t think much of the bridge or its locks as I made my way across, but I enjoyed the view of the Ile de la Cité and took the photo above. I hadn’t thought about the locks again until I came across An Affront to Love, French-Style, Agnès C. Poirier the New York Times online this morning.
The locks have been touted as “tradition,” but in reality they’re simply tourist kitsch that began to accumulate during recent memory. Poirier takes offense at locks as a metaphor for love in hyperbolic French fashion:
[S]ome Parisians have felt increasingly irritated. Walking on those bridges has become almost insufferable for them. The pain doesn’t come only from the fact that some bridges, like Pont de l’Archevêché and Pont des Arts, now feel as if they could collapse under the weight of tourists’ undying love but also from the idea that a lock could represent love. Such an idea is abhorrent to many French people.
“The fools! They haven’t understood a thing about love, have they?” was the conclusion recently of a 23-year-old waiter at Panis, a cafe on the Left Bank with a view over Notre-Dame. At the heart of love à la française lies the idea of freedom. To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves. Love is not a commodity, either. Love is not capitalist, it is revolutionary. If anything, true love shows you the way to selflessness. (Emphasis added.)
While I tend to agree with the idea of locks being a bad metaphor for love, I can also see them in a more romantic, idealistic way as hope for the constancy of love in the future. I would probably have sought out an older Frenchman to quote when trying to present the countervailing French view on love!
Maybe someone with just a bit more experience to draw upon? I can confidently say I knew little about love at 23, but then again, I’m not French either.
What do you think? Are the locks simply an eyesore or representative of romantic gesture adding to the allure of the City of Light?
- An Affront to Love, French-Style, NY Times
- Love Padlocks, Wikipedia
- The Padlocks of Paris, David Lebovitz (Love the Bonnie & Clyde lock, circa 2011!)