Ah, Paris, the City of Love. It’s a place of once love-locked bridges, but not anymore. Between 2008 and 2015, nearly a million shiny pad locks were fastened to the bridge’s rails by lovers, the keys tossed into the emerald flowing waters of the River Seine as a symbol of unbreakable love. It is now illegal in Paris to symbolize your love this way, although you still can in other European cities. The Parisian government declared it ‘vandalism’. It seems like such a slap in the face of love to call it that.
The tradition began a hundred years ago, but not in Paris. There is a Serbian tale about it that involves two lovers, distance, infidelity, heart break, death and then widespread paranoia. To protect their own loves from this terrible fate, lovers began to symbolically reinforce it with a lock and key, although I think they do it nowadays more for the romance.
Forty-five tonnes of lovers-locks of various shapes, sizes and colours – perhaps like the myriad of people who had left them – were eventually removed from the Parisian bridge. The railings, in some parts, had collapsed under the weight of them all; so many love stories and so much emotion. So much love!
Sometimes I wonder how many tonnes of shiny metal keys scatter the bed of the Seine; if they lay there in a solid heap or if the current swept them down stream in a similar pattern to a lover’s heal pushing a satin sheet along the surface of a bed. How far down the river do they scatter I wonder? So many hearts – two for each key – lay down there, if they still do. Perhaps the river has been dredged and the keys removed. Hopefully all the love is still intact.
The bridge looks much different now with no way to link locks back on no matter how hard one tries.
Lovers continue to stroll along the Parisian bridges and streets, their arms or fingers locked. Many also sit along the concrete banks of the Seine, their hearts united by a flurry of pheromones and fine red wine.
Paris is pheromones. There is something about it that puts a flutter in your heart. It instills, inside my own heart, a longing for someone I don’t yet know. It makes me yearn to live out the stories of the fabled lovers I hear about, but can only imagine.
Just like a person gives off a unique energy, Paris does too. Paris can be that luring woman in black stilettos who entices a man with her style, grace and a mysterious glance and then walks away. It can also be the steady gaze of a Frenchman who knows just what he wants and what you need. Both instill curiosity. Paris makes me want to explore the possibilities of romance and passion. Perhaps there are satin sheets to go with the fabled lovers.
Paris is a lingering French kiss set along the River Seine in the heat of the afternoon sun.
Or perhaps a romantic evening stroll underneath the Eiffel tower. It’s illegal take photos of it at night. It has been declared a piece of artwork so is copyrighted. It looks like an enormous diamond pendant lit up in the night sky. You would almost expect someone to lift it up on a delicate gold chain and drape it around their lover’s neck as an offering of love. It would be a perfect spot to propose to a lover if you dare dream of things like that, but I don’t.
Paris is a city that indulges the human senses in romance and taste. It’s infectious. You can feel it in the air. If you’re not careful you’ll catch it, but maybe you want to. Sometimes, though, you have to wave it away like you do a pesky wasp. Like those portrait artists that insist you sit for them while they tell you how beautiful you are. One insisted I meet him that evening under the Eiffel Tower, but I didn’t. Perhaps I would have if he was more charming or handsome.
Smells of comfort drift along the Parisian streets. Numerous bakeries endeavour to lure you in with baskets of freshly baked baguettes and trays of fancy pastries. Colourful pink, green, yellow and brown macarons entice you from under glass cases.
The fruit tart caught my eye.
It was like an orgasmic burst of what I imagine happiness would taste like; sweet and uplifting, fleeting, something to savour in the moment. The soft glazed peaches lingered between my tongue and palate, the flaky pastry a welcome contrast of texture and flavour.
The wine, like red velvet on my tongue, was full-bodied, rich and flavourful. My French Airbnb host was kind to share some with me when I arrived. I had breakfast with him and his fiancé in a community garden set along some old unused train tracks too, something I would have missed if I was rich enough to stay in a luxurious hotel.
My budget didn’t allow me to indulge in the fancy French cuisine so I settled for a picnic of market fruit and a baguette sandwich with meat and cheese. I ate it in a park beside the Eiffel Tower. A Frenchman had the same idea.
Two days in Paris didn’t allow me time to visit places like the Palace of Versailles or see the famous paintings inside the Louvre, although I stood beside the glass pyramid, a novelty in itself.
Instead, I walked the streets and saw what I could from the outside like the pigeons of Notre Dame.
Some mysterious Venetian masks hanging inside an old antique shop window.
Gargoyles hanging from the Basilica.
Lovers basking along the River Seine.
I wonder what stories they could tell; the pigeons, masks, gargoyles and lovers.
I nearly rented a bicycle so I could have explored further along the Seine. It seems like everyone rides one in Paris no matter what their attire.
On my last day, a Frenchman intercepted me as I walked through the gardens near the Louvre. He was tall and dressed very debonair in a dark suit and tie; heavy attire for such a warm spring day, but he looked handsome. He was sitting alone at a small round table. When he saw me he jumped out of his chair and boldly approached. He asked if I would like to sit with him and have a glass of wine, but I couldn’t. I was on my way to the Métro. I needed to pick up my suitcase and then catch my flight to Biarritz in the south of France.
I didn’t want to leave Paris. There was so much more to explore: the history, the art, the cuisine and perhaps, one day, love. It’s a city I now call my favourite and a place I will certainly return to in the future, but when I do it will be for more than just two days.
Visit the rest of my Paris photo gallery! Stay tuned for more posts from my recent three-month European journey!