Love is threatening to destroy a bridge in Paris. More accurately, it is expressions of love, but the threat is real.
The Pont des Arts Bridge is a pedestrian walkway that crosses the Seine River near the Louvre. It was built around 1801, but it is a present-day threat that has Parisian officials concerned. The threat comes from padlocks.
Nobody is using the locks to close the bridge. Couples are using the locks to express eternal love. In fact, they are commonly referred to as love-locks. The lovers attach the lock to the bridge and then throw the key into the river. Personally, I think it’s charming. And, if my wife and I ever make it to Paris, I’m more than willing to invest in a French padlock. The problem is, by the time we get there, I’ll probably have missed my opportunity.
There are so many locks on the bridge that officials fear the bridge could be damaged, or even collapse, from their collective weight. How many locks are there? There are some estimates that put the number at more than 500,000.
Workers have already begun to remove the locks. I completely understand the action, but I think it’s sad. I wonder which lock has been there the longest and if the couple is still in love. I also wonder if anyone ever had a relationship falter and went back to remove the lock. I suppose we’ll never know.
The Pont des Arts Bridge is just one of many places in the world where people gather for a common purpose or activity. Some of them are as delightful as the love-locks. Others, not so much.
Better-known, or at least more widely known, is the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The fountain is huge — 85 feet tall and 65 feet wide — and was built in the fourth century. Ancient Romans threw coins into the fountain as an offering to the water gods to ensure a safe return from their travels.
Today, it’s mostly tourists tossing coins over their shoulders into the fountain. They do it because legend holds that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. A second coin is thrown by those seeking love and a third is supposed to result in wedding bells. There is no way to track how many of those tourists return to Rome — or fall in love — but about $4,000 is collected from the fountain every night and donated to charity.
And then there’s Bubblegum Alley in downtown San Luis Obispo. I think the love-locks are charming, and the Trevi Fountain is romantic. Bubblegum Alley is just gross. People who visit the alley in the 700-block of Higuera Street stick take the gum out of their mouth and stick it onto the brick walls of the alley.
There is a lot of old gum there. A lot. It covers the walls higher than most people can reach. I don’t know how it gets up there and truthfully, I don’t care. I don’t even like passing the alley and I will certainly not make a contribution. The locks are another story. In fact, I find myself fixated on the love-lock concept.
I’m not sure where in Ventura County I could find a place where I could attach a lock and throw away the key, but I’m thinking about it. If I think of a place, I’ll let you know. Or maybe I won’t. But I’m pretty sure my wife would think it was romantic if our lock was the first.