The River Seine is a central focal point in the city of Paris and with a number of bridges crossing the river at strategic points in the city you find yourself crossing the river frequently. It is lovely in the evening to take a stroll over the river on one of the bridges and see the evening water cruises move up and down the river with the city lights illuminating the scene.
The Seine is a 777-kilometre-long (483 mi) river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Source-Seine, 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre (and Honfleur on the left bank). It is navigable by ocean-going vessels as far as Rouen, 120 kilometres (75 mi) from the sea. Over 60 percent of its length, as far as Burgundy, is negotiable by commercial riverboats, and nearly its whole length is available for recreational boating; excursion boats offer sightseeing tours of the river banks in Paris, lined with top monuments including Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and Musée d’Orsay.
There are 37 bridges within Paris and dozens more spanning the river outside the city. Examples in Paris include the Pont Alexandre III and Pont Neuf, the latter of which dates back to 1607. Outside the city, examples include the Pont de Normandie, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, which links Le Havre to Honfleur.
Ponts des Arts
The Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris which crosses the River Seine. It links the Institut de France and the central square (cour carrée) of the Palais du Louvre, (which had been termed the “Palais des Arts” under the First French Empire).
Since late 2008, tourists have taken to attaching padlocks (love locks) with their first names written or engraved on them to the railing or the grate on the side of the bridge, then throwing the key into the Seine river below, as a romantic gesture. This gesture is said to represent a couple’s committed love. Although this is not a French tradition and has only been taking place in Paris since the end of 2008, with locks occasionally being cut off by city workers, since 2012 the number of locks covering the bridge has become overwhelming, with locks being attached upon other locks. In February 2014, Le Monde estimated that there were over 700,000 locks; with the 2014 summer tourist season, many thousands more have since been added, creating a serious safety concern for city authorities and an aesthetic issue for Parisians.
By 2014, concern was being expressed about the possible damage the weight of the locks were doing to the structure of the bridge. In May, the newly elected mayor, Anne Hidalgo, announced that she was tasking her First Deputy Mayor, Bruno Julliard, with finding alternatives to love locks in Paris. In June, part of the parapet on the bridge collapsed under the weight of all of the padlocks that had been attached to it.
In August 2014, the Paris Mayor’s Office began to say publicly that they wanted to encourage tourists to take “selfies” instead of leaving love locks, when they launched the “Love Without Locks” campaign and social media hashtag. The web site states: “Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. Set them free by declaring your love with #lovewithoutlocks.” With the high tourist season in full swing, more than 50% of the panels on the Pont des Arts had to be boarded over with plywood because the weight of the locks (estimated by the city to be 700 kg per panel) was creating the risk of more panels collapsing.
On 18 September 2014, the City Hall of Paris replaced three panels of this bridge with a special glass as an experiment as they search for alternative materials for the bridge where locks cannot be attached.
From 1 June 2015, city council workmen from Paris started to cut down all the locks after years of complaints from locals. Health and Safety officials said “the romantic gestures cause long term Heritage degradation and danger to visitors”. As of 2015, over a million locks were placed, weighing approximately 45 tons. Street artists like Jace, El Seed, Brusk or Pantonio have been chosen to paint the new panels that replaces the old railings with locks.
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