Ok, when I say ‘free love’, I don’t mean in the partner swapping 60s flower power way. I mean that since Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching (this Friday), and Paris is billed as the most romantic city in the world, then the mood is right to profit from the spirit of amour that hangs thickly in the air, without the need to spend 300 euros on dinner in a packed brasserie with your chosen loved one.
Sure, you can fork out for flowers, expensive chocolates or the latest gadget if you’re feeling flush (what do people buy each other for Valentine’s Day these days??), and if you want to chance a swish Parisian restaurant, then good luck to you (if you haven’t booked by now though, you might be in a bit of a pickle…). I fully understand that Valentine’s Day is not the day to be trying to save a few bob if you want relations between you and your significant other to remain warm and toasty, but for the mere price of a padlock, you can experience one of Paris’ most romantic spots, whilst making your cherie’s heart go all warm and fuzzy.
Over the last 10 years or so, a strange phenomenon has been gradually creeping onto some of Paris’ loveliest bridges and providing couples the chance to cement their hearts together forever – the love lock. The idea of covering a bridge with padlocks is not some kind of elaborate plan to stop the bridge from escaping, but a way of proving that your love is solid, by locking two hearts together for all eternity (and this is true of friends and families too, not just starry-eyed lovers).
The idea became popular via an Italian book ‘Three Metres Above the Sky’, a story of two young lovers in Rome, though there is evidence of the same ritual in Serbia dating back to World War II. Love-filled hearts around Europe decided they liked the idea too, and over the last decade, padlock-loaded bridges have become a common sight in many popular cities, with many municipal authorities actually erecting structures specifically for the purpose.
In Paris, the most famous lock-laden bridge, and one of the prettiest, is the Pont de l’Archevêché near Notre Dame, though the trend actually began (and still continues) on the Pont des Arts. Other bridges have followed suit, and given the popularity of the ritual, it is difficult to find a free spot to attach your own personal love token, though the Pont de Solferino near the Musée D’Orsay offers plenty of space and some smashing views of the river and the Eiffel Tower.
So embrace the chilly weather (the warmth radiating from the padlock manufacturers’ hands rubbing in glee should help with that), take your sweetheart by the hand and pick a spot to perform your own romantic ritual this Valentine’s Day. Grab your hunk of metal, write your names on it, lock it to the bridge (you should probably kiss at this point) and throw the key into the water, staring dreamily into each other’s eyes contemplating your wonderful future together. If it’s early days and you’re not quite sure whether your future together has legs yet, then maybe a combination lock might be a better choice, giving you that all important back-out option…