(W)all you need is love

Sorry for the late post this week loyal readers, the ‘flu virus I’d been running from finally found me this week, and as we all know, creative juices and evil germs just don’t get on. But Granny Flat has proved herself as an excellent nursemaid, and the clouds of poor health are happily beginning to lift.

Kim wall 3When we’re poorly, all we need is a bit of loving (of the non Fifty Shades kind, steady on). So kudos for all of us who have either ended up in, or been at least once to this most romantic of cities. With Valentine’s day just a cupid’s arrow away, you can be sure that a huge proportion of the world’s most ardent lovers have descended on Paris to make sure their heart’s allegiance is declared loud and clear in the most appropriate and sentiment-saturated of settings.

Kim wall 1It used to be that attaching a padlock to one of Paris’ most charming bridges was the only acceptable way for any Casanova (or Casanov-ette for that matter) to prove his ardour (and even I was guilty of promoting the trend this time last year). But now we’ve all learned the error of our ways and seen just how the burden of so much collective sentiment can actually be hugely damaging to the city’s architecture, not to mention a massive pollutant for the famous River Seine. Joy Division proved to be an oracle for the future in addition to being a kick-ass 80s band, with their right-on assertion that ‘Love can tear us apart’. They were right on the money, in terms of ‘us’ being a bridge, anyhoo.

Kim wall 2So maybe macaroons are the order of the day. A box of chocolates perhaps. Or even stick with tradition and thrust a bunch of roses under your lover’s nose. But with street sellers walking past with blooming bouquets for sale what seems like every five minutes, that idea now seems about as romantic as the Dropkick Murphy’s attempt at a love song, ‘Kiss me I’m shitfaced’. And you’d better be five sheets to the wind if you think buying a rose for your cherie in that fashion spells top Valentine’s points.

Kim wall 7Instead take a tip from me and take a walk to a part of the city I love, Abbesses, in the arrondissement I’ve been having a love affair with ever since my first trip to Paris, the 18th, and visit a whole wall dedicated to sweet, delicious amour. You can take your sickly pink desserts and romantic mood music, I’m a writer, so nothing is more important to me than words, pure and simple. And here nestled in the small and perfectly formed Square Jehan-Rictus just near the metro, is a whole wall dedicated to the linguistic profession of undying affection.

Kim wall 5Le mur des je t’aime or ‘wall of I love yous’ contains 311 examples of the same phrase written in 250 different languages, printed on 612 squares of polished blue lava tiles, forming an extraordinary monument to love itself. It was the idea of Frédéric Baron, a wannabe traveller who wanted to travel the world to hand-collect his texts, but instead achieved his goal through his network of friends, family and foreign acquaintances.

It was artist and calligrapher Claire Kito and mural specialist Daniel Boulogne who made his dream into reality, and this year the wall celebrates its 15th birthday, the age at which most of us are taking our first forays into love as nervous teenagers and testing our fledgling hearts for the very first time. So this year, give the padlocks a wide berth, and plant a smacker on your loved one’s lips in front of this 40m² expression of love. Paris will love you back for it.

(Free) love is in the air…

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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…