Friday, September 26, 2014

No Love For Paris?

 Love along the Seine in Paris

Paris is collapsing under the weight of too much love. You like Paris. I like Paris. The food, the art, the fashion. L’amour. Yes, l’amour. The City of Lights has also had a reputation as the City of Love. On my flights over to there, sometimes it feels like half the people on the plane are on honeymoons or anniversary trips. There is love on the streets and along the rivers. The tiny café and bistro tables seem to be perfect invitations for two lovebirds to snuggle up close. However, all this love is slowly killing one of the most beautiful large cities in the world.

This summer, an iron panel from the Pont des Arts — one of the most famous bridges across the Seine and located near the Louvre — collapsed into the river below because of the weight of all the “Love Locks” tourists and locals had attached to the metal panels. The Seine River, its riverbanks, and the bridges over it make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet around 2008 padlocks started appearing on bridges in Paris as a supposedly romantic gesture. Couples write their names on a lock, attach it to the bridge railings and then throw the key into the river below to signify their eternal love. However, with over a million locks on bridges (and now starting to adorn the Eiffel Tower), the beauty that is Paris is literally collapsing.

 Locks on one of the bridges below the Notre Dame in Paris


The website and Facebook page No Love Locks, started by two American expats living in Paris — Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff — document the destruction of centuries-old architectural structures in Paris (a trend quickly taking hold in other countries as well). The city officials of Paris were very slow to take action, and any action they try to take now is met with extreme resistance by the tourists, lock sellers, and others. After the ancient panel collapsed into the river from the weight of all that metal (thank heavens no one on the river boats was injured) they removed other panels supporting literally tons of locks and replaced it with plywood. Which was immediately defaced with graffiti.

Standard graffiti on the walls of France

In all of my travels, I’ve never once had the urge to place my mark or stake my claim on any place I’ve visited. Yes, I’ve taken shells from beaches (but no living sand dollars or starfish), perfectly smooth rocks from trails I’ve hiked, and one coin from Tunisia last year even though the law states no currency can be removed from the country. Places live eternally for me in my photos and memories. I travel to see what I can get from a place, not to impose myself on it.

When I visit ancient churches in France, sometimes back behind the main altar somewhere past the choir stalls I can find a bit of graffiti scraped into a massive column holding up the magnificent arched roofs — “Jacques 1742.” Perhaps it was the work of a bored altar boy. Throughout Paris — and my second home of Dijon — I see bits of art painted in out-of-the-way places as social statements. We could discuss whether leaving any marks on anything that doesn’t belong to you is acceptable. But one drawing on the side of the building is not the same taking cans of spray paint to the entire Acropolis. Would tourists go to the Lincoln Memorial with a chisel and chip off a chunk of Lincoln’s boot as a sign of how much they admire him?

Dijon and Paris walls are plastered with announcements of political uprisings.
But by the next time I visit, the weather has worn them away.


What makes the state of the Paris bridges so depressing, though, is that the city of Paris cannot move faster than social media, as millions of couples place their locks, snap their pictures, and then Instagram, tweet, and update it to every person they know and by effect to every person that those people know until a million more people think that this is a great way to celebrate their love. Every space the city clears of locks is covered again in a matter of days.

What is more important to me than brief romantic acts is history. And culture. And architecture. And the uniqueness of the places I visit. Now that the Paris officials have decided to say “No, we will not let you do this anymore to our city,” the tourists blast them for trying to ruin their moment of love. But their gesture really only lasts a click of the lock for them, while the city will have to live with the destruction forever. What a shame these visitors can’t love the city more.

Forgive me for a small lapse into revenge fantasy. I wish I knew where some of these people lived so that I could go to their house and under darkness of night cover their houses with thousands of locks as they slept. All in the name of l’amour, of course.

Share in the comments box situations where you saw signs of visitors running rampant and drastically changing a place to the point of ruin. Or tell us about the favorite small thing you brought home as a memento.

7 comments:

Scoop said...

The Hubster brought home a good-sized rock from the Cliffs of Dover. The airport scanner people almost made us prove it wasn't cocaine, but realized nobody would be stupid enough to put a brick of cocaine into a backpack. But they did learn that American tourists are just stupid (pronounced sent-i-ment-al) enough to put a big white rock in a backpack and carry it through two airports.

This rock is still on our front porch. It rests in pieces, but it's there.

olgagodim said...

Fantastic post! It hit me. I'd never have thought it's possible to deface a place out of love, but it seems those tourists do it. Can I reblog it?

Lee I said...

Can I reblog it, too? I just scolded a granddaughter who could not resist placing a lock with her boyfriend. Now,on the technical end, just how is it that you reblog something? Thanks, Julie.
It's my last night in Paris and I spent most of the time here holed up with a cold, but really enjoyed Patchwork-Europe in Ste Marie aux Mines before the cold came on.

Muriel Jacques said...

The funny thing is that nobody was putting locks on the bridge when I left paris, in 2003. How things change. You should check put Miss Tic graffitied as well. I love them, but she is a bit controversial.

Vagabonde said...

I am pleased you wrote about this vandalism, because this is what it is. I am planning to write a post on it too in the future. I found out that this craze started with an Italian movie not that many years ago, and the locks started to appear in Rome and Venice. In both cities it is not allowed to leave locks, in Venice they constantly take them off and in Rome you can get fined up to 100 Euros I heard. I think this is absolutely right. This craze is very selfish – what would people say if, because you kissed your boyfriend in front of a house or car you painted graffiti on them? People would be outraged. Well this is not their property, it belongs to the people of Paris and they have to pay taxes to support these juvenile caprices. I certainly hope that Paris will start giving fines to people placing locks on monuments. Last May in Paris I even saw some locks on statues – can you imagine this? If they want a lock to prove their love, let them place them on the wheel of their car. Why go to a foreign city and deface its century old monuments just for their selfish pleasure? This is pure destruction of public property = it is vandalism = it is a crime.

Lynn at Southern Fried Frencjh said...

I absolutely agree about the locks, thanks for posting this. In the days of selfies, who thinks about the consequences of their behavior? but it's time to do it.

yayın akışı said...

thanks for sharing :)

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