August 21, 2015

Tragedy on the Pont des Arts

Sometimes we make plans, and they just don't go the way we, well, planned

A little over a year ago, my two best friends and I sat in a chinese restaurant in Paris (because we felt a need to eat it in every foreign country, escargot be damned), talking about our return trip to the city in 40 years. 

The idea of re-living our backpacking trip forty years from now arose when we were in Barcelona and learned that La Sagrada Familia is believed to be completed somewhere in between 2020 and 2040 (2028 to be exact, but the Spanish don't seem to be overly optimistic that it will ever be really completed). In any case, given this excessive range of years and the assumption that we're going to get a little caught up in families, careers, and the craziness that is life over the next four decades, we decided at about 60 we would be ready to recreate the trip and see how Europe evolves in that time.

To commemorate our 2014 excursion the three of us made a hot pink lock to put on the famed Pont des Arts. Along with our names, we wrote "The Adventures of the Lost Macaron" on one side in memorial of our comical mishap with the French pastry, and because we're just too freaking adorable.  

The original Pont des Arts was built under Napoleon I in the early 1800s, but was reconstructed in the 1980s due to structural damage from WWII. Though the pedestrian bridge was originally famed for being the first metal bridge in Paris and for leading into the central square of the Louvre, since 2008 it has been renowned for much more romantic reasons.

Forty-five tons worth of reasons to be exact. 

While we came to immortalize our platonic love, most who have visited the famous bridge have done so to seal their vows to a significant other: locking their eternal devotion to something concrete and throwing away the key. 

Having agreed long, long ago to remain friends forever, we followed suit in completing the sentimental tradition, beginning with finding a teensy bit of space on the overwhelmed rails. 

We secured our friendship on with the rest of the pledged "forevers". While we all agreed that trying to find it forty years later was going to be incredibly humorous, none of us ever imaged that our symbol of everlasting unity wouldn't last. 

Into the depths our key was thrown, swallowed by the Seine with our promise to return. 

However, as reality would have it, when we return to our fair Paris forty thirty-nine years from now, we will not find our love lock. 

In the first week of June 2015, the city of Paris ordered the removal of the famous love locks. According to surveys and critics of the practice, the extreme weight of the locks were harming the integrity of the bridge and they had to go. 

The practicality of removing the locks is understandable, but still a little heartbreaking. Any hopeless romantic feels an ache at the thought of the physical representation of sentiment being torn away. 

The three of us ladies definitely had our crushing moment when we heard the news: "the locks are gone?!

We found it in ourselves, after grieving the tragedy and accepting that it was best for the bridge, to just be glad we got our chance to experience the ritual before it was gone. When we do return, we'll be able to cross the bridge and still recall what once was. We'll get to be some of those batty old ladies, shrieking "Remember when...!?!" It'll still be pretty great. 

As one tradition dies, another is sure to take its place. The atmosphere of love that permeates the streets of Paris is one I fully anticipate to still be prevalent upon our return. Who knows how the lovers will replace their impassioned declarations over the Seine. It may be in the form of murals, or attaching locks to another surface, or perhaps the "selfie #nolovelocks" campaign the city of Paris has tried to implement will finally catch on. 

It could be, simply, that the locks themselves are transformed into something else: a memorial for lovers to visit, a pilgrimage to evidence of loves past. I think I like this idea best, because it means that the locks will live on. Currently, the fate of the locks, as far as I am aware, is unknown. My vote really goes to making them into a fantastical art exhibit. I know I'd visit, wouldn't you? 

Yours, Kenna

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