Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Paris is roughly oval, with the Seine running through it from East to West. In mid-Paris, there are two islands in the Seine: the ancient ile de la Cite, on which sits our local church, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and a small man-made island, ile St. Louis, sitting just upstream from its larger neighbor and connected to it by a little bridge. Seven bridges in all join the two islands to the Left Bank. The third bridge, counting from upstream, is pont de l'Archeveche, just where the two islands almost meet. Several years ago, some couple took a little lock, of the sort one sees on bicycles or high school lockers, inscribed on it a romantic message and two names, and locked it to the grill that lines the bridge. Now, thousands of little locks of all sizes shapes, and colors have joined that first lock, memorializing young love. When I walk across the bridge from the park behind Notre Dame to our apartment a stone's throw away, I stop to read some of the locks and wonder about the couples -- are they still together, were they visiting from abroad or do they live here in Paris? This is one of the countless urban delights of this city, which understands how to create and sustain public spaces that are human in size and function.