I love public art, but I’m not a huge fan of most modern public art. With few exceptions — the Calder works come to mind — a lot of the public modern art looks like rusting hunks of junk that people tend to avoid, whereas the whole concept of public art is to engage and, perhaps inspire, the passerby.
On the square in the Les Halles area of Paris, in front of the St. Eustache Cathedral, there is a large stone or concrete ovoid head and hand. As we walked through the square multiple people engaged with the whimsical head and hand, and in different, interesting ways. People took pictures, people examined it, people posed with it. There was even graffiti sprayed on the back of the head. It’s one of the more successful pieces of public modern art that I’ve seen.
The view from the Pont des Arts toward the Ile de la Cite
The Pont des Arts is a wood-slatted pedestrian bridge across the Seine with a short chain-link fence and hand rail on each side. It runs from the Louvre on the right bank to the Institute de France on the left bank and offers a splendid view of the tip of the Ile de la Cite. It is a peaceful pleasure to stroll across this simple bridge, without having to hear traffic rushing past as is the case with other bridges across the river.
As Richard and I walked across the Pont des Arts today, I realized that there were thousands of locks attached to the chain-link fencing. When I examined them more closely, I saw that they were locks of all shapes and sizes and colors — padlocks, bicycle chain locks, bar locks, and combination locks — and on each lock a couple had written their names. Apparently the tradition is that the couple puts their names on a lock, affixes the lock to the fence, and then throws the key into the water, so that their names and the memories of their trip remain part of Paris forever.
It’s a cool tradition — and probably a smart one for the Paris tourist industry, too, because I imagine many couples return to Paris several years later to see whether their lock is still on the bridge. Richard says there is a similar “love lock” bridge in Italy.
I don’t think this bridge existed when Kish and I visited Paris in in 1992. In any case, we never got a chance to put a lock on the bridge. Skipper, we will have to come and put our lock on the Pont des Arts someday soon!
Paris started as a city on an island in the middle of the Seine River, and the river has always been important part of the city and its charms.
Our view from the tip of the Ile St. Louis
Richard and I have taken several walks along the river banks. You get a wonderful perspective on the city from the water’s edge. In those areas where there are quays along the water, you find many people sitting, picknicking, and lounging, dangling their feet over the edge and enjoying a sunny spring day. (Surprisingly to us Americans, where prospective tort liability has caused the landscape to be littered with fences, barricades, and warning signs, there are no railings at the water’s edge.)
Although there are some working boats on the river, the water traffic is mostly tourist boats that make several stops on the journey from the Ile St. Louis to the Eiffel Tower.
The quays also are a good way to get from point A to point B quickly and pleasantly. Richard and I made very good time walking from the Ile de la Cite to the Musee d’Orsay along the waterfront. If you walk along the quays, you avoid the traffic light at crossing streets and you don’t encounter nearly as many fellow walkers. You also see things that other might miss — like the classic carved heads that line the underside of one of the older bridges crossing the Seine.