A campaign to persuade tourists to take selfies rather lock padlocks to bridges is falling on deaf ears it seems. Photo: AFP
Paris, the city of romance, the city of love.
But too much love is problematic for some of the capital’s landmarks. In June, part of the railings on the famous Pont des Arts collapsed, due to the weight of the love locks that tourists had fixed on the bridge to eternalize their relationship.
The damage and a growing campaign against the love locks, has forced Paris Town Hall to respond. Authorities stopped short of imposing a ban, opting instead, to launch a campaign to persuade couples not to follow the love lock trend, by suggesting they take "selfies" on the bridge and post them to a website.
But as The Local found out on Wednesday their pleas are falling on the deaf ears of loved-up tourists and the posters put up by the Paris Town Halls promoting the "selfies" option seem to have been taken down.
A young woman named Ashen from Turkey is due to marry her boyfriend when she returns home after a trip to Paris. For her, locking her love to the bridge is an important ritual, that just can't be matched with "a selfie".
"I want to put a love lock on the bridge for me and my future husband. I believe it will give us luck and protect us, before we get married. Taking a picture is not the same as putting up the lock, it’s a lot less symbolic, and I would not want to replace it," she said.
Paris could make the bridges more stable
Sang Hyup Ryn and Minsyoung Koo, from South Korea (see photo) want the best of both worlds but are not ready to throw away their love lock.
"We’ve been together for three years, and it was important for us to put a lock on the bridge," said Sang Hyup. "After so much time together, we think it will last forever. The idea of taking selfies and posting them on a special website sounds cool as well.
"Can’t we do both the selfies and the locks?" he asked. "Maybe the city of Paris can do something to make the bridges more stable, more secure?
Dave and Karine from Quebec also believed Paris authorities should stop blaming the tourists for causing a danger and simply spend more money on reinforcing bridges.
"We’ve just put a lock on the bridge and threw the keys in the water," Dave said.
"It is a nice symbol of love and even if our relationship doesn’t last forever, it will make a really great memory. With these locks, who can doubt that Paris is the city of love? The Town Hall should do what it takes, reinforce the bridge, add new fences, but the locks have to stay."
Another tourist Elsa from Mexico added: "It would probably cost less to [reinforce the bridges] that than to launch a campaign on the risks, take all the locks down and change the fences."
Part of the Paris experience
As far as tourists are concerned as long as Paris markets itself as the City of Romance and love, then locking your love to the bridge is jsut as much a ritual of visiting Paris as going on a boat out on the Seine is.
"We have not put up a lock yet but we definitely will," says Australian tourist Gemma. "We don’t want to leave without doing it. It is part of the whole Paris experience, the whole city has a romantic vibe. It’s a really cute way of showing your love, much more than taking pictures," she adds.
Her fellow countryman Terry, who was there with his partner Emma, (see below) agreed: "We now have our lock on the bridge, and just knowing it is there right now is enough for us, it does not have to symbolize our eternal love. If it gets taken down later by the city of Paris, we won’t care.
"Besides, you can always put a new one if you decide to come back. It’s a shame for the bridge, which might be suffering from the weight of all the locks, but it is what people do when they come to Paris, it is part of the trip. The Pont des Arts and the love locks are a Paris tradition."
In 2010 Paris Town Hall chiefs came under fire when all the love locks were mysteriously removed overnight. Back in 2010 the love-locks were still seen as a romantic and but now the tide has turned and a campaign, led by two American women under the name No Love Locks.
Their campaign has gathered strength but so far Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has refused to go down the route of fining tourists for putting up the locks.
At the moment, with the "selfie" campaign apparently failing to catch on, authorities and opponents of the locks will have to hope more tourists develop similiar views to Neil and Fran from Canada.
"To be completely honest, we think the love locks on this bridge look quite tacky," said Neil. "At first, maybe it was a good idea for people, a nice way to show their love, but now it is starting to be a problem. There are too many locks. The symbol is cute, but honestly, how many of these relationships really work out on the long term?"