'Love locks' conquer even the hearts of City Hall officials

'Love locks' conquer even the hearts of City Hall officials

'Love locks' conquer even the hearts of City Hall officials

They say you can’t beat City Hall, but Paris authorities who once took a dim view of the thousands of “love locks” adorning the bridges of the Seine river have had a change of heart. “We are letting the phenomenon be, looking at it with benevolence,” City Hall spokesman Damien Steffan said with a Gallic shrug. “It’s not a problem for us.”

The custom of attaching padlocks to bridge railings, fences or other public fixtures as a way for couples to pledge their undying love is of uncertain origin, but many link it to a 2006 novel, “Ho Voglia di Te” (I Want You), by Italian author Federico Moccia.

In it, two lovers attach a padlock engraved with their names to a lamppost on the Ponte Milvio in northern Rome, then throw the key into the River Tiber. What could be more romantic than attaching a love lock to the Pont des Arts, the footbridge that crosses the Seine from the Left Bank to the Louvre? Or to the Pont de l'Archeveche, in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral?

Most couples throw away the key, but some hang on to them as keepsakes for their children. When the custom began taking off around four years ago, Paris city authorities were not having it, more concerned with “preserving heritage” than gratifying lovers. They considered a variety of solutions, such as installing purpose-built iron trees on or near the bridges. Two years ago, around 10 days after a City Hall spokesman said “the locks would be removed”, hundreds of them mysteriously disappeared from the Pont des Arts, with only a few dozen left.

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