Paris wants to clamp down on 'love padlocks'
Paris is for lovers, but if city authorities have their way, that truth will no longer apply to a popular pedestrian bridge that lovestruck couples are accused of damaging.
The Pont des Arts bridge is a favourite with artists and painters, but it also draws tourists who proclaim their never-ending love by attaching padlocks to its guardrails and throwing the key into the Seine.
For many Parisians this is a touching display from couples head-over-heels in love.
But the mayor's office is calling it an attack on public property and has decided to get rid of the love padlocks.
The clash highlights some of the challenges that face those faced with the task of protecting Paris' many architectural treasures, a capital that draws millions of tourists per year and rates as the world's most romantic city.
"This raises an issue of preservation of state property," an official from Mayor Bertrand Delanoe's office told AFP. "We will have to take off the padlocks."
More than 1,600 love padlocks have been attached to the Pont des Arts since 2008, each bearing some inscription from smitten owners such as Masatoshi and Ayako, Markus and Alicia or Bikounet and Shimonnett.
Gent and Maria clamped their padlock on the bridge when they visited Paris last month and wrote "te amo, feliz aniversario" (I love you, happy anniversary).
Dusan, his wife Ljuka and their eight-year-old son Maj from Slovakia fastened three padlocks to the railing before handing the keys over to Maj, who will return to Paris to retrieve the locks when he is a grown man.
"This is a lot of fun," said Dusan.
"We have taken a bunch of photos of us attaching the locks and plan to take more photos when we get them back."
No one knows how the love padlock frenzy began at the Pont des Arts.
Italian tourists have said they were inspired by a novel written by Federico Moccia in which the main characters affix a padlock to a bridge in Rome, share a passionate kiss and then throw the key into a river.
But others have cited similar practices on bridges in cities worldwide.
City officials say they are trying to find an alternative for visiting lovers, such as a large metallic tree on which the padlocks could be attached.
Originally built in the 19th century, the Pont des Arts offers stunning views of the city and links the Louvre museum on the Right Bank to the buildings housing the elite Academie Francaise on the Left Bank.
The steel bridge was rebuilt in the 1980s almost identically to its original design in a project overseen by ex-president Jacques Chirac, when he was mayor of Paris.
© 2010 AFP