Islands of Paris: Île de la Cité‏


Paris casts a spell over many visitors. For this 14 years old visiting Paris for the first time, the bridge joining the Left Bank of the city to one of its islands – Île de la Cité, site of Notre-Dame Cathedral – became an important step to ensure a wished-for return.

The bridge’s messy appearance results from the countless padlocks, lockets, dedications, ribbons and other memorabilia dedicated to guaranteeing a return to Paris. Our visitor decided to follow the practice of attaching a padlock to the bridge. Having locked the padlock, one key is retained to unlock it on return, and the other key is thrown into the river.

The task of finding a padlock became a major concern. Central Paris does not seem to have many suppliers, but research indicated that the nearest hardware store was located in the historic Marais district on the Right Bank. From our hotel on the Left Bank, overlooking Notre-Dame, this involved crossing Île de la Cité, and the quieter adjoining island of Île Saint-Louis.

We passed through part of the old Jewish quarter in the Marais, distinguished by plaques on buildings naming the inhabitants before they were arrested and transported to the Nazi concentration camps.

The hardware store had a fine selection of padlocks. A particularly handsome one was chosen, ceremoniously attached to the bridge, and the spare key was tossed into the river. Although shortly afterwards we were taken aback to discover that the tourist stalls alongside the river were selling padlocks, just metres from the bridge, none was as fine as the one it took our 2 hour walk to unearth.

This is my contribution to Tiffin’s A-Z Guidebook, this month starting with the letter I.