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.

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I like to travel while having a base from which to roam. Home is a small farm on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, where I grow organic vegetables and fruit, keep a few chooks (chickens) and Dexter cattle. The place offers some country peace and quiet, and wildlife, as well as quick access to the inner suburbs of the city for my regular contrasting visits. I enjoy walking, camping, swimming and snorkelling, photography, reading, listening to and playing music, and good food and wine. A major flaw in my character is being susceptible to sales of air flights.

7 thoughts on “Islands of Paris: Île de la Cité‏”

    1. I don’t know where it all began. Padlocks are apparently used mainly as a ‘love lock’, or declaration of love, as with those installed on a bridge between Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station and Southgate until removed by the authorities last year. I think that travellers to Paris who wanted to declare being smitten with the city and their desire to return adopted the trend symbolism.


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