October 24, 2022
Today we decided to test the travel route for Melissa and my early tour of Sainte-Chapelle tomorrow. The four of us headed out on foot along the route we took last night to the hotel. The Metro appeared to be the fastest and most direct route to the inner city where most of the sights were to be found. We found an above ground ticket station (automated) where we all purchased a five day pass that covered trains, Metro, and the bus. The station was right across the street, so we took the two flights down to the gate. We noticed a long line of people waiting to buy the same tickets we had just purchased at street level. We passed through the gate and found another set of stairs that led down to the train. When we hopped off at our stop, we found an elevator that took us closer to the street. There were still two more sets of stairs to reach street level. Not exactly handicapped accessible, but we finally arrived at the river Seine.
Since we did not know which of the sights we wanted to see, we all purchased hop on-hop off tickets that covered the main sites on both sides of the Seine. Our thought was to ride the route and then return to the sites we wanted to explore. The Metro had dropped us near Notre Dame Cathedral. The structure was still visible, although the spires and roof had collapsed into the building after the fire and scaffolding now covered much of the exterior. This is where we began our tour. Our 2 ½ hour bus ride took us past most of the significant sites, as well as many we did not recognize. This included the Arc de Triumph (massive), the Eiffel Tower (HUGE), the Louvre and Pyramids (lots of people), as well as seven other “must-see” stops. Along the route we were regaled with more information than I could ever remember. As we rolled back to our starting point, we all agreed we had ridden long enough. It was time to get off the bus and see what we could find on foot.
My sister wanted to spend more time at the Pont Neuf (New Bridge), which we had passed across on our bus tour. When I looked online, I found that despite its name, Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge across the Seine in Paris. The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité (the island in the middle), and another of seven arches joining the island to the right bank. The name Pont Neuf was given to distinguish it from older bridges that were lined on both sides with houses. The Neuf has remained after all the older bridges were replaced. In 2015, Paris city officials started to remove padlocks symbolically fastened to bridge by loving couples. Tying a “love lock” on the bridge before throwing the key into the river Seine had become a tourist tradition. In 2014 part of the bridge’s railings collapsed under the weight. Close to one million locks, weighing 45 tons, were cut off over the next few days. Officials said the padlocks spoil the aesthetics of the bridge, are structurally bad for it, and can cause accidents. There are bridges in cities across Europe that carry the same tradition and are meeting the same fate.
THOUGHTS: Paris has long been associated with the words “City of Love”. This is from newer traditions like the love locks, but from older traditions as well. These include the romantic places, the fine dining, and of course the because of the thousands of dazzling lights along the Seine and across the whole city. While many of the European cities were bombed during World War II, Paris was only bombed once (June 3, 1940). The bombing provoked the right amount of terror. The French government departed Paris on June 10 and the Germans occupied the city on June 14, leaving the oldest buildings and cathedrals intact. Streets lined with Provincial houses and dotted with churches, administrative, and cultural buildings add to the romance. Cultural and religious sites reflect the traditions and heritage of the people. It is good we find (and keep) them intact. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.