It was our last day in Paris and the list of places to visit and food to eat was endless. It was our mission to explore as much as Paris would allow for the next eight hours until we would fall asleep in the metro next to Parisians who would instinctively know we were amateur tourists (we absolutely did that, by the way).
But before the absorption of Paris could commence there was a small thing I needed to do, a place I wanted to visit and it was only a few yards away from the Louvre.
I walked next to Mark along the Seine in search of Pont des Arts, more commonly known as the Padlock Bridge. We had decided months beforehand to buy a simple padlock from one of the small shops nearby that also sold 5 euro prints of Montmatre and the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day. We’d write our names on it, lock it on the bridge and throw the keys to the river like many couples had done before us until it became a type of unspoken tradition for lovers in Paris.
The simple bridge, only identifiable by its name carved in concrete, is less than remarkable compared to all the other elaborate bridges in Paris. Yet Pont des Arts, with its webbed rails completely covered in locks of all shapes and sizes, has become the preferred crossing over the Seine for those wishing to leave a small message in the City of Romance.
July and Peter were here. Joseph loves Roxanne. Julia and Pablo (2011). Forever my love, John. Ten years, S & A.
Walking slowly and holding Mark’s hand, I smiled as I read the name of the couples and wondered if their love had lasted, if they had married or if the only thing left of their romance was this tiny symbol locked on a bridge. Some had been linked to other locks because there was barely any space left. Mark and I searched for the tiniest gap for ours but as we looked for the best location, all I could think of was my father.
I thought of Dad sitting on a couch with me watching Sabrina and as I became enchanted by the shy girl who spent a year in Paris and was transformed by it, my Dad promised me he would take me to Paris on my 15th birthday. A memory of years later popped into my head when Dad told me he had bought three tickets, for him, Mom and I to spend two weeks in Europe, ending in Paris. And I will forever remember my father in a dark suit taking us to the Lido to catch a night show. He handed me my first glass of champagne, kissed me on the forehead and said softly ‘Happy Birthday’.
The first man to take me to Paris was my Dad, the man who drove me every Saturday for four years to take French lessons an hour away from home. My Dad taught me music. My Dad gave me Paris and without knowing it he opened the world for me.
I reached for the tiny padlock in my pocket while Mark squeezed my other hand. We had planned to leave our names in Paris but what I hadn’t realized was, in my heart, the city already belonged to someone else.Mark understood my decision right away and he waited next to me as I wrote on the gold lock with a marker I had brought with me for the specific occasion. ‘For my Dad. For Life’.
It locked with a sharp click and I touched it softly one last time letting my hand move over the heavy locks around it and the movement created a collective rattling sound. Facing Notre Dame, I kissed the key and threw it into the Seine and the splash was delicate and almost inaudible.