Paris has lost its loving feeling for its ‘love locks’, as a campaign to ban the popular practice of couples attaching padlocks to many of the city’s most iconic bridges seems to be gathering steam.
A pair of ‘accidental activists’, American expats Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff, are behind the No Love Locks petition which calls for the removal and ban of the locks for both aesthetic and safety reasons. The campaign was launched last November and has so far gathered nearly 4,000 signatures, attracting widespread media interest and earning the support of the Mayor of the 6th Arrondissement, Jean-Pierre Lecoq.
There are a staggering 700,000 locks now estimated to adorn (or deface, depending on how you view it) Paris’s bridges, with prime locations being the Pont des Arts, which is weighed down by 93 metric tonnes of locks, and Pont de l’Archevêché, which even Google maps now calls ‘lovelock bridge’.
Paris City Council has kept a watchful eye on proceedings but has resisted intervening so far, although it does encourage visitors to send a digital e-lock instead.
The love locks craze has only really taken off in the past decade or so, with bridges across the world laden down with locks, driven partly by Federico Moccia’s 2006 best-selling novel Ho Voglia di Te (I Want You), whose protagonists fasten a padlock on the Milvian Bridge in Rome.
It’s not just holidays to France which have provided couples with a place to declare their love: there are similar public shows of affection found on bridges in Prague, New York, Moscow, Seoul and Cologne. Dublin was the first city to act, removing some 2,000 locks from the Ha’Penny Bridge in 2012, while some lesser-known cities like Poland’s Bydgoszcz actively encourages it as part of their tourism drive.
So what alternatives are there for roving romantics looking for a suitable spot for such a gesture? In Italy, there’s the grotto near ‘Juliet’s balcony’ in Verona where thousands of visitors have festooned a wall with their chewing gum love notes. Then there’s Rome’s Trevi Fountain, where legend has it that lovers can affirm their eternal love by drinking from it with a glass and then smashing it.
Meanwhile, across in South-East Asia, Bangkok has the Trimurti Lovers’ Shrine, a golden replica statue of the Hindi deity where the lovelorn can make a floral offering in hope of one day meeting their beloved. Similar sites in Tokyo, such as the Daijingu Shrine, see hopeful romantics queue for hours to buy and leave love charms blessed by local priests.
Closer to home in bonnie Scotland, there’s the Kissing Beech, a famous ‘trysting tree’ in the grounds of Kilravock Castle, Invernesshire, where the likes of Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns and Bonnie Prince Charlie have stayed over the centuries. Despite being 300 years old and engraved with thousands of initials, the tree is still standing proud and in good condition.
So what do you think about the love locks? Are they an unwieldy eyesore or just another harmless trapping of romantic tourism?