Postcards from the capital of romance
By Christian Hartmann
In 2012, more than 15 million tourists visited the French capital, with its reputation for spots charged with history. They are also drawn by its eternal charm and landscape which appears to leap from a movie set like an invite for a romantic stroll.
Just a year ago I left the Zurich lake-front where I had spent nearly six years on assignment, covering principally sports and economic stories. Upon arrival in Switzerland, I was impressed by the potential beauty around the lake where residents gathered once the warm days of Spring arrived offering photographers interesting possibilities. Naturally, the new Parisian that I am, I headed to the banks of the Seine River this summer to capture moments that define the charm of Paris. Who hasn’t seen the famous photograph of a couple kissing in front of the Paris City Hall in 1950? Ever since, generations of lovers have kissed in the four corners of the city.
First stop, the Pont des Arts, the bridge which links the Louvre Museum with the Institute of France on Paris’ Left Bank. Since 2008 couples have attached padlocks to the fencing on the bridge in a symbol of their eternal love, as they take in the spectacular view of the Ile de la Cite, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the series of bridges which cross the Seine River, linking the city. At the end of the summer, a dark cloud appeared over the bridge in the form of the additional weight from the padlocks of love. There was concern that entire fencing sections could fall from the bridge, threatening the “bateaux mouches” (excursion boats) which transport tourists daily along the river. The question was raised whether these symbols of love would be removed.
Second stop on my pilgrimage was the Louvre. In the heart of the city, this former palace of kings is the biggest museum in the city, with some nearly 10 million visitors a year. The glass and metal pyramid structure, controversial at the time of its construction in the 1980’s, is on every tourist’s “Must See” list.
Next stop, the Saint-Martin canal. In the north eastern part of the city, this 4.5 kms (2.7 miles) long canal links the Paris pleasure boat basin off the Seine to the Villette. Majestic trees line the canal which comprises a series of nine locks and two bridges to create a romantic old Paris atmosphere.
Next, the Alexandre III bridge which was inaugurated for the 1900 World Exposition, crossing the Seine not far from the Champs Elysees, linking the Grand Palais with its monumental glass-domed roof and the gilt-covered dome at the Invalides where you can visit Napolean’s tomb. Often considered the most beautiful bridge in Paris by wedding photographers, newlyweds kiss to immortalize their eternal love.
Last but by no means the least, the Eiffel Tower. This monument, the symbol of Paris, the French and France, is visible from the Trocadero, the Champs de Mars and nearby bridges. It provides an ideal backdrop to complete this picture in this world capital of romance.