Saturday, January 17, 2015

January 17, 2015 -- Paris France

First, if you haven't read yesterday morning's entry about my visit to the supermarket Hyper Cacher where four hostages were killed in a terrorist event, I suggest that you scroll down and read it first.

After my morning visit to Hyper Cacher, I spent the afternoon walking. I took the subway to a point near the Seine at Pont-Neuf, walked along the river for a time, and then turned left to walk through the patios of the Lourve, the Tulieres gardens, and along the Champs Elysées.

Sections of the Seine are lined by these small booksellers' stalls. I have read that to buy one of these spots, one has to lay out a fortune. Why? I don't know. I have never seen one of these sellers actually sell a book in all of the years that I have been coming to Paris. I can't understand how these booksellers can possibly earn a living.

Booksellers' stalls on the right bank of the Seine
I found a break in the stalls to take the following shot of Pont-Neuf and the Eiffel Tower against the overcast sky. It didn't rain during my walk, but it threatened to rain the whole day.

I've been to the Eiffel Tower many times, so my goal on this part of the walk was to visit Pont-Neuf, which translates into English as New Bridge. This New Bridge is actually the oldest Seine River bridge in Paris, but of course, it was the new bridge when it was built, and I have read that it was the first Parisian bridge to be built of stone. I don't believe it looked exactly like this when it was built, because if has been improved, renovated, repaired, etc. multiple times through the centuries.
Point-Neuf in the foreground with the Eiffel Tower behind it.
According to a plaque on the site, construction of Point-Neuf began in 1635, but due to a civil war, it wasn't finished until 1606. It has 12 rounded arches in all. Nearby is the place where the Seine river cruises depart. The view below is from the downstream side of the bridge.
Pont-Neuf from the downstream side
King Louis XIII had a statue of his father erected on the bridge in 1635, but the statue was destroyed in 1792. In 1818 the present statue of Henry IV was erected in its place, and that statue remains to this day.
The equestrian statue of King Henry IV on Pont-Neuf
Finally a photo of one of the gravest dangers to the bridges of Paris. I call then "locks of love." They are padlocks that are usually attached to the bridge's railings by lovers, who then throw the key into the Seine. Often the names of the lovers are etched into the padlocks, and the idea is that the couple's love will last into eternity, just as the padlock will be forever attached to the bridge.

Locks of love attached to Pont-Neuf
The reason that the locks are a danger to the bridges is that the weight of millions of padlocks is more than many of the railings can support. The City has already had to replace some of the railings after they threatened to collapse. In an attempt to discourage the practice, the city has covered some of the bridge railings with plywood, which is naturally quickly covered with graffiti. I saw one short area where the bridge railing was covered by sheets of what appeared to be plexiglass. I assume this is an experiment. The plexiglass not only provides no place to attach a lock, it is unfriendly to graffiti. Graffiti does not show up well, and if someone insists on writing it anyway, it is relatively easy to wipe off.

I thought that the graffiti writers would be kids, but to my surprise, I saw an elderly woman, probably in her 60s, with pen in hand busily writing something on a sheet of plywood covering the railing of one of the Seine River bridges.

I won't go into detail about the rest of my walk. I imagine everyone knows a lot about the Champs Elysée and the Arc of Triumph already. I would like to mention my roommate here in Paris, however. He is a Japanese young man who has studied in the USA and goes by the English name of Ken. We spent about an hour yesterday evening discussing the differences between Japanese and American/European culture. He made me a present of a bird, which he constructed by folding paper.

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