Oct 22, 2014

Love Locks Bridge: Pont L'Evêque


It has a real name: Pont de L'Archevêché (the Archbishop's Bridge). But we just call it the Love Locks Bridge. For the obvious reason. Living here for a few years now, we've seen quite the evolution -- from a smattering of locks, to the point where there are now -- literally -- love locks locked onto the locks.

The Pont des Arts gets a lot of New York Times press for its locks. And sure, it recently lost a panel into the Seine due to the weight of the locks, but I think the Pont de L'Archevêché is the one to watch. Or at least the one to look at: mostly because it's the one to photograph, since it has the amazing backdrop of the whole of Notre Dame -- towers, spire, flying buttresses and all.

This makes it a great spot for the annual 1st day of school picture, family snapshot, lovers' photo, or wedding portrait (but that's a whole other story).


When we first arrived in France, you could still see the river through the guardrails.

This was especially true on the side looking away from Notre Dame. The ugly stepsister, nobody wanted to photograph this view, and so all the locks went on the Notre Dame side. Until, of course, there was no room there, and now both sides are filled up.

The tradition -- 5 year-old new tradition that is -- is to "lock on your love" and proclaim your undying devotion by throwing the key into the Seine, thereby polluting the water and probably killing a fish. It's the height of romance. The idea is that once the key is gone, there's nothing that can break the lock, or the love.


Anthony and I get a particular kick out of people who lock their love on with combination locks. It's kind of like having an escape hatch, a plan B.

Just so you know, Anthony and I have not locked on our love. Therefore, it is in a constant precarious state. Unlike perhaps the most true and indisputably unshakable couple: Cakes & Pie. They will be together forever. Always in each others' heart. Certainly always in my heart.

There is an alternative: You can tie on your love. We opt for this with two of our favorite families who visit us, the sort of dear friends with whom a) you can tie your love on, thereby binding yourselves for life and b) you don't actually need to tie -- or lock -- on your love because, let's face it, it's just a ribbon.

The anti-lock backlash has spread from the Pont des Arts and the New York Times all the way to our precious little bridge. One of the biggest problems is that the weight of all the locks poses a threat to the guard rails (we frequently see them peeling at the corners) and, therefore, both people on the bridge and boats/people/fish going under the bridge.

Also, while I admit finding a certain charm in them, early on, it's just gotten out of hand. You can no longer see through the bridge to the water, which is a bit of a bummer. And also, it's become an "official" tourist must-do, which means that it's hard to cross the bridge due to the crowds. You might see me, walking with my caddy full of produce from the market, bumping into tourists' ankles and muttering under my breath.

And then, of course, there's also the issue that, not content just to lock on their love, the people also sometimes graffiti on their love. I'm sorry, Quchi & Manu, but this has to be the lowest form of love. And then they graffiti over the graffiti, and sometimes over the love locks themselves.

A couple of panels recently were replaced on our bridge. I swear that the person installing the wooden replacement panels had barely packed up his tools and driven off before somebody managed to swoop in and deface them.

On the other one, they actually managed to put a lock...on the cable fastening the panel.

This young tradition may be on its last breath -- much like the fish underneath the bridges in the Seine. The city has plans to remove all the locks and put Plexiglas panels over the railings to make the river visible but prevent the locking on of quite so much love.

THE CHEESE: Pont L'Evêque

The name of the Pont L’Evêque cheese comes from the town of the same name -- meaning Bishop's Bridge -- situated between Lisieux and Deauville in Normandy. It's a very traditional, old cheese -- known since at least the 10th century, when it was used for tithing purposes. Wherever they stored it all must have been one smelly warehouse. In the early years, it was knows as Angelot cheese and was a specialty of Cistercian monks in their monastery west of Caen, Normandy. Angelot is also the name of a coin, and the cheese was called this because it was used as currency, especially for church and taxes. In the 15th century, it was called Augelot, linking it with the Pays d'Auge, where it is made. And sometime around the 17th or 18th century, it started to be called Pont L’Evêque, in a different reference to its provenance.
In 1622, a writer from Normandy, Hélie le Cordier wrote a poem about the cheese saying, "Everybody loves it because L'Augelot is made with such art that, young or old, it's nothing but cream."
I would beg to differ. It's something else besides cream. Something powerful, pungent, odiferous, and stinky. It's an orange-rind cheese, so right off the bat, that should tell you something. It's also one of the most famous orange-rind cheeses. To be fair, the rind is not always orange. The crust can range from ivory to orange, and the center from creamy to stinky, accordingly.
It develops its fruity, nutty, salty, sweaty-foot odor being periodically washed for 5-6 weeks with salt water. It's soft and smooth, and has been an AOC cheese since 1976, truly one of the great French heritage cheeses oft-imitated -- Pavé d'Auge / de Moyaux -- but never quite rivaled.


A cheese called Bishop's Bridge, for a story about the Archbishop's Bridge. In the life of the church, the Archbishop is higher in status than the Bishop, but it doesn't work that way for the cheese and the love locks. The cheese is a millennium old tradition and an important part of French culinary heritage. The love locks bridge is about a 5-year old tradition, soon to be dismantled.


  1. I've been enjoying your posts for a little while now - all the way from Canberra Australia.

    I agree with the New York Times and the city of Paris, those love locks have to go!

    Our family visited Paris in July and it was as you say. Before that, I'd been fairly ambivalent about the locks but, up close and in context, I found them to be another form of graffiti. I was unmoved by the kids' pleadings so our familial love, is also at risk, much like the overloaded bridge. It's a risk I'm prepared to take...will look out for the cheese, much more palatable!


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