Secrets of Paris

Secrets of Paris
By admin

I know the most romantic place in Paris. But it’s not at the pointy end of the Eiffel Tower or at a red check tablecloth bistro in Montmartre. Want directions? Bypass Notre Dame Cathedral and find the next bridge east along the Seine River, the Pont des l’Archeveche. From a distance you will see the flap of coloured fabric and the glint of metal.  

This bridge is covered with love locks. Lone Parisians on the bridge crouch down to rummage through the wall, visitors huddle reverently in groups while others silently mouth the miniature love stories they read. If you’re lucky, you may even see a lover start the process that begins the phenomenon.  

That phenomenon starts with a lock that is engraved with initials, a quote or a personal anecdote – albeit short enough to fit the metal face. More often than not it’s along the lines of “J.D. + M.K”. Latched onto the bridge wall, the key is then thrown into the Seine in a ritual played out by amorous paramours every day.  

At the time it seems like a nod to immortal love. Love, however, has its limitations and even in its geographic headquarters, pragmatism reigns. The bridge became so congested with locks several years ago that the city council came in the dead of night and wrenched the tributes off with metal-cutters, breaking the hearts and possibly the relationships of the superstitious.  

But this being Paris, it wasn’t long before new locks took their place. I may be a romantic, but I defy a cynic to remain immovable when imagining the stories that lie behind initials etched in silver. 

Those who are less loved up in Paris and would prefer to avoid staring deep into their partner’s eyes should head to Dans Le Noir. The antidote to visual love at least, this restaurant will have you dining in the dark. A blind waiter guides you into the pitch black and the experience is startling. Without sight, your other senses go into overdrive. The smell of food and the sound of dinner conversation becomes acute. It's disconcerting, but the dinner banter is priceless, ranging from “where’s my fork” to “where did that pea go?”. 

You will need your eyesight for the next secret stop off – the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. Over the year this institution has grown in renown as a hub for English literature. One spring evening, I sat in a nook and heard a rather surreal reading of erotic Russian poetry. Afterwards, complimentary cheese and wine was served and from the makeshift table the window overlooked cherry blossom trees that lined the Seine like carnival fairy floss. This shop also serves as a crash pad for struggling artists – the deal is, you work in the bookshop, write every day, and sleep for free. Like a fairy tale, those bookshelves become beds by night.

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