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Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts


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Pont des Arts

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Pont des Arts

The Pont des Arts, the Heart of Romantic Paris by Gina Doggett

If a river is a symbol of life, and a bridge is a symbol of change, then the River Seine and its bridges symbolize the life of Paris, where “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”. One thing will never change, and that is the frisson of nostalgia, the romantic flush that overcomes you when you stop on the Pont des Arts and gaze upriver towards the Ile de la Cité, the historic center of Paris that was the home of kings until the 14th century.

This wooden walkway atop seven steel arches is the natural domain of the kissing couple, intoxicated by the seductive embrace of sky, Seine and sous-entendre.

The bridge offers a lovers'-eye-view of the famous quays, the bouquinistes at their familiar green metal stalls selling posters and old books, the flags of the Samaritaine department store fluttering overhead, and the ever-gratifying Eiffel Tower defining the Parisian skyline to the west.

It is strung between the Institut de France (where you will find the Academie Française busily defending the language of Molière against inroads by the language of Shakespeare) and the Louvre Museum — initially the Palais des Arts, from which the bridge derived its name.

The current structure is among the newest of the French capital's bridges, having been completed in 1984, but it replaced France 's first iron bridge with plans that were as faithful as possible to the original structure, while reducing the arches from nine to seven.

The original Pont des Arts was built in 1804, following nearly three decades after the world's first iron bridge was built over the Severn River in England, an achievement that Napoleon – then only First Consul, with greater ambitions ahead of him — was eager to match.

This bridge had a series of mishaps, including being bombarded in both World Wars and being pummeled by passing river traffic, with serious accidents in 1961 and 1970, with the last straw coming in 1979, when it was hit by a barge and nearly half the structure crashed into the water.

Today its proud replacement offers benches for picnickers and canoodlers, a stage for street performers and a vantage point for artists, as the placid green waters of the Seine swirl along underfoot. Here, the river's flow is barely perceptible, as if to stop time in its tracks. This is timeless Paris .... where the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Gina Doggett also won the 2nd prize in the Paris Essay Contest for her essay on the Galerie Véro-Dodat.
This article is Copyright (c) 2004 Paris Eiffel Tower News.

The river Seine

The Seine (pronounced "sen") is a major river of northern France, forming the country's chief commercial waterway. It is also a tourist attraction, particularly within the city of Paris.

The river is 780 km (485 miles) long, France's second longest (after the Loire which is 1020 km (634 miles) long). In ancient times the Seine was known by the Latin name Sequana.

The Seine's main tributaries are the Aube, Marne and Oise rivers from the north and the Yonne and Eure rivers from the south. It is connected with canals to the Scheldt (also called the Escaut), Meuse, Rhine, Saône and Loire rivers.

The Seine rises in the French région of Burgundy, in the département of Côte-d'Or, 30 km (18 miles) northwest of Dijon at a height of 471 metres (1545 feet). The river then flows through Troyes to Paris.
In Paris, narrowed between high stone embankments, the river carries commercial barges, waterbuses and large tourist boats (bateaux-mouches). From the water, fine views are seen of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay (housing Paris' collection of Impressionist art), the Conciergerie and the Eiffel Tower. The northern side of the river is described as the Right Bank (Rive Droite) and the southern side as the Left Bank (Rive Gauche).

Pont au Change

The bridge was built between 1639 and 1647 to replace the old bridge, which was destroyed by a fire.
With its 38 m it was the broadest bridge in Paris. As on many other bridges of that time, there used to be houses on the bridge. They were removed by an edict of 1786. The bridge is also known as the 'Pont Napoleon III'.

Île de la Cité

The Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine, is the center of Paris, and the location where the city was founded.

In 52 BC, at the time of Vercingetorix's struggle with Julius Caesar, a small Celtic tribe, the Parisii, lived on the island, which was a low-lying area subject to flooding that offered a convenient place to cross the Seine and a refuge in times of invasion. Here Saint Genevieve led the local people for defense, and here Clovis established a Merovingian capital.

Three medieval buildings remain on the Île de la Cité:

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, built from 1163 on the site of a church dedicated to Saint Etienne, which in turn occupied a sacred pagan site of Roman times. During the French Revolution the cathedral was badly damaged, then restored by Viollet-le-Duc. A plaque in the square in front (Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame) is the zeropoint for measurements "from Paris."

Louis IX's Sainte-Chapelle (1245), built as a reliquary to house the relics of the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross, enclosed within the Palais de Justice.

The Conciergerie prison, where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette awaited execution in 1793.

The oldest remaining residential quarter is the "Ancien Cloitre". Baron Haussmann demolished some streets here, but was dismissed in 1869, before the entire quarter was lost.

The small park at the downstream tip, the "stern" of the island-ship, is "Vert Galant" park, named for Henri IV of France, the "Green Gallant" king. It shows the original low-lying riverside level of the island. Nearby, a discreet plaque commemorates the spot where Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burnt at the stake, March 18, 1314.

The Île de la Cité is connected to the rest of Paris by bridges to both banks of the river and to the Île Saint-Louis. The oldest surviving bridge is the Pont Neuf ('New Bridge'). It has one station on the Paris Metro, "Cité", and the RER station "Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame" on the south bank has an exit on the island in front of the cathedral.

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All photographs are copyright "Eric Rougier /". Please, do not to use without written authorization.
The pyramid of the Louvre museum: Leoh Ming Pei, architect. "La Geode": Adrien Fainsilber, architect.
The "Grande Arche": Otto van Spreckelsen, architect. Bibliotheque Nationale de France: Dominique Perrault, architect.
Lighting of the Eiffel Tower is copyright "Societe Nouvelle d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel".
Some history texts are licensed to the public under the Creative License and, or wikipedia sources
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