Pont Neuf – an essay

I’ve been feeling a bit lacking in inspiration recently. I would wander the streets with my camera, making pictures, but lacking a goal, a project. Last week that changed. The sky was overcast, the peace before the approaching storm, and it created this wonderful atmosphere as we crossed the Seine on Pont Neuf. Mélanie was on the phone, but I stopped her to make a picture (see 5 blog posts ago) and I immediately fell in love with the bridge.

The first stone of Pont Neuf was laid in 1577 by King Henry III. He was crying that day, his two friends killed each other in a duel only a few days before and because of this it was nicknamed Pont des Pleurs (bridge of tears) at the time of construction. A fitting name for my time crossing it. The beautifully overcast sky of Paris was a predecessor to the inevitable rain that plagues the city in the fall. Tourists and Parisians pause regularly on the bridge, even in the rain, using the alcoves to check directions or meet friends, respectfully.
The bridge connects the north and south of Paris through its most famous island and historical birthing place, Île de la Cité. Sitting on the tip of the island and the halfway point of the bridge is a tribute to King Henry IV, built from the melted down remains of a statue formally immortalizing Napoleon Bonaparte. Now an abandoned mattress sits at the statue’s feet.
In the rain the bridge can take on a sad or sombre tone, however this is misleading and quickly the illusion is dispersed. This central crossing point is filled with life and has become one of my favorite locations in Paris. The bridge is an artery for the city, but also a place of calm. You can stand in one of its many alcoves, look out over the Seine and feel a sense of peace and escape from the city. It was one of many bridges at the time of its construction, but “New Bridge” (as its name translates) is the oldest remaining in Paris.

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