The bridges of Paris

The morning started off with a walking tour of the bridges of Paris, arranged by science-accueil for the amusement of foreign scientist type people in the Paris metro area. Fun stuff.

The view from the exit of the RER beneath the Pont Alexandre III.

RER exit

The bridge itself, the most ornate of Paris’ bridges, was built at the end of the 19th century and named for the penultimate Russian Czar. Fondness for autocracy dies hard, and the French had beheaded their own royalty a century earlier. By the time the bridge was started, they were on their third republic, the first two having failed to take. (And just as well, too. Especially the first.)

Pont Alexandre III

Next we have the Pont de la Concorde which links the seat of the French lower house, L’Assemblée Nationale, south of the river (the Grecian portico surmounted by the tricolour), with the Place de la Concorde on the north side.

concorde

The passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor is an elegantly designed footbridge with the central path following the lower curvature of the structure and the outer paths joining the respective banks at street level. Both levels converge into a single surface in the centre. (None of this is visible in the photo below, taken from the bridge itself.) Regrettably, the bridge has been heavily vandalized by tourists. A “tradition”—if that word  can be applied to something with a history of only a decade, give or take a year or two—of couples writing their names on a padlock, attaching it to the railing, then throwing the key into the Seine, has left several Parisian bridges defaced by ugly, corroding chunks of metal. The Pont des Arts was the first to succumb to this malign idiocy with several of its panels quite literally collapsing under the weight of cheap sentimentality. The city was forced to erect solid panels to protect the bridge, and the problem has since metastasized to the others.

solferino

See. This is the Pont des Arts. The friendly gentlemen with the gun is currently preventing us from crossing the bridge on account of some unspecified situation. But behind him you can see the now grafitti covered panels erected to limit the damage mentioned above.

Pont des Arts

After that, it was off to lunch (sausage, bone marrow, mashed potatoes, and cabbage) with some Brazilian guy, a Rwandan genetics researcher, and an American mathematician.

“You are Canadian, you’re obsessed with curling.” – Brazilian guy

‘I assure you I am not.”

(Conversation may not be transcribed ad litteram.)

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