Saturday, 3 September 2011

Sab's Top Ten Wayward Paris Bridges ~ "Le Petit Pont"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Bridges

Sab's Top Ten Wayward Paris Bridges
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

Forget your most beautiful, forget your most romantic (with one or two notable exceptions), here I offer you an alternative take on the age old problem: how not to end up writing unpalatable, purple prose-tinted, nauseating gush when talking about Paris and its good old Mère Seine.

The approach I’ve taken for my Top Ten Wayward Paris Bridges may not be new, for all I know, and I've certainly seen another list or two of the Top Ten Paris bridges, but the angle taken, bless them, is invariably eulogistic. Homages to hurl to, if you will.

I wanted to try something different, so I took a bunch of Paris bridges with what I considered notable characteristics and ramped them up to the giddy heights of ‘most’.

Whence the list below, where I offer you the most artistic, the most pretentious (go on, guess before looking, I’m sure you’ll get it) and yes, I couldn’t resist, the most romantic bridges in Paris, to name but a few. So go ahead and get out there; maybe I'll cross you on the Seine one of these days.

Sab's Top Ten Wayward Paris Bridges

1) Shortest Paris Bridge – Petit Pont
You might be wondering where 'the longest Paris bridge' is in my list, but the denomination isn't as simple as it seems. The longest would probably be Pont Neuf if it weren't for the dubious fact that it plonks its backside on the end of Ile de la Cité half-way across the river (and besides, it's already the star of another category altogether). Same thing for Pont de Sully on Ile Saint-Louis.

So let's focus on the other extreme - the shortest bridge in Paris. And it's probably no coincidence that a bridge of some sort has existed here, over this extremely narrow stretch of water, since times immemorial (well, since the Romans anyway, and I certainly can't remember anything I didn't read in Asterix and Obelix). If you're thinking it's relatively safe to traverse this short distance, you may want to reconsider: the bridge has been destroyed at least 13 times since Gallo-Roman days, with the mid-1700s being a particularly crap time to be residing there (carried away by floods in 1649, 1651, 1658 and 1659, to name but a handful). Rest assured though, the present single arch, slinky houseless version has been up and withstanding since 1853, and so far, so good.

One memorable anecdote, from the time of Saint Wiki, recounts the mournful tale of a woman who, having lost her son to drowning in the Seine earlier in the day, went out in a boat that night, looking for the body. To light her way she used a burning wooden taper. Just next to the bridge, made of stone but supported by large, wooden and hopelessly flammable piles, was a barge laden with hay...

As there's no way you could possibly guess what happened next, I'll put you out of your misery. The woman's boat collided with the barge. The hay caught fire. The barge floated off down the river just far enough to bang into the Petit Pont. And the rest, as they say, is blistery. 'Twas around about then they stopped building houses on Paris bridges. A good move I'd say.

Coming Next: No.2: Paris' Most Smooch-worthy Bridge!


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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