Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sab's Top Ten Wayward Paris Bridges: No.5 ~ "Pont Neuf"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Bridges

Sab's Top Ten Wayward Paris Bridges
No.5: "Oldest" ~ Pont Neuf - Introduction
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

No.5: "Oldest" Paris Bridge – Pont Neuf

The tired old tourist guide 'fun fact' is that, despite being called the 'New Bridge', the Pont Neuf is in fact the oldest bridge in the city. We have to be careful to define what 'oldest' actually means. It is far from being the first ever bridge built between the banks of the river within Paris.

What most people mean when they say 'oldest' seems to be the longest surviving original Seine-spanner. All the others are either newer or have been substantially or entirely rebuild since the Pont Neuf's construction.

It was in the middle of the 16th century that plans were first laid under Henri II, finally started by his son Henri III in 1578, and finally completed by - did you guess - the latter's second cousin Henri IV. There's so much to be said about this thing that I'd have to refer you to one of the several books on the subject if you really want to look into it.

And never there was a cheerier bunch to wish you well on your way...
Suffice it to say that it was the first bridge not to have houses on it - and hence possessing a view - a revolution for Paris and one of the main factors in its becoming a major attraction for many decades. So much so that it was considered the real centre of the city by many, and welcomed a wild bunch of entertainers, acrobats, charlatans, teeth-pullers, potion-sellers, fire-eaters, musicians, pick-pockets and ohh, y'know, murderers. It even had its own gallows. Gulp.

One more factoid (ok, three, someone please shut up my fingers): when built it actually just skimmed the tip of the island, the little park not yet existing. Also not to be missed is the statue of Henri IV, 'le Vert Galant', who also constructed the nearby Place Dauphin, but all that, and the secrets they hold (sometimes literally) are another story.


* 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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