The Pont des Arts AKA The Lock Bridge before it became The Too Heavy for its Own Weight Bridge is NOT the bridge you want to be spending time at, especially now since its covered in smudgy plexiglass. The real OG Bridge is one bridge to the east; The Pont Neuf (New Bridge). If you don’t already know, here is a quick recap: despite its name, this is the oldest bridge in Paris, and the first to be built without being lined with houses (Bridges were prime real estate).
Combined with the view of the mighty river Seine and the addition of SIDEWALKS (to the relief of Parisian mothers everywhere “FFS, Little Dagobert treaded in horse shit AGAIN!”) the PN was the hot new place to see and be seen. Connecting the royals at the Louvre palace and Rive Droite with the up and coming new hot N’ trendy neighborhoods of Rive Gauche while incorporating the tip of the central ile de la cité; this bridge was not only convenient, it was the epicenter of Parisian life. The bridge was built with small moon shaped alcoves where vendors hawked everything from books and clothes to food and ink.
Need a rotten tooth pulled? A prostitute? A book that is in bad shape (this was the specialty of the bridge)? The Pont Neuf was your one stop shop of the 17th century. Walking across it 400 years later, I always wondered what the little shops that were set in the alcoves were like. (Anyone else wonder about these random kind of things or is it just me?) Today you can relax and enjoy the views in them on the built-in benches; but how did they appear long ago? And why were they taken away?
I did some research and found this daguerreotype of the Pont Neuf taken anonymously around 1842 with the boutiques, built like small, sturdy little cabins. (See comparison photo of the same view, more or less, today. Note the Louvre in the distance) The boutiques were all dismantled by 1850 (to offer a better view but really to limit the people congregating in large numbers to talk of rebellions and such) and replaced with the benches and street lights we see today.