Monday, April 17, 2006

Pont Neuf

Reproduced with permission from The Hector Berlioz Website (

In the role of Sabrina in the 1995 film of the same name, Julia Ormond said something like, “There are 26 bridges in Paris. You choose one and go to it in the morning with a croissant and coffee to write in your journal.” I believe her bridge was Pont des Arts.

My bridge is Pont Neuf. Although I have never journaled there, I could easily enough, since you can sit down in one of the alcoves that have benches. My brother Jim calls me “Reuf” to commemorate my affinity for this bridge. (I used “pont reuf” as an email address for a while.)

Although its name means “new bridge” it is the oldest existing bridge in Paris, begun by an order from Henry IV in 1578, completed around 1604. At the time, it was unusual for a bridge to be built without houses on it. A statue of Henry IV astride a horse sits in the park at the tip of the island in front of the bridge.

Copyright © 2003 David Monniaux

Even though there are “384 grotesques” – or carved heads, on the bridge, and although Pont Alexandre III is more elaborate, I think Pont Neuf is the most beautiful of the bridges. This can be good and bad. Good because there is a lot of art and photography of this bridge out there. Bad because it is a lot of other people’s favorite bridge, so it feels like a cliché to love it. Being one who always chose shoes the other girls weren’t wearing, this is a bit difficult. But I’m strong, and I’m almost over it.

It crosses the Seine and the tip of the Île de la Cité (on which the Notre Dame cathedral sits) at one of the most picturesque areas of the city. Five arches of the bridge cross the Seine south of the Île de la Cité, and seven arches of the bridge cross the Seine north of it.

Copyright © 2003 David Monniaux

From one of my favorite vantage points of the city, the

Toupary restaurant on the 5th floor of the Samaritaine department store, there is a great view of the bridge. (I'll try to get that digital view next trip.)

Pont Neuf stars in a 1991 movie along with Juliette Binoche:“Les Amants du Pont-Neuf” or “Lovers on the Bridge” – a sad story about homeless people who lived on the bridge while it was closed for repairs.

In 1985, Christo, the artist who constructed “The Gates” in 2005 in NYC’s Central Park created “
Pont Neuf Wrapped” wrapping the entire bridge in 454,178 square feet of silky fabric.

What I tell myself when I start to ponder the fact that it might be considered a cliché to love Paris: There are a million reasons to back it up! It’s no accident! Mais bien sûr! But of course!

Here is a white chunk of construction detritus found on Pont Neuf in 2003 when it was being repaired and Don and I were in Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary; it now rests on a cabinet in my office.

David Monniaux photographs courtesy of the free usage agreement at (


Ginnie said...

You know, Ruth, that I am thrilled by what you're doing here and will always wonder what thing about Paris you'll choose next. I have such fond memories of going under this bridge in the boat with you and Donica and seeing those carved heads. And thanks for including Cristo in this because he made me a fan with The Gates!

Wasn't Pont Neuf also in The Bourne Identity? I think so.

Don said...

There is nothing like being in Paris to see the Pont Neuf and the other two hundred million cool things Paris has to offer. I want to go sit and be.

We should have swiped those glasses!

Ruth said...

Ginnie: It would be an interesting research project to find all the movies with Pont Neuf in them! And what an enjoyable thing that would be.

Don: Yes, we should have swiped the glasses. Something I'll always regret.

dreamwalker said...

I have never been to Paris, except in the movies, and am enjoying 'seeing' it through your blog. That is a wonderful bridge!

Ruth said...

Dreamwalker: Thanks for visiting Paris with me. I'll be there in 3 weeks taking my own photos! Can't wait. If I'm not too busy getting ready for that trip, I'll have a couple more posts before then, so I hope you'll stop by.

dreamwalker said...

I don't always comment when I pop over, but I do read your blogs :)

Looking forward to your photos!

Clo said...

A very nice post!
And I didn't get the Toupary name in the first time... LOL Tout Paris! Cute.

dutchbaby said...

The very first time I went to Paris, my boyfriend (now husband) and I popped up from the Metro and stumbled upon the bird market. I was completely enchanted. Then a brief walk later, we stood on Pont Neuf. I fell instantly in love with Paris!

Ruth said...

I'm working on a post about the bird market, Dutchbaby.