The Pont Neuf (“New Bridge”) is the oldest standing bridge in Paris. How’s that for a paradox? It made sense at one time . . . a long, long time ago. It was built in the late 1500’s/early 1600’s– and still looks spry for an old girl. Yes, there have been nips and tucks, but the bone structure remains the same as far as I know.
If the structure of the bridge is little changed by time, what about the “life” and function of the bridge? It’s always held a central role in the city, but it was once a very dangerous place, replete with thieves and murderers. In fact, it was replete with everything: vendors, performers, prostitutes, con artists, pickpockets, artists, families . . .all the best and worst of Paris. It was the best of mimes, it was the worst of mimes. (Oh, so sorry–I didn’t want to say it, but I couldn’t stop myself.)
I remember reading (somewhere) that the Pont Neuf once had its own gallows right there on the bridge. That’s hard to imagine today, when you see her cleaned up and looking stunning, but I’d wager that at least a few of those surly pickpockets are still around. We haven’t changed that much over time, and, as this bridge reminds us, “everything old is neuf again.”