Bridges of Paris: Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor

Sunday, October 31, 2010 |

The final bridge of Paris we'll report on will be the Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor, which is a footbridge over the Seine just next door to Pont de la Concorde (see previous post). A passerelle, apparently, translates to a gateway or footbridge, which I guess differentiates it from a bridge ("pont" in french), but it qualifies as a bridge to me. The Passerelle was completed in 1999, so it's very modern by Paris standards. It links the Tuileries Gardens (Jardin de Tuileries) with the Musee d'Orsay on the left bank, which houses an amazing collection of Impressionist art. There are benches to sit on in the middle of the bridge, allowing it to be somewhat of a hangout for people. There's a great statue of good old Thomas Jefferson at the entrance on one end.

The bridge has a bit of an arc, and the sides are a bit on the open side, so this is actually one of the scarier bridges we crossed in Paris, though still rather tame. And we can actually see through to the water at one point in the bridge, not a good characteristic. We don't have a rating system, however, for the scariest part of the bridge. Apparently it is a host to one of the great scams in Paris. Yes, my wife and I were unprepared for the old, found gold ring trick. We were walking on the bridge and an old woman walking toward us looks down and picks up a ring, shows it to us, asks us if it is ours (I think that's what she was saying), showed us some engraving supposedly showing it was pure gold (it wasn't), implored us to keep it, left it with us, then walked away, only to return a few seconds later asking for money. Back down onto the bridge goes the ring, and away we walk. Amazingly, on the other half of the bridge, an older man we were approaching reaches down to pick up something shiny, but before he can even straighten up, we were out of there, and quickly off the bridge. Rings come out of nowhere on that bridge. But, we rate bridges only for their natural scariness. This one gets a 6.5 (2 for height, 4 for width, and 0.5 for length). I think I'd stay away at night.

Bridges of Paris: Pont de la Concorde


The Pont de la Concorde is an arch, stone bridge connecting the Place de la Concorde, one of the most important public squares in Paris, with the left bank of the Seine. The bridge was built in the late 1700s, completed in 1791, using at least in part stones from the destroyed Bastille; that was, of course, during the time of the French Revolution. The bridge was later widened, but it is apparently the same basic structure.

The Place de la Concorde is an extremely impressive central square, containing an obelisk from Egypt that dates back to about 1000 B.C., and was given to France by Egypt in the 1800s. The square is at the edge of the Tuileries Gardens and the Champs-Elysees. A number of people were guillotined in the square during the French revolution, most notably King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Today, there's a lot of vehicular traffic that goes through the square.

The bridge, which is just south of the Place de la Concorde, offers nice views of the area. It is pretty low bridge, and very short at about 0.1 miles. One can see the Eiffel Tower clearly to the west. The bridge has wide sidewalks for pedestrians. The sides of the bridge are a little open, and just above waist level, but very solid stone. As with Pont Neuf, Pont de la Concorde is not a scary bridge. I give it a scariness rating of just 5.5, equal to Pont Neuf (3 for width, 0.5 for length, and 2 for height). As with Pont Neuf, it is to be enjoyed for its views and location.

Bridges of Paris: Pont Neuf


Moving on from London, let's see what the bridges of Paris have to offer. The Seine is pretty narrow, so we won't be looking at long bridges. But, boy, the City of Light has some interesting bridges to explore.

First stop is Pont Neuf (pronounced something like PON-NUF). Despite its name (which translates to "New Bridge"), it's the oldest bridge in Paris, completed way back in 1607. We can't pass up the opportunity to cross that bridge. It connects the left and right banks of the Seine to the Île de la Cité, a small island that contains the gems of the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the church of Sainte-Chapelle.

Pont Neuf is an arch bridge made out of stone, carrying both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Like much of the city, it is a bridge meant to be walked. It has beautiful views down the river as far as the Eiffel Tower and back towards Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame. It has little alcoves on it with seats carved out of the stone, always a sign of a good walking bridge. There was construction of some type on the road part of the bridge, but the pedestrian walkways were unaffected when we were there. The bridge is not high, but that doesn't stop the beauty of the views. A definite must during a visit to Paris.

Unless you're worried that a 400-year old bridge has reached the end of its useful lifetime (it was last renovated just a few years ago, so no worry there), it isn't a scary bridge at all: wide sidewalks, completely solid sides (though not overly high at just above waist level), very short in overall length (about 0.1 miles), not very high above the water (I can't find any official stats, so I estimate at 40 feet). A trek onto this bridge is for pure enjoyment. I give it a scariness rating of 5.5 (2 for height, 3 for width, and 0.5 for length).

Bridges of London: Millennium Bridge

Saturday, October 30, 2010 |

Bridge walking in London wouldn't be complete without a trek over the Millennium Bridge. It's a footbridge, no vehicle traffic, that was opened in, of course, 2000. It is located just south of St. Paul's Cathedral and crosses the Thames and connects to the Tate Modern art museum on the south bank. This bridge had a serious swaying problem immediately after opening in 2000, then was quickly closed for a couple of years while it was reinforced somehow. And I'm sure you didn't miss how it collapsed during one of the Harry Potter movies. Despite that checkered past, we were willing to give it a try and stroll across.

It is a short bridge, about 0.2 miles, like Tower Bridge and probably most bridges across the Thames in London. Millennium Bridge is pretty wide, at about 13 feet. The bridge is listed at about 35 feet above the water, so it's not all that high, either. Its great views, you might say, come from being exceptionally open on the sides. To me, the railing looked like little pieces of tight string horizontally. But, fortunately, upon closer inspection it was metal like the rest of the bridge. The sides are around chest high. So, the sides of the bridge make it a more challenging bridge to cross than, say, Tower Bridge. The bridge gets a scariness rating of 8 (5 for the sides--not for the width or height but for the openness, 2 for bridge height, and 1 for length).

The bridge allows a great view back at St. Paul's Cathedral, the great architectural achievement of Christopher Wren from the 17th Century. The Cathedral somehow survived the Blitz in 1940-41. And looking out into the water, other bridges of the Thames can easily be seen, including Tower Bridge to the east. All in all, definitely worth the trip, especially combining a trip to St. Paul's and then going over to the Tate Modern.

Bridges of London: Tower Bridge

Thursday, October 28, 2010 |

A trip to London enabled some nice walks over the Thames. First stop is Tower Bridge, which opened in 1894. It gets its name, you may know, because next door on land is the Tower of London, which goes way back to the Normans in the 11th Century. But we focus on the bridges. This is one of those iconic bridges that can't be missed. The Tower Bridge connects the City of London, near the financial district, with Southwark (pronounced something like "SUTH-erk").

This is a bridge better suited for its majesty than for its bridge walking challenge. The base part of the bridge is very close to the water, perhaps 25 or 30 feet high. It is a draw bridge so most river traffic can pass. The bridge accommodates both vehicles and pedestrians. The bridge has a high part between the two towers, roughly 130 feet or so above the water, that can be traversed on foot. I figured at least that would give a height challenge, but I hadn't known that it was enclosed. Bridges are, of course, meant to be crossed in the open air. Otherwise, they are like bridge tunnels. The views are nice up there on the upper level, but being behind glass takes away much of the thrill. So, a low scariness rating for height. And the bridge is very short, maybe 0.2 miles long, as the Thames is never very wide in London. The side supports are nicely solid, though not overly high, somewhere between waist high and chest high. But overall not very scary at all, getting a combined scariness rating of 5.5 (1.5 for height, 3 for width, 1 for length).

Regardless, the views off the bridge are enjoyable. Looking towards the east, one can see down the river and to other bridges that cross the Thames.

As I said, this bridge should be enjoyed for its majesty. How many bridges make you feel like you're entering a castle? The bridge is getting something of a face-lift currently, as a major painting job is underway that is supposed to be finished around the time of the Olympics in 2012. There was a lot of scaffolding around. The bridge itself might be closed to all traffic for some time in 2011, so we got lucky to be able to cross at all.