Bleachers rise up from the sandstone plaza in front of Notre Dame, viewing stands or resting places or vantage points for tourists or foot weary street hawkers or gypsies searching for their next shill. The police drive slowly in and out of the plaza in their electric cars, discouraging pickpockets and dispersing crowds. An iron gate cordons off the verdant walkway above the river, a dog-free zone where parents allow their toddlers to roll on the grass and grannies and grandkids alike exclaim over the fresh green of the raised gardens: lime-hued flowers—bells of Ireland, massive spider mums, lacy ferns—interspersed with shocks of blue delphinium and tiny bachelor buttons, and the occasional column of white snapdragon.
We leave the living gardens through more iron walls to cross the river. All the wire mesh fencing along the bridges here are woven into tapestries of metal, padlocks of all make and sizes hooked and latched to the grids of wire, like hearts carved in ancient trees. “Alicia loves Patrice” reads one. “Alphonse and Magritte, 2010” reads another, brass and chrome and iron proclaiming allegiance to l’amour.
On the far side of the river, in the shade beyond the Bato-boat entry steps, two panhandlers rest after the day’s exertions. They share a can of beer, slick with condensation, and chortle sweet entreatments to their pets. One man cradles a small brown and white rabbit in his lap. Collar and leash seem superfluous as we observe the creature gazing up into its’ master’s face. An equally enrapt guinea pig nestles in the lap of the second gentleman of the street. Perhaps one of the locks on the bridge bears the names of these pets and their protectors? David wonders if we should ask to take a photo and how much do I think they will demand as a fee? But the moment passes. We stroll on in search of a friendly cafe, a glass of chilled vin blanc, and a carafe of much-needed water. Will we cradle our hands across the table on our first night in Paris where even rabbits wear the look of love?