London Bridge is falling down… and so is the Pont des Arts in Paris. What started out as a heartwarming way for vacationing lovebirds to express their eternal love for one another has turned into an infrastructural burden for cities from Copenhagen to Tel Aviv and Rome. Armed with padlocks, permanent markers, puffy paints, and even Wite-Out, lovers and newlyweds the world over are flocking to romantic destinations to publicly memorialize their love for one another by locking personalized padlocks to a bridge.
Situated in one of the most romantic parts of one of the most romantic cities in the world, the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris has become the epicenter of this trend, with more than 700,000 padlocks bearing the entwined initials of their love-struck owners.
Locking your love to a bridge and throwing away the key—it’s a romantic metaphor, but one that is causing serious financial strain on love-locked cities who have to use tax payers’ money to repair sections of historic bridges that are collapsing under the pressure of all that devotion. In the immortal words of Def Leppard, love bites, love bleeds… and it also weighs a lot.
There’s nothing more romantic than a getaway to a far-flung place with your better half, but architectural vandalism hardly seems the way to commemorate such a trip. Just in time for high summer, here are five ways to celebrate your love for one another while you’re en vacances, none of which will get you—wait for it—locked up.
Mark time with wine: Whether it’s a magnum of wine in Paris, sweet port in Lisbon, or a simple bottle of sparkling water shared during lunch in Florence, it’s easy to turn wine labels into magnets that you can keep your entire life. But don’t stop with the label! While you’re at it, write your initials on the bottle’s cork—a quick tour through Etsy will give you tons of crafty ideas: you can frame your stopper, turn it into an ornament, or even make a mini planter out of your souvenir!
Disconnect to stay connected: Pick one day during your trip when you both agree to stay completely offline. Leave your smart phones and your cameras behind you, and visit your surroundings with only your heart and eyes. Near the end of the day, buy separate postcards and write to each other about the things you saw and felt. Mail them to each other before you leave the city, and look forward to an intimate surprise on your return!
Cook the books: Surprise your partner by taking notes and photographs of every meal you shared while away, even the simple ones—a popsicle enjoyed on a boardwalk, or a particularly appetizing bar snack. On your return, use desktop software to self-publish a cookbook featuring recipes from your trip accompanied by images of you both enjoying the meals that you can now recreate for family and friends!
Let your love grow, literally: Before departure day, create a customized card or order several sheets of seed paper—double check to make sure that they’ll arrive well before your trip. On the last day of your getaway, surprise your partner with this sustainable offering, and suggest that you both write about what the trip has meant to you on the plantable paper you’ve been hiding. Find a suitable place to bury your words, and bask in the knowledge that your love for one another will keep thriving, long after your suitcases are unpacked.
Put your money where your heart is: Is there a building or a monument that has particularly inspired you during your trip? One that made your heart skip a beat, and your fingers reach in silence for your lover’s hand? Invest in that building’s future (and make sure that you can visit it again!) by making a joint donation. Simply inquire at the visitor’s center or check out the local chamber of commerce to find out how you can become a permanent part of the place you love.