Locking our Love Forever with Love Locks

Happy Valentine’s Day! We wanted to celebrate the annual day of love by sharing the story of our love locks.

A couple of weeks ago, Bob and I attached a little gold padlock to the new Love Lock Bridge near the Riverwalk in San Antonio to lock our love forever, then kissed and took a selfie to mark the occasion. On our lock was written in Sharpie “RG & LH,” inside a hand-drawn heart pierced by Cupid’s arrow. The bridge was actually a chainlink fence along the San Antonio River, but it was covered with hundreds of locks of other couples declaring their undying love.

It was the 15th time we have declared our forever love by placing a lock on a bridge. Normally we are not super-sentimental people, but love locks are a ritual we have grown to cherish during our travels, leaving our mark on bridges and walls all over the United States, Europe and Mexico (so far).

Paris, France

It all started in the summer of 2016, when I was planning to accompany Gavin’s scout troop on a week in the romantic city of Paris. Before we left, Bob gave me a padlock and asked me to write our initials on it and hang it on the Pont des Arts Bridge, which was famous for having so many lovers’ padlocks affixed to it that it groaned under the weight, and authorities had had to cut them off. He had seen the bridge during a weekend he spent alone in Paris during a business trip, and thought it would be nice to have our own lock there.

Surprised and touched by this rare sentimentality, I happily obliged. After the troop set off for the next leg of their trip, Switzerland, I went down to the River Seine and searched for the love locks. The city had decommissioned the Pont des Arts Bridge in 2015 because of the weight of the locks, so I went to the Pont Neuf. It was covered with thousands of lovers’ padlocks tumbling down the banisters and onto the railings of the river walls beyond. Across the River Seine from where I stood was a magnificent view of the Louvre. I locked our padlock, blew a kiss to Bob across the ocean, and took pictures. I’m sure if the locks get too heavy, authorities will cut them off again. But until then, RG & LH will grace the Pont Neuf in Paris, the city of lovers.

Paris

It was a grand, and small, gesture of love. It felt good. It made me think about why I had married this man, what we had experienced together, and how special our life was.

Hamburg, Germany

Three years later, we were visiting my brother Patrick in Hamburg, Germany, and walking along the Elbe River when we saw another bridge covered with lovers’ locks. We didn’t realize the tradition had expanded beyond Paris. Since we were leaving the country the next day, we went and found a hardware store to buy a lock, wrote RG & LH with a Sharpie and enlisted Patrick to hang it for us. A few weeks later, he sent a photo of our lock on the bridge. (Thanks, Pat!)

Hamburg

And with that, we were off, searching for love lock bridges, or creating our own, everywhere we went, together or apart. While on a five-week tour through Europe, we hung locks everywhere.

London, England

In London, we strolled across the pedestrian Jubilee Bridge and listened to a street musician playing Caribbean steel drums while we snapped our padlock in a spot all its own and kissed above the Thames River.

Rome, Italy

After a long day of sightseeing as a family in Rome, when Gavin’s and my feet were aching from miles of walking, Bob trekked back in the rain to hang a lock over the Tiber River. 

Rome

Sorrento, Italy

Farther south in Sorrento, on a solo weekend trip while I was off doing genealogy searching with some Italian cousins, Bob discovered an iron fence with love locks along the Mediterranean coastline about a mile from his hotel during his morning run. He spent the afternoon searching for a padlock and a Sharpie, but a torrential downpour forced him to wait to return until the next morning, when a break in the rain gave him time to quickly walk there and fix the lock in place before heading for the train station.

Sorrento

Hydra, Greece

In Greece, during a daylong boat trip, Hydra, an idyllic fishing village where bleached-white houses climb up the mountainside from the azure Mediterranean, offered herself as an entrancingly scenic host to our love lock.

Ludlow, Vermont

The tradition continued when we returned to North America. First, we affixed a love lock to a bridge in Ludlow, Vermont, where we have our second home.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Then we headed down to live in Mexico for the first six months of 2019. During a two-night on break the road trip south, we took the streetcar to hang a lock on a chain-link fence in New Orleans, under a banner that read Love Locks NOLA in front of the Eiffel Society, a club built from parts of a former Eiffel Tower eatery.   

Leon, Mexico

When we came to Mexico in January 2019, the first city we stayed in was Leon, where we found the Puente Del Amor (love locks bridge) at one end of the Causeway of Heroes, a wide pedestrian walkway that serves as the gateway into the old city. After spending an afternoon looking for ferreterias (hardware stores) to buy a padlock, we put our lock through the padlock of another lock at the top. The bridge looked down upon a highway, with mountains in the distance.

Lake Chapala, Mexico

We never found a good spot in Tlaquepaque, where we lived for four months, or Guadalajara, the city next door. But we visited beautiful Lake Chapala, half an hour south, for a day trip and walked out to the end of a fishing pier to hang our lock on a rusted turquoise railing overlooking Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. On the way, we had been stopped by announcers for a local radio station who were broadcasting live, and thus posed for the obligatory selfie in our new orange Guadalajara T-shirts.

Guanajuato, Mexico

By far the most interesting place to hang our lock was the magical town of Guanajuato, where there’s an alley so narrow that people can kiss from across two balconies. There’s a tragic legend of a young man who was killed for stealing a kiss from the daughter of a rich man. We put up our lock and kissed across the alley. (Fortunately, Bob survived.)

Montreal, Canada

We lived in Vermont during summer 2019, and took a couple of trips to Montreal, Canada, hanging one lock on a bridge overlooking Gay Village and the other on a small bridge in the main pedestrian area along the St. Lawrence River, looking out at a huge Ferris Wheel.

The Farm, Cascade, Pennsylvania

When we visited The Farm, the family homestead in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania where Lisa’s paternal grandmother grew up, we hung a love lock from the rusty metal rope that secures the entrance to the old lane.

Thwarted

We were occasionally thwarted in our efforts. In the beach town of Cambrils, Spain, there was no official Love Locks bridge, so we scouted the promenade along the ocean but never found a spot where we could thread a padlock. There was an official Love Locks spot in Barcelona, but we didn’t have time to visit it. We have looked several times while in Burlington, VT, but have not yet found a spot for a padlock.

Part of the tradition of the Love Locks is to throw the keys into the river to seal your eternal love, but we don’t do that because we don’t think it’s good for the health of the fish or the river. Thus we still hold all the keys to each other’s hearts.

Our Love Locks Map

Click on each pin to see an image of the lock in its home!

Up Next …

We have just arrived in Mexico City and are looking for a place to hang our 16th lock. We’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy the video of our love locks experiences on the Messy Suitcase YouTube Channel. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By Lisa & Bob

Europe In Pictures

Before we leave for Mexico, we wanted to share some of the best pictures from our trip to Europe.


Visiting six countries in five weeks, we saw some spectacular sights: Ancient ruins, mammoth rocks, jaw-dropping waterfalls, amazing architecture, turquoise seas, fiery sunsets and too much more to list!

Let’s let pictures tell the story:

Germany

Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, Hamburg

St. Michael the Archangel Church, Hamburg

England

London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace

Spain

Gaudi rooftop

Montserrat

Greece

Temple of Zeus

Poros Island

Italy

Palatine Hill from Coloseo
Capri
Solofra countryside

Iceland

Skalatjorn Homestay, Iceland

Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland
Dryholaey Nature Preserve, Iceland

Resetting our Marriage

Bob’s Perspective

Lisa and I have been married 23 years. Our first few years of marriage were all about our careers, and the past 21 years we have been focused on dealing with the challenges of our two kids (if you know us and our kids you know what I’m talking about).

Like many marriages, over that time, we’ve been focused on our kids, our jobs and our home. And, like many other people, that left little time for us as a couple. Even with stopping working and starting our European trip it was rush, rush, rush – we had a mountain of tasks that needed to be accomplished.

For me, however, things finally slowed down when I went to Sorrento by myself and Lisa stayed in Naples with Lexie and her relatives. It rained most of the second day I was there and I didn’t really have much to do. I began to realize how much we had been through and how lucky I was to be with someone who shared the same excitement about the adventure on which we were about to embark. I realized how lucky I was and I committed to myself to let her know that, to let her know how much I appreciated being with her and looked forward to spending time as just a couple. (Disclaimer: We really enjoy being with Lexie for this year and our visits with Aryk, but there is just the new opportunity for so much “us” time.)

View from the top of the London Eye

When we got back together in Naples, we talked about this and she told me that she had been thinking the same thing, that we had an excellent opportunity to essentially reset our relationship. We had the opportunity to throw away some of the conflicts we’ve had over time and really just enjoy one another going forward.
We’ll never have a fully carefree life, but we’re both committed to working hard to enjoy one another and our life together going forward.

Our trip to Europe was worth it just for this!

Together in Hamburg at the top of the St. Michaelis Church Tower

____________________________________________________


Lisa’s Perspective

For me, it started long before we left Colorado, in summer 2017, when we made the decision to retire early and travel,  and started planning the next phase of our lives. We spent a lot of weekend hot tub mornings discussing what our plan would be. I think for many couples, they retire but have the same habits they had before, and that can lead to dissatisfaction or boredom. Planning a new life as sojourners opened us up to a lot of new conversations and gave our relationship a new dimension.

To prepare, we traveled to Mexico several times, enjoying each other’s company as we explored different communities as potential future domiciles.

To meet in the middle of our diverse interests, Bob mentioned that he would like to try yoga, which I practice, so we would have something to do in common, and I said I would be happy to hike more with him. We also started doing more running and bike riding together, which took us full circle back to the genesis of our relationship – we met through a multisport club, the New York Flyers, in the early 90s.

Hydra Island in Greece

We have both started learning Spanish to facilitate our lives in Mexico. We are talking about taking dancing lessons, trying new foods, hiking new mountains, discovering new beaches, making new friends, tasting tequilas, learning a new language together.

It’s exciting!

In the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik

Extraordinary Weather

We were extraordinarily lucky with regards to weather on our trip. We knew that traveling in October and early November would be iffy, but other than just a few days, the weather was absolutely beautiful.

Iceland

We had one good weather day in Iceland, the rest not so great. This stop was the beginning of our trip, the first few days of October, and I’m glad it wasn’t at the end. To begin with, we were literally assaulted by the wind as soon as they opened the cabin doors of the plane so we could walk down the steps, onto the tarmac and into waiting buses. We should have expected that, as I could see the sideways rain and the water just being pushed across the runway as we taxied. 

Lexie holding onto her hat in Iceland
However, it was still a surprise when it was difficult to walk down the steps with what must have been 50 mph cold wind and driving rain.
(Note from Lisa: Airports generally protect you from the elements when you get off a plane and enter the terminal. But in Iceland, where weather can be brutal and winters are cold and windy, you walk down the airplane steps and across the tarmac to a bus completely exposed to whatever Mother Nature throws at you. And it didn’t help that we had flown out of sunny, 81-degree Northern Virginia!) 
It was even difficult driving the rental car, which kept getting pushed sideways by the ferocious wind. I’ve experienced that driving my high-profile truck, but a little car, on somewhat narrow roads, was a completely different story. We needed gloves and winter coats during our entire stay in Iceland.
The first thing Lisa and I did after we arrived at our goat farm lodging on the south coast was to hightail it to the nearest town with our swimsuits to sink into a hot spring and warm up!
The next day was our prime sightseeing day, and the weather cooperated beautifully: not too windy and no rain. And, it allowed us to see the Northern Lights!
The following day, we experienced wind, rain and even snow. Our visit to the waterfall was so brutal that Lexie stayed in the lodge. We still saw what we wanted to see, including geysers, waterfalls and a spectacular national park, but at times it wasn’t pleasant. The same could be said for our days in Reykjavik. We did and saw what we wanted, but the nasty weather was a significant obstacle to our enjoyment.
In the end, I went running in every place we visited except Iceland. I’m still torn on whether I should have run while we were there, but the wind was just too brutal.

Hamburg, Germany

Just absolutely perfect weather. Sunny every day, temperatures in the 60s, no wind. 
Glorious weather in Hamburg


Barcelona/Reus, Spain

Again, just absolutely perfect weather. Even warmer, low 70s! (Note from Lisa: I wished I had time to lie on the beach there, it was so nice!)
 

Great beach weather in Barcelona

England

We were certainly expecting the worst here, especially over the course of eight days, but again, absolutely perfect weather. Mostly sunny, high-40s at night, the mid-50s to mid-60s by day. Never a drop of rain, either in Newcastle-Under-Lyme visiting Aryk, or in London, sightseeing. 
Strolling on a sunny London afternoon

Italy

Rome – The weather we had for our stay in Rome was again perfect, until the last day. Then the rain started,  the morning Lexie and Lisa left for the train station for Naples. Since I was staying another day, I waited out the heavy morning rain and then headed out for my explorations. I did get drenched heading home that evening, but all in all, we had really nice weather while in Rome. 
During our stay in Italy, the entire country was seeing really bad weather. Venice was 75% flooded, schools throughout Italy were closed, and Italian television was continually showing mudslides, flooding and washed-out roads and bridges.
Rainy Rome the last day
Naples – It rained nonstop in Naples. One day there was such a violent windstorm/thunderstorm that the road to our lodging was closed down because of flying debris. We were going to go to the Archeological Museum that afternoon and decided to stay in and ride out the storm.
Pompeii – Our day in Pompeii was again just absolutely beautiful, sunny and high-60s. I remember walking around in a short-sleeved T-shirt.
Sorrento – The forecast was for one good day of weather while I was in Sorrento, so I took a boat tour to and around Capri. The weather started changing in the afternoon, and it was colder and windier on the boat trip back. The next day was, for the most part, rainy, which gave me the opportunity to have a relaxing, easy day. It rained the next day as I traveled back to Naples to meet up with Lexie and Lisa.

Athens

Again, Athens gave us just absolutely perfect weather. Warm and sunny.
Perfect weather for Greek island hopping

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. (Note from Lisa: Except maybe in Naples.) We know we were lucky and we took full advantage of that!

Germany

Our five days in Germany were mostly about being with family, but we mixed some tourism in, visiting the city of Hamburg a couple of days.

Pinneberg

My brother Patrick, his German wife Ines, and their two children live in Pinneberg, a suburb of Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city. We stayed in an Airbnb house a couple miles from their home and it was truly amazing – large, clean, pretty, and only 61 euros a night. The local forest was only a block and a half away and we had a lovely run there. The nearby Hotel Cap Polonio served up some of the best French fries I have ever tasted – crispy on the outside, most inside, not oily, perfectly salted. They were accompanied by mayonnaise and ketchup, the German way.
Pinneberg has a beautiful Rosengarten, which was a nice destination for a short walk with small children. The roses were in bloom and a group of old men were playing bocce.
We ate a lot of bratwurst, currywurst and other kids of wurst. (It was the best!) Also a lot of potatoes, a huge staple in Germany. And lots of brochen (bread). The breakfast pastries were to die for.

Hamburg

Hamburg, located on the Elbe River, is Germany’s largest port and commercial center. It boasts a lot of energy, style, music and culture. Its many waterways and canals make it feel a little like Venice.
The Harbor area is huge. We took a harbor boat ride up the Elbe and saw marvels of German nautical engineering, including a humongous dry dock and several Navy ships under construction. We also saw Hamburg’s theater area, reachable by ferryboats decorated to match the shows. Currently playing: The Lion King and Mary Poppins, among others.

We walked through the Old Elbe Tunnel, under the Elbe River, which used to transport port and shipyard workers but is now an interesting stroll to get a fabulous view of Hamburg from across the Harbor (Hafen). Watching cyclists and rollerbladers navigating through the crowds of families and tourists out for a stroll is very entertaining. The elevators in this structure were massive. 
We went up to the observation deck of the brand-new opera house, the ElbPhilharmonie, known by the nickname Elphy, for glorious river views.  

We rode the elevator to the top of St. Michaelis Church for awesome 360-degree views of the city of Hamburg.

We visited the St. Nikolai Memorial (Nikolaikirche), which was bombed out during WWII and never rebuilt. The front façade remains but the interior is an open shell, left as a tribute to all affected by war. The website calls it “Hamburg’s central place of remembrance for the victims of war and tyranny of the years 1933-1945.”

German Food

For Bob, who lived in Germany for 4 ½ years in the 1980s, being back in Germany was like coming home. And a lot of it revolved about food and drink. He wanted to have a German pilsner and pommes (French fries) in every outdoor restaurant in the city of Hamburg! He wanted to eat all his favorite German pastries – apfelstruedel, pretzels, franzbrochen – as well as currywurst and spezi (Coke and German Fanta) from an imbiss (casual, quick restaurant).

That’s it for Germany. On to Barcelona!