Paris Journal 2005

Monday, July 4, 2005

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My Zonta Club back in Sanibel/Captiva, Florida, has a relatively new but highly effective anti-trafficking initiative to fight against modern slavery.  Since we’ve been involved in that effort, I see news about human trafficking everywhere.  Here’s a tabloid cover from England.  See our Zonta San-Cap web site at


Here is that nice dog again (see the Paris Journal from 2002), still tending the antiques shop on Avenue Emile Zola.  Right above this shop is the apartment of my friend Caroline’s cousin (small world!).  Caroline, by the way, is a VERY talented artist.  See her web site at .  She’ll be in France later this year.


The Eiffel Tower often pops into view when you turn the corner in Paris.

Back in Paris now, I find little time for writing in the Journal.  After all, the Tour de France has started, we are cat-sitting, and we have had such good weather that walking, playing with the cat, and watching the Tour takes up much of the day. 


But today it is raining, and so we have an update.


Niko is the cat.  She’s owned by a lucky American family from California who have a 3-year job assignment in Paris.  Their apartment is near ours.  Right now, the family is vacationing in Provence for a week and a half.  We met via the Paris Journal a couple years ago, when I wrote about a fire in the neighborhood and our neighbors read my journal and realized then that we are neighbors.  They signed my guestbook, and we became friends.


Everyone here is complaining about the Paris “canicule” that occurred while we were away in England.  Let me tell you all here and now – the heat experienced in Paris in late-June was NOTHING like the heat wave of August 2003.  The 2003 temps were more than ten degrees hotter (Fahrenheit).  The late June temps were only in the upper 80s and maybe very low 90s.  The REAL problem with heat occurs when the temperature outside is higher than normal body temperature.  You don’t know what a heat wave really can do until you experience high temps of 104 F day after day, and nights that don’t cool down below 80.  That is what happened in 2003.  When heat is that high, there is no way for the body to cool down.  And with the heat and sunlight, the auto exhaust is cooked up into nasty, bad ozone, which is very harmful to one’s health.


I really don’t want to hear people complaining about temperatures of 89 or 90 F in Paris.  Get over it.  Send a check to your favorite environmental group to fight against global warming.  Complaining does no good.  Checkwriting does some good.


Cynthia says I should write about another scourge:  theft.  Pickpockets are still here in Paris, although there seem to be fewer of them since Nicolas Sarkozy has implemented his double-edged sword program of enforcing immigration laws and at the same time promoting what we Americans call affirmative action quotas for hiring.  Gone are the little Pakistani men selling little Eiffel Tower souvenirs and getting arrested for picking the pockets of their customers.  We no longer see them sleeping on the grass near and in the Champ de Mars.


European pick pockets are still up to their old tricks, however.  Our Hawaii friends and journal readers (check out their journal here) had a couple near-pick-pocket/purse-snatching experiences which they successfully thwarted.  Cynthia’s son’s friend who is traveling in France now was not so fortunate.  Her purse was stolen.  So here is my unsolicited advice:


The pickpockets work especially on the métro lines going from the train stations -- and in particular, line 4 from the Gare du Nord.  They are most active when the métros and train from the airport are most crowded.

Because we had two suitcases, a briefcase, a bag, and a large handbag when we came back from England, we chose not to take the much quicker and cheaper métro from Gare du Nord.  We took a taxi instead, partly because it was easier with all that luggage, but also because when one is tending all that luggage it is easier for the pickpockets to get to you.

I don't even carry a handbag while roaming about Paris at all.  A purse snatcher can throw you to the ground when attempting to snatch your purse.  You could break a bone, or even your head, on the pavement.  A handbag isn’t worth the “convenience.”


I have a small billfold, with only drivers’ license, two credit cards, a small amount of cash, and my apartment key.  The billfold is on a 10-inch keychain and either pinned inside my jeans pocket or (if I don't have pockets) stuffed into my bra with the chain wrapped around a bra strap.  No shopkeeper has ever thought it strange when I take my billfold out of my bra.  They know about this pickpocket problem.

I recommend this no-handbag method to anyone who can pull it off.  Handbags aren't as necessary as we think.  Running one's fingers through one's hair can substitute for carrying a hairbrush.  And with no handbag, the hands are free to carry a camera and take photos.  Having a camera in hand also discourages some criminals from approaching, I think.

I don't want to give the impression that I think Paris is crime-ridden, but it is a big city and there are desperate people here. 

Tom has yet another trick.  He carries two billfolds.  One has his drivers’ license and two credit cards (passports always stay locked up in the apartment, until we leave the country).  The other billfold, in a different pocket, contains some cash (but never more than 90 euros).


And if you catch a pickpocket in the act, let him go.  Tom held onto one a few years ago and the pickpocket broke Tom’s arm, hit him on the head with his head (a soccer maneuver, I’m told), and left him on the pavement, bleeding from a broken lip and swollen from a concussion. 

Tell your kids traveling in France to be extra cautious when in the middle of a crowd.  It isn't just tourists who are targeted.  Real French people get ripped off, too.



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