Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sacre Bleu

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and based on the fact that for the next couple of days there is rain in the forecast I wanted to spend as much time outside as I could.  I took the metro to the top of Montmartre, visited Sacre Coeur, and slowly wandered down from there through narrow, winding roads.  I love Montmartre once you get away from Sacre Coeur which is always completely covered with tourists.  It really feels like a completely different place from the rest of Paris, and is much quieter, smaller, and bohemian.  

From there, I took the metro to the 7th Arrondissement and walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower.  It was sunny and cool - a perfect fall day, and I spent nearly three hours at there just wandering around Champ de Mars and the Jardins de Trocadero.  I know many of the French think the Eiffel Tower is hideous, but it always makes me a little teary-eyed because of what it represents.  There were quite a few moments I had to pinch myself, because it still just doesn't feel real that I am actually here.

On another note, there are a few things I just need to vent about:
  • Gold Ring Scam: Basically, this is a trick that theifs use where they reach down in front of you and "pick-up" a gold ring.  First they ask if it's yours, then they give it to you and try to make you pay them for it.  I had read about this before, and someone did it to me once earlier in my trip {it goes without saying I did not accept the ring}.  However, yesterday I literally had about 8-10 people come up to me with a ring!  I would yell at them telling them I didn't want the ring, then two minutes later I'd walk by another person who did the same thing.  It is very frusterating as they most certainly congregate in the most beautiful, high foot traffic areas of Paris, and it would be nice to simply be able to enjoy a relaxing afternoon without constantly having to be on guard.  
  • Friendship Bracelet Scam: At the bottom of Sacre Coeur there are twenty young men who walk up to you, tie some string on your wrist, start making you a friendship bracelet, then force you to pay for it.  Again, I did not accept but I saw countless people get taken advantage of this way. 
  • Pick-Pockets: This was definitly what I was most worried about as I know quite a few people that have had their purses stolen while in Paris.  I am constantly on guard, wearing my bag crossed over my body, and holding it with both arms.  Even though I have managed to keep my belongings safe so far, not everyone has been so lucky.  I was on the metro a few days ago and saw three unsavory looking kids {not at all like the boys from "Oliver Twist"} wandering around inside the car.  They exited the train at one of the stops, then jumped back in another door and pick-pocketed a poor family of tourists right in front of me.  The father noticed and started screaming at them, but they managed to jump out right as the doors were closing.  I'm not sure if they managed to take anything, but I could clearly see how upset the family was.  I also saw a boy try to steal a man's wallet from his back pocket yesterday in Montmartre.
  • Unwanted Male Attention: No explanation necessary.

Don't get me wrong, it is really fun traveling solo {you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want} but the downfall {other than not being with your special someone obviously} is that it most certainly makes you more of a target and you really do have to be vigilantly paying attention to your surroundings at all times.  Not all areas of Paris are like this by any means, but I most certainly would not feel comfortable laying down in the grass by the Eiffel Tower and taking a quick afternoon snooze.  The reality is that it is a huge metropolitan city {just like New York, London, LA, etc} and with that comes more risks.  However, I can't say enough good things about this city -- the food, the culture, the sights, and the PEOPLE have all been just wonderful.  Every day has been more inspiring than the last, and I couldn't recommend visiting Paris enough!

{Sacre Coeur}

{Sights of Montmartre}
{Tour Eiffel and an exhibit called "Buddy Bears" - hundreds of bears representating countries of the world as a symbol of peace and friendship}
 {Because my Dad said there are no pictures of me (which is one negative of traveling by yourself): Me at Sacre Coeur, a photo of Jess - my new friend from the UK, Pascal, and I.  Can you tell he's French?}

Au revoir!

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