Beggars & Aggressive Vendors, Paris
There are plenty of aggresive vendors around the Sacre Coeur, that may not come across as aggressive at first, but believe me they will.
Our story goes something like this -
I was waiting to use the loo by the funicular station, hubbie was wandering around, and a guy with cottons comes over to him.
Now I had warned him about these people before, but hey ho!!
The guy put a piece of string around hubbies finger whilst chatting away to him and makes a cheap looking cotton braclet thing, its made up in no time at all and slid onto his wrist tightly so that he cannot take it off.....At the same time another guy comes across to me, grabbing my hand and shouting to me to respect his tradition and let him make the braclet......Yes, I told him in no uncertain terms to "get lost!".
I go into the loo, at the same time the guy who has put the braclet around hubbies wrist is demanding 8 euro! I couldnt believe it - 8 euro!!!
Hubbie tells him he only has 50 cents! And so the guy replies, thats your wife in the loo, go and get the money from her!
No way would I pay 8 euro for that! A couple of guys surround me as I come out from the loo, and hubbie runs over with a very concerned look on his face, much shouting later we ran off to catch the funicular, with a cheap braclet, without paying the 8 euro.....very nearly turned dodgy!!
You have been warned my dear VT friends!
Yes, that's the famous phrase: Do you speak English? Beggars with some kind of papers will be coming to you and saying this. Just say "NO!" or just ignore them. Don't feel guilty of not helping them.
If you help this people, you are actually patronizing their lifestyle.
While the children were taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower as a group, one of the gypsy woman based at the foot of the Eiffel Tower took a black pair of gloves that was probably dropped by a tourist. The gypsy woman took the black glove and kicked it in front of the children ready to take a remembrance group picture. One of the teachers in my group, yelled at her "Hey, do you speak English? Don't ever do that? What the "f----!" you are doing? "Bi----!! The group of the gypsies started laughing and smiling but our teacher was really mad. She went and kicked back the pair of gloves! The gypsies left and we were lucky to have the police just right in time.
The police officers in bike run after the vendors who were selling souvenirs and almost got one and we started cheering. "Go get 'em! Go get 'em!" The chase was captured in a video and it is probably on YouTube right now.
Anywhere there are tourists, there are aggressive vendors. In le Jardin des Tuileries, artists wanting to draw you in five minutes will follow you if you acknowledge them. Just keep walking!! In front of the Sacre Coeur, men wanting to tie string on your finger to make a bracelet, won't leave you alone if you act interested for a split second. Everywhere we went, we ignored them and kept walking and didn't have a problem, but we saw people being followed and hounded if they spoke or made eye contact!
After visiting the Basilica of Sacre-Couer, we walked towards the place du Tertre and naturally, the street tourists offered to draw pictures of the three year old twins. That would have been nice, but I did just say "Merci" because I have heard that these artists will draw your face quickly and then sometimes charge you an exorbitant amount (a friend of ours paid about $75 for a 5 minute drawing)...but unless you just want to donate to that artist or you just feel compelled to do some charity, then don't have your face drawn...
Always buy from those local stores or those stall owners. Please don't buy from those guys who set up a piece of cloth on the side of the street and display their items like key chains, lighter Eiffel Tower stuffs, etc.
These guys are illegal sellers and if you buy from them, you are patronizing their illegal activities. While we were there, a police officer chase some four street vendors and one crossed the traffic so fast that he was nearly hit. The police officer in a bike was almost an inch of grabbing one of the guys but he was just lucky that he jumped on the pedestrian lane which is about six inches higher than the street and the police officer can't maneuver his bike fast enough to catch him...
These souvenirs are very cheap but they rust really fast, anyway. They cost one euro but after few days, they turn black. It is better to buy from the store owners.
If you are a young, single, female traveling along in Paris, keep an eye out near all the major tourist areas (ie, Tour Eiffel, Louvre, **MONT MATRE**, Arch de Triomph, Sacre Coeur, etc).
Obviously this is common sense, right? Well, I'm sure you know about the saying that Europeans don't value "personal space" the way Americans do, which I'm totally aware of. I grew up in NY so I'm not exactly "street naive," however, I was totally not prepared for Paris. Everytime I started to get CLOSE (not even there!) to a major sight, like Tour Eiffel, some guy would start talking to me.
When I told him I had to go, trying to skirt this guy, he would try to say bye by first hugging me, then kissing my cheeks, then trying to go for my mouth, all the while his hands trying to go elsewhere. I screamed for help, but all the police did was to tell the guy to go away. They did nothing! In my 4 day/3 night stay in Paris, this happened to me at the very least 8 times.
Essential phrases: 1) Laissez moi tranquille!=Leave me alone 2) Fichez moi la pas=Go away 3) Je suis occupe= I'm busy and ***4) Je suis marrie. I'm so sad to say I used these 4 phrases more than I was able to practice my "Bonjours" or "Comment allez vous".
But seriously ladies, if you are traveling alone, play down your looks, look unfriendly (?), and watch who you respond to when men ask "are you american?". It'll save you from unwanted physical contact or worst. But don't let this stop you from seeing Paris.
Although I may have had a terrible time in Paris, I still desperately want to go back...most likely with some large, lumbering, intimidating-looking guy wearing a police uniform, but still. It's a gorgeous city and I only wish I had gotten pictures of all the sites I had visited, rather than worrying about who might try to talk to me next. I just hope my opinions of men haven't been scarred by this experience. :-P
When you are in Montmarte you’re not in the best part of town. There are aggressive vendors selling braided bracelets. They will approach you and take your hand and they will start braiding a bracelet for you. They were on each level of the stairs/hill going up to the church, as well as near the funicular entrances and exits. We were not approached since I think they clearly saw that our hands were full with a toddler, stroller, backpack…all in the rain.
You will also see a lot of poverty in the French capital. The amount of beggars in the metro and outside, or people trying to sell you stuff on the streets is huge. Many of the beggars are actually pick-pockets, who will first find out where you put your wallet.
Especially around the Eiffel tower, there are far too many of them and the French police should do a little bit more about it!
Oh my god, where do I start! As beautiful as Paris is, it certainly has a lot of danger as far as pickpockets and aggressive hawkers! We found people get a little too close to you, so at that point unfortunately everyone becomes a suspect! The METRO is way colorful on the train and off, but be on your guard! You know if someone who is French tells you to watch your camera, that there must be something to it! There were pickpocket signs in Notre Dame and that is a church. Keep your money in a bag under your shirt or in a very deep front pocket. As for the hawkers, be prepared! The Eiffel Tower is full of them. Our favorite one was the people trying to get "romantics" to buy a rose. One came up and just put one in my friend's hand and then demanded money. Another evening, my husband I were attempting to share a romantic moment when we had a gentleman put a rose in my hand. I told him no, but he insisted I hold it. Knowing full well that was not his intent, we started to walk away and he looked at my husband and I with pleading eyes....I said "NON" very firmly. This is NOT the place to pull out your Euros, trust me. Everything from keychains to TIM flying birds are sold at the Eiffel tower by these hawkers. Do beware!
Beware of young women hanging around Notre Dame and the Arc Triomphe asking, “Do you speak English?” Nine times out of ten, they already know you speak English because they have been watching you. They then show you a card asking for money because they’re Bosnian refugees. They work in groups and they are well dressed. They also circle around you when they question of, will you give them anything, is addressed to you. We did come across older women that also had signs in English asking for money. They also claimed to be Bosnian refugees.
Some 20 odd years ago a good-looking Italian man tried to flog me a 'genuine designer flying jacket'. About the only thing it had flown from was the back of an old van.
These guys always have a plausible story about how they have to off-load a load of jackets as they were 'samples' or 'returns from a trade fair' or some such story.
Never believe a word of it.
In the best-case scenario you will end up with an overprived PVC fake jacket, in the worst case scenario you will be lured into some car-park and robbed blind.
Apparantly this age-old scam is still being tried on - I guess the old adage of 'there is a new mug born every minute' still hold true.
If you really want a cheap leather jacket, then check-out the army surplus stuff sold on at flea markets or e-bay !
I was sitting with my friend at this unique fountain park near Goerge Pompidou when an old man approached us and asked for money.
He looks fit , nicely dressed so we ignored him . when he moved to the tourist a few steps away from us, my friend asked me to see what this so called beggar was holding .....A HANDPHONE for god sake 5c*!!!
Be careful around Sacre Coeur because there a hoards of people willing to make your wallet lighter. The favourite trick involves a man who comes up to you, and offers to show you something. He then puts a piece of cotton round your finger and deftly weaves a crappy bracelet. The person is trapped and can't get away without paying, because these guys are huge. I saw about half a dozen operating on the steps up to the church.
When we were going to the Arc, a girl approached us and asked if we spoke English. Thinking she needed directions, we said "yes"...only to find out that she wanted us to give her money so that she can bring her Bosnian family to Paris or so that she could send the money to Bosnia. I honestly don't know what she wanted the money for, but she had a note that we didn't bother reading and kept walking but she persistently followed us for a while. Do not give in to these people!
Too bad for her that I've seen the same story here in Stockholm a LOT of times.
Paris has a good number of very good portrait artists, although forget the sterotype of the young, hungry, penniless, gifted stuggling artist - those with a pitch on Montmartre pay to be there and do very nicely thank-you.
Elsewhere they are mainly 'chancers', and although you make strike lucky the chances are that they will constantly 'badger' you around the more obvious landmarks of the city.
You should of course never agree to a sitting until you have seen someone else being painted, and preferably see money exchange hands in an amicable way.
The 'artist' may well offer a very low price, but this will have mysteriously climbed by the end of the sitting. You are under no obligation to buy the piece, if , for example you don't like it, but try telling them that ! The high pressure techniques, hassle and downright abuse will soon follow.
Sometimes they operate in gangs, of so called "art students" especially around Montmartre. Talking a hapless tourist into a portrait, producing some piece of rubbish and then having the cheek (with menaces) to demand 100 Euros or dollars.
I have heard them reffered to as the "Monet mafia"
Also beware that you pockets will probably be picked whilst you are sitting for the portrait.
In a different sort of scam, an artist sits painting (or seeming to) a nice picture with their other work hanging up behind them. All to often these are just cheap prints that have been framed up - and virtually worthless.
If you must have your portrait done, go to Montmartre, get a professional and agree a fair price before you begin. Alternatively - try not to be so vain !