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Encounters with pickpockets dampened our enthusiasm for this city. We were victimized on the Metro subway system on the way from Charles DeGaulle airport to our hotel. Four of us, Gail, sister-in-law Pauline, mother-in-law Nana, and I were on this trip. While riding on the metro, a young gypsy girl came pushing her way onto the train. She bumped into Pauline.
A Frenchman started yelling at us. I thought he was trying to warn us about the girl who then started to work her way towards me. Pauline started to shout her warnings at me. As I shifted my focus, someone told Pauline that the drawstring to her backpack was open. Her purse was missing. In the meantime, the pushy young girl had started to make her way toward the front of train. I hollered, "Gail, watch out!" But she couldn't hear me over the crowd. The pushy young girl disappeared into the crowd and got off at the next stop. The Frenchman who was yelling at us also got off.
"Was the Frenchman in cahoots with the young girl?" we wondered. We spent two hours filing a report with the local police. Pauline had her passport, drivers' license, credit card, ATM card, and some travelers checks stolen. She was able to immediately cancel her credit card. Her friend worked at the bank and immediately canceled her ATM card. Travelers checks were easy to recover. But she spent several hours at the American Embassy to replace her passport.
The next day, we rode the train towards Versailles. My French phrase book inside my front pants pocket had disappeared. I didn't feel a thing.
A day or two later, another incident occurred. We were riding on the escalator inside the Chatelet Metro station, which is near the Notre Dame cathedral. It is customary to stand on the right side to make way for the people to climb on the left side. I stood on the right side. To my left, a man wearing a denim jacket climbed the escalator until he got just ahead of me. He stopped to the left of me then quickly cut in front of me.
As we approached the top of the escalator, he dropped his keys and stooped down to pick them up, extending his buttocks toward me. I came crashing into him. Another man came crashing into me from behind. The man behind me had his hand in my front pants pocket. It all happened so quickly that I didn't know how to react. I had only a Metro map my front pants pocket, but it may have looked like a wallet. The man from behind, who was incidentally nicely dressed in a jacket and tie, probably realized that all I had in my pocket was a paper map and quickly withdrew his hand. They quickly disappeared into the crowd. Although they made it seem like an accident, there was no doubt that this was another pickpocket attempt with these two men working as a team.
We were never quite at ease for the remainder of our stay in Paris. At the Eiffel Tower and the museums, numerous warnings about pickpockets over the public address system are posted on signs.
Purchase some combination locks for your backpacks and fanny packs. Ladies, don't carry purses. Be very careful in crowded areas such as long lines at the Eiffel tower, museums, and especially the metro station.
Before the trip, we checked out some Rick Steves travel books from the library. He recommended purchasing a museum pass which allows you to bypass long ticket lines for over 70 museums which also includes the Versailles Palace, Louvre, D'Orsay museums. Both 1-day and 3-5 day museum passes are on sale at any of the train stations. For the Paris subway, we purchased a week-long orange card pass since we were there for 5 days. The orange card, is a reusable pass that can be purchased from Sunday thru Wed. Bring a small photograph of yourself. It gets affixed to the card. The cost of the orange card depends upon how many zones you wish to travel from the center of Paris. A zone 5 orange card includes full fare to the Versailles Palace. Purchasing a Carnet (pronounced kar-nay) or book of tickets is also recommended in lieu of purchasing individual tickets which turn out to be more expensive.
Make a photocopy of your passport and carry Traveler's checks. When my sister's purse was stolen, the photocopy helped her get the passport replaced at the Embassy quickly. Also, get a calling card - using a credit card does not work with the international phone system.
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