As the TGV (France’s high-speed train) pulled out of the Gare du Nord station, I breathed a sigh of relief, both that we had gotten on the right train and found the right seats, and that our 3 days in Paris
were a success. It felt like some great feat had been accomplished, and now we were on to yet another one: 10 days in Avignon, the French city closest to my heart.
Enfin, Le Louvre
That last day in Paris was a little more chill than our first two had been. For starters, we were tired! Although we didn’t literally walk 500 miles in those three days, our feet sure thought we had. So, we took the Metro over to the Louvre and simply enjoyed the gardens and courtyard there. We felt no need to tour the museum; that would be another day, another visit. We were content to simply marvel at the
symmetry and beauty of the I. M. Pei pyramid juxtaposed with the old castle, the reflecting ponds, and the overall grandeur. You can’t help but ponder the history of the place– really, of the entire city. It’s infused in every cobblestone, every cathedral, every stone façade. The Louvre has had a storied history, serving as a fortress, a castle, a crumbling and forgotten shell, and eventually, a museum in 1793.
The Louvre courtyard is notorious for pickpockets, so do be aware of that if you visit. However, I have to say that on this particular visit, I had no problems with pickpockets or scammers, much to my surprise. Maybe I just missed them, maybe they weren’t there, I don’t know. I do know that the common scam around the Louvre is the Gold Ring Scam. The scammer drops what looks like a wedding band on the ground, picks it up and asks an unsuspecting passerby if they’d like to have it, for a few euros of course. Obviously, the ring is worthless. If this happens, just ignore them and they’ll move on to another target. I’ve encountered this scam on previous visits to Paris, but not on this one.
A Word About Safety
Americans tend to get a little (overly) worked up about safety when traveling in Europe, if you ask me. I’ve been all over the continent, and never once have been the victim of any kind of violent or frightening crime. Not even close. Scammers? Yes. Pickpockets? Yes. But nothing more nefarious than that. And it’s so easy to guard yourself against scammers and pickpockets, there’s no reason to be frightened or let them ruin a perfectly wonderful vacation. Here’s my tips for staying safe and keeping your cash:
- Blend in. This seems so obvious, but you wouldn’t believe the people that travel around Europe in t-shirts that scream, “I’m a tourist! Take advantage of me!” You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not, but you’ve spent all this money to go to Europe– maybe leave the “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt at home. It’s just as comfortable to wear a button down shirt as it is a t-shirt and it will serve a dual purpose: not make you target, and allow you into establishments that might expect a slightly dressed-up attire. The French are indeed more formal than Americans, and while I saw plenty of French in sandals, I didn’t see them in rubber flip-flops or t-shirts with dorky slogans on them. Wear clothes that are comfortable yet somewhat stylish, and you won’t look like a walking, flashing neon “TOURIST” sign. Personally, I pack light and my go-to for summer in Europe is a short-sleeved black cotton swing dress. It’s cool, it dresses up or down, it’s SUPER comfortable, and it will take you from morning coffee to evening cocktails. I bought mine online and it’s very similar to this one.
- Move on. Scammers first need to get your attention, and if you don’t give it to them, they will quickly move on to their next target. They have no interest in wasting time on someone who won’t buy into what they’re “selling”. This is not the time to be polite or worry about what a stranger thinks of you. Either ignore them completely and keep walking, or just say “No, merci” and keep walking. Don’t make eye contact, just move along. It really is that simple.
- Be smart. You have common sense so use it. Don’t walk around with your face in a map, don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket, don’t flash a wad in a crowded space, and don’t wear a fanny pack. If you carry a purse, keep it under your arm or better yet, buy this amazing locking purse that’s designed specifically for travel. It’s less than $50, and worth every penny. It blocks RFID scanners and has cut-resistant straps along with the locking zipper. It’s the exact one I bought, and even though I’m home now, I still use it every day. The locking zipper is a nice feature that I did use, particularly on crowded Metro trains, when I wanted that extra piece of mind. I cannot recommend it enough.
If you follow that advice, you will be fine, and you will be free to enjoy your vacation and focus on important things like where to get your next croissant.
Au Revoir, Paris– But First, Macarons!
After the Louvre and the adjacent Jardin des Tuilleries, we took one last walk down the Champs Elysees, mainly to stop in at LaDrurée. LaDurée is the best-known purveyor of macarons in Paris. Not to be confused with macaroons, French macarons are sandwich cookies, but that term doesn’t do them justice, since Oreos are also technically “sandwich cookies”. Macarons come in a wide array of flavors from pistachio to lemon to chocolate, rose, and strawberry. LaDurée has their standard variety, and then they always also have a seasonal selection, too. What I find sets French macarons apart from the few I’ve had here in the States is that here they are way too sweet, so sweet that the flavors really don’t come through. In France, they are certainly sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the flavors are bright and distinctive. My favorite is pistachio, but rose is also delicious. If you have time, I recommend having a seat in the Salon de Thé and enjoying a café or tea with your macarons while you take in the beautiful décor of the restaurant.
It was hard to leave Paris after just a few days, but knowing that we were on our way to Avignon made it easier. Avignon– the city of the popes, a city on the Rhone, home to the theater “Festival d’Avignon”, the city where my
spirit comes to life…