Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online

This week the streets of Paris will fill with returning Parisians who deserted their city during August. That doesn’t mean it was empty over the past few weeks: quite the contrary. Tourists still came in their droves – not surprisingly, as this summer France was again named the world’s most-visited country.

And where there were tourists, there were those waiting to fleece them. The Pont des Arts, already groaning with the weight of padlocks, was busy with girls with clipboards. They’ve been around for years, getting you to sign a petition while their accomplices swarm around you. Nowadays they pretend to be deaf-mute and just wave at you to get your attention.

I responded with a pantomime wave and a derisive grin, and they took the hint. I overheard an American saying: “I was only trying to be polite. And then she wanted money.” A bit of rudeness wouldn’t go amiss, especially in Paris, I wanted to tell her.

At the foot of Sacré Coeur, I prepared to walk up the sweeping stairs. A group of men tried to block my way. “We have a tradition here. You have to tie this string around your wrist,” they said.

This was a new trick to me, but a firm “Non, merci” was all it took to avoid getting tied up in string.