IT ISN'T just British motorists and hotel guests who risk having their collars unfairly felt in France (Departures passim). Diana Pepper ran into bother after taking the train from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Paris Gare du Nord rail station.

'Transferring from the mainline train to the Metro, we tried in vain to insert tickets bought at the airport into the exit barriers separating the main station from the Metro. The machines appeared not to be working and we watched many people jumping over the barriers.

'There was no one around to give assistance. Eventually we, too, climbed over the barriers and were immediately pounced upon by inspectors (who had obviously seen us struggling to work the machines for several minutes) who tried to fine us pounds 20 each for ticket fraud.

'We had crossed from the mainline part of the concourse to the Metro without knowing that you first had to buy a Metro ticket (which explains why the machines didn't work). The inspectors were obviously waiting for tourists as lots of other people were jumping the barrier and the only ones they stopped were the two of us and a young American woman.

'They were very persistent about the fine and had taken the American girl's passport away. We were so sure of our innocence that we made it clear there was no way we were paying up. It took my friend losing his temper finally to get us out of it, but less linguistically competent or assertive travellers could find themselves arrested.

'It seems such a scam,' concludes Ms Pepper.

But while the French appear to be singling out foreign tourists for the treatment, Ms Wear of Exeter says that in Devon foreigners are simply let off.

'I spoke to a traffic warden in Exeter whom I saw walking past (and ignoring) a Norwegian car parked without a permit in a residents' parking area. When I commented that it had been parked there on and off for several months he replied there was nothing he could do, as any tracing for payment had to be done through Interpol (and presumably was not worth the bother).

'In his words, 'If you have foreign plates you can park anywhere'. I think I'll get myself a French-registered car, then I can park illegally in England and drive dangerously in France as well,' writes Ms Wear.

I can assure Ms Wear that this laissez-faire attitude does not prevail in Bath, at least. The local hotel association is furious at traffic wardens for the zeal with which they get foreign cars towed away to the car pound for overstaying their allotted parking time by an hour or two. The police do not need Interpol to extract their fines: either the tourists pay up or they do not get their cars back.

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