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Thwarter of Thieves

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 20, 2017

Tuesday August 1st – Monday August 7th, 2017

This poor guy has been severely robbed.

We got to Paris with a few hang-ups. One, my debit card was taken by a Paris ATM and I had to have a new one mailed to me. This was not too bad. We just used Mark’s bank card until then. Unfortunately, his bank charges him all sorts of fees for not being in the US. My bank, Ally Bank, not only doesn’t charge any fees, but they refund most of the ATM charges I incur.

Second, Mark went to a pharmacy to get medicine to stop his “Delhi Belly”. At first it seemed to do nothing, but after a few days he was as good as new. With everything fixed we were free to enjoy Paris.

Everything about Paris is AMAZING. You have to walk slowly everywhere you go, because even the smallest things are screaming for your attention. Look at the fountain in the photo above. There is so much going on just right there. The color, the gold trim, the expressions on the statues’ faces; they are all begging to be looked at. And this is just a fountain left outdoors for any and everyone to see. Imagine the stuff they keep indoors and charge an entrance fee for!

I was expecting to be completely bored by the Louvre because I don’t have a very high level of appreciation for art. Instead I spent a whole afternoon there. In fact, Mark and I were one of the people the staff had to stop and say, “Okay guys, it’s time to go. Come on… You two, get out.” We went to the Louvre for art and artifacts, but Mark and I kept stopping to stare at doors, ceilings, windows, walls, even the floor.

Look at this ceiling!

Just about every square inch of this city is designed for showing off. We would go out sightseeing everyday and by the evening my neck would hurt from looking up so much. At cemeteries graves and tombs are elaborately decorated. Churches are designed extravagantly. Even some subway stations are spectacular to look at. Paris is in a class of its own. There are no other places like it as far as I know.

This is just the gift shop. The really good stuff is upstairs.

But their is a sinister side of Paris. There are pick-pockets and scam artists everywhere. We saw people jumping the turn-styles at subway stations every time we rode the train. People were always approaching us asking for our signatures on some bogus petition. We knew they would try to steal our stuff, so we never let them stand too near us. But then one day I caught some guy red-handed, trying to rob me.

I was going to catch a train when I felt something odd. At first I thought it might have been my phone, but I did not get a SIM card in Paris, so that phone should not be vibrating with any alerts. I turned around as I always do before I open my purse in Paris, to make sure no one is too close. But someone was. There was a man standing right behind me. This was odd because the place was almost empty of people. He had plenty of space to move; he didn’t need to be right next to me.

Then I noticed the zipper of my purse was slightly opened. “What’s going on!?” I asked the man. He looked guilty. Mark stopped and asked me what happened. “This man tried to pick-pocket me.” I told Mark. Mark demanded that the man empty his pockets to see what he took. The man, who seemed to be in his early 20’s, showed that he had nothing in his pockets. I looked through my bag, but nothing was taken. I left most of my stuff in my locker at the hostel. Seeing the 2 things I had were still there I knew he hadn’t taken anything.

But I wasn’t sure what would happen next. I knew that pick pockets usually work in groups. While we were standing there, the others might come and rob us. So, the only thing I could think to do is to make a spectacle. So I started to shout, “THIS FOOL TRIED TO ROB ME. I CANNOT BELIEVE HE TRIED TO PICK POCKET ME. SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE!?” (I knew the police couldn’t help.)

The guy stood there arguing his innocence until I started shouting. Once my yelling began, people started to look in my direction and come towards us, he felt inspired to run and hightailed it out of there.

After that, I looked at everyone in Paris suspiciously as would be pick-pockets. I know most people think that the pick-pockets are mostly Romany or non-European immigrants, but this guy looked and sounded Parisian. He spoke English with a French accent as he insisted that he had taken nothing. He didn’t look poor, out of place, or in anyway like someone who had to resort to petty theft. He looked like a college student or some French version of a hipster.

I’ve also seen the same thing happen to other tourists. One guy from Spain caught a pick-pocket reaching in his wife’s purse. The Spanish guy grabbed the pick-pocket and slapped him around a bit, yelling at the thief in Spanish. This is the most punishment that pick-pocket will ever see, since the cops don’t do much.

I guard my purse even from Churchill’s statue; I trust no one.

Here are my tips for avoiding pick-pockets:

  1. Carry as few things as possible.
    • If you get robbed, it’s easy to assess what has been taken if you have just a few things.
    • You will also have less things to steal.
    • Leave the really important things in a safe or locker at your hotel or hostel, especially if it’s not really needed.
  2. Don’t use a backpack.
    • Backpacks are kept on your back and you cannot see behind you.
  3. Use only a sling bag, like mine, and always carry it across your body, like I do.
    • It’s very hard to snatch a purse with someone in it.
    • If someone does try to grab your purse, don’t pull on it.
      • Instead sit down. Now the thief will have to drag you and the purse.
      • Or if you fear for your safety, just let go of the purse. Your life is worth more than your stuff.
  4. Keep your purse in front of you.
    • What’s out of your sight, is easy pickings.
    • When in doubt, hug your purse.
  5. Don’t put anything in your back pocket.
    • In fact, don’t put anything in any non-zippered pockets.
  6. When it’s very crowded around you, hold on to your bag.
    • When in doubt, hug your purse.
  7. Don’t be afraid to get loud.
    • People might shy away if they see a robbery in progress, but everyone loves a spectacle.
    • Think of the craziest thing to say and yell that.
    • Thieves hate an audience.
  8. Be aware of what’s around you.
    • You can be pick-pocketed anywhere, even at the Louvre.

Paris is so much more enjoyable when you haven’t been robbed.


The European Union
(France)

How to get there:

You can enter the E.U. and France by land, air, or sea. I’m not sure what needs to be done to get a European visa before hand. Americans are issued stamps at the port of entry which allow up to a 90-day stay.

Phone:

  • Emergency number: 112 for fire, police, and ambulance (for France and most other EU countries)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos: The E.U.:

France:

Don’t get robbed in Paris:

Books:

Notes:

  • In most E.U. countries almost everyone speaks some English and many people speak English very well.

Navigo Decouverte

Basic Information

Website:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 5€ fee for card itself (this can be reused for other travel cards)
  • 22.80€ (1 week) for central Paris and all Zones 1-5
    • or 75.20€ (1 month) for central Paris and all Zones 1-5
  • about 5€ for photos if you don’t already have one.
    • There is usually a photo machine nearby.
  • about 1€ for a pen, if you don’t already own one.

Hours: (subway hours)

  • Mon – Fri: 05:30 – 00:30.
  • Sat – Sun: 05:30 – 02:15.
  • Nights before holidays: 05:30 – 02:15.

Notes:

  • The Navigo Cards work on the metro, buses, and some trams in Paris.
  • Watch out for pick-pockets. The subway is where you are most likely to be robbed!
  • Paris has the most pick-pockets I have ever seen.

Louvre Museum

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • €17
    • I recommend buying tickets online.
    • You don’t save money, but you will save time.
  • Audio Guide is on a Nintendo 3DS
    • € 5
  • Downloaded App
    • Free App (optional in-app purchases from €0,99 to €4,99)
  • I recommend using thier 3DS for the audio guide. Save your battery.
    • But definitely get the audio guide. The Louvre is a nice museum without the audio guide. With the audio guide it will be the highlight of your trip!

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00
  • Closed Tuedays

Videos:

Notes:

  • Get the audio guide.
    • The audio guide brings the paintings, statues, and artifacts to life.
  • Get there early.
  • Look online and decided what your must-sees are.
  • Stop at lunch or at some point then have a coffee at one of the cafes.
    • Take a break, rest, and go back in.
  • Don’t lose your ticket.
    • You will need it to move from one area to another.
  • Bring a bottle of water with you.

Arc de Triomphe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 23:00

Video

Notes:

You can climb stairs to the top, but it costs €12.


Lots of things to look out for

Notes:


Catacombs of Paris

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 17 €
  • 5 € audio guide
  • 32€ buying online
    • You get to skip the incredibly long line.
    • Audio guide included

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:30
  • Last admission: 19:30
  • Closed Mondays

Videos:

Notes:

  • I would recommend buying the tickets online.
    • With online tickets you get to skip the line.
    • The line is very long and the line is also held up for people who bought their tickets online to go first.

Panthéon

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 9

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:30

Video

Notes:


Sacré Coeur

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free/ Donations
  • Guide book 5

Hours:

  • 6:00 – 22:30

Notes:

Map:

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Agra: Diamonds of the Souls of Our Feet

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 10, 2017

July 25–28, 2017

The view from the hotel

Be Fancy

When we got to Jaipur we booked a stay at the Comfort Inn. It’s an American hotel chain. The Comfort Inn is a nice business hotel, nothing fancy. It’s clean, nice, and dependable.

But the one in India was a 4 star hotel. It was a fancy hotel, yet still a Comfort Inn with a standard Comfort Inn price. …And yet, fancy.

So when it was time to pick a hotel in Agra we asked, “What can I get for about 60USD per night. The answer was… opulence.

These guys played while we ate breakfast every morning

We booked a 5-star hotel and it was nice. But I never felt very relaxed there. One reason was that there was always someone lurking around every corner to make Mark and me more comfortable. For example, at dinner if I were to run low on mint chutney on my plate, before I had the opportunity to pour some more myself, someone would pop out of nowhere to pour it for me.

If I were to drop a spoon or something, before I could pick it up, 3 people would rush over; one with a new spoon, one to pick up the dropped spoon, and another to apologize for the slippery spoons. There was even a guy who pushed the elevator buttons for guests. At first I thought this was nice, but after a day or two I felt like a toddler.

We didn’t realize just how fancy the hotel would be until we pulled up at the gate. The taxi we came in was a dilapidated old junker that coughed as it went down the street. It’s driver was the least shadiest guy hanging out at the train station that night. I made Mark pick a cab quickly because I felt like I was on the verge of tossing my cookies.

When the car pulled up to the hotel and a bell-hop took our back-pack, the shame started to sink in. Then I remembered that we used to live in a very posh apartment in Bangkok and would come home muddy and dirty from camping trips almost every weekend. We would walk through the lobby and staff would run to open doors for us and hand us our mail. If we could afford to live in such an apartment, paying our rent on time, they didn’t care what we looked like when we returned.

So, I acted like I did when I lived in Bangkok. “Yes, this was just normal stuff for people like us who travel adventurously and regularly stay in fancy hotels,” I thought to myself. I have no idea if we fooled anyone. If we did look out of place, everyone was too polite to say anything.

The view from the back of the hotel.

Another reason for my discomfort was food poisoning. I drank a lassi somewhere in Jaipur before getting on the train and was quite sick by the time I got to Agra. I almost didn’t see the Taj Mahal. We had 4 days in Agra and I spent the first 2 in bed… and the bathroom.

The truly sad part, was that at our hotel every breakfast was a buffet of Indian dishes from all over India. I sat and watched Mark enjoy all the food he could stuff into his face. I ate mainly plain eggs, a banana, or milk. On the last day, I was feeling much better and sampled more types of foods. But, by then Mark had gotten sick.

I was so sick, this was the best smile I could fake.

I didn’t feel well enough to go to the Taj Mahal, but I was not going to miss it! I went and just walked very slowly. I was so weak, I kept having to sit down. I also kept an eye out for bathrooms, hoping that I would not have to use any, or worse, end up throwing up on the grounds of the Taj Mahal.

We hired a driver from the hotel. He dropped us off and would come back for us in 2 hours. All I had to do was “contain” myself for 2 hours. I did manage just that. We saw the whole thing, though I did want to stay much longer. My body couldn’t take it and I was glad to be back in bed afterwards.

Tea and Taj later that day


India
(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.
  • When taking tuk-tuks or taxis, use google maps or some other GPS app to make sure the driver has taken you to the correct destination.

Taj Mahal

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 1,000 rupees
    • Includes:
    • Bottle of water
    • Shoe covers
    • a bag to hold the water and shoe covers
    • a ride to the main gate

Hours:

  • sunrise – sunset
  • Closed Fridays

Videos:

Notes:

  • Built between 1632–53.
  • There is no official audio guide for the Taj Mahal.
  • Be careful when hiring a guide.
    • If you don’t want a guide, keep telling the people who harass you that while you walk away.
    • They will follow you.
  • Don’t forget to sit on the Diana bench, if you can.

Map:

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Paris

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 15, 2009

June 25-27, 2008

All Pictures

Paris

Ah Paris…

We started our day by checking into a hotel. My brother made the reservations. He wasn’t leaving anything up to chance or me anymore. We signed up for a night tour of Paris for the following day. Then we took the subway to the Arc de Triomphe. We walked around the monument for about 20 minutes taking tons of pictures.

scammers hard at work

Le Scam: Did you drop this gold ring?

As we were walking around Paris going from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower we came across a man who seemed to have just found a gold ring. He walked over to us and asked if it belonged to any of us. Of course it didn’t. It was his fake gold ring.

We told him that it wasn’t ours, and how lucky he was to have found a gold ring. He gave the ring to my mom telling her she could have it… and if she could give him 10 or 20 euros that would be great.

There are many ring dropping scammers in Paris. We were approached by many other people trying to “sell” us a ring they had “just found”. They mostly seem to work around the area near the Louvre and towards Notre Dame near the water and they didn’t like their photos being taken.

That’s more like it!

I love to love Paris!

Paris was great! I really enjoyed it. It seems to me that if you take an average looking man and give him a French accent he becomes attractive. If you make him speak French he becomes drop dead sexy!

I enjoyed hearing everyone’s accents. I even enjoyed listening to the garbage men arguing early in the morning or eavesdropping on the subway. I don’t speak or understand French. I just like hearing it.

I just want to comment on the photo above. I saw these two middle-aged people on a bench in Paris lustfully making out. The passion that they expressed for each other was so powerful that they were on the verge of falling off the bench. I turned to my brother and told him, “Now that’s what I was expecting to see in Paris!” I don’t know what the story of these lovers are, but I’m sure it is a fantastically romantic one.

I vowed that day, that when I get to their age I would come back to Paris with my lover, husband, boyfriend, or random guy and make out on a park bench too!

All Pictures


 

The European Union
(France)

How to get there:

You can enter the E.U. and France by land, air, or sea. I’m not sure what needs to be done to get a European visa before hand. Americans are issued stamps at the port of entry which allow up to a 90-day stay.

Phone:

  • Emergency number: 112 for fire, police, and ambulance (for France and most other EU countries)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos: The E.U.:

France:

Notes:

  • In most E.U. countries almost everyone speaks some English and many people speak English very well.

EuroStar: Paris from London

How to get there:

Go to St. Pancras Railway station. The ticketing office opens at 6:00 am during the week.

Hours:

  • The train leaves about once an hour from 9:00 to about 20:00.
  • The ride is about 2.5 hours long.

Website

Videos:

Notes:

  • The London to Paris train goes to Gare du Nord in Paris.
  • It’s best to book your ticket ahead of time.
  • Look for specials to different European cities.
  • The EuroStar goes from London to Paris, by way of the English Channel Tunnel, sometimes referred to as the Chunnel. This is the longest undersea tunnel in the world.
  • There is a security check point like that of an airport.

Arc de Triomphe How to get there:

  • 48°52’25.6″N 2°17’42.0″E
  • Go to Charles de Gaulle Etoile metro station.
  • Do not try to cross the street to get to the Arc de Triomphe. You will most likely be run over if you do. There is an underpass that you can safely use.

Phone:

+33 1 01 11 01 03

Cost: Free

Notes:

You can climb stairs to the top, but I don’t think it’s free.


Eiffel Tower How to get there:

  • 48°51’30.1″N 2°17’40.0″E

Go to either Bir-Hakeim or École Militaire Metro Station. Public Bus – Take #42, #69, #72, #82, or #87. Website Cost: To take the stairs to the 2nd floor is 3.50Euros Elevator To the 2nd Floor

  • Adult 24+         8.20Euro
  • Youth 12-24    6.60Euro
  • Child 4-12          4.10Eur0
  • Handicapped   4.10Euro
  • Handicapped’s Assistant 4.10Euro
  • Baby 0-4            Free

Elevator to the 3rd Floor

  • Adult 24+        13.40Euro
  • Youth 12-24   11.80Euro
  • Child 4-12          9.30Eur0
  • Handicapped   9.30Euro
  • Handicapped’s Assistant 9.30Euro
  • Baby 0-4            Free

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 0:00 mid June – the end of August
  • 9:30 – 23:00 The rest of the year
Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not miss the entrance time on your ticket. There are no refunds.
  • It is not free to take the stairs all the way up, but the rate is a lot less.

Sacré Coeur

How to get there:

  • 48°53’12.1″N 2°20’35.2″E

Bus numbers 30, 31, 80, or 85 will take you to the bottom of the hill. Go to Anvers Metro Station.

Address:

Baslique Du Sacre-Coeur De Montmartre
Adoration Eucharistique Jour Et Nuit 35,
Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-Barre 75018
Paris, France

Phone: +33 1 53 41 89 00

Website

e-mail: basilique@sacre-coeur-montmartre.com

Hours:

Everyday 6:00 – 22:30

Notes:

You can climb up the dome for a view of Paris from 9:00 – 19:00 (18:00 in winter).You can also visit the crypt.

Map:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in France, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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