Paris’ Courtyard of Miracles

Pickpockets in action © T. Joly
As a consequence of the leniency and carelessness of the French Authorities, pickpockets and con artists preying on tourists are more numerous than ever in Paris.

How bright and clever are the politicians ruling Paris over the past dozen of years. They have developed a unique concept to make the city even more attractive, more enjoyable than before and to ensure it will remain the number one destination in the world. They have re-enacted the Courtyard of Miracles depicted in Victor Hugo’s novels.

Pickpockets in action © DR
 Pickpockets greet you at the airport
Immersion in the past starts right after the arrival at the airport where tourists are greeted by pickpockets, some of them dressed smartly, other being young ladies asking to sign petitions who insult and attack anybody trying to disturb their performance.
The show continues on board the RER trains going from the airport to the capital where the 30 to 40 minutes journey is brightened up with a parade of picturesque beggars and musicians.
Travellers taking the Roissybus to get to Paris should not be dismayed. They are too entitled to a welcome show with more pickpockets waiting for them at the Opera, the final stop.
Same thing occurs to tourists arriving in Paris by Eurostar. In terms of punctuality speaking more reliable than a Swiss cuckoo clock, pickpockets and women with bogus petitions come to liven things up a bit in Gare du Nord railway station every time a train arrives from London.

Pickpockets in action © DR
 Con artists everywhere
Jokers also try to steal suitcases from groups, forcing Japanese tour leaders to perform a nice choreography to keep an eye on the trolleys carrying them to their coach.
Once they have set up camp in Paris, tourists have many other opportunities to experience this re-enactment of Victor Hugo’s 19th century Paris. Beggars of all kinds, musicians and pickpockets accompany them on all metro lines. Joined by illegal street vendors, they also act near all major museums and monuments, so tourists don’t get bored in case of long queues. Sometimes they even sneak inside museums like the Louvre or Versailles palace !!!
Strolling around the streets is equally exotic and fun thanks to hordes of women carrying bogus petitions or pretending you lost a gold ring they found on the pavement…

Illegal rickshaw © T. Joly
 Illegal and dangerous rickshaws
The purpose is always the same, get close to tourists and borrow some of their belongings in order to lighten their bag and make their stroll less exhausting, more enjoyable. Here and there, particularly near Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower, con artists invite visitors to play three cards Monte with them to rip them off. At the foot of Montmartre, dozens of men offer tourists to make braid bracelets and then request an hefty €20 for their poor work. Lastly, for those who are tired, illegal rickshaws without licence and insurance kindly offer rides at ridiculous high prices.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to rush to Paris to enjoy this remarkable historic re-enactment. It is going to last. Municipal councillors, politicians and justice keep a watchful eye on these street shows and French citizens trying to stop them get as much trouble as the pickpockets. Welcome to the City of Thieves.

August 26, 2016
Thierry Joly