Down and out in Paris and London

As you may be able to tell from my previous two posts I found being in London easier than being in Paris. Part of it was the language, of course, but there were other reasons as well. There was less visible evidence of poverty in London.

The first day we were there and walking around our neighborhood near Tavistock and Russell Square, a very persistent woman stood in front of us with a sad story about being from Greece ad needing money. She followed us for quite a while before she gave up. Her behavior was very aggressive.

Besides her we really didn’t see people in the street begging or sleeping in public areas. In Paris it was a different story.

There are a lot of people in Paris who try to scam you or live on the streets seeking money. We saw several people sitting on the sidewalk with dogs that seemed almost dead begging. One woman had an emaciated lifeless cat and several kittens. These scenes were very disturbing and unpleasant.

One day we were walking to the Orsay Metro stop and a woman approached us holding a ring. It looked like silver wedding band. She asked if it belonged to me. When I said no she offered to let me have it and placed it in my hand. As I was holding it she asked for money for finding it or giving it to me or for something. I handed it right back to her. The whole situation was bizarre.

Click here for a fuller description of the various scams in Paris. We saw them all. Reading the descriptions makes me nauseous.

Our hotel was right down the street from a church, Saint Roch. There was a man who lived on the steps. He was there every day. He had a suitcase and he sat there every day.

Eglise Saint Roch
Eglise Saint Roch

One day we went through a passage way to get to our block. A restaurant had some tables and chairs in the area. In corner the man from the steps was there urinating. I have no idea how he did anything else. I think he tries to sleep there but one evening I saw a policeman shaking him to get him to move.

Our hotel and the church were right down the street from shops selling $200 or more handbags and shoes. When I think of the man on the steps there is a pervasive feeling of sadness.

Poverty, unlike food, has always been global. The poor of Paris do not seem to have changed much from the poor Victor Hugo described in Les Miserables. That is a crime.

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