Tourist scam in Paris

Working as a travel journalist, I consider myself quite a seasoned traveler. However, on a recent trip to Paris I discovered – much to my surprise – that I’m travel savvy in a naive kind of way. As much as I HATE to admit it, I fell prey to those making a living out of tricking tourists.

It was under the arches of the rue Rivoli, just opposite the Louvre. My backpack and I were hanging around waiting for Mademoiselle with the key to my rental apartment. As always, Paris puts me in a good mood. Knowing that the Mona Lisa and all her art siblings are located a stone’s throw away is a sensation no short of falling in love.

So I was in a particularly good mood when a young girl bent down a few meters in front of me. She picked up a golden ring from the pavement, and I was genuinely amazed when she approached me to ask if I had lost it. I shook my head and smiled at her whilst she continued to look around in search of the poor soul who’d lost their wedding ring. The girl’s honesty enhanced my good mood. She touched a soft spot by acting very humble in what can sometimes be a big and hostile city. As it turns out… acting she was.

Stupid me? Only for a brief moment when I was under Paris' magical spell.

When she couldn’t find the ring’s rightful owner, she insisted I keep it. I shook my head, many times. I told her the ring was hers. Finders keepers, and so forth. She went on to explain that her religion prevented her from wearing jewellery and that she had no use for it. I still didn’t cop on to the scam. I suppose I qualify for Blonde of the Year, and yes – I do feel ever so slightly stupid putting the event down in words. Anybody capable of reading will see that it certainly spells out con artist loud and clear.

But back to Paris. The sweet girl walked off, me with the ring in my hand, slightly confused but still convinced fate was being extra generous with me on that particular day. Two minutes later she re-appeared. With a very cute smile she asked if I had some spare change for a coca cola. I was still oblivious of her plot, and gave her a couple of euros.

Back under the arches I continued to wait for Mademoiselle with the key. All of a sudden a young boy picked up something from the pavement right in front of me. ANOTHER GOLDEN RING!

I must admit the thought of a Parisian couple terminating their marriage in a verbal explosion of “Merde!”, “Casses-toi!” and “Salop!”  by throwing their wedding bands out of the window from one of the posh apartments above did cross my mind. But only for a split second. When the boy insisted the ring was for me I had to laugh out loud. His acting skills were inferior to the girl’s. I showed him my first ring. His performance came to a sudden halt, and I was still in a great mood. What a show! Oh, la la!

The funny thing is I still think fate was being generous with me. The girl had put a smile on my face and her scam hadn’t hurt anyone. She put enormous efforts into earning a couple of euros, and I am convinced her acting skills could take her much further. The only thing that bugged me with the whole situation is that I had been targeted as gullible enough to fall for the theatrics. Twice, in a matter of minutes.

Lesson learnt? Well, I could possibly do with a bit more skepticism when strangers approach me on the street. Then again, being cynical and skeptical  seems like such a boring way to live. It’s just not me. But I did google the golden ring scam, and it turns out I’m not the only one they have fooled. Everyone from The Lonely Planet to Rick Steves are warning against the scam. There seems to be a lot of lost rings appearing around the touristy areas of Paris. Somehow this made me feel a bit better.

Voila! This ring will be my lucky charm forever

This post is participating in the Lonely PlanetBlogsherpa Travel Carnival where a bunch of seasoned travelers share their best stories.
This time around their writing their “Spooky Stories” from around the globe, and the carnival is hosted by Joe Tuck over at

The original Vagabond I

The world is spinning in such a way these days that I have to ask myself if a true Vagabond still has a place in our society. He who has no wish to know where he will be spending tomorrow night. He who can fit all his belongings into a bag and scurry along at sunrise. He who has decided that a standardized A4 life is not for him.

Today, as I am writing these words, the Roma people are being kicked out of France. There is something fundamentally wrong when this can happen in a supposedly united Europe. Inspired by Delacroix’s symbolic painting of the Revolution, I can’t help but wonder which revolution President Sarkozy is evoking by forcing these people to leave…

Whatever happened to liberté, egalité and fraternité?