With our spring break lasting much longer than five days, I hopped on a train the Wednesday after Easter to spend a week in Paris. Traveling with another girl, we were excitedly planning how to occupy ourselves in the city of lights, art, and romance. Ah, Paris in April!
Six hours later we arrived in the heart of Paris only to spend another 45 minutes by metro to get to the 19thcartier, where we’d be staying. We finally arrived at the apartment around 6pm.
Rather exhausted, but anxious to explore a little before it got dark, we decided to head to a nearby park to see a skyline view of Paris, then hit the grocery store to pick up a few things for the week.
We were only in the park for no more than fifteen minutes when we passed them: three girls around the same age as us. Everything seemed fine, it was still daylight; kids were playing on the playgrounds. But the way these girls looked us up and down was rather troubling. With no one else nearby but them in our path, we decided to pass by quickly – bad idea.
All of a sudden we were pulled to the ground by our hair; they were screaming aggressive words and kicking us. Totally shocked, I had no idea how to respond. But the kicking got old real fast and I found myself fighting back, which didn’t go down well as they only pulled my hair and kicked me harder.
Fortunately for my friend, she had discretely pulled her wallet out of her purse and hid it under her coat, allowing her aggressors to take her bag. Finding items of non-interest, they quickly moved to me, and went for my bag – which had everything: iPod, camera, cash, credit cards…. In the end, they took off running leaving me empty handed.
We tried to pursue them, however we lost them. I did recover my bag though. Of all the contents strewn over the ground, the only ones missing were my iPod, camera, and 70euros. I instantly felt relieved that my credit cards and I.D.s weren’t touched, but entirely upset nonetheless.
With the only desire to get back to the apartment, we searched for the police station only to be told that we had a two hour wait and it’s better to come the next morning. We slowly made our way back home, stopping for the groceries on the way.
During this time my advisor and family got phone calls no one wants to receive, shocked and worried there was talk about an early return to Toulouse. But we decided to stay in Paris as planned.
Back at the apartment we prepared a small dinner, took showers, and got ready for bed, wanting only to get lost in a dream and sleep it off. While taking off my pants to get into the shower, it became apparent why my legs and especially my knee hurt. They were black and blue with some minor cuts. I stepped into the shower only to realize how incredibly sensitive my scalp was as I washed my hair. Large clumps of hair fell out in the shower that night.
My friend had the same “battle wounds” including severe pains in the neck; however in the end neither of us ended up going to the doctor. We just eagerly hopped into bed, tucked ourselves in, and turned out the light.
The next day however, it was hard to move as we were quite stiff and sore, but we soon walked it off and absorbed all the beauty, lights, art and romance of Paris.
Bienvenue à Paris
What did I learn from this? This could have happened anywhere, and it was evident we were in the wrong place at the wrong time; however, there are things you can do and precautions to take to avoid these types of incidents.
First off, you should try not to stand out. Big purses, flashy jewelry, cameras – this makes you a target. Aggressors seek out tourists because they’re more likely to be carrying interesting/expensive items. They take advantage that you’re in a foreign atmosphere. Plus, they see a bag and without knowing what’s in it, they assume they can make a profit with it.
If I could do it over again I would have left my purse at home, and kept only my camera in my pocket. You shouldn’t keep all your valuables together, separate them. If they’re all in one sack, and you lose that sack, you lose everything.
Secondly, it’s rather common sense you shouldn’t hang around in sketchy parts of town and only stick to populated areas. But like I said, this was in a park with children playing on the playgrounds, couples running, etc. It was still daylight. However, it was getting late in the day and the park was starting to clear.
We were caught off guard, so in the end you always have to keep aware of your surroundings, and appear like you know where you are going. Better yet, know where you are going.
Thirdly, if you feel in danger, remove yourself from the situation, listen to your instincts. We both felt funny passing these girls, but we continued on the path anyways. If we had just turned around, it probably would have been avoided.
Lastly, never forget to call for help. In the beginning we didn’t make too much noise, but with the pain, we started instinctively getting louder. What really annoys me though is the fact that a grown man arrived, saw what was happening, turned around, and left. “Thanks, Bud!”