Arsenal and Pickpockets, London and Paris


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Last week we met one of our favorite families for our first and only trip outside of Italy.  We stayed together in a stable-turned-apartment near Hyde Park.  During our four days, we boated down the River Thames, spent a morning in Kensington Gardens, spun a loop around the London Eye, took a peek at the Crown Jewels, and ate at several pubs with names like “The Dog and Duck,” “Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese,” and “The Queen’s Arms.”  We also rode a double decker bus over the Tower Bridge and past Big Ben.

Build for the 2012 Olympics, the Eye of London is a half hour Ferris wheel ride high over the city.

The London Eye is a half-hour Ferris wheel ride over the city.

Ray and the Tower of London

Ray and the Tower of London

The kids with Peter Pan.

The kids with Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

The most memorable excursion was an evening at the Arsenal vs. Everton soccer match.  After an all-day search and a shady rendezvous with a scalper, we finally held what we hoped were eight tickets to the sold-out game.  We rode a packed subway and arrived at the stadium full of fans wearing red and white.  The weather was good, and we were in England watching real football.

Outside the gates

Outside the gates of Emirates Stadium

waiting for a goal

waiting for a goal

Despite the final score of 0-0 and the surprising calm of the crowd, this was a fun night.  We bought Arsenal scarves, we cheered, and we ate dinner in our seats.  At 10 minutes before the end of the game, we decided to get a head start on the return trip.  As we left the stadium we were surprised to join throngs of others running to the entrance to the Tube.  The urgency was contagious.  We each grabbed a kid and took off sprinting.  It was pretty exciting, and at one point, Grace said, “It feels like we’re running for our lives!”  Eventually finding a pocket of space to stand on the subway gave us the feeling of victory we had been looking for all night.

The next day we left London (several hours before Margaret Thatcher’s funeral).  Our apartment in Paris was hilarious.  There were just two rooms, each with a tiny loft.  There was a kitchen too, but it was in one of the bedrooms.  We decided right away that privacy was not much of an option. We put the kids in one room and the adults in another.  The tight quarters were the basis for much of the humor during the rest of our stay.

Lynn find a place to sit on our bed while Deac finds space on the ladder

Lynn find a place to sit on our bed while Deac hangs out on the ladder

Paris was all about short stops at big sights during the day and long dinners in small restaurants at night.

Another great view of the Eiffel Tower

Another great view of the Eiffel Tower

Joining hundreds of others to glimpse the Mona Lisa

Joining hundreds of others for a glimpse of the Mona Lisa

Lynn and I near Notre Dame

Lynn and I near Notre Dame

Starting off another French feast with a kir royale

Starting off another French feast with a kir royale

The most fascinating aspect of Paris, and the one that left the biggest impression (especially among the kids) were the pickpockets.  In fact, the week before, the Louvre unexpectedly closed for a day because the problem was unmanageable.  We were further warned by many:  Always hold your belongings close.  Watch out for people holding a “petition” and asking for signatures because while you peruse the paper and write your name, hands will be busy underneath the clipboard empting your purse.  Sure enough, on day one, in the middle of a busy square, we encountered a hoard of young women looking for unsuspecting victims.  Our tour guide, Jacques, spotted them first and reminded us to be careful.  We watched the attempts from a distance.  Later, Jacques showed us all his protective measures.

Jacques has two cell phones and a wallet chained to the inside of his long jacket which covers his pants' pockets.  He only uses the cheap phone when in a public area in Paris.

Jacques has two cell phones and a wallet chained to the inside of his long jacket which safely covers his pants’ pockets. He uses only the small cheap phone when in a public area in Paris.  The iPhone is kept hidden when inside the city limits.

If things get ugly, he also has this for protection.

If things get ugly, he also has this for protection.

Ray, Tom and Matt carefully maneuver around the alleged pickpocket

Ray, Tom and Matt carefully maneuver around the alleged pickpocket while another passes in front.

During the rest of the day, the kids tried to weasel belongings out of the adults’ bags and pockets.  I was horrified when they later offered me back my wallet, my lipstick and my sunglasses.   The only defense I had for being such easy prey was that I allow my kids closer than I would a stranger.  Still, Matt said he would be more comfortable carrying my valuables.

Ray tries unsuccessfully to rob Deac.

Later, one of the kids tries unsuccessfully to rob Deac.

The last morning in Paris started at 3am when we all woke up and caught rides to the airport for an early morning flight.  The Halls returned to Seattle and we came back to Perugia.  The first thing we did when we got home was stop for a gelato where some of the other customers were speaking French.  Later that afternoon, we noticed a new crepe stand on the street outside our apartment.  And for dessert, we ate meringues. It felt good knowing that some of Paris followed us home.

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10 thoughts on “Arsenal and Pickpockets, London and Paris

  1. So many vivid images…I felt as if I had traveled to London and Paris and experienced soccer, the Mona Lisa, and the pickpockets. Thanks Jill. With abundant love. Anita

  2. Wow, you were in Paris, so close yet so far. That’s funny, I never noticed pickpocketing on any of my trips to Paris. I spent close to a month there while I was pregnant with Oscar, pushing Noé around in the stroller and, in general, being rather helpless and vulnerable in the way only a pregnant lady with a howling, not-quite-potty-trained toddler can be, and no one bothered to rob me. Now I feel slightly disappointed and a little insulted. Come on French thieves, what have you got against me? I wasn’t even being vigilant. I’m pretty sure I left my belongings unattended on several occasions at the park and played with my iPhone in plain view. I do always avoid the people with the petitions though, not because I am suspicious, but because I just don’t do petitions. Especially in French, for things I don’t understand, probably for some political thing and my signature wouldn’t count because I am not French, so really I’m saving their time by avoiding them. Anyways, glad you had fun and only your children mugged you. Bisous.

  3. J’adore Paris. Very weird about the rash of pickpockets. I’d hear on the news that the Louvre had closed temporarily because it. I’ve been to Paris 3 times and it feels like I’m going home (must be some sort of genetic memory of my French heritage!).

  4. London looks cold. The Eye looks frightening, and Ray looks like he’s the only one at the Tower of London. I love Peter Pan in Kensington Park. Jacques seems to be having as much fun as you. And, now, you have crepes in Perugia?? We left too soon. Another fun blog, especially seeing the Halls with you. Love, Mom

  5. Great trip. Wish we were back with you. I noticed Tom looks to have new sun glasses. Very sporty. Love to all. Grandpa John

  6. Hi Guys,
    It looks like you had lots of fun in London and Paris. I love the picture with Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens.
    I also liked Ray in fornt of the Tower of London… He looks so small.
    Love, Grey

  7. Love, love, love this post! So happy to see you together with the Halls. What a fun trip! It’s funny to me too, I didn’t notice any pickpockets when I was there in January and definitely was careless with my iPhone. Glad I came home with it! Love to you all.

    • I wish you could have been there too. We carried your recommendations with us everywhere. Thank you so much. As for the pick pockets, it wasn’t very threatening. In fact, I thought Jacques was so funny with his chains and knife. I used my iPhone without ever thinking about it. He is probably just extra precautions since he hears all the stories and spends his working hours at the big tourist stops. However, when I got home, I talked to our friend Cristiano. He said he had 600 euros stolen when he was in Paris!

  8. Jill, I love all your posts, but for some reason, I think this one is my favorite (so far). Maybe it’s because the Halls are there with you. Maybe it’s the energy from all your sightseeing, Maybe the pickpocketing coverage, the jokester pickpocketers (way to go, kids!).This post made me smile, from start to finish.
    Love & Hugs to you all–Anousone:)

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