Travel & Adventure

Paris: Pickpockets + Protests

Is a trip to Paris really complete without getting pickpocketed? 🙂

When researching for our trip to Paris, I read a lot about pickpockets and what a problem they were in Paris.  I was determined to be diligent… there was NO WAY I was going to fall victim to a pickpocket.

I always wore my purse inside/underneath my coat, which wasn’t exactly convenient considering most museum security lines require your bag to be scanned. This meant taking my coat and then purse off every time we went in a museum.  Not fun, especially when it was cold and rainy (which it was basically every day).  But, it did prevent anyone stealing my passport or credit cards.

My phone, I kept in my coat pocket zipped up OR in my hand. I was constantly taking it out to take photos so it really didn’t make sense to keep it in my purse, underneath my coat. Plus, my purse was tiny and phone was not (iPhone X).

So, that’s the back story on the “security measures” I had been taking.

On Saturday, December 8, we spent the day wandering around Montmartre. We had a show to go to that evening at the Moulin Rouge, but needed to go back to our hotel to freshen up and rest our feet.  So, we caught a metro to our hotel.  It was extremely crowded.  We needed to go 8 stops — that should give you an idea of how far we were from our hotel.

Two stops in, the “conductor” came on the speaker and said something – a lot of something – in French. I understand a decent amount of French, but I didn’t understand hardly any of what was said.  But everyone got off!  We were still standing there and a French woman kindly told us that we had to get off.  The metro wasn’t going any further due to the protests that were going on in the direction it was headed.

Insert backstory:

The Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement in France began on November 17, 2018. I’m not going to go into detail about why people were/are protesting and rioting – it’s really not my place, nor do I have enough knowledge about the matter.  I am only referring to what I saw with my own eyes while I was in Paris.

The protests took place (and are still taking place as of December 15) every Saturday and were typically reserved to only certain areas of Paris. (They were actually taking place all over France, but I am only referring to Paris here since that is where we were.)  Generally, they took place in the more “bourgeoisie” areas.  Places around the Champs Elysees, Haussman, Louvre, Notre Dame, Saint Germain, etc. 

For the most part, the protests were peaceful. Some protesters, though, were not so much.  Some were burning cars and furniture in the streets, breaking shop windows along the Champs Elysees, vandalizing, etc.

Armored cars were deployed and police were using tear gas and water cannons on some protestors. The news had deemed the protests “violent,” which again, some were and some weren’t.  The majority were not.  

End back story.

So, we had altered our itinerary to ensure we were not anywhere near the protests, but we hadn’t prepared for the possibility of the metro stopping before it was supposed to.

Our hotel was in the Latin Quarter, which from Montmartre requires one to go through the Haussman, Notre Dame/Saint Michel and Louvre areas, to name a few. You see where this is going? 🙂

We exited the insanely crowded metro station and found that we were in the middle of the riots. They weren’t the riots around the Champs Elysees which were the worst, but we looked around and saw yellow vests everywhere.  We could smell and see smoke (and possibly tear gas? It was awful.), and there was a piece of furniture burning in the street.

Boo was ready to get out of there, but I, of course, wanted to document this. These were historic protests and we were there, after all!  I reached in my coat pocket and…. Where was my phone?  I felt in my other pockets.  Nothing.  I started to panic.  I checked my purse and it wasn’t there, of course, because I never put it there. Had Boo used my phone?  He checked his pockets and you guessed it… nothing.

We did “Find my iPhone” on Boo’s phone and saw that it was somewhere. Ha! But, we had no idea where we even were to be able to tell where that blinking was.  I became extremely…. irate.  I’ll put it that way.  I’m not sure if I yelled “F@CK! F@CK! F@CK!” or just said it loudly, but it was said many, many, many times.  I then started to cry tears of absolute rage.  I held it together rather well, though, when I think about it now.  Considering what was on that phone:

-Hundreds of photos (before Paris and including every picture I’d taken in Paris)

-My boarding passes to get home

-My passwords for EVERYTHING

-Apps for my bank accounts and credit cards

Just to name the most important things. And, not to mention the fact that I didn’t OWN the phone outright… it was only halfway paid off. So, I was going to have to pay this phone off (hundreds of dollars) AND buy a new phone (hundreds of dollars).  Rage ensued….

Side note: when we got home, we were relieved to find out that we did have insurance on the phone.  So, I didn’t have to pay it off and buy a new one. I did have to pay an insurance deductible, but I was sent a new iPhone and didn’t have to start over completely on my payment plan.  *Huge sigh*

But, within about 5 minutes I came to terms with the fact that the phone was gone forever and there was no bringing it back. There was then no sense it agonizing over what was on it or what it was going to cost me.  This was reality.  So, we then immediately erased everything that was on it and shut it off.

Then, we were back in the physical reality of being stranded in Paris, watching the riots going on around us. Oh, it was also about 5:00 which meant it was getting dark.  And we were exhausted since we’d walked all day.

We pulled up Google Maps on Boo’s phone and tried to figure out how the hell to get back to our hotel since the metro wasn’t running, and we didn’t know where the hell we were. We started walking the way Google instructed us to walk, only to see people running away from that direction.  And police cars at the end of every street.  Joy.  I’m sure I said, or yelled, “F@CK! F@CK! F@CK!” some more.

We then ignored Google and just started walking. We just wanted out of there.  I don’t know how far we walked.  It was well over an hour of walking, but we eventually made it back to our hotel.  Our feet, legs, and hips were on fire.

Looking back… why didn’t we just get a taxi? 🙂

We did call a taxi later that evening when we had to go back to Montmartre. We already had tickets to a Moulin Rouge show that night and we weren’t going to let a little pickpocketing, a little rioting, and a lot of exhaustion stop us. Ha!

I am really glad we went to that show, too. Not only was it one of the most visually stunning things I’ve ever witnessed, but it took our minds off of what had taken place earlier in the day.

A friend later told me that she was so impressed with how I handled this situation.  But the thing is:  I was in PARIS.  It was my dream to come here, and I made it happen.  I was here!  It was happening!  There was no way I was going to let any of this stop me from embracing and enjoying this.

I’m truly grateful for every single second.  Having my phone taken from me showed me I was too attached to it.  Not being able to take photos forced me to really be present in each moment.  We witnessed historic protests in Paris.  It’s all beautiful.

La vie est belle.