Picnic at your own risk!
I was at the Champs de Mars recently when the weather was nice, with a few friends and chéri, for a little apéro picnic. Picnicking seems to be a thing that has become a phenomenon in Paris. Maybe it has something to do with the soaring restaurant and drink prices in Paris….
Whatever it is, everyone is doing it.
But there is a rising problem. The panhandling, alcohol and trinket selling, pickpocketing people roaming amongst the picnickers. There used to be one or two that would accost you over the course of you evening on the Champ de Mars. But they now come out in droves literally. And of all ages.
There are little kids who look like they are about 8 years old (judging by size, but if you look at their hardened faces they look about 50 years old). These kids have obviously been trained and they are supervised by one or two grown men that you may notice roaming around with absolutely no indication that they have a purpose there. The kids work in small groups to panhandle/pickpocket the people sprawled across the green. And they are very insistent. Their best technique is to distract you with one or two insistent members of their group, and another one will slip his or her little hand into a bag, purse or pocket and grab whatever is available.
I saw the same group of children ALL evening, cross the green several times.
In addition to the groups of children there are men who sell Eiffel tower trinkets and other crap, they are less aggressive than the children, but they do come over to you and shine their colored lights on you so you will notice them. There are men walking around with buckets and backpacks as well selling beer and wine (illegally) to picnickers. There used to be one or two, maybe four an evening, now they are there by the dozens and they will solicited you every five minutes. I NEVER let go of my bag and kept it on my shoulder the entire evening. That’s how bad it was….
At one point the other evening, one of the guys selling alcohol got angry at a guy selling trinkets and I saw him storm over to the trinket seller bottle in hand about 20 feet away from us. He took a big swing with the bottle, aiming it at the man’s head. THANK heaven he missed! The bottle went flying to the ground several feet away and somehow managed to miss hitting anyone. The two men took to their fists. And would have had a real dangerous fight had their “colleagues” not pulled them apart.
My advice to you, if you plan on picnicking on the Champ de Mars below the Eiffel tower.
-Do not carry much cash on you
-Do not bring expensive cameras or electronics, and if you do bring a smartphone/cellphone, keep it zipped or snapped in a VERY secure place.
-Ladies, keep your bag on your shoulder, or in your lap and wrap a handle around your arm or wrist. The thieves will come VERY close to you.
-Picnic in small groups, you will be less of a target.
-Be CONSTANTLY on the lookout.
You may want to consider picnicking in other parks : Les Buttes Chaumont 75019 is nice and there are little to no pickpockets there (yet). But the best thing you can do is be prepared : have photocopies of all credit cards (front and back) plus photograph or scan your cell phone identity numbers found on the inside of your phone, plus the SIM card; leave passports at home, and have a very secure bag as well as keeping electronics out of site, and keep your eyes open.
Hopefully you will then be able to enjoy your picnic under the Dame de Paris!
Melissa– Just saw this on France 3 about problems w/ illegal trinket venders, in which several police were injured, leading to a zero-tolerance crackdown, w/ hundreds of venders arrested! And I thought it was bad when I was last there in 2002!
Thank you for sharing that video.
SO happy to read this! As a self-proclaimed picnicking professional, this is fantastic advice for both visitors and Parisians alike!
I have seen fights between the gypsies and the trinket vendors. Slap fights. They don’t play. Another pickpocket tactic is now to carry some paper and put it over your mobile phone if you have it out and then snatch it away. Totally agree with you on this article. I was out on the Champs de Mars on Sunday and you could just see the group of pickpockets working their way through the crowds. They need to up the police presence…even if it is vacation time. We non-vacationing Paris citizens need them!
Thanks for sharing that info on the paper tactic Erin. I NEVER leave my phone in sight unless it is in my hand (with a firm hold on it!)
Thanks for the advice. I am heading to Paris in October. Have a great day!
I was at Champs-de-Mars and I was extremely paranoid with all the things I had that I left in an hour. Thank you for sharing!
No problem doll! Be careful on the Champs Elysées too. And don’t fall for the “ring trick” (they pretend to find a ring on the ground and give it to you and then ask for money) or beware of them in the metro, they step on people’s feet to distract them and then rob them. I have literally SEEN it happen with my own eyes.