What a beautiful day in Paris. It was one of those rare days when I just felt so content with life. I had music in my ears (those headphones that come with Ipods suck by the way) sunshine on my shoulders, a nice lunch of smoked salmon salad in my belly (thanks to Val's dad), and a spring in my step. I was on my way to the Musee d'Orsay which has an amazing collection of Impressionist artwork.
I walked over to the Eiffel Tower nearby because I had read on Yahoo that there was a temporary pool built under it to promote scuba diving. It sounded so random I had to take a look. Plus, weaving through the crowds around the tower always makes for good people watching. I didn't realize it was going to be so warm and I wished I wasn't wearing my sweater. I rolled up my sleeves and wished I could take a scuba lesson to cool off a bit.
As I made my way along the river Seine, in awe of how incredible life could be sometimes, I noticed a jogger talking to some guy near an intersection. The jogger looked a bit confused and after a moment continued on his sweaty way. A few moments later, I found myself standing next to the guy from earlier. While I was tapping my foot on the curb to the music and gazing at the golden statues that flank the pont Alexandre, the guy bent down in front of me and pretended to pick up a gold ring. He looked at me and gestured that I must have dropped it. I told him that it wasn't mine. He offered it to me and said something. I had to pull out of my music trance and take off my headphones to see what the guy wanted. He slipped the ring on each of his fingers showing that it didn't fit and then offered it to me again. I started to realize that this was some sort of scam, remembering the confusion on the joggers face. I told him, "It's not mine." He offered it again. "Keep it." I responded. Finally, he gave up and moved on. I went back to listening to my beats and crossed the street just as a gorgeous Parisian girl in a striped shirt came around the corner, walking her dog with a friend. I stopped to take notes in my Moleskine about the ring scam guy as my imagination was now running wild with short film ideas about a cursed ring that a gypsy could not get rid of. This was also a strategic move to get the striped shirt girl in front of me. A few moments later, I noticed the ring guy sitting on a bench with a friend of his. They looked tired.
A block later I noticed a woman talking to a tourist girl about a gold ring she was holding. The tourist girl had a friend who stood about ten feet away watching the whole thing go down. As the woman seemed to plead with the tourist girl, my imagination was saying "don't take the curs-ed ring!" So when I reached her friend I said very quickly "Keep walking. Keep walking." The friend heeded the advice and beckoned the tourist girl away.
I googled the lost gold ring scam a bit and apparently it's very popular in European cities. Scenarios vary. You accept the ring from the person who claims that it does not fit, they're divorced, or they can't take it for religious reasons. They may also say that they cannot sell it or take it to the police because they don't have "papers". After you take the ring, they ask you for a few euros for lunch. Sometimes they walk away and sometimes they claim that your offer is not enough and they take the ring back (along with your euros). In other cases I've read, the whole transaction is used to distract you while the person's partner pickpockets you.
If I wasn't in such of a happy little groove, enjoying my alone time, I would have asked the tourist girl what the woman said to her. I did start thinking about the tourists' body positioning and I realized it was common. Here's what I mean: If you're walking with a friend in a strange place and you're stopped by a solicitor, a beggar, or some rico suave, often you'll keep walking a few steps ahead of your friend as they deal with the 'trouble'. So imagine Valentina is stopped by a guy selling some tour. She politely stops to hear the sales pitch but I would keep walking a few feet ahead to convey that I'm not interested buddy. This places me in a position where I can keep an eye on her so that we're both not distracted by the pitch and therefore vulnerable to pickpockets and the whatnot. This also places me in the role of the "impatient travel partner" who can assist in pulling the friend away if he/she needs an out from the high-pressure pitch. It's brilliant and I swear a lot of us do it as if it was second nature. Anyhow, I digress.
I continued on along Orsay and caught up with the striped shirt cutie, following her until I got to the museum. I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the Musee d'Orsay. If you'd like to go for a walk with me in Paris through photos, hit up the gallery.