Is Paris Safe?

photo: police car, champs elysees

The 'flics' have been replaced by 'police' -
with five different varieties.

And Fashion Tips for Hawaiians

Email from Janet Norton, via the Internet: Wednesday, 19. May 1999:-

Bonjour Ric,

I've haven't used my e-mail a lot before now - this is pretty cool! Guess what - I have a question for you - I hope you don't mind.

Okay, here goes - the American Group, the 'Goo Goo Dolls,' are going to be in concert on Tuesday, 29. June at the Elysée-Montmartre and I will be on vacation in Paris at that time. My situation is this - I won't be meeting up with my friends until the day after, July 1st.

If I go to the concert on June 29th, I'll be going solo. When I was over in Paris last fall, and my friends were giving me a quick lesson on the metro, they told me to avoid the Porte Dauphine-Nation line 2 because it isn't too safe. Now I'm planning on going in this area on my own and then I'll probably have to get a room somewhere in the area too.

What I'm asking for is your opinion on whether or not you think this is a good or bad idea? I know this is a weird conversation to be having with a perfect stranger but I need your help or advice. Don't think of me as a stranger, just think of me as a new friend.

So, do you think someone in an unfamiliar bar with everyone unfamiliar to her but the band members - who won't know that I exist - would be okay? Yeah, I know I sound pretty crazy but I'd just like to see the Dolls again while they are touring. What do you think?


Janet Norton©1999

Bonjour Janet -

Paris:- Saturday, 15. May 1999:- Any fan of the 'Goo Goo Dolls,' whoever they may be, is a friend of mine. The joint - er, musichall - where they will be performing - at the Elysée-Montmartre - is just a couple of dance steps away from the métro station Anvers.

You can get to this station with the Dauphine-Nation métro line 2, as you mention, but you can also use the Issy-La Chapelle line 12, for which the stop would be Pigalle - which is about 400 metres west of Anvers.

These two stations are joined by the Boulevards Clichy and Rochechouart. They may remind you of somewhat of a Parisian version of Times Square. The thing to remember is that even if you are 'going solo' you will be going to the same place at the same time as a lot of other people. What kind of crowd are the 'Goo-Goo Dolls' going to attract?

Because of the street noise, I wouldn't suggest staying in a hotel right at Pigalle - but if you go down métro line 12 a bit to métro stops Saint Georges, Trinité or Notre-Dame de Lorette, you will only be a couple of stops from Pigalle - but away from its noise and lights. There are a great number of hotels in every category near these métro stops.

I don't know whether asking me - 'a perfect stranger' - for advice is good or bad or even, weird. People ask 'Abby' or 'Ann Landers' - or they did - all sorts of questions. I'm in Paris, so you ask me. So do other people. Since a good number of you are likely to visit Paris, I try to give the best answers I can. This does not mean I know everything - I'm still learning too - it only means, everybody gets some sort of an answer.

Some people in Paris are certain to have heard of the 'Dolls,' so you'll be with a crowd of strangers who are going to see and hear the same thing - so you'll have this in common. I can't advise you about meeting band members you don't know in a bar; you'll have to decide about this yourself.

As far as personal security in Paris is concerned, police forces have been increased considerably since the conflict in the Balkans began. Do not be surprised to see armed soldiers in the train stations. Also, the city of Paris has a new policy of having many more police on active patrol in the city.

Tennis Shoes - White? - In Paris?

photo: waiting for the cinema
Parisians waiting in line for the cinema,
wearing what they want.

Email from Sedona, via the Internet: Thursday, 20. May 1999:-

Aloha Ric,

I just found your website tonight, I was looking for what to wear in Paris when my son and I go there in a month.

I currently live in Hawaii, so clothing is not something that's a big deal here. Shorts, rubber slippers, aloha or t-shirts are the norm, and I cannot seem to find anything I would consider acceptable to wear there.

My son and I will be backpacking. We aren't quite sure where we will be staying once we get there. I thought hostels would be affordable, but I am not sure they will be safe.

I am bringing him there for his high school graduation, so we can do the Louvre; we are both artists and this has been a big dream of ours. But I don't want to look too conspicuous, so what would you suggest we bring with us?

Someone told us to get good walking shoes and guess what I bought? Yup. White tennis shoes. I wish I would have checked out this website first.

Are blue jeans totally out of the question? Are black or tan jeans okay? White t-shirts? Are there any regulations about wearing a skirt in any of the museums or churches? I just don't want to stand out too much - it's bad enough I am blond - grin.

Do you have any tips for a new traveler ? I am totally open to anything from how to avoid pickpockets, where to eat good food for less, and if its really safe on the night trains to say - Italy? We only have two weeks there and we want to have a great time and see as much as we can. We have also thought about taking the train to Rome.

It would be nice to maybe meet you when we are there. If you have a place where you meet folks.



Bonjour Sedona -

Paris:- Saturday, 15. May 1999:- Unlike a couple of years ago when a lot of people, even Parisians, were wearing deconstructed jogging suits - people are now dressing a bit more discreetly - like in poplin jackets, t-shirts and 'Dockers' for pants.

If there's nothing like this in Hawaii, you can get it all here and possibly get it for less. If not for less, at least with Paris labels. Personally, I'd prefer an 'aloha' shirt myself. In season, of course.

If the hostels are ones that you've found in the usual guidebooks, they'll be 'safe.' They may be a bit rowdy; full of whatever gang reads that particular guidebook. Backpackers tend to have loud and late 'fun' in Paris.

It was cool and was raining very hard - for Paris - last week, and for this I wore black 'city-walkers.' In summer I will wear cream ones. These go well with my 'aloha' shirts. If your tennis 'whites' fit well, wear them. Nobody else pays any attention to your feet - they're your business. In the Louvre people look at the pictures anyway.

Blue jeans are the official French national clothing. I prefer good-looking ones, but cannot afford them since the time when their price exceeded five dollars. I wear the worst blue jeans I have ever owned. Black or tan jeans are not 'better' than blue; they are equally okay.

The big churches in Paris are pretty dim inside and crowded with visitors and I don't think anybody will notice anything about you. If you are going to services, it might be another matter - but otherwise the churches are pretty much 'open house.'

What tough luck to be a blond! Do not be surprised to see other blonds in Europe - some of them from Mediterranean countries.

About pickpockets - 20 million people visit Paris a year without getting their pockets picked. In some métro stations you will hear the message: "Beware of Pickpockets," in several languages. These announcements do not mean there are actually 'pickpockets in the station.' They are probably in other stations where no announcements are made

A young lady recently visiting here - a backpacker - said she kept her valuable stuff in a smaller combo bag-sack, in front. Pickpockets go for 'easy' marks; so the idea is to make it hard for them, so they won't bother.

There are 87 varieties of fast food - stand-up, sit down, sandwich places, Asian take-away, pizza, Middle Eastern snack joints, tea rooms, crêpes on the sidewalk - food is everywhere; including in very very expensive restaurants. There are even regular hamburger chains - some of them French. There are a good number of 'eat on your feet' streets throughout Paris and you should look for the street markets too as a source for snack ingredients.

Trains are very safe. They go fast in small Europe. But they are very crowded, especially in summer. All the rail operators say that you are responsible for your own stuff, so do what you need to do.

If you intend to use any kind of railpass, be sure to book reservations are early as you can. Get on the train as early as you can too. Late arrivals may have to stand up while crossing whole countries. Admittedly, the countries are small, but all the same... Always take water with you on the trains and food too. Often their stocks go dry fast, and cupboards can be emptied almost before the train leaves the station.

I imagine your 18-year-old is the same size as other Hawaiians I've seen. If so, I don't think you've got anything to worry about except maybe he'll get over-tired from too much culture. Go to Trocadéro together to see the Tour Eiffel and the roller crazies.

And speaking of 'roller crazies,' the Friday night roller derby, starting at Place de l'Italie and looping through downtown Paris - is now a weekly event, with as many as 10,000 taking part including the roller cops.

The Café Metropole Club is not officially in operation; not yet. I do meet some readers though; but it's a catch-as-catch-can sort of thing.

signature, regards, ric

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