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Even if you are a little bit rattled, do not accept the assistance of 'friendly' strangers. The machines are not too hard to conquer - you simply do not need help.

Because the 'friendly' stranger may appear to put in his own money in a vending machine, and then hand you the resulting ticket - and ask to be paid back. If you thought you wanted a multi-day ticket, you may be handed a simple métro ticket and be asked for fork over 80 euros for it.

This is about 60 euros more than what the multi-day ticket costs, and is about 65 times what a single métro ticket is worth.

It is better to be a bit rude, if necessary, with the 'friendly' stranger than to try and look for any SNCF or RATP security people after the 'friendly' stranger has wandered off with his profit of about 78.70euro 3 sign.

Another lady has written to complain about being robbed by little kids. She and her two sisters and two nieces were expecting to by robbed in Paris by 'seedy looking fellows' and didn't expect cute little kids to be the perps - which they were several times during the ladies' six-day stay.

Paris was plagued by these midget bandits during the summer. Older people put them up to it or force them to do it, because the kids are too young to be prosecuted.

But the government that got elected last spring did so with strong message from voters to reducephoto: techno metro food crime, and the transit authorities beefed up their forces in stations and on rolling stock, so it looked like cops and midget robbers there for a while. Actually, this is still going on.

While the lady claims that visitors from the US have been 25 percent less during the summer on account of the junior robbers, I doubt this can be the reason. These kids are not concentrated in Paris - they are all over, like fleas.

Another food stand set up at the Denfert métro exit.

The new government, anxious to fight crime, has even come out with fresh statistics already - showing a miraculous crime-rate drop of six percent or so - since the elections. Usually it takes 18 months to get numbers together, or 14 months for ultra-rush jobs.

The extra security presence in and around public transit was no mirage though, and it has been common to see ten huge agents surrounding eight little kids. The kids seldom seemed to be especially worried, and the agents usually looked distinctly annoyed.

You can forget these two examples now. By the time you get here, there will be brand new scams and flim-flams, brand-new sets of 'friendly' strangers and gangs of kids being run by unscrupulous adults. It's only been going merrily on for a couple of thousand years.

Internet Life

Ellen McBreen is an art historian. A few months ago, she started 'Paris Muse,' a small cultural service that allows English-speaking visitors to book their own art expert for tour-seminars at the Picasso, Rodin, Louvre and Orsay museums and the Centre Pompidou, with tour-seminars beginning at the Cluny museum in October.

This isn't exactly 'Internet Life' item but I did check the Paris Muse Web site. Ellen McBreen's tour-seminars are not usually all-day affairs. I suspect they are somewhat concentrated, so you can learn a lot quickly and spend the rest of the day lolling around on café terraces, letting what you've learned sink in slowly.

TV Weather News Warnings

Last week's violent storms in the south of France demonstrated the value of France-Météo's alert service for TV-viewers but news reports indicated that people not tuned in - car drivers for example - did not benefit.

Thousands of automobilistas drove right into the storm and were trapped by high water and impassablephoto: wall terrace roads. There were complaints that the autoroute operators should have passed the warnings on somehow - but even if they had, this wouldn't have been any aid to those not on major routes.

What I didn't see here was the café part of the terrace.

As for thousands of home owners who were immobilized in their homes, watching TV-news warnings were of scant value because the storm's rains were so sudden and of such excess, that there was no time to do much other than save lives.

In the aftermath the weather people said that these types of storms are common at this time of year - but this particular one contained all the worst elements of several, magnified.

It was the sort of extreme natural event that overwhelmed all defenses. Earlier in the year a lot of central Europe had extreme weather too. I don't know if the times when these events happen are getting more frequent - but they do show that with all the technology we have, it isn't enough sometimes.

Online Weather Warnings

The weather has been acting odd recently, at unexpected times and in unexpected places. France-Météo's online alert service is very short-term, and its warnings should be taken seriously - even though Paris itself is seldom a thrilling weather area.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's early fall weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. Check out the warning-prone 'Vigilance-Météo' area on the opening page.

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