Oeuvres, The Louvre, and Sneaky Manoeuvres

Tired feet, two and a half floors up, rue des Archives, Paris

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It was timed to perfection. Looking back on it, I have to admire the woman. A round of applause for a tidy little performance. Hers more than his. His rhythm was perhaps a bit off, or maybe I’d just been there done that.

I was striding towards the Louvre. Just after crossing the road, out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman stoop to pick something up off the gravel footpath. She looked at it and so did I. It was a ring. She asked if it was mine. No, I said and started to move off. She said that it wasn’t hers and would I like it; she showed me her ringless fingers saying she doesn’t wear them. I showed her my ringless fingers and said I don’t wear them either. Looking back on it, I think that was a cute moment.
I moved on, but she caught my arm and smiled and insisted I take the ring, as a souvenir (no thanks), she wouldn’t wear it (no thanks) out of friendship...please. OK. Thanks, and I felt warm and fuzzy. We parted. Count to three. “Madame...”. I turned...she was heading back to me, shaking her head slightly as if there were something she’d just remembered...could I part with some money...for food, she said. The penny dropped, so to speak. It was a scam of sorts. A way to make some kind of connection with somebody then play on their sense of obligation seeing as she’s just given them the ring...I didn’t give her money...I said if she needed money she should just ask and not do the ring thing; I gave it back. I had to admire her though, as I walked on. It was well done.

The Louvre was wonderful. Great marble on the floors. The sandwich was a bit stale and I have to say, while the decor is fabulous, the coffee definitely isn’t anything to write home about.

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There’s an extremely odd custom here. As soon as a person gets close to an objet d’art, particularly a famous one, they turn their back on it and smile. Sometimes they don’t smile. Time and time again, individuals, pairs, even groups, would immediately present their backs to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, perfectly good Raphaels... you name it, they turned their back on it. I sneaked a quiet go with a few Roman statues, an Egyptian sphynx and even an Innuit carving. Nothing.

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Striding towards the Arc de Triomphe, I saw a man, out of the corner of my eye, bend down and pick something up...it was a ring...he asked if it was mine...after some insistence I didn’t take it, but turned around to watch him. After half a heartbeat, he did the same thing with a youngish couple. I caught his eye as he followed them for the insisting-they-take-it scene. I wagged my finger at him, and have to confess I was smiling. He put his finger to his lips saying...don’t tell them, then rubbed his belly and put a pleading look on his face. I wagged my finger at him again then took off. I reached an intersection and he was at my shoulder. Money for a baguette and a coke, he said. No money, I said. I was a bit worried that he’d followed me. A baguette and a coke? I guess the coke is because any westerner would, of course, identify with that, and the baguette for a nice French touch.

Fifteen minutes later I tracked him down and after waiting for the closing act (what is the correct etiquette about interrupting a scam?), cut in as he negotiated with another couple. I handed him a salami panini, then a tin of orange juice, then a straw, the same dinner I was having. I hope he shared it with his wife.

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