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The artist from Lille, or I got conned (Paris 1/3)

12 July 2012

I am meandering in the sandy patch opposite the Louvre, trying to get the perfect picture, which is made difficult by a persistant woman who insists on posing in my frame and keeps telling me to bugger off. I am rather pleased at having dodged all the Eiffel Tower keychain selling guys, despite their pointed namastes. I get closer to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which I think is much prettier than the bigger one, when a man approaches me. My friend has also come nearer; he addresses us first in French, and then, clearly noticing our confusion,


"Yes", we reply, ready to help a fellow tourist-in-need.

"I'm from Lille", he says to me, making mysterious strokes on a clipboard that I've only just noticed. My friend, quicker on the uptake, is now trying to pull me away. "I'm an artist, I only just moved to Paris three weeks ago." I don't want to be rude, and frankly, I cannot understand why she is hissing at me. He seems like a very nice man, and I am clueless curious.

He asks me a few questions and we chat a bit, and suddenly the significance of the crayon flailing madly on the paper hits me. But I can't seem to just say au revoir and walk away. I'm now regretting my friendly-tourist act, and this guy is one smooth talker. I feel a bit like an idiot, and my friend has abandoned me to document my discomfort and is ignoring my silent pleas for help.

"So do you like stars or flowers?" he asks me.

I stare, but he seems to want an answer. "Uhm, flowers?"

More crayoning, and a flourish. "Now, do you want to see something really special? Are you ready for a surprise? I won't show it to you if you aren't."

I'm not ready to part with any money, but hey, wouldn't you be curious if someone had (apparently) drawn a picture of you? "Erm, sure."

It's even worse than I'd thought it would be, and my hopes weren't high to begin with. "Now, you can pay me what you want..."

That's not too bad, I think, slightly amused. I rummage for my change purse.

"...5 euro, 10 euro."

He cannot be serious. I mean, I'm not that amused. He doesn't seem impressed by the change I hand him, even though I assure him I'm poorer than he is and have no more money. "We are poor étudiants," my friend chimes in.

"Oh, all right, at least give me a kiss then," he says, pointing to his cheek.

I get away from him sharpish. ("No kiss?" he calls, after our retreating backs.)

The flowers are the blobs, top left, in case you were wondering.

Brussels to Paris: Megabus 
Paris accommodation: Auberge Internationale des Jeunes