Paris is my favorite city on earth. One of the reasons I love Paris is because the city is so compact, the actual city of Paris is only 41 square miles (compare this to Calgary which is 318 square miles, you can fit Paris into Calgary almost 8 times). This makes it an amazing city to skate or bike around, mix that with La Seine river running right through the middle and tons of famous landmarks, it makes it real easy to find your way around as a tourist. Top that all off with tons of amazing skate spots, great food and beautiful people, it’s a constant source of entertainment.
This story is from when I was out skateboarding in Paris with a friend in 2006. When we got there, the first thing we did was go full tourist mode and my friend bought a team France soccer jersey with Zidane’s name and number on the back. Zidane is kind of a national hero after helping France win the world cup in 1998, he has a god like status in France. The first day we cruised all around Paris and checked out all the touristy things we could. After getting a super later dinner and a few drinks we decided to try and find our way home in the dark. We skated through a few neighborhoods and got a little lost, soon we started to see less and less people, we ended up in a really sketchy area with almost no one around. As we skate down a dimly lit side street, we see the silhouette of a guy lying propped up against a phone booth. As we roll up, we see that he looks like he got jumped; he was all beaten up, with blood pouring out his forehead and looked dazed. Right as we rolled up, two other people showed up and started helping him out and calling an ambulance. We decided we should turn around and head back to where the streets were busier.
We slowly start to get back into an area that felt a little safer and had more people around. We kind of figured out where we were and headed down some busy side streets in the direction of our apartment, feeling comforted by the crowds of people. We ended up in a weird area with lots of dance clubs and strip joints that kind of felt like a busy touristy red light district. As we skated down the streets we kept getting yelled at by club promoters who stood in front of businesses trying to give you flyers or coupons and lure you into their venues. We ignore them and keep on our way, but half way down the street we get yelled at by a group of guys standing in a circle kicking a soccer ball around. They looked like a group of promoters who are on break and they are all smoking and drinking. They are yelling at us because they liked the Zidane jersey. We go over to them and start to kick the ball around a bit. As we kick the soccer ball around we chat and joke around with them, they’re super friendly and hyped on the fact we speak French but are from an English speaking country. They keep trying to get us to go inside this strip club that they are promoting but we politely decline and eventually decide to continue on our way.
After skating up a few blocks my friend turns to me with a look of panic on his face, he starts patting down all his pockets, “Dude, I just got robbed!”. He realizes he’s missing his wallet, passport and camera. We stand in the middle of street freaking out a little bit, and trying to figure out if anything else we owned was missing, then we hear a yell in the distance. As we look back down the street we see one of the promoter guys screaming to get our attention and running full speed towards us. Not sure if we should run or stay, we look at each other and make our way towards him. When we meet him, he’s sweaty and out of breath and it takes him a minute to gather himself, “My friend just robbed you guys!” he says in French, “But after you guys left we felt so bad because we liked you guys... you’re good guys! We decided to give it back, but I had to run to catch up with you guys on your boards”. He held out his hands and gave my friend back his camera, passport and wallet (with cash still in it, untouched). We thanked him and parted ways. As we skated home it slowly sunk in just how lucky we were and what a weird night it was. Not many people can say they’ve been robbed and then had all their stuff returned by the thief.
The moral of this story is that first impressions are important and you should always buy a local soccer jersey anywhere you go in Europe, no matter how touristy it makes you look.