This week I stopped by the Eiffel Tower to pick up some souvenirs for Sophie to take back to California. I often see the guys hustling tourists who are standing in line to visit the tower. The vendors, most of whom are from Africa, are a skittish bunch; often looking over their shoulders, ready to grab their goods and take off if the police come by to hassle them. It's not exactly legal to sell goods without a permit, but they are always there and usually tolerated.
I decided to try and interview a few of them. Some were quite reluctant. This guy, from Senegal, let me take his picture, but later declined to talk further.
Then Housseman came along. He was a lot friendlier, and agreed to talk after I bought a handful of Eiffel Tower keychains. Here he is finishing up a sale to some Russian tourists.
"I'm just trying to make a living," he explained. "I send money home to my family in Senegal, but it isn't easy to find work here in Paris. And it's an expensive city. I'm here every day and I do pretty well because I speak eight languages," he continued, "but some of the new guys are timid and they may earn only a couple of euros per day."
Oh, these military guys don't like to be interviewed either. They don't hassle the souvenir vendors; they're too busy patrolling with their automatic weapons. They're on the lookout for terrorists.
But don't worry, Paris is a safe city and the people are friendly. Let me know if you want me to bring you a souvenir Eiffel Tower - I know where to buy them ;-)