This is not what you read in the guidebooks but - everywhere you go in Paris, there are beggars.
I kept a list today: one man on his knees in the subway with a sign saying 'J'ai Faim'. A woman crouched near the entrance to the Arc de Triomphe, huddled as if in prayer. 2 young men asleep: one in the metro, with a dog and a loud woman, one in the Champs Elysee, also with a dog. A young woman with old eyes, and in a beggar archetype, a man with no legs. The city feels like something out of a Dickens novel.
The most concerning...three young women (sometimes with a boy) who've approached me three times: at the Eiffel Tower; at Notre Dame; at the Pompideau Museum. They speak excellent English and carry a poorly photocopied 'petition' which, they say, is for the children. They were charm itself until I gave them 50 cents. 50 cents, it appeared, was insufficient.
Who runs these teenagers? There are too many and too organised to be a spontaneous group. One woman at the youth hostel said they were Romanian. They didn't mind having their photo taken.
Whoever they are, I pity them. Because instead of asking for money today, they asked for my left-over grapes, huddling into a group in a corner of the square to eat them. When I gave them a sandwich also, they were all smiles.