As tourists window shop in Paris this holiday season, they won’t find any more homeless people asking for change around some of the city’s most popular areas; the French government has issued a series of decrees that ban begging around Paris’ most popular tourist and Christmas shopping spots. According to the Guardian
, the Champs Elyssés
was the first Paris landmark to fall under the begging ban, with Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores and the area around the Louvre
and Tuileries Gardens soon also deemed “no-go zones” for the country’s homeless.
The news outlet writes that interior minister Claude Guéant said the anti-begging decrees were part of a “merciless fight” against “Romanian criminality,” adding that Romanian criminals account for one in six appearances in Paris courts. To target the offenders, 33 Romanian police officers have been contracted to round up beggars around the Champs Elyssés alone.
The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, is unhappy with the new policies. He called the efforts a cheap “PR stunt” that targeted some of the city’s most well-off areas while brushing real problems in other neighborhoods under the rug. “Wanting to fight poverty by repression and fines is shocking at a time when the state isn’t fulfilling its obligations in housing vulnerable young people or providing emergency accommodation,” Delanoe told the news outlet.
I have hired some strange tour guides. One was a Balinese man that cackled like a quick fire dub step remix of the word “huh.” One was a spy for the Myanmar government whose eyes widened in the car’s rear view every time I fumbled with my iPod. One made me promise that I would marry my girlfriend when I returned home. Others still furthered strange agendas upon my explorations.
Never though, to the best of my knowledge, have I toured under the guidance of a homeless person.
Thanks to a group called the Sock Mob, the London homeless are taking to the streets and finding a calling as tour guides. The Sock Mob is a volunteer organization that interacts with the city’s homeless or “rough sleepers.” They engage the homeless in agenda-free conversations, distribute socks, and generally commit altruistic deeds. They also have spearheaded a tourism program called “Unseen Tours” that allows travelers to take in some of London’s sights with a homeless tour guide. The lens of homelessness provides a unique perspective on landmarks such as London Bridge, and the guides also showcase hidden corners of the city that a conventional tour may miss. The tours meet every Friday at 7pm and every Saturday at 3pm. Cost is roughly $10, “depending on your circumstances.”
Ever packed so much in your suitcase that it felt like you were carrying around a whole city? Apparently you’re not the only one. Chinese artist Yin Xiuzhen had a similar feeling during her recent travels and decided to turn it into art. Xiuzhen has recently been using suitcases and discarded travel clothing to recreate miniature model cities in a project she calls “Portable Cities.”
The idea for Portable Cities got its start when the artist was waiting at the airport baggage carousel for her luggage. Xiuzhen began thinking about how we carry our homes around with us when we travel; the natural extension of that thought was to think about suitcases as the symbolic “home” of the global traveler. Ever since her revelation, Xiuzhen has been recreating intricate sculptures of her favorite cities like Seattle, Berlin, Vancouver and Beijing using pieces of random travel clothing as her medium.
For a generation of travelers groomed on round the world trips, AirBnB and Technomadic lifestyles, Xiuzhen’s art makes perfect sense. What is a home when you’re constantly packing your life into a suitcase? Is it a physical place? Or simply a state of mind?
[Photo via DesignBoom]
What could warm the heart more than seeing beautiful women helping out needy kids?
Samantha Tshuma, recently crowned Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, has been busy donating blankets to street children in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. She was helped by her second princess Tafadzwa Mugazambi and Miss Tourism Harare Samantha Dika.
Tshuma is also organizing soccer and rugby teams for the kids. She says that Zimbabwe’s thousands of street children are looked down upon and that they deserve our help and respect.
Zimbabwe attracts many tourists because of its famous ancient cities and Victoria Falls, as well as lots of safari opportunities. The fact that Air Zimbabwe made it onto the list of the top ten safest African airlines probably doesn’t hurt either.
If you want to do a bit of giving back while you’re there, the charity Streets Ahead needs volunteers to teach homeless kids arts and crafts. You can read more about it on the Charity Travel blog.
Sadly I couldn’t find any public domain images of the lovely Miss Tshuma for this article, but Zimbo Jam, a Zimbabwean fashion site, has pictures of the beauty queen and her equally stunning princesses.