Pickpockets, gypsies, petty thieves . . . call them what you will, they run rampant in Europe. I had read about this before we left the U.S. and we had been very careful. We heard that it was especially bad in Rome and Paris. We prepared and took measures to minimize any potential loss. It must have been the fact we were finally in an English-speaking country that we let our guards down. And then it happened . . . it happened SOOO fast!
Advice to anyone traveling in Europe, NEVER set your phones or any other valuable items out in the open. Don’t let your purse or bag hang on the back of your chair. Don’t carry valuable items in the small zip compartment of your backpack. And for goodness sake, don’t be embarrassed about causing a ruckus. I believe the reason they didn’t make away with my phone (also on the table) is that we were making such a fuss about being approached by them. Astonishingly as I was shouting at them to leave us alone, I was also aware that my manners were lacking in such a public place.
We were lunching at Shakespeare’s Head Pub. It is just a few steps from a subway station with lots of foot traffic everywhere and the building where it is housed is scaffolded. While we were waiting to speak to the manager I looked about at people either drinking at the bar or having lunch sitting at their tables. I noticed one person who seemed out of place…white but not English-looking with kind of a dirty look about him, holding his drink at one of the stand-up tables, not looking particularly relaxed. As we were walking toward the manager, I noticed that only his eyes were following us. After we finished giving our details to the manager, I again noticed this person again standing with his drink, but this time at one of the stand-up tables outside of the pub. And because I had noticed him before I looked at him and, again, I noticed his eyes following us. I made a mental note of that and we went about our business. Because of what I’ve read about how “gypsies” work, I am surmising that the loner was casing the pub and when he noticed a table of tourists with phones out on the table, he communicated with the others to victimize us.
On our travels, especially in Rome, Madrid and Paris, we noticed wait staff immediately recognized these types of thieves and would actually escort them out of the restaurants, cafes, etc. However, we have not noticed this same level of vigilance in London’s establishments. You’re pretty much on your own here.
Unfortunately, London is full of these types and it’s a very big problem with beggars of every age, everywhere. But it will not detract from the magic of our visit to this lovely city!