Travel Thursdays: The Food Poisoning Edition

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I spend a fair amount of time here at Of Woods and Words dreaming about travel. While I was quite a globe-trotter back in my early 20s, now having reached the ripe old age of 26, my travels have taken on a shorter, more localized flavor. After spending a good portion of my day off yesterday playing in QuickBooks, it's become apparent that unless I give up on, say, health insurance, that trip to Antarctica is still a good five years off.

But when Mama Kat posted a writing prompt on food poisoning, I knew it was time to introduce "Travel Thursdays," a weekly feature on Of Woods and Words devoted to travel tales, tips and "to-see" lists. I can think of no better excuse to share my food poisoning story and start talking travel on a regular basis.

I've spent nearly seven years trying to reclaim Paris. I've watched nearly every Parisian flick Netflix has ever recommended. I've purchased Paris wall calendars. Last Christmas, I sent out Madeleine cards. But, although I'd once planned to minor in French,  to this day, when I think of Paris, I feel tired and slightly nauseous.

During my semester in Ireland, I was part of a group of six girls who decided to spend a long weekend in Paris. As a 19-year-old whose only prior travel-abroad experience had been spending 12 days in London, England, the thought of jetting off to the most romantic city in the world for a weekend seemed positively surreal. The Eiffel Tower, boulevards, croissants, the Seine; it was enough to make me squeal and want to don a beret and jaunty striped shirt. But my stereotypical daydreams of sipping coffees outside a cafe or strolling through the flower garden behind Notre Dame while nibbling a crepe were by far the most romantic aspects of the entire trip.

Too poor to afford a night in the hostel, we spent the night before our flights sleeping in the Dublin airport. It wasn't until we arrived in Paris the next afternoon that we realized not one of the six girls on the trip had thought to throw in a map. Cue sleep deprived wandering through the streets searching for our hostel. As we became increasingly frustrated with Parisian street signage, it started to snow.

By the time we'd found the hostel, we were tired, cold, cranky and hungry. One of the other girls, Melissa, and I ran to the bakery across the street to pick up a late lunch. As I munched down on my baguette sandwich, I thought the mayonnaise perhaps tasted a little extra tangy. Never mind that, I thought, that was probably what Parisian mayonnaise tasted like. I ate the whole thing.

We spent a lovely evening in the Montmartre section, climbing the gazillion steps to the Sacre Couer, visiting the windmills, and taking in stunning nighttime views of Paris's lights. Under the glowing streetlights, we nibbled Nutella crepes and threw spare Euros into the street musicians' open cases.

But I woke with a start in the middle of the night. I didn't feel so good. A vicious growl from my stomach got me out of bed and as I knelt in front of the room's toilet, it became clear that I really, really didn't feel so good. 

The next morning, it became apparent that Melissa and I were the only ones in our group in this predicament. Achy, retching, dehydrated  and shaky, we were also the only baguette eaters in the gang. It seemed that funny tasting mayonnaise was the most likely culprit.

At the Louvre, I wandered aimlessly through the sculptures, feeling as heavy, lifeless and grey as the sculptures themselves. I tried to act disappointed that the bell tower was closed at Notre Dame, but with my shaky legs, I couldn't imagine climbing countless steps just for some vistas and gargoyles. In the Musee D'Orsay, I sprinted up at long escalator to the sixth floor bathroom to attempt to discreetly barf into a toilet.

For the most part I rallied. After sleeping for approximately 16 hours that night, I spent our final day in Paris touring Versailles and the Opera house.  But truth be told, I was still feeling pretty dodgy as we sat in the Dublin train station wiating to make our final leg of the journey home. As we waited, I kept making some pretty uncomfortable sprints to the public toilet. And let me tell you, when the public toilet is one of those European numbers with a pay turnstile that you have to insert coins into to access the bathroom, that is not a great situation to be in.

Even my pictures from that weekend are blurry.

Oh Paris. Je t'aime? I think not. Je puke.


  1. Oh, I am so sorry about your time! I have never been food poisoned on my travels but there were some times where I traveled and one of my many diseases flared up. Unfortunately when I think of those wonderful places I was in, Cape May, NJ and Pittsburgh, yes Pittsburgh!, my sicknesses color the beautiful and amazing things I saw on those trips. I know just what you mean!

  2. That stinks that you got sick in Paris! I'm glad you managed to see some of the sights, though. I love Paris. But I got sick at Versailles. Both times I went. I think it's the mold/mildew/nasty smell there. I hope you get to go back one day so you can enjoy it. It's my favorite foreign city to go to.

  3. Ada, so sorry. Paris is wonderful. My father is French and if you ever consider giving Paris a second chance, you are welcome to stay in our family apartment.

  4. how sad!!! so sad...
    Bless your heart... I hope someday you get the opportunity to redeem Paris.
    I refuse to eat Mayo, so at least when life someday takes me to Paris, I'll know my odds might be just a little safer.

  5. I'm sorry but I'm laughing. Not because you got sick but because you retell it with such a kick. Food poisoning is THE WORST!!! the only story I have ever heard that tops food poisoning is a friend of ours while working in the mission fields ate what turned out to be contaminated monkey meat... and he developed Hepatitis that eventually destoyed his kidneys... and last year he had a transplant and praise God is doing great and ready to head back to the mission fields (as a vegeterian however!!!)

  6. Oh no! I hope you have a redeeming trip back some day!

  7. Oh Ada, I'm so sorry! Food poisoning is NEVER fun but not getting to use my bathroom sounds even worse. Hopefully you're next trip you wont have any tangy mayo and you can enjoy yourself!

  8. UGH!!! I bet you never wanted to be home in your own bed as you did in those moments! Getting sick like that is awful under any conditions...I can't imagine staying in a hostel in Paris like that! Way to rally!

  9. Following you from Say hi Sunday!!! Sorry about the sickness. No fun! but your blog is.

  10. Yuck, that's terrible. So sorry to hear this happened. New follower here from BBL hop. I hope you will take a moment to stop by my blog and check out my kind of fashion (hair jewelry). I'm not just trying to gain followers with hopping, I'm trying to spread the word about a product I love. Here's my url I also have a facebook page which is I hope you can stop by there as well. It's the fastest way to hear about specials. Let me know if you have a facebook page too so I can return the favor.

  11. I feel your pain. I ate something in Portugal and found out I got a parasite some how. It is awful to be sick abroad!


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