If you have especially been traveling for some time, then there’s bound to be at least one instance in which you’ve experienced food poisoning. It’s absolutely dreadful, as you not only feel excruciatingly uncomfortable, but you also take time away from your adventures in order to stay in bed to recover. Even the most-cautious explorers will most-likely go through this, whether they like it or not…
I’ve been traveling as long as I’ve been born, even though it wasn’t until these last five years that I started to make it a priority, even travel solo. There have been several instances in which I felt ill, but it was more due to over-eating (i.e. indigestion) and weather factors like hot climate than anything else. I always took precautions with the restaurants I went to, as well as research tap water safety beforehand to minimize any gastrointestinal problems that might come out of them. Knock on wood!
However, I do recall one instance in which I got pretty-bad food poisoning. It was to the point that it really affected my trip, although thankfully not my family’s overall. Probably the worst feeling I ever felt during my travels and since then, I made it my mission not to experience that again– and fortunately, I haven’t since. Here’s the story:
Crazy Travel Story #11: That One Time I Got Food Poisoning in Paris…
I was in Paris visiting for the second time. I was there in September 2015, and I spent a week with my family guiding them around to see the many sites and attractions that the “City of Love” had to offer. It was my family’s first time in Paris, and I had made an itinerary that would take them to the best places (including restaurants) in town.
About halfway through our stay, my family and I went out for dinner to a restaurant in the 6th arrondissement. It was your small, typical brasserie that served traditional French dishes for those who want a taste of the cuisine. We each ordered our three-course meals, and it was a lovely dinner. My three-course meal consisted of French onion soup to start, duck and sweet potato as my main dish, and a café gourmand (small dessert accompanied by an espresso shot) to round it all off. Things were going smoothly, or so they appeared…
Following my shot of espresso, I was done with my meal. The rest of my family were finished as well, and we paid the bill before heading over to the nearest metro to take it back to our Airbnb for the day. Our bellies were full from the rich, but tasty meal, and we couldn’t wait to return to our accommodation to rest after a long day of sight-seeing.
Within about five minutes of leaving the restaurant, I started to feel…strange. I first experienced the chills, an on-and-off sensation of feeling super warm, then super cold that worried me. I’d originally likened it to the autumn evening breeze as we were walking to the metro, but the sensation didn’t stop once we entered and waited for our ride to arrive.
The weird feeling quickly progressed to discomfort as we rode the metro to our Airbnb. My stomach felt as if it was clenching on itself, a sharp contraction that felt like I was being poked with pins and needles. It didn’t help that the metro car was pretty full, and my family and I were forced to stand up for the duration of the ride.
I could no longer contain the sensation once we alighted and walked the rest of the way to our accommodation. Really, it was a miracle that I managed to hold it all in as we unlocked the main entrance to the building, then the second entrance, took the elevator up, and unlocked the final door to our Airbnb. As soon as that last door clicked open, I rushed inside to the bathroom, where I easily spent the next half-hour, erm, relieving myself on the toilet seat.
Even when I finished, I still felt like crap. Then began the pain and suffering– I still felt like my stomach was being stabbed with needles, and it was so uncomfortable to the point that I couldn’t even stand up, let alone sit up, properly without doubling over in pain. I was the only family member to have gotten food poisoning, as the rest of my family were perfectly fine from what they’d eaten at the restaurant.
In between stomach cramps and feeling horrible in general, I tried to trace back to what I had at the restaurant that could’ve made me sick. My family and I had dishes that overlapped with each other, such as French onion soup and duck. The only difference was that I had the café gourmand, whereas they settled with profiteroles. I deduced that it must’ve been my dessert that got me ill and, more specifically, it was the espresso I had.
Now, one thing to know is that I am not a huge coffee drinker. Whenever I go to cafes, I settle on lattes and frappuccinos, which aren’t as high in caffeine as your usual brew. Even if such drinks aren’t as caffeinated, I’ve noticed that I’m still quite sensitive to them. That said, if I already have reactions to lattes, then god forbid I have an espresso. I clearly underestimated the insane quantity of caffeine in that single shot, and I dearly paid the consequences.
I tried sleeping off the pain that night, but unfortunately, I still didn’t feel great the following morning. Even if I still didn’t feel well, I decided to tough it out and accompany my family to Montmartre, where we would be visiting the Sacré Coeur for the day. It was a bad decision on my part, as I suffered through the metro ride and barely made it up the steps to the basilica without stopping every two steps from stomach pains. I ended up sitting on the steps outside of the Sacré Coeur while the rest of my family went in to visit.
Diet-wise, I was not at all in the mood to eat anything. I recall my family went out to dinner that evening while I stayed inside the Airbnb to recover. The most I ate was a few slices of plain baguette, sans jam or butter. Also had as much water as I could take without feeling queasy, and overall let time take its course.
The pain (and food poisoning) subsided after 36 hours. While I wasn’t fully back to my optimal self, I was glad that the discomfort was more-or-less gone. I was able to explore Paris with my family on our final day in the city, as well as have dinner with them (albeit a very-light one).
I find it strange that, looking back, it was the espresso that did me in. In the years following that incident, I did not touch any type of coffee at all– it wasn’t until last year that I got back into it, and even then, I remained incredibly cautious about consuming it. What I’ve learned is that food poisoning strikes when you least expect it, and despite any precautions taken to reduce your chances of getting it, you can still experience it. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered anything as serious as that since then, and that in itself is a blessing to behold.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there!