Crazy Travel Stories #11: That One Time I Got Food Poisoning in Paris…

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!

— Rebecca

40 thoughts on “Crazy Travel Stories #11: That One Time I Got Food Poisoning in Paris…

  1. That sounds brutal. I’ve fortunately never had food poisoning while traveling. During one of my stays in France, however, I was quite sick with a type of walking pneumonia. Oddly enough, I still relished the visit, but a full recovery took months.

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      1. Basically a low-grade lung infection. I had difficulty breathing and extreme fatigue. No appetite–hard to imagine in France, eh? But if you have to convalesce, the south of France is the place to be (even during the canicule). Ha!

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  2. Oh I could feel your discomfort as I read this post! Sorry you had to go through that. I’m so afraid of tummy aches or indigestion that I make it a point to carry antacids- just in case. It’s great that you were able to push through it so you could enjoy the rest of your Paris visit with your family.

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    1. Antacids would’ve been a good idea to pack for the trip, instead of painkillers (which didn’t do much, anyway). Thankfully, the pain lasted only a day and a half, and that I could enjoy the rest of Paris. Thanks for the concern!

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  3. I agree, this can indeed happen anytime and anywhere.
    Trying local food is always tempting, but unless I’m with locals, I prefer to avoid this risk, it’s a matter of priority, I want to enjoy my trip first. Living in a big city, I can try all the food in the world at home, so why waste my trip.
    Up to now I have only experienced mild stomach problems.

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    1. I would say that trying food in a different country, whether local or not, must be taken cautiously, as sometimes dishes can be improperly-prepared. I’ve found that that’s a rare case, but it’s always good to exercise vigilance all the same!

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    1. Ooh, yes…shrimp outside sounds fishy. I’m usually cautious of foods that need to be stored in the fridge (e.g. cheese, meat) that sit out in the sun for hours, and it’s unfortunate that you had to encounter that.

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  4. O my goodness, Rebecca, what an aweful experience, I’m sorry you had to go through it 🙀 even a mild case of food poisoning can disrupt a trip by keeping you confined to your quarters. So far, I’ve been very lucky and never had any food problems while traveling. Maybe it’s because I’m a vegetarian that thrives on fresh bread, olīves and avocados. Who knows! Either way, we all know that travel isn’t only sightseeing, it can also be dealing with all sorts of problems, food poisoning including. Thanks for sharing your experience and take care 😊 Aiva

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    1. You’re very lucky, indeed! I think it’s much due to having fresh foods on travels that it makes a difference; I’ve heard that food poisoning occurs commonly with spoiled or ill-prepared dishes. Not the greatest to experience food poisoning while traveling, but it’s an adventure nevertheless!

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    1. I honestly don’t know how I did manage to continue sightseeing while in pain; it was best I stayed back in the Airbnb to rest. But alas, the adventure in Paris was too great to be missed! 😆

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  5. So strange that it was the espresso :/ I’m always careful with meat and some soups or mixes that I’m not used to, so I immediately blamed it on the onion soup or the duck lol. Glad you managed to still accompany your family the next day. I also had an unpleasant experience once and was trapped in the middle of a busy city with a bunch of people and limited time to explore, so I had to swallow the gags and push through the pain for a good few hours – ended up waiting in a public bathroom until everyone was done for the day. Gross. It happens, I guess 😅🤦🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve come to realize that I’m extremely sensitive to caffeine, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the espresso did me in. Your experience sounds really unpleasant, but kudos to you for keeping it together before it got worse (in public)!

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  6. Anything really can happen! I usually take lots of extra precautions with food safety when I am in places like Southeast Asia or Africa, but food poisoning can take hold even from a fancy French meal in Paris! Glad you recovered to enjoy the rest of your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s definitely the dilemma! Especially in Paris, who wouldn’t want to go out and explore, sick or not? Baguettes were the only food I could stomach then, and they honestly saved my life! 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never had food poisoning before, it sounds awful! I’m glad you were able to recuperate though! I can be sensitive to caffeine as well, but that’s usually when I drink it on an empty stomach!

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  8. You’re lucky to have only experienced it once…. I’ve gotten food poisoning at some truly inopportune moments : in a hostel at 1am, boarding the airplane the next morning, 2 hours before an apartment visit, in the middle of teaching on the last day of school….. 😩😩

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