24 May 2015

Getting Food Poisoning in Paris

Last month, for the long Easter Weekend, we were in Paris. Our idea was to have a long weekend out of Berlin, so we planned to spend four nights in Paris. However, sometime in there, I ate something that probably was not cooked properly. Therefore I was sick for the next three days. Of all places, in Paris. Funny, I went to places like Guatemala, like Myanmar, and other third-world countries, yet I didn't get sick. Instead, I get sick in France, in a place known for its world-class cuisine. Ha!

See, we arrived late evening on Maundy Thursday. Good Friday was good, and was spent in sight-seeing (more on that in a separate future post). Black Saturday was also good, except this was the day when I ate something bad. I don't really know which one was the culprit, but I have two suspects. More on that later.

On Sunday morning, I woke up. And I immediately felt that I wasn't feeling right. At first, I thought that I just had indigestion. Maybe I ate too much the day before. We had a rather large dinner at a West African restaurant (one of the suspects is from this place). I had indigestion in the past, and so I know what it felt like. By this time, I still thought that, and so we just went to have breakfast, and after breakfast, we walked to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise to check out famous graves. We made it to the cemetery, yet by that time, I was already feeling so unwell that I felt like I couldn't walk further. We tried checking out a grave or two, but in the end, we opted to go back to the hotel.

So we went to the hotel, which was fortunately just a metro stop away from the cemetery. By then I had this sensation that I wanted to vomit. This was the first sign that it wasn't indigestion. After all, I didn't feel bloated, and I wasn't burping all the time. But something was wrong. So when we got to the hotel, I knelt at the toilet bowl and out came my dinner.

Now I then thought, oh, it must be my dinner last night. I ate this West African dish called ndole boeuf, which is beef stew with bitterleaf. It was tasty, and I had bitterleaf before. But maybe my stomach wasn't used to it. I thought of this dish as my first suspect because my partner didn't taste it, and he didn't get sick. And yes, when I vomited, I saw bits and pieces of the dish in the liquid that came out. Surprisingly, the breakfast I ate didn't seem to feature in the vomit, but then, how can I check?

After vomiting, I thought I felt better. I took a nap. And then we decided to get back to the cemetery again and finish what we were doing. So we did that. But that wasn't the end of it. Walking made me feel sick again, so I sat down on a bench, but soon enough, my stomach started retching again, and so I vomited among the tombstones in Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Of all places. I scattered the contents of my stomach in between the tombstones in the 21st Division I think.

I was able to continue my tour of the cemetery, however, finding the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and other famous folk.

The next day was different. This time, it was all about diarrhea. I didn't vomit on Easter Monday. But I went to the restaurant for at least ten times. This was also the day we were flying back to Berlin. I really tried hard to fly back home, as I didn't want to get stuck in Paris, especially since I had work the next day, and that French air traffic controllers announced that they were going to strike for two days the day after. So even though we entertained the thought of me going to a hospital, we didn't. I started getting dehydrated, however, and I replaced it with water every time I lost them. In the meantime, I read up on food poisoning, and its common causes. So here I learned about the various potential causes, one of them being improperly cooked eggs, resulting in salmonella. Hmm, this brings us to the second possible culprit.

See, my lunch for Saturday was in a French restaurant somewhere between the Arc de Triomphe and La Défense. I had a starter and a main dish. The starter was oeufs cocotte, or eggs in cups. Basically, I got three eggs baked in little ceramic cups, together with some spices and cream. Again, because my partner is lactose intolerant, he didn't taste this. And yes, come to think of it, the eggs were partly runny and not fully cooked. They were immensely tasty, though. So this was my second suspect, and given the length of my ordeal, it fits well with the salmonella hypothesis, which means the eggs might be to blame. But I can't really tell exactly since I didn't go to a lab to get things checked.

Anyway, I managed to get to Berlin, while having diarrhea and expelling liquid shit, as well as having stomach cramps. My anus ached in the end because I opened it so many times that day. I ended up not going to work on Tuesday because I was still recuperating. But thankfully, I was back to normal on Wednesday.

So, would I go back to Paris? Sure, why not. And I would still eat in a West African restaurant, and would still eat eggs. It's probably an exception more than the rule. Sure, it ruined half of my long weekend, but statistically it still happens very seldom. But yes, I got food poisoning in Paris.


  1. I got food poising in Buenos Aires in January. And I rarely get food poising, like you I ate street food in places you'd think hygiene isn't great...! Oh the irony. I have a good stomach so I knew right away something wasn't right, and I spent the day in pain until I vomited late at night. The culprit was likely a slice of pizza I had the night before, a local specialty with spinach and eggs (more like a quiche, really). The place was clean though, I think it was just bad luck.

    French love runny eggs. Feng finds it disgusting... I'm used to it but yeah, they have to be handled properly.

    I never had good food in Paris. Ironic, I know. I had the worst pizzas ever, a lot of junk food (being a poor student) and many sandwiches. Tourist districts have the worst food ever, which is true everywhere but especially in Paris I find.

    1. Zhu,

      It just shows that one must take care no matter where one is, whether it is in a street food stall in southeast Asia, or a gourmet restaurant in Paris!