Sunday, June 6, 2010

Last Taco in Paris

The last time I was in Paris I was three months pregnant with my first child; I was twenty-three years old. You couldn't yet guess that this skinny, teen-age looking American was pregnant, but although my belly was flat, I had terrible nausea that made all that fabulous French food taste wrong. While my husband ate thick creamy sauces and downed croissants, all I could handle was fresh fruit and - bizarrely - raw oysters.

On our last night before flying home, we decided to blow the last of our minimal cash on dinner out. In order to do this, we would have to forego the taxi to the metro station the next morning (to get to the airport) and hoof the three or so kilometers with our backpacks. Since we were young and energetic, albeit pregnant, this didn't sound like a problem. Our budget severely limited our choice of restaurants and finally we decided on a Tex-Mex place since beans and cheese didn't sound like they would make me puke. How wrong I was.

It was really more of a cafe than a restaurant with simple Formica tables, dim lighting and big glass windows that looked out over a busy square. There weren't that many customers but the specials sounded good and were cheap enough that we could afford to get dessert too. I ordered plain, pregnancy-fussy bean, chicken and cheese tacos and Josh ordered some sort of extravagant plate with all sorts of vegetables, seafood and toppings. As soon as our food arrived Josh started eating his with gusto; we had eaten few big meals on the trip since we left his family's home on the coast and he was making up for this. I was hungry but my food seemed to smell strangely tangy and I couldn't tell if it was just my weird pregnant taste buds or if something was really amiss. I had Josh taste a bite and he told me it seemed OK to him so I tried to eat more. I managed to get down maybe ten bites before I started to get queasy (which happened a lot at the time anyway) and gave up. Josh finished his then grabbed mine to finish it. After about two bites he made a face.

"You're right this doesn't taste right, the chicken is weird."

"Do you think it's rotten?"

"Maybe not rotten, but it smells kind of funny."

He ate a few more bites then pushed it away.

Since I wasn't hungry anymore anyway we decided not to make a fuss over the bad chicken. Josh ordered some flan for dessert then we walked back to our hostel to get an early night before the flight home the next morning.

It started around midnight and I'm sure you all know the drill: bubbles in the gut followed by increasing abdominal pain and a final sprint to the bathroom. To this day I can't remember ever vomiting for that many hours straight. It lasted till morning and we finally had to leave at 6am no matter how bad I felt or we'd miss our plane. Fortunately Josh was fine. We strapped on our packs and started the long stagger to the station but by the time we got our tickets and were waiting on the platform I couldn't hold back any longer. The Parisians gave me a wide berth and eyed me with disdain as I spewed in a corner near a garbage can. Meanwhile Josh panicked about how dangerous it was for a pregnant woman to throw up so much and ran off to find the metro station's first aid crew. Within five minutes a group of five skinny, crew-cut French guys in fluorescent orange jumpsuits and big medical backpacks came sprinting down the platform to my rescue.

In French the leader of this Orwellian looking group urgently asked me, "Mademoiselle what can we do to help?"

My mind raced. I just wanted to get on the plane and go home. What did I need? "Do you have some tissues and some water?" I asked weakly.

By this time the crew had unloaded their backpacks and had so much equipment that it looked like they could perform a triple bypass on me right then and there had I needed one.

They looked at each other blankly. "We are sorry Mademoiselle, no water, no tissues."

Then the leader had an idea, "Where are you two going? The airport?"

We told him yes and that we were now running quite late.

"I will accompany you myself then on the next train," he said with a smile, his tense shoulders dropping in relief. He seemed very happy to have something to do and to escape his jumpsuit brigade.

By this time we had missed two trains but our new, chatty medical technician friend seemed to think we'd be fine.

"Which airline are you on?"

"Tower Air"

"I don't know this airline. What is the terminal?"

Josh dug into his pack to look for the tickets then began opening another compartment then another.

"Do you have the tickets?" Josh asked me.

"No they were on the table at the hostel. You didn't grab them?"

Our French friend had just sat down on a newly vacated seat and was looking increasingly calm. Smiling he said "Ah, they'll let you on anyway but you'll need to know the terminal."

We asked around a few people on the train if they new the terminal for Tower Air but no one had ever even heard of it. We arrived at the airport, got some hearty good-bye cheek kisses from our friend in the orange jumpsuit and exited the train. Now I was so worried about making our flight and getting on without tickets that my body seemed to have forgot it was food poisoned.

We asked around which terminal was used for Tower Air, and after a surprisingly long search we were told a name that sounded unusually complicated. We had the woman write it down on a piece of paper. We showed the driver of the airport bus the name of our terminal and he looked at it blankly before waving us back to move on and sit down. It felt good to settle into our seats although I was really thirsty. The airport was huge and after about 45 minutes we realized that, not only was our plane leaving in a half an hour but that we were going in circles.

Josh got up and walked up the jostling aisle to the driver who gave him a disdainful glare. He showed the driver the piece of paper with the terminal name on in and asked if the driver knew where this place was.

"Go back to your seat Messier," the driver said coldly.

"We're going to miss our flight," Josh nearly shouted at the man. "I'll sit down if you tell me that you know where we're going."

The driver put on the breaks far too aggressively and pointed to the door.

"Here. Get out."

Now we were somewhere that looked like it was between terminals, more like a small parking area. I sat on my pack, exhausted, dry-mouthed, weak and exasperated to end up with no money lost in a French airport without our tickets. Josh ran over to what looked like a service entrance to a large building to ask for help. In just a minute he ran back.

"It's here!" He said.

We lugged over our packs and sure enough there was a small desk in a cramped hallway with a simple "Tower Air" sign slapped up on the wall.

"You are just in time," said the perky ticket agent. "The plane will wait for you."

"But we lost our tickets," I groaned.

"It's OK, you're on the list now you'll have to run!"

One of the agents accompanied us as we sprinted, me with reserves of energy I didn't even know I still had, to the gate. They whisked us through with our last minute boarding passes and we entered the plane.

It looked like everyone else had been sitting on the plane waiting for us for ages. Tired, grouchy faces all looked up at us from their seats as we passed to our places at the back of the plane. We were obviously an enemy of the people but I couldn't have been happier to be there - or more parched.

We sat down and I immediately asked the flight attendant for some water.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I can't serve you anything till the fasten seat belt sign goes off."

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  1. Can't remember the name of the restaurant! I know that for me, I will probably not eat Tex Mex in France a second time :-)



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