Far from Vogue
Updated: Jun 17
You know those days you are so entirely exhausted, you think that once your head hits the pillow, you’re set to pass out for at least 36-48 hours. Maybe more. Then suddenly, in a strange turn of events, you find yourself wide awake after a mere hour or two of slumber?
I have no idea why or how your mind manages to trick you into this deception of being conscious and alert… when your body is clearly dizzy and on the verge of collapse. I hate jet lag.
3:30am… Boom! I’m awake.
4:30am, actually… if you take into consideration the European time spring forward change that occurred mere moments prior.
I needed coffee.
A lot of coffee.
One should always watch what they wish for, because in my case, I got too much coffee. I shouldn’t say that… Let me explain…
At home, I drink drip coffee and I add a bit of cream or milk…
Here, I find myself at a loss for words more than often, not being entirely confident contributing my tongue to the French language. I was comfortable ordering “cafe au lait” everywhere I went, so that’s exactly what I did.
Café au lait!
Café au lait!
I was a café-hopping café-au-laiter… and I had even perfected the accent. So… I didn’t necessarily get tooooo much ‘coffee,’ so to speak… I got too much cream. And too much cream, for me, isn’t always a bonus score in the cream department. It ends up with my stomach gurgling with gases, bloating, cramping, churning & burning… and without entering into too many gory details, may find me in a frantic run to one of the many lavatories of the city.
Excessive amounts of cream also doesn't mix well with sheer exhaustion and a cold.
Ahhh… the first world problems of being in Paris.
A day in the life of Joanna McBride…
After too many creams with coffee, Auntie Lin was desperate for the loo, so we popped into, yet another café. The staff made it clear they were not tolerating tourists using their facilities without contributing to their economic growth. I sat down to pursue the menu, and as Aunty Lin had run off, the onus fell on me to order. We were on our way to catch the train to Versailles… so I needed something quick and small. My stomach was twinging already, so I wasn’t really hungry, nor was I wanting food…
The pressure was on.
The waiter was looming over me, anxiously awaiting my order…
“S’il vous plaît, sandwich au Brie.”
I hardly ordered that elegantly, but I find it difficult to properly illustrate my embarrassing and torturous debauchery of the romantic language in a mere blog.
In other words, I ordered the Brie sandwich.
Who the heck orders a Brie sandwich when their stomach is already feeling unsettled?
It was a lot of Brie cheese. Probably the most Brie cheese I’ve ever been given to eat in one setting. Slabs of cheese were loaded inside a foot long, tooth breaking baguette, and garnished with a few generous wedges of butter. It was not exactly what I was imagining I would receive, nor what I was really in the mood for. I made my best attempt at devouring half of it, but was slightly turned off by the hint of Bleu in the cheese. Had it been accompanied by ham, some tomato slices, a bit of lettuce, a couple onions… it would have been slightly more palatable. No.
That was not the case, and my Bleu-Brie baguette bonanza was wrapped up, put into my purse, and saved for later. For somebody who cannot properly handle gluten or dairy, I don’t do a very good job of taking care of my body.
Versailles, a short distance away by train, and very difficult to maneuver their directional system and it took a while before we figured out which train was headed in the direction we required. It seemed like everyone we asked was confused as well. The majority of fault for disorientation lay with me, as I was too tired to comprehend simple instructions. I was oblivious to directional signs, and unable to make sense of anything. I could not even differentiate between left and right. I blame brain fog and ocular failure. My eyes were heavy and getting heavier with each passing moment. How I was going to manage another 8 hours (or more) was a mystery.
I attempted to sleep on the train, but it was uncomfortably bumpy and it only resulted in me banging my noggin against the window repetitively.
Versailles was heaving with people. So much for a slow start to the tourist season. When I visited in 2006, I don’t remember the crowds, but then again, I had spent my entire day meandering through the gardens… so perhaps I had managed to avoid them. Aunty Lin was interested in seeing the palace, so we purchased a guided tour. It was interesting to hear some of the history and the stories, but the audio was muffled, it was very rushed, horrendously congested and there was hardly a moment for questions… and not worth the exorbitant fee. It was like an assembly line, and lacked any personal touch.
Very decadently decorated though.
For the entire duration of the tour, I was completely delirious, wobbling back and forth, intoxicated with exhaustion.
The tour guide wandered us through all the extravagantly decorated royal chambers, and on more than one occasion, I seriously contemplated crawling between the sheets and becoming part of the display. Me, in my Walmart pants, my Inspector Gadget jacket and my bright sneakers, passed out, snoring in the Queen’s gold abode.
The gardens were impressive, but not as much as when I had visited previously.
It was much more impressive with the flowers in full bloom. Even the fountains were dry and turned off. I tried to wind us through the massive acreage to the pink palace of Marie-Antoinette, as well as her private gardens and the village, but by the time we arrived, it was closed. I had arranged for a 2:45pm tour of Versailles, in order to not be rushed… and it was a good idea to help us get our bearings, but it was a bad idea in regards to time and wandering around. I did not plan wisely.
There are so many lovely people we’ve met so far… yet I find I have neither the energy, nor the inclination to strike up conversation. You know you’ve hit bedtime rock bottom when you’re too tired to smile, and even escaping to nap on the toilet seems like a brilliant idea. Thank goodness Aunty Lin is friendly and can pick up when and where I drop off.
Occasionally I do get a second wind, but it is usually when I am outside, walking around. It is most definitely not when I am confined to a small space or obligated to remain alert. I did want to stay awake long enough to warrant a full night’s sleep… but I had no idea how I was going to make that happen
I think of jet lag as an intolerable boss, determined to make my life a living hell… and I’m just the insubordinate little schmuck.
Returning from Versailles, we successfully navigated our way back home via the underground subway system and up into the Quartier Pigalle - a red light district known for its eclectic nightlife and glam cocktail bars. Also known for an excessive amount of sex shops… and Moulin Rouge!
Very odd… but all day, I kept getting a whiff of something horrendous. It was like the odour of decay was following me around, and I couldn’t escape it. It was a stench of rotten feet, and as embarrassing as it was, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my brand new shoes could turn to the dark side so quickly. Although I had done a full day of walking, they hardly had time to trap bacteria and sweat, let alone cultivate such a foul funk.
So now, not only was I stuck with bright shoes that didn’t fit me properly… but they reeked. If I could smell it, others could smell it… and that wasn’t fitting with my desperate attempt to blend in. There is no style in stink.
When we got back to our halfway house, I promptly removed them, and put them by the window to air them out… and was fully ready to be profusely apologetic to Aunty Lin about this overwhelmingly vulgar stench.
Funny thing was… I took them off… and nothing… Nothing!
What had I been catching a deadly whiff of all day? Bizarre.
… it wasn’t until the following morning did it dawn on me…
Shit… I turned and looked at my purse.
I’d forgotten about my Bleu-Brie snack delight crammed in my bag.
All day in the heat.
All day and all night stuffed in the confines of my little purse.
All day and all night bursting with bacteria.
All day and all night letting off an offensive odour of rotten feet.
Man, I’m an idiot.
It wasn’t enough to toss it in the trash. The pungent aroma had seeped through onto my wallet, passport, pens, notebook, masks, chapstick… You name it, it stunk. My entire purse stunk.
To top it off, I also discovered I spent the entire day with my pants inside out.
Yep… here I am moseying around this city of chic… my luminous shoes are too big, my pants are on backwards and I smell like rotten cheese…
No wonder I’m single…