The Flashpacker 10


We had just spent 10 days catching up with a big group of our friends from Jacksonville in Paris, Bordeaux, Hossegor and San Sebastian.  We had had a fantastic time seeing everyone again and were missing them now that they were gone.  It was rainy and grey outside and we were spending the day at our apartment in a mini-depression.  I was pacing the room restlessly.






“Does my gut look bigger to you?”  I was holding my expanding paunch in my hands as I asked Nug.  Without budging or looking up from the drivel she was reading (50 Shades of Grey) she responded, “Yes.”  It’s finally caught up to me.  The old age, the lack of surfing since leaving Australia and eating out 2-3x per day have taken their toll.

Perhaps an even bigger culprit was the double Achilles heel I have of loving fat kid food and not being able to turn down a good deal.  It started in Asia.  The food was amazing, everywhere and cheap as dirt.  We couldn’t walk a block without seeing something new or delicious looking and with the prices I felt like I was getting ripped off if I didn’t give everything a try.  Fresh donuts for 12 cents, peanut brittle for 25 cents, 50 cents for ice cream or a mystery meat skewer, buttered corn for 12 cents or any number of gastrointestinal treats for pocket change!  The 25- 75 cent beer and the fact that we could walk on the streets with a brew just compounded the problem.

It continued in China with the amazing bakeries and Russia with the sausages and the stews that were buried in sour cream.  When we arrived in France I fell in love with chocolate waffles and the gelatos that were on every corner.  Now we were in San Sebastian and the tapas restaurants were numerous and unbelievable.  I had been stuffing my face until my stomach hurt.

I looked at Nug and informed her, “I’m going on a diet.”  She continued to block me out and read 50 Shades of Grey.  Later that night after 3 tapas restaurants I spied a Snickers ice cream for a euro and started to feel a twitch.  “I’m going to test that,” I told Nug.  “I thought you were on a diet,” she hit back a bit too sarcastically.  I inhaled the ice cream cone before I responded, “Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.”

The Invalid


Our arrival in Paris marked our return to the western “cultured” world…or so we thought.  That notion was dashed the 1st night at dinner when 2 French gentleman had a tiff that resulted in one body slamming the other into a table.  The table split in the middle and shattered plates and glasses.  There was an undercover cop at the table next to us who pulled his gun and broke up the meelee.  I didn’t feel bad about eating with my elbows on the table after that.

We had a few days to spend in Paris before heading to Hossegor and the next day we met our friends Tom and JL at the Louvre.  Picking a tourist hot spot like that was not our brightest idea as it was packed and it was like trying to find “Waldo”.  We were so stoked to see them that we walked around in circles and really saw nothing but the Mona Lisa.








The next mandatory stop was the Eiffel Tower where we sat in the grass, ate cheese and drank bottles of wine purchased from hawkers in the park for a couple of Euros.  The next few hours turned into a blur and before I knew it we were singing and taking absinthe shots.  I had not had a big night out in months and was clearly in over my head.  Things got a bit fuzzy as we found our way back to our hotel (it was more like a closet) in the wee hours of the morning.






The alarm rudely brought me back to a miserable consciousness.  My head felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck and my mouth felt as if I had just attempted the “Saltine Challenge”.  We had to check out of our room at 10am and meet Tom and JL to pick up a rental car for the drive to Hossegor.  I took some Tylenol and we hired a cab.  The cabby was weaving in and out of traffic and the Parisian roundabouts were relentless.  I felt like I was on the Octopus ride in Coolangatta again.  He pulled up to a red light in front of the Louvre.  The Tylenol, the roundabouts, the absinthe, the viscous throbbing in my brain, the wine…it was too much.  I had reached the tipping point and told him to wait while I hopped out and bolted to a tiny patch of bushes.  I wretched and grunted like Maria Sharapova as I spent the next minute hunched over.  I turned around to see a small crowd of pasty tourists with high socks and fanny packs gawking at me.  Several old ladies were shaking their heads and a younger kid gave me the thumbs up as I wiped tears from my eyes and ran back to the cab.  We finally got to Tom and JL’s hotel.  I hobbled in slowly, in the manner of an invalid, and planted my derriere on the couch in reception.  Thankfully, they let me spend the next few hours there in my personal hell.  I didn’t recover until several hours later as we were on the road to Hossegor at which point I had written off drinking for good.