Sunday, August 27, 2006

EUROPE: FRANCE PART 1 (The Cheese Confessions)

Note: Under normal circumstances, I would enjoy such a cheese immensely...More on France tomorrow, with photos...And see the update at the bottom...

As planned, half-way through our visit to Paris, we moved from my editor's place to a Best Western Hotel in the heart of the city, the better to coordinate visiting with my family. We got in that afternoon, stowed our luggage in our room on the third floor, went out with friends, and didn't return until late.

As soon as we opened the door to the room, I smelled something foul.

"What the fuck is that smell?" I asked Ann.

"I don't know. It's like something died in here," she replied.

"I can't sleep with that smell in here. We have to find it."

Thus started our search for the stench, which culminated in finding a very large camembert cheese shoved under our pillows.

"What kind of sick fuck would do that to a guest?" I asked. (In the morning, we found out all guests received said cheese.)

"Don't they usually leave a mint?" Ann asked.

"Hell of a mint."

By this time it was about 2 in the morning and we'd both had a little bit to drink and just wanted to go to bed.

It was us or the cheese. The cheese had to go. There was no alternative. French culture be damned.

"I'll take care of it," I said.

"I'll bet," Ann mumbled as she crawled into bed.

I tried the refrigerator in the room, but that wasn't enough of a barrier. I could still smell the damn thing.

So I took the cheese outside our room and looked for options.

At first, I carefully laid the cheese in the wastebasket in the hallway. But I took two steps away and realized that the wastebasket wouldn't be emptied until the morning. In the meantime, the smell might find a way to infiltrate our room--or, horrors!, the entire third floor.

So I quickly grabbed the cheese out of the wastebasket and walked down the spiral staircase to the landing immediately above the second floor.

After a furtive glance over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't being watched, I left the cheese there and walked back up to the third floor.

I had the doorknob to our room in my hand and planned to turn it when I thought with anguish, What if the cheese isn't far enough away from our room?! It could, again, stay there all night, creating its olfactory nightmare. And the odd thought: it'll probably be lonely there. (I can't defend that thought much, except that it was late and I was a little drunk.)

So I quickly ran back down to the landing, doing my best Basil Fawlty imitation, grabbed the cheese, and ran back up to the third floor.

I had a sudden image in my head: thirty-something drunk man in hallway at two in the morning, holding a huge stinking cheese.

What now?

Oddly, I must say I felt a bond to the cheese. Even as I was trying to push it away from me, I felt weirdly responsible for the cheese. It wasn't the cheese's fault that it had been placed into the wrong context. In another context--for example, lunch at a café--I would have gladly surrendered to its non-olfactory charms.

Nevertheless, the cheese had to go. Turning, I spotted the elevator, which had stopped on our floor.

It was the work of a second, because I wouldn't have had the nerve to go through with it otherwise. I opened the lift door, positioned the cheese smack dab in the center of the elevator, pushed the button for the ground floor, shoved the door shut, and off it went--down, down, down, taking its putrid stenchification with it.

And then I went to bed, only slightly haunted by the thought of the night porter looking up at the elevator's arrival, only to see a rather large camembert cheese staring at him from the elevator floor. What happened then, I have no idea, but in the morning, upon leaving our smell-free room, there was no cheese still lurking in the elevator.

(I do not know what my French editor will think upon reading this account, but it will not be good.)

UPDATE: I just got this from Eric Schaller, who, along with Paulette Werger, met us in Paris. Man, do I have tricky friends. What a bastard Eric is! - JV

RE: the cheese

I had forgotten all about that.

The sick fucks were actually Paulette and Eric. We bought the cheese, but had the same problem with the funk, so passed it on to you with a bit of slight of hand, along with the cover story that we had received a similar pillow greeting:)

Your account is hilarious of what transpired thereafter.

You can post that we were the culprits not the French if you like.

Glad to have you back home, cheeseless.--Eric


At 7:13 AM, Blogger werewolfv2 said...

Great story :)

I needed a laugh this morning.

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor cheese :(


At 9:14 AM, Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

Wow. What a thing to leave under a guest's pillow. Was the hotel popular with tourists or locals? If the former, they should have known better.

Ah well. You got a good story out of it. :)

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous clare said...

Very funny but are you sure this wasn't just a bad dream? According to my mother-in-law eating cheeese before you go to bed is guaranteed to give you nightmares.

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It gets funnier--see the update... JV

At 2:58 PM, Blogger neil williamson said...

Damn, I so don't want to believe the Schallers were responsible for your cheese-bomb incident.

I *want* to believe it was the hotel being nice.

And I *don't* want to think of that *nice* couple being evil enough to play a prank like that. They're just not those sorts of folks.


At 3:25 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Hahahahah. This would make a great short film (I suggest the title "The Big Cheese"). But, Jeff, you guys can't have been that drunk, because otherwise you'd have ignored the pong, surrendered to the post-booze munchies and eaten it :-)

Meanwhile, somewhere in France a Camembert is sitting on a deli counter and telling the other fromages "you would not believe this weird Yankee tourist in the hotel I was staying in".

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, we weren't very drunk. Mostly tired.

I now recall Eric helped us with our luggage and that must've been when he planted the cheese.

When we told them about it, Eric said, "Oh, we got one too. They leave a cheese for each guest." The bastard!

Of course, I told my editor before he met Eric not to be put off by the fact that Eric uses a neck crutch to prop up his enormous head. So perhaps I deserved it.


At 2:44 PM, Blogger Joe said...

See, this is why we seasoned European travellers always carry a small bottle of claret and a packet of Nairn's oatcakes with us on our trips.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Gigi said...

Last year when I visited Paris with my sister we bought some yummy cheese for lunch (there's a fantastic grocery at Le Bon Marche). We went to a little park down the street and enjoyed our cheese and cakes, then packed up the leftovers for that night.

We boarded the Eurostar for London a couple of hours later. When my sister opened her backpack to find her book a horrible stench wafted out. It smelled like something had crawled in there and died. Or maybe something was in there farting. I dunno, but it was gross.

What's worse is that there aren't any trash cans at the train stations in London anymore, so we had to beg the porter to dispose of it for us. Such a nice man. He told us that it happens all the time - French cheese being sneaky and all.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story!

At 5:38 PM, Anonymous French Cheese Lover said...

I would like to insert my "five cents" to the topic! :) There is a wonderful article I recently read about French cheeses. I just loved it, check for yourself!

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At 8:00 AM, Blogger sutros said...

A good story

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Voila: This book is a poetic view of 30 of the best loved French cheeses with an additional two odes to cheese. Recipes, wine pairing, three short stories and an educational section complete the book.

From a hectic life on Wall Street to the peace and glories of the French countryside lead me to be the co-founder of Ten years later with the words of Pierre Androuet hammering on my brain:

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I took pen and paper; many reams later with the midnight oil burning Tasting to Eternity was born and self published.

I believe cheese and wine lovers should be told about this publication.



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