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Being Biotiful in Paris

Once again, the French medical system surprised me…pleasantly.

For four days last week, I laid in bed weak from a gastroenteritis — a “maladie” which has been making the rounds in Paris the past few weeks. It was almost a joke — surrounded by my laptop computer, four different phones (home, office, US, cell), two TV remote controls and several glasses of various liquids with no sign of recovery.

People from outside Paris would call and ask what the weather was like. Of course, how the ‘heck’ did I know? I hadn’t seen much outside my bedroom since the ‘darned’ thing struck middle of the night on Monday. Thanks to the laptop, WiFi and email, it’s likely that the time spent answering emails was even greater than normal, since there was no way in ‘heaven’ I was going to make it down my 70 stairs, although up would have been a ‘heck’ of a lot harder.

On Friday morning at 6 a.m. when there was no relief in sight, in a panic I sent a text message to my doctor (for whom you know I have tremendous admiration — Dr. Julia Bache,, not realizing it would wake her up, but secretly hoping it would. At 8:30 a.m., she phoned back and suggested I call SOS Médicins, the at-home emergency healthcare system in France that really works.

Yes, one can actually have a doctor come to your home at any time of day or night within one hour of your call. Not only that, but the nice gentleman on the phone, when hearing my pathetically weak little voice and terrible French accent, asked if I would prefer to speak in English! Shocking, isn’t it?

Within 15 or 20 minutes, the doctor appeared at my door. He took vital signs, asked a few questions and loved practicing his English. He must of noticed the mountain of equipment and papers taking up space on the bed and was intrigued that I could work from home like writers do. In fact, it was a rather amusing exchange, because he seemed so naive about the ability to have a ‘virtual’ office, with access to the world at your fingertips.

But here’s the clincher that bowled me over. Instead of prescribing a pharmaceutical, such as antibiotics or any drug that any normal Western medicine d

octor would prescribe, he wrote on his “ordinance” (prescription), “Gelée Royale – Ginseng – Acérola – Défenses et Vitalité.” He said, “You take one of these everyday for the next few weeks and you’ll be a new and revitalized woman.”

Just around the corner on rue Debelleyme (number 35) is a little “bio” shop named “Bio-Moi” into which I had never ventured, but was sure they would carry such a product. It was another “grand surprise” to find inside what I though was an insignificant little merchant turned out to be a substantially well-stocked market with a variety of medicinal and personal products, as well as a large assortment of bio-organic food products, both fresh and packaged.

My daughter’s been after me for years to make the leap into a healthier diet and now here’s a Western medical practitioner prescribing the same regime. Is it time at this ripe old age to go ‘bio?’ I know what you’re saying…which is everything from, “It’s about time!” to “Bah, humbug!”

Well, the ‘proof is in the pudding.’ By Friday night I was at dinner with friends and by Saturday morning I was out the door having a “café crème” at the corner café then making a few rounds in the neighborhood to purchase a thing or two. By Sunday I was at brunch at Café Charlot and dinner at Chez Omar. So, there must be something to all this ‘bio hocus pocus.’

Uh oh. Does this mean I’ve been converted? Well, it’s a start at least. One thing for sure, it’s getting easier and easier to go bio in Paris. Just check out this Web site (sorry, it’s in French) where one can be “Paris So Biotiful!”:


Emergency telephone numbers in Paris you will want to make note of…

Fire/ Pompiers
Physicians/SOS Médecins
Pharmacy/SOS Pharmacies
Dental/SOS Dentistes
English crisis line/SOS Help
24-hour pharmacy
24-hour auto/SOS Dépannage
Electricity emergency
Gas leaks
Lost or stolen Visa Card
Lost or stolen Master Card
Lost or stolen check book
Directory enquiries 12

If you are calling from a mobile phone you should dial the Single European emergency call number of 112.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Mark March 9th on your calend

ar to join us at Parler Paris Après Midi — get to meet other readers of Parler Paris and share your experiences. Visit for more information.

P.P.S. Tonight at 7 p.m. at Shakespeare & Co., don’t miss the reading and wine tasting with writer Kristin Espinasse (On Words in a French Life) and her husband, winemaker Jean-Marc Espinasse (Domaine Rouge-Bleu). Shakespeare & Co., 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 5th.


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