Ecstasy in Paris

Note to self:  Never try a mind-altering substance while boarding public transit.

Good advice, don’t you think?

I wrote that note to myself 26 years ago because I foolishly swallowed a bit of Ecstasy right before climbing on a crowded bus on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Paris.

I recently found it in the side pocket of an old handbag I was about to throw out.  The note was slipped between a few used metro tickets and a business card from a restaurant.  I’d forgotten about that afternoon until chancing upon this yellowed slip of paper.

I blame Alan for what happened.  What good are ex-husbands if you can’t blame them for your follies?  His Swiss friend supplied us with the chemically pure formulation.  His knowledge of chemistry convinced me I wouldn’t hurt my mind or body with this pill.

We each popped one and then hopped onto the bus headed for Les Trois Quartiers, a chic department store  surrounded by the best food shops in Paris;  Hédiard, Fauchon, and Marquise de Sévigné.  None of these were places Alan had ever visited.  What better idea than to explore them on a sunny afternoon in September?

Les Trois Quartiers in Paris

Les Trois Quartiers to the left, the church of the Madeleine to the right, our bus pulling up right in the middle.


One flaw in this plan.  We didn’t know what we were doing.  Had no idea what was in store for us.  Not until I stood up to work my way through the packed bus and climb down the steps to the crowded sidewalk did I know.  Then I got my first inkling of the nature of the journey upon which I had embarked.

As I stood up, the drug surged through my body and up into my head.  In the process of rising,  the Ecstasy released gravity’s hold on me.   I thought I was going to ascend right through the roof of the bus and off into the blue Paris sky.


On a Paris bus while taking Ecstasy

See that look in my eye? I know something is up, I just don’t know what. Yet.

My bewildered state must have been clear in my eyes, because Alan extended his hand and guided me cautiously down those steps.

Down into the throngs of people.  Hundreds, no, make it thousands, of Parisians flowed along the boulevard, all heading for the Seine, catching us up in a river of people.

This was the first weekend of the wrapping of the Pont Neuf.  The artist, Christo, had gotten permission to wrap Paris’ oldest standing bridge.  In two weeks, three million people visited the site.  I swear half of them were with us that Saturday.

As we got closer to the bridge, I started noticing the vendors selling posters, postcards, slides, t shirts, all emblazoned with drawings of the wrapped Pont Neuf.

I said, “Alan, I can’t believe all this merchandising of art!”

He heard an odd note of stress in my voice and answered diplomatically, “I suppose this is how Christo supports his work.”

“But Alan, he’s going to make millions from this stupid project.  It’s just canvas wrapped around a bridge!”

Listening to the hysteria lurking under my words, he again said soothingly, “Bet it cost millions to sew all that canvas, ship it and get it in place.”

“But Alan, think of the artists we know, doing good work, who can barely support themselves.  And this guy is getting rich from schlock!”

My angst was all out of proportion to the situation.  I stopped, looked at Alan, then grabbed his arm as a wave of nausea gathered in my stomach and said, “You’ve got to change the subject, quick!  Or else I’m going to throw up!”

That’s Ecstasy.   It exaggerates what you’re feeling.  Brings it out into the open.  Which makes it a good therapeutic tool under the right circumstances.  These were not the right circumstances.

“Hey, Georgia, how about if you take some great photos of this.  Capture the moment to share with our friends.  We’re here in the middle of a great happening.”

That’s what I did.  Calmed down, took photos, had a lovely afternoon strolling in the sun.

The Pont Neuf in Paris, wrapped by Christo

This is one of the photos I took of the Pont Neuf. In the background is the department store, La Samaritaine. The sign in red says, “The Samaritaine wraps me!”

We ended the afternoon in my favorite chocolate boutique, Marquise de Sévigné, sipping hot chocolate and talking about how much we cared for each other, how great our friends were, how lucky we were to live in the best of all possible worlds.  For three hours we spewed forth this drug-induced marathon of love. The waitress gave up asking us if we wanted anything else.  In fact, she avoided our table.  Our smiles of bliss were more than she could deal with.

That rapture was lovely.  I didn’t want it to end, and felt sorry when I felt gravity start regaining its hold on my body.

But you know what, everything we said to each other that day was true.


6 thoughts on “Ecstasy in Paris

  1. Georgia – Aren’t you the lucky one. I’m totally envious. But only partially for the reasons you might think. Having been to Paris and seen the places you mention, I can absolutely envision the flow of your ‘trip’. I love your description of the initial wave of the drug taking hold, and the intensity of your verbal exchange.

    But my envy stems from something else: frustration with the incredible efficiency of my own kidneys and liver. I’m a freak! What would you say if I told you that I have tried XTC three times and never felt a damn thing??!!

    I know, right?!

    Quite recently, at the ripe age of fifty two, an age where most ‘normal’, ‘straight’ people would laugh at the idea of doing such a crazy thing, my curiosity about this drug won out over my common sense. I had heard so many tantalizing tales of harmless euphoria that I eventually decided I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about… just once. Like you, I researched the idea through very trusted and knowledgeable friends, and obtained the suggested amount of extremely pure, high quality product from an impeccable source. At the right time, surrounded by the right elements, I took the plunge… and… nothing happened.

    I was SO disappointed. My source was dumbfounded and apologetic. He had never heard of that ever happening before and reassured me of the product’s quality and that other people had raved about it. So he offered me a free second dose of double-strength pills. Again, on the perfect day, under the perfect circumstances I gave it a second whirl.

    Nothing. Again.

    Talk about a major let down. I couldn’t believe it. Neither could anyone else. Was I ever going to experience this iconic journey of bliss people were describing? So far I didn’t even feel ‘strange’. No racing heart. No tracers. No sweaty palms. Nuthin’! Astonished, to say the least, my source asked if I would like to try something even stronger. Out of pure frustration and determination I decided, against my better judgement, to give it one last shot, and to pull out all the stops. I was warned that this was a very powerful form of XTC and that I should definitely be careful. Not to be taken alone, without a safety net. He was seriously concerned. This would be an Apollo spacecraft to the far reaches of the galaxy. So with high hopes (no pun intended) I ingested a copious quantity of the magic pills…

    And felt NOTHING. Absolutely, positively NOTHING.

    How could this be?? I was well aware that I have a history of resistance to most drugs, but this was ridiculous! My disappointment was off the charts. And my friend/source was in utter disbelief. I had become a freak of nature. A science project. But I was done. Obviously it was not meant to be, and I’ve given up trying.

    So consider yourself fortunate to have experienced such a picture-perfect trip, and one shared with the love of your life. Sounds like the best of times.

    • Hi BT,

      Sadly, you are one of the very few who are resistant to MDMA. When ever a drug is ingested it is metabolized by the body by enzymes specific for the drug. In the case of MDMA, it is not the MDMA molecule that causes the effects, it is the 25 metabolites released following enzymatic breakdown In your case, your resistance is probably the result of variations in gene coding for the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) family of enzymes. No harm but no fun.

      This does not mean that you are resistant to other psychoactive compounds, THC, LSD, Psilocybin, etc. So good fellow search on and good hunting.

      • Well, how ’bout that! A label for the jar. Thanks very much for the information, John. No more searching or hunting for me, though. No interest in drugs, really. Never have been – fortunately. That was just a one-time curiosity. Cheers!

  2. Absolutely loved this piece. Are you published anywhere? Pieces like this should be. What a great slant on being in Paris with someone you love … and on a drug trip in the midst of so much art, chocolate, river of Parisians … all in the City of Lights.
    Audrey Hepburn on steroids!

    I just stumbled on your site, and plan to explore it further. Hopefully, I’ll find more gems such as this one. Merci.

    • Hi Michael: Glad you stumbled across my diary. I hope you continued to enjoy your journey through its pages. You’ll find other entries on life and love in Paris.

      No, I’m not published. I take your question as a compliment.

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