As I begin to write this, I’ll have you know I am viewing the beautiful sunset over what I guess is the St. Laurent river on my way to connect flights in Toronto (YYZ) for this trip and the last 2 cruises, the places are not ones that are on my want to go list and I have been travelling just to get new places on the list. In 2 days from now, I will turn 36 and officially age out of the possibility of a 5th Contiki.
So where am I off to? Dublin, Ireland. Why? Because it had a cheap flight and hotel (err hostel). Most of the good places are too cost prohibitive to travel solo and life has as always left me solo. If I were to be asked what is left in Europe that I really want to see, the list would be in order Luxembourg, Romania, San Marino, Ukraine, Norway, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Iceland, Andorra, and then Ireland. (Maybe even Moldova and Serbia outshine Ireland.)
I’m, however, still going to attempt to make the best of it and see if I can like it. I had low hopes for Copenhagen in 2016 but that city really won me over. I have a list of places to see, but in reality, I will probably just get lost and see what speaks to me.
The second day of the trip started on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was talking about how cold it was from a cold front and it was still shorts weather for me. I woke up at 7 and went downstairs for coffee in the lobby and a Guava Cheese Danish that was to die for. I returned to my room and watched the best of Sunday morning TV. It was one of the cooking shows where I learned that the Agave syrup I like in my tea at David’s Tea is the same plant that is used to make Tequila.
I had booked the early embarking at 10 AM online in the check-in to the cruise-ship. However, when I got to the hotel 12 noon was the only shuttle time left. Since the shuttle was the cheapest option, I reserved it. The hotel also had a noon checkout time, so I took a long shower and relaxed until 11:30 when I went downstairs and got on the shuttle.
Miami looked not much different from San Juan, and I was not wowed to want to spend more time there. When we arrived at the port, I dropped of my bag to the longshoremen who stated adamantly and more forcefully then San Juan or Charleston the “A tip is expected for this!” Therefore, I gave him $1.
I walked to the door to the terminal and after about a 4-minute queue I entered the main hall. I was asked if I needed a wheelchair but I declined and limped into the hall. I filled out the health form and then went to the handicap line where you can sit down and wait. It took about 15 minutes to get checked in and I got my ship key card proceeded up the escalator and had my photo taken (that wasn’t available at the photo shop on the ship.)
Then I boarded the ship, after my first encounter with the NCL “Washy Washy” team. I was hungry and the rooms were not ready yet so I went to the buffet and sampled a bit of as much as possible. I sat on the side watching Miami Beach and had a great view while joining another couple for lunch.
As I finished lunch the room was ready so I went down to settle in and get off my feet for about an hour. Then it was time for the safety drill. My spot was A5 in the main theatre since it was down steps the crew said I could sit with the A11 people at the top. It was hilarious all the people being told they couldn’t bring their drinks into the safety demonstration. It went by in less than half the time as Carnival’s demonstrations.
After the safety drill, I did some exploring of the ship and then made it to the Mojito bar where it just happened the Single/Solo cruiser group was meeting. After talking to some people, a group of 6 of us ditched the Solo group and went to dinner at Taste. The service that night was the slowest of the entire cruise we arrived at 6:30pm-ish and finished the third course after 9 pm.
After the dinner, I went to the Welcome Aboard show which was really good. Especially the comedian Dean Edwards, he was incredibly funny stereotyping the type of people on cruises.
After the show, I called it a night and had an amazing sleep.
For those of you that love my travel stories, this is the beginning of a new series of them.
Once again I visited a new travel agent and had no idea where I was headed. The only criteria were the most affordable cruise to where I can add the most new countries to my list. This resulted in the Norwegian Getaway going to Rotan, Honduras, Harvest Cay, Belize, Costa Maya México, and Cozumel México.
Checking in for the flight was different this time and in the end a lot easier. Online you need the address of the Hotel you are staying at, in the past this was only asked at the airport. The hotel I decided on was the Holiday Inn near the airport. I picked that based on price, that they had an airport shuttle, and they arrange shuttles to the port. Miami is very well organized as a home port town.
On Saturday (Dec 9th), I woke up really early and had to do laundry and pack. I had meant to do that on Thursday night but for no good reason, that just didn’t happen. My wonderful sister drove me to the airport, dropped me off, and took off to enjoy her vacation from me.
I used the mobile kiosk to print my boarding pass. I always prefer a paper pass over a mobile version as it is convenient for going through security and is a great place to stick your baggage tag stub. I then checked in my checked bag. I brought my medium sized one. Getting through security took about 90 seconds, the Saint John Airport is great for that. The airport is having renovations and now has a shop inside of security that offers duty-free on international flights.
Getting on the flight there was a cheap woman with her maximum allowed bag trying to fit it in the overhead bin. The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that has smaller upper bins. Let’s face it however you try to angle it, it is never going to fit. The maximum allowed size is for placing under the seat in front of you. Which is where she shoved the bag and grumbled all pissed off that she has none of the very little leg room left for the next just over two hours.
The flight was mainly uneventful, I took the orange juice on this flight. I was sat next to a young group of women off to Toronto for some “holiday retail therapy”.
Arrived at Pearson and very efficiently found the security for transfers to USA flights which is a very long string of people checking boarding passes and ID. After going through the scanners and kiosks it took me about an hour from arrival to passing security and US Immigration. The guard asked where I was going and scoffed that seeing Rotan is not real Honduras.
I had dinner at an Italian place until it was time for the flight. People at the airport do not care/respect the Zone boarding system as soon as there was an announcement that they were starting pre-boarding soon it was almost all 240 people in a line. My Zone was Zone 4 so I just sat until most of the line was gone.
They were checking bags and people were being forced to check and bag that had the “fat zipper” unzipped. I got through no problem and was seated next to a teenage anime artist travelling with his family to Miami. The Miami airport was very easy to find the baggage pickup. For the first time in 3 trips to the USA, my bag arrived with me. I was thrilled even if I was a nervous mess over it being one of the last bags to arrive.
Finding where the hotel shuttle was you get led by the way finders out the second level door to a curb. There is no marking where each hotels shuttle stops and you see them all go by and then you flag down your hotel’s vehicle. After an hour I was basically tired and went screw this, went downstairs to the taxi stand and for only $13 got a blue taxi. This was the best decision ever. You can pay with a card on the tablet screen on the back of the passenger seat.
When I arrived, I checked in and the gentleman was the friendliest person I have ever met and really seemed to enjoy his job. I found my room “507” and settled in for the night. The room was spacious and well laid out and clean.
I fell asleep and that concludes this part of the story.
This post also has a soundtrack. The André Rieu version of Arrivederci Roma.
It is September 24th, as we left for the sightseeing of Rome. I was a bit worried to go out on the street. There was a long protest going down the street for the freedom and recognition of a people in a region near Georgia. (The country) The parade ended
just before go time and my feet were really sore. My last pairs of socks had holes in them and combined with the bleeding heels walking was getting harder. Rome is also not known for the flattest and smoothest sidewalks/streets either.
We hopped on the bus and went to the area near the Italian government buildings. For there we walked around Rome to the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and various other buildings. We also ran into a group of protestors that were fighting for the right of deaf people to have interpreters at churches. They made a lot of noise.
Then we went for a fancy supper and my feet were killing me. At supper, I had noticed my feet were still hurting even when not standing on them, and my butt and hip were getting a sensation of falling asleep. I stood up and walked outside a few times to relieve the cramps and asleep feeling but it was getting worse. By the end of the night
, my feet were going from sore to numb.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel for drinks as for a chunk of us it was the big
goodbye night. The rest of the travellers would be heading to London again over the next week. The place was small and cramped but I didn’t want to miss out as this was the last big night with everyone so I stayed until about midnight. The group then decided to go to a club but I really wasn’t feeling it.
An amazing person that was also leaving in Rome decided not to go out and since I have feelings for her and we are in Rome, we went for a stroll around the block and I tried to hit on her nervously. She explained what was important to her, and I respected her and we continued to walk back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next morning I woke up and the scariest thing happened. My feet were still numb and three fingers on both hands were numb. This had me really scared and the hotel had terrible internet so I had breakfast and checked out of The Yellow Hostel. I knew my next hotel the check in was not until
2 pm but I wanted to drop off my heavy bag to baggage storage there, as I was planning to travel light for 3 days and had the necessities in my side bag.
To my luck the hotel
lets me check in early and I started to Google what could be going wrong with me. The main hits were Diabetic Nerve Pain or MS. (In my head better than diabetic as I love good food.) The internet was bad so I decided to go out and went to Termini station to get online. From there I started iMessaging / Facebook messaging and emailing everyone I could back home to get advice.
Since it was just after
6 am back home only a few answered. None suggested coming back and several suggested it could be something even worse and that I should go to the hospital. My sister was one of the few that answered but wasn’t happy I woke her on a Sunday morning. I ate lunch at McDonald’s in the station then went to find Michelangelo’s Keyhole that I missed by a few metres in 2013. Once you miss doing something it really sticks with you.
As I climbed the hill and passed the rose garden, I crested the top of the hill and saw a long line of people. This is the universal sign of you found the attraction.
I waited about 45 minutes in line and then made it to the front and looked in the hole. It was cool but had bigger hype and expectations than I was hoping for. On the way back down there is a park with an overlooking view of the Vatican.
Considering how much my feet hurt, I had to rest. I started to question myself on what I should do. It was at that point that I thought I heard a voice say “Go Home” in the wind. As I was walking down the hill, I need to go to the bathroom suddenly and had little control and didn’t quite make it to the pay toilet, that also was dirty and had little paper left. It was not good and I was so conscious of my smell. I went back to the hostel to look at my insurance papers and get my numbers in line to go to Ospedale Santo Spirito near the Vatican. However
, when reading my travel insurance papers, I read it in detail and noticed an Early Return clause and called them up via Skype and asked about it.
The lady explained that it would cover any economy class ticket on a reimbursement basis. I then was worried about trying to contact my travel agent on a Sunday and jumped on the Air Canada app and looked up flights. I didn’t want to miss the Coliseum tour I had booked later that day so flying out that night wasn’t on my radar. (That would have been the smartest option.)
The fastest and cheapest flight back the next morning was to fly Rome to Philadelphia to Toronto to Saint John. I almost booked it but then I noticed that if I went Rome to Munich to Toronto to Saint John I could leave Rome early rather than stupid early, I would avoid the US TSA, get a Munich passport stamp, and fly in a Dreamliner! (Since I wasn’t paying it what is an extra $40 for more sleep and a wish list airplane.) I booked the trip and coordinated with a friend to pick me up at the airport the next afternoon and bring me to the hospital. The internet then crapped out and I
left for my tour.
As I went through Termini, my mother got back to me and I told her I was coming home. I then headed off to the tour. I had already done this tour in 2010 so it looked the same as before and I was not really into it. All I was thinking about was leaving the next day. I took a bunch of photos to prove I was there but I was so weak and sore that I was glad it was over. I said no more goodbyes and slipped away and back to the hostel. I ordered a chicken burger and fries at the hostel restaurant and thought my sore throat was coming back, but it turned out probably the muscles were going numb and I was
losing my swallowing abilities. I then got my bag from storage and went to bed. I was going to shower in the morning. As it turns out I won’t get to shower again until December.
The next morning I woke up at 5:30 am and am really numb. It is terribly bad, I can barely stand from kneeling without the ladder, and I had the top bunk bed. I didn’t pack the night before and I put all my liquids in my main suitcase and started throwing away clothes that I didn’t want to get at
the weight. After three attempts I make it to the exact most I can check in. (Wine bottles are heavy.) I grab my side bag and suitcase and am off. It is only a few blocks to the train station but it is a slight uphill slope and my legs can barely make it. Rome at night is also a very scary place in those parts.
I am starving and I pick up a few things at the convenience store style place in Termini and go to the kiosk to get my train ticket to the airport. I decide on the Leonardo Express train over the local train as I don’t know how much effort I have left. The train arrives and I get on barely enough grip to lift my excessive bag.
I then arrive at the Leonardo
da Vinci airport and walk a long hall to the Lufthansa check-in for my first flight to Munich. She checks everything for me takes the bag and then I proceed through security. This is a really simple process as I have gotten good at this. I then find my gate and have a seat. Once it comes birding time I have great difficulty standing. I do manage and get on the flight. Scared to death, I start to be even more scared thinking about my mother’s prediction something bad was going to happen.
When the plane arrived, I went to the other terminal to get my flight that involved lots of halls, trains, elevators and, escalators. After getting my Schengen leaving stamp, I go to the gate and wait for boarding. Then boarding gets announced and I cannot stand up. I am really scared and freaking out just like a bathroom in Amsterdam incident. After everyone mostly boards I manage to use my everything to stand and it is not at all good. I get on the plane and have a seat in the second row of economy class. As it happens to turn out the group of people around me work for Air Canada and used their travel perks to go to Oktoberfest (lucky them). The gentleman to my left was leaving the airline to change careers. My hands were not working well to at all at this point so I couldn’t put my seatbelt on and he helped me. I din. Want to keep asking for help so I didn’t get to watch a movie at all for the flight and got to watch as we flew back the map of where we were. Our flight was delayed due to a technical fault, this made me nervous that this was it, the technical fault was how this was going to all end. After they fixed the plane, it took almost another hour to get a new route, and the route took us north until we followed the UK coast then towards Greenland and then direct to Toronto.
As the meal came I could not eat hardly anything and drank the water and wine and bean salad. (Again the bean salad is always a mistake.) I had the guy next to me open the items I did eat. He could tell something was not right and we talked briefly. He was friends with the crew and I think he told them as I was embarrassed to ask for help. I have a bad anxiety for things like that.
Since I had 8 hours to Toronto left I decided sleeping it off was the best decision. I
, however, started around Greenland noticing if I slept I stopped breathing and this scared the hell out of me but not as bad as telling someone and divert the plane in 2 hours to Newfoundland as we were literally in the middle of nowhere and piss off everyone on the flight. I instead waited it out silently as it got worse and worse. I needed to use the bathroom and got up and waited in line to make it just in time. I then returned to my seat. This is the last time I would get up or use the bathroom on my own.
We then land in Toronto. My phone still had my UK SIM card and I physically don’t have a tool to open the SIM card door so I turn it on but can’t use it. If I could I could text everyone or post on Twitter that I arrived. As the doors open, I try to get up and can’t with my own power to the guy next to me helps me up and grabs my bag for me.
I take about 60 steps to get off the plane and the first step is a big one so I roll my ankle and can’t get up and am blocking the door. I am in fear at this point more from blocking everyone behind me, and only
have 25 minutes to get through customs and my flight to Saint John. The flight attendant guy was right behind me and I was rolled to the side and covered with a blanket until the rest of the passengers deplaned. Then he took off and the flight crew and airport manager took care of everything asking me lots of questions. The ambulance arrived and I was forced to help due to my weight to get up to a wheelchair and then transfer to the stretcher.
I asked about my checked bag and the Air Canada manager assured me they would take care of everything. I was taken down the sky ramp steps and placed in the ambulance and off we went.
Next post I will continue with the hospital portion of this story. This concludes the travel portion.
As the story starts to get more dramatic we need to get into the mood. I have a fitting sound track for this portion. “Walk to Rialto Bridge”
This is the final day September 23rd before things start to go bad. The morning is sunny. We check out of Hotel Park in Ljubljana. Since the elevator is small I walk my bag down with a lot of effort 12 stories of stairs. I’m not feeling the greatest, I drank too much the night before. (Again)
After a small breakfast it is on the coach for a 2 hour drive to the meal stop where I get a better meal, then over an hour to the causeway to Venice, but we hop a boat that drops us off near Piazza de San Marco. (aka tourist trap/pigeon central) I went with a group to have lunch at a small restaurant, then ditched them.
I grabbed a bottle of wine and got lost for the afternoon. I really didn’t do any of the big attractions since I’ve done most of them before, and the 3 hour line to see in San Marco was not a useful waste of time. I spent most of my time exploring parts of the island I have never seen, and try flavours of Gelati (you can’t just have one Gelato) I had not tried. My heals were bleeding from cracked heals at this point, 25-35k steps a day in sandals will do that.
Late afternoon the group reconvened and went on a gondola ride. This time around they didn’t sell wine to drink on the gondola which was disappointing but still an opportunity to get more canal photos.
After the trip we had a free hour to get more Gelati, and I found the supermarket that I could stick up on bottles of wine for half the price. Also a perk was I could weigh the bottles and knew exactly how much weight allowance I had to make for it.
The next plan on the Itinerary was a tastes of Venice tour where we went to 3 different restaurants and sampled the food and had a glass of wine at each. Most of the food was great but there was a battered seafood place and some of them made my tongue go a bit weird, but not really as bad as an allergy. I think in hindsight that this may have been an accelerator factor of the symptoms to come.
After the tour we had about two hours and the sun had set and Venice at sunset then night is much cooler than Venice in the daytime. I started by going to the Aperol Spritz party in a piazza and with the wine a bit tipsy. Then I went to see the Academia Bridge that I didn’t get to see on this trip yet. I was starting to run out of time so I hurried back to San Marco’s Piazza as we were warned that they would leave without us. At past stops, this was an empty threat as people were late all the time.
Not this time we actually left two people on the island. After a boat ride to the other side, we got on the bus crossed the causeway and checked into Hotel Vienna. This place was a place to sleep and that is about all.
The next morning after breakfast it was on the road again, off to Rome! As the saying goes “All roads lead to Rome” and the tour I was on was even called the “Trail to Rome”. The adventure as well will end in Rome. As we left Venice we had some goodbyes as a few were not destined for Rome and rented a car and drove around for a few days.
The trip to Rome was short, and my feet were hurting a bit so I was fortunate it was a bus day. With only one stop we arrived in Rome around 2pm and had an hour to get settled and then go on a walkabout.
We will leave it here and the next post will be the last of the Europe Trip 2016 story, but not the last of this series.
We arrive in Budapest around 5pm on September 20th. We were staying at Wombats Budapest and I was hungry. I needed to find a currency exchange place since I had too much Polish Zlotys left and the receptionist recommended this place around the corner. (Ibla Change) I did very well, I got close to 12,050 Forints. ($55 Canadian) Most of the other places were giving 8,700 for it. Now this place was really cheep! (Think the waiter from EuroTrip that would open his own hotel on a US Nickle.)
We went for a river tour that night and it was an amazing buffet and was as pretty as Budapest at night. On the cruise there was one couple that had been fighting the past couple days made up and got engaged!
After the cruise if you read the past posts in this series it was Shots and Beer time. We walked though this ally of restaurants and bars that was incredible. There was this amazing grunge looking place we went to that had many stories and bars in it. It was so packed, after a few beers, I just left everyone and walked back to the hotel. This is when I was approached by a woman of the night, we talked a bit, but I turned her down. She then got upset and started yelling something in Hungarian and then spit on me and said I was cursed.
Totally freaked out I went back to my room and showered. My giant bubble on my head bursts at this point and was filled with yellow puss. I decide to shower and go to bed. As I move the sheets there is a little black bug moving along the sheets. I move the mattress and there is more and then so look at the joints of the bunk bed any there is even more. Then I check the other sets of beds in the room and there is none.I go to reception and they address the problem by cleaning my stuff and giving me a different co-ed shared room for the night as they are fully booked, and would get a new room the next day. As I enter the room it is dark and I use my phone as a flashlight to make the bed (check for bugs) and then I fell asleep.
As I awoke the next morning I awake and look around the room, and there is a Australian blonde laying on the sheets, like Copenhagen, naked. I had a tour in the morning so I got breakfast and placed my stuff in storage until I got my room. The tour was okay we walked all around the Pest part of town, seen the statues, buildings and learned the history. The tour ended in the Terror Museum that was okay, but there are better things to do like the baths
After the tour some of us went to a fancy Italian restaurant that was so good. I then left the group and wandered to the Buda side to climb up to the castle and take photos. I then went to find a restaurant in that ally that was the most expensive local cuisine as I had so much money left (about 5000 forints).
That night everyone was going out again and I joined them for pre-drinks but was not feeling going out. So I just sat and talked until late with those who were sitting around.
The next morning we drove to Slovenia, we were close to the Croatian border where there is a fence and fields to keep out the migrants. Kind of felt like the Berlin Wall in theory. We got to see the biggest tourist trap in the area Lake Bled that has a famous cake. Let’s face it you had me at cake, that was what I was doing getting coffee and cake. The cake was good and the patio views were good too.
We then ended up at the destination city of Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia. Most of the group ended up going to a Mexican restaurant that was really good. Then we ended up at a very cool dungeon bar for drinks. As half the group went to a club, I went with the other group for drinks at a kind of sketchy packed place. It was the most fun I’ve had. I got waisted… again.
As we headed back it was hilarious everyone was following me as I was waisted trying to find my way back.
The next morning it was off to the final country, Italy.