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Europe 2018… #33

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.

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A Return To My Happy Place

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.

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Arriving at the Hospital

As I was in the ambulance rushing to the hospital. I noticed that it was a Peel Region paramedic so I realized I wasn’t going to Toronto and probably Mississauga and the ride seemed really long. The biggest thought on my mind at that moment was not my condition, but that I couldn’t get ahold of my friends that were meeting me, that my bag was still at the airport, and that I haven’t cleared customs.

I started to notice that the turns and distance of freeways didn’t seem right for Mississauga. I asked the paramedic and he said we were headed to Brampton Civic Hospital.Once we arrived, I was rolled into the hospital an the person at the hospital pointed to one of a long hallway of hospital beds and the Paramedic had me roll over to the other bed. Then I was left in the hallway for a long time. A woman eventually arrives and I give her my insurance card and Medicare card and she admits me to the hospital. I’m not moving much at this point.

After another long wait this nurse comes with a phone. The Peel Police are on the line and ask if it is okay to tell my sister where I am at. I agreed and she then left. I was so tired and couldn’t sleep because of I would stop breathing.

The nurse comes back and I have to pee so she gets me a urinal that I can’t use. I think it is because I am laying down, the reality is I lost control of the mussels. The doctor thinks he knows what it is and has to take a spinal tap to check. I get brought into the little room for the test. I also decide at that time that it is a good idea to try to stand and pee. The nurse stops me and tests come back that it is Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).

This head doctor in the ICU comes to talk to me, but I was occupied and didn’t remember most of what she said but I remember her say that I was going to be admired, that it was going to take 4 weeks to be resolved, because I am under 40 that the survival rate is pretty good. She also wanted my medical history because I was going to have to have a trach put in within a half hour.

I was moved to the ICU and they put a catheter in me. The room was light coloured, there was a window to my left, there was an LCD TV straight ahead, and a red LED clock above it. To the right of the TV there is a board that had notices on it like the date, doctor, treatment, and the room phone number.

At this point I don’t remember much that really happened. The next few post will be what I remember, but a lot of it never happened my brain made it real to me.

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Arrivederci Roma, and The Life That Was

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.

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A Smooth Package

imageI love when I get a parcel in the mail and that day happened yesterday.

My order came in from Harry’s. I ordered a new Truman handle for travelling, the stand for my Winston handle, and most exciting of all 16 of the new style blades.

Even though I still have 2 of the old style blades left, I tried out a new one last night. The improved flexibility in the blade was the most noticing everyone improvement and gives a great 5 blade shave. There is now an extra precision blade on the edge. Although, I personally don’t understand the need for a precision blade but it is a perk.

I’ve now been using Harry’s for about 2 years and the savings and ease of having really good blades sent in the mail is a big perk. The only downside is that the purchase is in US Dollars even though it is shipped from Toronto, and they don’t have the free shipping in Canada like they do in the USA.

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Photo a Month from 2014

Today I looked through MyFitnessPal and determined that my weight loss goals did not happen as I started the year as 134.7kg and ended it at 133.3kg although I have gotten smaller in all the other measurements. So I then I turned to my iPhoto to remember what I did this past year, and I have picked out the best one for each month.

January

Best of 2014 - January

Best of 2014 – January

Over the holidays there was a lot of freezing rain and my driveway had very thick unbreakable ice. My thought was if I could get down to the asphalt it would allow me to get rid of more of the ice as it would melt in the sunlight.

However, it resulted in charred remains on top of the ice, as the dried out wreath burned very quickly.

February

Best of 2014 - February

Best of 2014 – February

Since it was very cold and lots of ice, what else do you do but escape to where it is warmer. One of my goals of 2014 was to add as many countries to my list as possible. Another goal was that I would not go to Europe again until I reached 115kg (which is still the goal) as motivation to actually lose weight. Therefore very last moment I went to a travel agent for the very first time and booked my first cruise to add 4 new countries (which ended up as 5).

March

Best of 2014 - March

Best of 2014 – March

Needless to say, It snowed a lot more in March. I was still sporting a very nice tan though, and remained very bundled up. I also did not take many pictures in March so it was either this or the new former Premier giving a speech to a room full of people at the local riding nomination meeting, my first of two this year with two uncontested candidates.

April

Best of 2014 - April

Best of 2014 – April

This is a phone of Claire Hughes on her Claire’s Big Bike Ride for Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign for mental health issues.

For me April was a really good month this was when I started to get smaller and began the year-long process of replacing most of my clothes.

May

Best of 2014 - May

Best of 2014 – May

Besides being my birthday month, May continued the positive vibes of April. This photo is from the first test screening of The Divorce Movie. This movie featured many people who I have met from various areas of my past, and was a really enjoyable film that just happened to by the type of movie that I would have seen anyway.

June

Best of 2014 - June

Best of 2014 – June

From my past travels when anyone asks what is the greatest place I have ever seen, the only true answer is Berlin!

This brings us to the start of the World Cup season where I went out almost every day to watch the games and cheer on team Germany over when possible German beer, or  as close to it as possible. (Sometimes Dutch beer when the Netherlands were playing.)

July

Best of 2014 - July

Best of 2014 – July

Now I could have used my celebration photo from when Germany won the World Cup, however, who doesn’t love a fireworks show.

In typical Saint John fashion it was rainy, foggy, or something else on Canada Day and the fireworks got delayed, I went out to the grassy field at Portland Point where I ran into my old friend April and her gang that I had not seen in a few years and became a very great evening.

August

Best of 2014 - August

Best of 2014 – August

If you read my last post you will recall that I really enjoyed the 2nd Fundy Fringe Festival, this was a photo during one of the evening shows with many of the performers.

Most of the best memories I do not have, or would not post them here, but were a highlight of my year.

 

September

Best of 2014 - September

Best of 2014 – September

This year I started to go to the local stand-up comedy nights “No Holds Barred” with Jon Forward at the R Bar. These are great nights filled with laughs. This was from the September Show during the Harvesting the Arts festival. There are so may stay cats in Saint John that during the act this cat came wandering in the bar and provided for great improved moments of stand-up comedy.

October

Best of 2014 - October

Best of 2014 – October

In October, I took a trip to the Canadian Wireless Trade Show in Toronto did a lot of cool things that I probably should have blogged about. For Halloween I went to Medieval Times and did not know there was a costume contest so I did not dress-up but had a great time anyway. This is a photo of the Knighting ceremony for Mario, to try to get his princess. (Sorry Mario, your princess was in another castle.)

November

Best of 2014 - November

Best of 2014 – November

Up until June, it had been a tradition to go to the Urban Deli for breakfast every Saturday morning for about 4 years. Then they stopped serving breakfast and I wandered to several different places like Big Tide and Bourbon Quarter before I stumbled on Billy’s Seafood. The first few times I was not thrilled with its people watching potential, then I started sitting at the bar and the entire experience changed. After several weeks on the way to the Imperial Theatre to see The Sound of Music I stopped by Billy’s to try the dinner menu. This was the Cornmeal Haddock that I had that night.

December

Best of 2014 - December

Best of 2014 – December

Now to finish off the year, is my usual weekend haunt, The Canterbury Lounge. Typically, the highlight is an amazing drink that Adam creates with a smile, not this night. It was a giant Bear, on a Chair, with a Hat!