Day 36 – Gaudi! (but not for this girl…)

Day 36 = Monday, April 16, 2012

It’s Gaudi day! The day I finally get to go inside Sagrada Familia, the day we go to Parc Guell!

Yeah, not so much. I was so sore in the morning that I sent Christine off to the English tour of Sagrada Familia all by herself (sniff!), and dedicated my second morning in a week to a search for therapeutic massage places on the web. I specify the “therapeutic” nature of the massage so you don’t think I am always in search of the ultimate pampering spa experience… or some other kind of massage… While I admit I have nothing against aromatherapy and a plush bathrobe, that is rarely what I get, and those other kinds of masseuses? Let’s not even go there, literally or figuratively.

Anyway, this whole “I need a massage right now” thing is not what the receptionists at massage places are generally fond of. I found one place that seemed promising and was very close but didn’t answer their phone or email, so I decided to walk down there and see if they could take me. Can you see the potential problems in this approach? Sore leg, potentially unproductive walk? Yeah, I can, too, now… but back then it seemed like a great plan.

I walked one block past Sagrada Familia (sniff!) to what looked like an apartment building, and then took the tiny elevator upstairs. I found the door easily enough, but when I knocked, no one answered. Being more than slightly desperate, I started ringing the doorbell. Finally, a somewhat-exasperated gentleman in a white doctor’s coat came to the door. I explained my situation (badly, I am sure; the walk hadn’t done much for my equilibrium), and he said he had one appointment left, but not until 6 pm. I took it, of course, and broke up the walk back with a stop in a souvenir shop where I picked up a cool Gaudi magnet – a stone-and-mosaic lizard. It was twice the price of the Made-in-China knockoffs, but was made locally and was very cool.

An example of a mosaic Gaudi lizard – which I did not see, but which inspired my magnet purchase,

When I got back, I went to bed and set the alarm for my appt. David and Quinland had waited to go to Parc Guell until Christine got back from Sagrada Familia, but by then she was “All Gaudi-ed out,” so they went alone. Apparently the Parc was well worth a visit:

I went to my massage at 6 pm –it was amazing and weird. The guy was a chiropractic massage therapist, a little fact I had not realized until he said “Okay, hold your arm like this…” and then wham! body-slammed me.  He adjusted my spine and neck, while assuring me that I would feel much better within 24 hours – which was good, because we were flying the next day. I feel taller, that’s for sure.

It’s strange… I have a long-standing suspicion of chiropractors. I know people get great results from them, but then they seem to be addicted to going back, over and over. It seems like planned obsolescence in computers: “Let’s make this work for a short time only, so we get a repeat customer.” I know, I know – I am a cynic. Perhaps it’s like brushing your teeth – you can’t just do it once and expect the results to last.

David shopped for food when he got home from the Parc, went crazy, and made a wonderful meal of bean and sausage stew, salad, bread, dessert and chocolate. And red wine. And some amazing anise things. No one has ever eaten so much food. Then we packed and weighed and re-weighed our luggage until the wee hours, then went to bed to get our standard pre-flight three hours of sleep.

Expenditures: Parc Guell, lizard magnet, crazy back massage, groceries for dinner.

Experiences: Parc Guell! and Crazy Back Massage Guy! and more packing!

Day 7 – Sickness, steroids and sleep

Day 7 = March 18, 2012

Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day, by the way. Apparently this is not such a big deal in Portugal. (Kidding! I knew that already.)

We woke up Sunday morning to my good old cell phone alarm clock. I don’t have service on that phone right now – we have been very bad about getting cell service worked out, even though my brother did all the legwork for us – but I had my phone with me when we left home, and it remains with me to this day (as opposed to my shipping it home, at any rate). It has been useful for playing Tetris and as a timepiece. None of the three of us wears a watch, anymore; we all use our cell phones to tell time at home, so without my phone we’d be lost.

Why did we finally actually set an alarm? For Mass, of course! We had tracked down a church that has an English-speaking Mass in downtown Lisbon. Apparently the priests who staff the parish are a group of Irish Dominicans who have been here for several hundred years. (Ah, yes – they arrived in the year 1600, according to their website.) Lovely as the Mass was – I, for one, got quite a bit out of it – David would like to try a real Portuguese Mass experience next weekend as opposed to the expats-and-tourists vibe. Stay tuned next week for that report.

We were actually a bit late for Mass as poor Quinland was not feeling well. That girl has been fighting one health issue after another on this trip. She spent the day before the trip at Kaiser Urgent Care getting IV fluids and antibiotics, has dealt with a horrid cough the whole week, and now has an upset stomach. After church, we decided to get her home to rest instead of taking the planned walk through town. It worked out fine for me, because I had to get some steroids in my body, pronto.

Doing the pulse steroids treatment in Europe doesn’t seem like it is going to be a big deal. It may actually be less stressful than at home, where I have to worry about missing work. My day was pretty low-key: I came home from church, popped four handfuls of pills, swallowed a bunch of calcium, and then hung around. Ultimately, I slept the day away, got up and had dinner with David and Quinland, and then slept some more. I took the second dose right before bedtime along with a sleeping pill, but it really didn’t knock me out as quickly as it usually does. I actually stayed up on the internet for hours waiting for it to kick in.

Not like that’s any kind of penance for me or anything…

Expenditures: Groceries at the Cais do Sodre train station on the way home from church.

Experiences: English-speaking Mass in Portugal; first steroids in Europe; Q getting a chance to hang laundry on the line (this clothesline-from-the-terrace thing is big in Lisbon, so it really makes us feel like we live here). We also found a bike shop that rents helmets, locks and baskets along with their bikes (as opposed to the bike shop in our building), and we got directions on riding from Cais do Sodre to Belem, and then taking a ferry over to the beach. I think this will be our outing next Saturday.

Day 2 – Settling in

Day 2 = March 13, 2012

This will be a short little post. David and Quinland walked up to Santa Apolonia station, where there is a little grocery store. I stayed at home and put my leg up for a little while.

This is MS Awareness Week, so I’m going to give you a little MS awareness. People with MS can have muscle weakness, not because there is anything wrong with their muscles, but because the nerves are not transmitting the messages from the brain correctly (“Move, I said! Move!”). For me, this makes my left leg feel like it weighs about five times* as much as my right leg, because the muscles are not working together to move it. At the same time, however, the nerves to my skin are misfiring all over creation, making every skin sensation that much more acute. When I walk a long distance, my left foot feels as though it has walked five times* as far as my right foot, because each time it strikes the ground I feel it that much more.  Having walked through every square meter of Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was not going to be doing any additional walking.

(*”Five times” is a non-scientific term that can be roughly translated to “way more” or “a whole bunch” – some people are picky about this sort of thing.)

There you go. Bob’s your uncle. Do you feel more aware? Good. We can go on.

They returned from the shop; David cooked a lovely meal of pork chops, potatoes and salad; we started to unpack and put things away; and then we all fell into a dreamy sleep. Just as I plan to do right now. Boa noite!

Expenditures: Water at the airport; phone call to Miguel; taxi to the apartment; most of the rent; groceries.

Experiences: Riding on Lisbon’s narrow streets, renting a holiday apartment, shopping for Portuguese groceries.