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Travel (Mis)Adventures

Thursday, July 04, 2013

This is going to be very long so if you want the Cliff Notes version :

Spent 2 weeks in the US for vacation in June, was really busy, accomplished a lot, now am back to work in France and waiting for the Kittehs to exact revenge for being left alone in the basement.

But then you will miss all of the vital life lessons & words of wisdom if you stop reading. emoticon

My (mis)adventures started the day after getting my daughter on the plane to move back to MI. Tuesday morning I spent in Compiegne wash my comforter; did some shopping while it was washing & drying. I had reserved a rental car to go to the airport for Wednesday because I had the 2 family size suitcases, my carry-on, computer bag, saxophone, dog and very large dog cage; there was no way all of this would fit in my car. I requested a full-size van for this reason.

That afternoon I ran/walked from home to work, where I thought I was to pick up the car; it is about 5.25 miles and was the first run I had done since mid-May when I started having knee issues again. That went well. Except once I arrived there was no rental for me. Apparently I misunderstood and was supposed to pick it up at the rental agency…2.5 miles away. OK, just some extra walking and fortunately it was early enough in the afternoon that I had plenty of time to get there…to get a Nissan Quashqai and not the van I had requested. The Quashqai is really big by French standards, maybe equivalent to a station wagon in the US. Normally this would have been fine but there was no way I was going to fit the dog cage in the back, there simply was not enough height. Too bad, the rental lady said, this is all we have. By that time it was too late to try to find a different agency and vehicle.

Whatever. Got it home, made it work by dismantling the dog cage. I knew I forgot to do or pack something when I left Wednesday morning but after several days of not figuring it out decided I must have got it right this time. Stupid Dog got to sit in the front seat the next morning to go to the airport…where he then had to sit in the car while I reassembled the cage in the rental car area parking lot.

Such fun.

Finally got everything out of the car, the cage reassembled, dog in the cage and everything balanced on 2 luggage carts. At Paris CDG airport they are free to use, which is nice. In Detroit you have to pay $4 for them.

Of course the luggage carts do not steer for crap and I had two of them, both heavily laden, to push. A cultural difference comment (not a judgement because I did not ask for help either) :

I have been told that the French point of view is if you need help, you ask…if you don’t ask apparently you don’t need it so it is not offered. I don’t know if that is a true cultural POV or not but all sorts of people saw me struggling to push & steer the carts and not one single person asked if I would like some help; many of them did not even attempt to get out of the way when they saw me coming (until it was clear I was going to mow them under if they didn’t move right quick) although I think these individuals were visitors, not French.

Anyway, the Air France personnel were very helpful once I actually made it to the counter area, skipping me to the front of the line to manage the dog. No complaints at all with them this time although I have not forgiven them for my iPad issue last year.

Made it to the US OK, along with all my luggage. Stupid Dog made it through doggie immigration. What is interesting here is that I was all set to move both luggage carts myself when the customs guy I asked about where to pick up Stupid Dog told me to leave my luggage with him while getting the dog and then helped me push everything through the final checks and out into the arrivals area…quite a different experience than in Paris!

Got the dog delivered to the PEH’s house along with my daughter's suitcases and finally got checked into the hotel and crashed. The next day I had eye doctor & dentist appointments for the annual checks, dropped off my sax for repairs, had a bunch of other errands including getting my son's car (my car) new brakes because they were squealing and really not responding very well at all. The PEH had told him he could wait awhile yet so my son had not yet taken the car in, although he was questioning that wisdom even before I arrived. I reinforced that he (my son) should get a 2nd opinion on everything the PEH advises, it will be better for him in the long run.

Friday I flew to South Carolina to visit my parents for a few days. While there I climbed Table Rock Mountain again; my parents live in the foothills. You have to check in at the ranger stations before starting on the trails. Ranger Guy says normally it is a 6 hour round trip – not quite 3 hours to the top and a little longer to come back down. He said if you make the halfway point in an hour you’re in great shape.

The gauntlet was thrown.
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I made it in 57 minutes, and hit the summit at 1:56. Another 10 minutes out & back to the very end of the trail and I started back down. The entire hike (roughly 7+ miles and over 2400 feet) took me 3:20. (I have pictures but will post them another time; this was not a smooth trail).

Take that Ranger Guy!

Sunday we went to visit my sister & BIL in the Charlotte, NC area. This is the BIL who had surgery back in Feb. for pancreatic cancer. He’s been undergoing chemo and his PET scan last week said all of the cancer is gone; they want him to undergo radiation as well to make really sure it stays gone. He is one of the very lucky ones, this type of cancer has a crap survival rate. They caught his very early.

Monday we went shopping at the mall in Greenville. There is a tea store there I wanted to go to, Amanzi tea. Amazing stuff, I bought quite a bit. My mother thinks I am crazy but the good tea is more expensive here (everything is more expensive here). We also stopped at the local vineyard (less than a mile from their house) because I wanted to bring back a bottle of wine to share here…it would be quite a novelty, wine from SC in France! I tasted what they had and the one I wanted, a white Merlot, was pretty much sold out for this year so I had to settle for something else. emoticon

Tuesday afternoon I flew back to MI because I had to work in the office Wed-Fri. Non-stop meetings for 2.5 days. Thursday I had my annual physical with my doctor. I love my doctor. Not only is he immensely cute, even more importantly he actually listens when I say I have a problem or concern. I finally dumped my last doctor because he cared more about saving the insurance company money than in providing full care to his patients and always had the attitude that I was a hypochondriac.

emoticon emoticon emoticon Digression Ahead! emoticon emoticon emoticon

Which I am not, BTW. I just happen to be very in tune to what is normal for me and if something starts being outside of that range I want to know what & why & get it fixed. The final straw was, after being ignored and refused an ortho referral for almost 2 years for the popping in my right knee and subsequent face planting it caused, he told me to just stop doing whatever it was that caused my knee to pop/face plant the most recent time.

Which would have been walking. emoticon

I asked him if he was really recommending I spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair because he didn’t think I needed to see an orthopedic specialist or to have an MRI (because my “x-ray is fine, there is nothing wrong with your knee”). We had a somewhat vocal argument where he tried to get snarky with “So YOU think you need surgery?” to imply I am too stupid to know when there is “nothing wrong” with me.

Wrong move.

The upshot was I got my referral and the first thing the ortho did was send me for an MRI…for which my family doctor refused permission since it was at a location that was not one of the preferred insurance company approved locations. Insurance would still have covered it if he gave his permission…but he was still being a snarky SOB and of course his office never called either me, the ortho or the MRI place to tell anyone it was refused. We found out when I called from the MRI place waiting room to find out why his office never responded.

That was when I went all FFK on their backsides over the phone. And in person the next day in front of a full waiting room of patients as I very plainly detailed my opinion of a doctor who cared more about the insurance company’s bottom line than about his patients.

I got my MRI…and a new doctor. emoticon

Anyway…back to my travel (mis)adventures.

emoticon emoticon emoticon Words of Wisdom / TMI Ahead emoticon emoticon emoticon

Back in April/May I started paying attention to my hydration and drinking more water, less coffee/tea/Diet Coke. And, as a presumed result, spending more time using the bathroom. Now, I said I know my normal…in this case normal, for me, when hydrated (6-8 glasses of water per day) is 8-10 times per day; always has been.

Yes, I have charted and graphed this; I am a spreadsheet geek (and because my OBGYN had asked me to track once to rule out some possible causes although he was not expecting trend lines and pie charts).

Now, my “normal” was easily double that and more. It got to the point where I couldn’t take Stupid Dog around the block (1.15 miles, or 18 minutes) without having an issue halfway through. I was getting up 4-5 times each night; leaving meetings several times an hour; having to sit in my car to collect myself for a few minutes in the parking lot before getting out and race walking into work, fingers crossed than I made it in time – it only takes 12-15 minutes from my front door to work and I couldn’t make it. After too many near misses and some not near enough I knew something was off and determined to bring it up at my visit. Looking back I can see that the problem first started in February, when I had to cut some runs short due to lack of bathrooms or bushes along the way.

And here is one of the Words of Wisdom…know what is normal for you so you know when something is not normal (in general, not just bathroom habits). A bladder infection, for example, may have no symptoms at all except for a decreased frequency in urination, something you might not even notice if you do not know what your normal is. And left untreated it can turn into something worse.

So I brought it up during my physical, we talked about possible causes and decided to treat the most probable (after ruling out various infections from the urine sample and diabetes from the blood work) with medication and consider next steps if the meds did not work.

OMG! THIS is what it feels like to be “normal”! Although I do use that term very loosely. emoticon

Fortunately the meds work even better than hoped because I am not experiencing any of the normal side effects. I think it could be because it is generally the elderly who take the meds, and who generally have other meds which could be interacting or amplifying effects as well as the normal effects of aging.

So…WoWs #2 and #3…do NOT be embarrassed to discuss issues and concerns with your doctor, and make sure you have a good doctor who will treat you seriously (not like the aforementioned Dr. Snarky who acted as if he were humoring the village idiot when I once complained about not urinating often enough…until my results showed I had that bladder infection).

Over that weekend I bought a new pair of running shoes for when my Brooks are ready to be replaced. Shoes are much cheaper in the US. My new pair is an Asics, I’ve not worn those before. The store did not have the Brooks or the Mizuno in my size so I get to try something new. I also went to REI to get a pair of hiking boots. I had been using my running shoes, which is not a good idea on the trails. I definitely needed something sturdier and with good ankle support.

And I bit the bullet and paid for 4 sessions with a personal trainer. I wanted to come away with a body weight strength training plan I can do on my own, because I am mentally lazy and never got around to researching what I should be doing. I now have lists of arm / leg / chest & back / core exercises for my specific goals that I can mix & match. More importantly I also now know the proper forms to help avoid injury. Apparently trying to fit in one’s daily exercise by doing squats during bathroom breaks at work when one wears heels is generally not recommended. Who knew? emoticon

Sunday I had lunch with my son and forced him to go clothes shopping. He has less than zero interest in clothes and will quite happily wear the same t-shirt and jeans until they literally fall apart. I suspect he probably won’t wear anything I made him pick out but at least I know he has decent clothes to wear even if he chooses to dress like he has nothing. I also got him a GPS, which he liked a lot more than the clothes, and which will at least be used (and helps my peace of mind).

Tuesday I had lunch with my daughter and took her to the store to get some things she needed for living at her dad’s. Wednesday the 19th was her birthday, she is now officially 15. Stupid Dog is adapting well to living with the PEH; I bought him a bed to lay on since he had gotten used to being on his big cushion bed here in France and my mother had sent him some rawhide bones and toys that her dogs wouldn’t use.

Wednesday morning I had my last session with the trainer, picked up my sax from the music store and headed back to the airport. What a mess. It took almost an hour to check my bags, they were so unorganized at the counter. Then they had problems checking me in officially because the system kept saying I had to have a Visa since they were not showing a return flight to the US.

When originally packing in France I almost left my carte sejour (green card) behind, figuring that I would not need French ID in the US when I still had my US driving license and my passport. Luckily I brought it anyway because that was the only thing that got me on the plane, although it was still a near thing. The counter person could not figure out how to get the right info into the computer to make it spit out my boarding pass. The security line had the required large family of never travelers with small unruly noisy children who had no clue about security procedures and wanted to argue about fluids and every other little thing in the world. I finally made it to the gate halfway through the boarding process.

The flight home was uneventful, no problems picking up my rental car to transport my luggage back to my home and making there about 10 am. The Kittehs were happy to see me (and to be let out of the basement). And the thing I was sure I had forgotten to do 2 weeks earlier when I left? I forgot to turn off my bedroom light so it stayed on for the entire 2 weeks…and then promptly burned out when I shut it off. emoticon

At least it wasn’t taking out the garbage or leaving perishables in the kitchen or providing enough food & water for the Kittehs that I had forgotten!

I slept the rest of the morning and half the afternoon, got up to start unpacking and do laundry, got in a walk and took 2 of my “sleeping pills” that night (a med prescribed off-plan or whatever it is called when the med is used for a different purpose than what it is marketed for). When taking them I chose to “forget” that it takes a couple of days to get used to them, and that only 1 would have been a better idea. emoticon emoticon emoticon

Friday morning I had to get up and take the rental back to the Paris airport. I could have made arrangements to turn it in to the agency here in Compiegne but World War Z opened in the US on that day & I had hopes it might be in the theatres in France to. So the rental return was my excuse to go to Paris and see the movie (which did not get released here until yesterday). But I did get one last visit to a Starbucks; there are none in Compiegne.

I made it to the airport OK, but I was still very tired thanks to the “sleeping pills”. I kept falling asleep on the train from the airport into the city (1 hour), and again on the metro to the train station (10 minutes), and again on the train back to Compiegne (1 hour).
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I woke up enough for the walk back home (4 miles and another reason I chose to return the car to the airport, it gave me “no excuse” to get in some exercise while jet lagged). I slept most of the rest of the day, and a good part of the weekend. It was nice to finally do absolutely nothing. I had my alarm set pretty much every day while in the US because I had somewhere to be or something to do.

Even though I am back to work the last 2 weeks my travel (mis)adventures are still on-going. I checked my bank statement last Friday to discover that the car rental place charged my for both my rental car and some stranger’s car too. They have yet to respond to my “Contact Us” form submission (because they do not provide phone numbers, they – like Air France – do not actually want to provide Customer Service to the customers by talking to them, or responding to the e-mails they insist you send). So I asked a co-worker to call them Tuesday…and they told her to have me e-mail them! I sent them the documents they wanted yesterday and will give them until Monday until I start going FFK by proxy.

The smart thing – for them – is to respond.

Just ask Dr. Snarky what could happen when I get riled.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    What a story!

    1777 days ago
    Ok I need a nap now!!!!!!
    1780 days ago
    Always a vicarious thrill to read of your adventures..... Gonna miss Stupid Dog, though....
    1780 days ago
    LOL. I love it! I have a Dr. Snarky. Avoid him like the plague.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoyed reading it. I'm glad you were able to climb that mountain in 1/2 the time the Park Ranger said you would. What an accomplishment. You are truly so strong and amazing!!! You should be so proud of yourself!!!
    1780 days ago
  • LYNCHD05
    i am absolutely amazed how you can take us through your days with so much detail. Loved the blog and read it all. You are one busy lady! And it does sound like you have a great holiday but I can understand how you came back tired. Not much me time in there !!!!
    1782 days ago
    1782 days ago
    I spend a large part of my work week trying to get medical care for my clients authorized by the insurance company. I think that I'll go all FFK on them!!
    1782 days ago
    I feel like I was traveling with you! Great storytelling! I'm also an excel spreadsheet freak, lol but so far have just stuck to calories, weight, body fat and exercise so far, but now I'm thinking I should start recording my frequency of bathroom use. Thanks for the tip! Glad you were able to accomplish thing during your travel & that you made it back safe & sound. Hopefully the rental company will make a wise decision and not unleash your wrath!
    1782 days ago
  • ROCKLAND2010
    Quite the story! Thanks for sharing. I love reading about other people's adventures.
    1782 days ago
  • FROSTY99
    If they don't respond to you, send those little mean kitties after them-ha ha. Sounds like life is never dull for you.
    1782 days ago
    What an interesting life you lead! I'm glad I hung in there to the end of the story and that you are back safe and sound and none the worse for wear I assume.

    We took DD#1 and family to Europe in 2011 including 5 days in Paris. I remember CDG well and even more getting all 7 of us train tickets and all our luggage through the narrow escalators and into a packed train hoping to find our rented flat while trying to read the signs in French.

    I like public transportation, but next time I'm hiring a car. Whew!

    1782 days ago
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