Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Separate Reality – PART III

La Rochelle is a seaport on the Bay of Biscay (part of the Atlantic Ocean) and the capital of the Charante-Maritime department. A beautiful and historically rich city, La Rochelle is a major tourist spot. The “Vieux Port” (Old Harbor) is at the heart of the city and lined with seafood restaurants. It was only ten minutes from the hospital Ian was at. I thought it would be best to stay in a hotel-apartment in the tourist area because I would be able to just park the car and maybe walk to a café or along the harbor to see the sights when I wasn’t at the hospital. Sounded like a good idea at the time. I had no idea how long Ian would be in hospital so I booked the apartment for a week. I thought even if he got out in a few days, he would need a few days rest before he would be able to make the long trip home to Vauvert. I took the apartment so that we could have meals without having to leave the room in case he needed to rest in bed for a while.


I left the comfort and security of Liz and Will at the chateau and Wendy and Chris nearby and headed off to deal with Ian’s current medical crisis alone. My first stop was to visit Ian at the hospital. He was doing better but we really had no answers except that the neuro tests were basically non-conclusive. Because of the defibrillator he couldn’t have the scans they really needed to determine what was going on, so they did the best they could. After my visit I made my way to the apartment. I became weary of Emily and hearing “recalculating” at almost every turn… but I managed to find my way to the apartment-hotel. Ok, so the 10-minute drive took almost an hour… but I got there.

It wasn't exactly what I expected. The room did have a small kitchen, but I thought there would be more of a “living-room/salon” area and a balcony… it was basically an entry hallway… on the left was a very small but functional kitchen on the right the bathroom/shower. Straight ahead was a bedroom with a small table and chairs in the corner. There was a window, but it didn’t open, except for a small section on the top right. Luckily it cooled down enough at night for that to be enough. It had a weird smell. I thought someone died in there.. urrrr… but decided it was probably a pet-friendly apartment and stunk like dog-rug. I had just packed the car up this morning from the chateau, and now had to drag everything I thought I’d need for our extended stay in La Rochelle up to our room. Of course it was not convenient as I had to lug everything from the car to the elevator and then from the elevator on the second floor through 3 intersecting hallways (and the pool area… which I never had a chance to use) to our apartment. It was also very hot during the day and the room was not air conditioned.

The "Apartment" Hotel
By the time I got everything into the room I was exhausted, hot and hungry. The hotel restaurant was only open for breakfast. I asked where the nearest restaurants were in walking distance and followed the vague directions. Although I used to be an avid walker I was, at this stage of life, totally out of shape. Being already exhausted I didn’t have to walk far on the empty streets around the apartment before I decided to call it quits and head back. I wasn’t sure how many more blocks and in which direction I needed to go before I got to the cafes and restaurants. At that point I felt the weight of the day heavy on my shoulders. Packing the car to leave the chateau, the 2 hour drive to the hospital to visit Ian who was disappointed I didn’t stay with him all day the way the other guy’s wife did, finding a gas station, finding my way to the hotel which had me going in circles, checking in, finding the room, going back to the car to drag our belongings back to the room, and trying to find a place to eat in walking distance from the hotel was enough for one day. I went back to the room, ate mints, watched French tv and put the clothes into the closets and drawers. I figured we’d be there for a while and tomorrow I had things to do before I got to the hospital. All I really wanted to do was sleep.

The "Elusive Bridge"
Emily was no help whatsoever during my whole stay in La Rochelle. To get out of the area I was in I needed to get to the other side of the harbor. Emily INSISTED on taking me over a bridge which was CLEARLY marked for one way traffic… the OTHER way. I could see why it was like that as it was only one car wide. Apparently it did, at one time, allow traffic both ways, but not any longer. No matter which way I twisted and turned my way around the streets of La Rochelle, Emily always directed me back to that damned bridge. I was trying to find the Postale. I needed to get money out of the bank. Ian was afraid he wouldn’t make it and wanted me to get as much money as I could to make sure I’d be ok. Our credit card was in the process of being replaced and wasn’t working at the time. I left the hotel in plenty of time to have breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel-apartment, stop at the Postale and get to the hospital before noon. Here it was already noon and I still hadn’t gotten to the Postale. In my constant re-routing trying to find a way over the harbor I found myself back at the apartment. I parked, went inside and tried to explain my plight to the concierge. Luckily, he was just leaving for lunch and in the direction I needed to go. He was kind enough to have me follow him to the Postale. He expertly wound his way around the Harbour entrance and I saw where all the cafés and restaurants were. I tried to remember the streets he went down; all of which I passed, but made wrong turns on. I gratefully thanked him, parked and got my cash from the Postale ATM (yes it HAD to be a “Postale” ATM.) I was very relieved to find that from there, Emily easily got me to the hospital within the famous "10 minutes from the hospital" that seemed to elude me. Ian seemed better. The vertigo seemed to be under control which in turn eased the constant nausea. He seemed in much better spirits and we were hoping he’d come home within a day or so.

I found my way to a Carrefour and shopped for food and sundries we’d need. By the time I got home and brought everything upstairs it was dark, but I was very happy to be able to cook my first real meal in days. The next day I’d cleverly figured out that Emily would guide me to the McDonald’s in the village center without having to cross the harbor and from there to hospital without having to deal with the “bridge” issue. It was kind of a ridiculous way to navigate, but it saved time and frustration. I once again successfully achieved the “10 minute” hospital drive. I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

Expecting Ian to tell me he’d be coming home the next day, I was quite surprised when he told me they were going to FLY him back to Nimes hospital as they could not find an answer to his crippling vertigo. Since he was also cardiac they thought it best he went to his “home” hospital and he’d probably be leaving the next day. With all the stress and worries and running around like a pack mule this whole “holiday” now I’d have to drive home ALONE through the mountains back to the south of France. Panic was seeping through the cracks of my frustration and weariness. I did NOT want to do this, yet it was probably the best thing for Ian because I couldn't see him making the long drive home in the fragile state he was still in.

Anyone who knows me, knows how I hate driving. I didn't have to deal with it while I lived in NYC because I happily used public transportation. On the other hand, when I lived in Chicago (just outside the city) a car was necessary. My driving was limited to the train station (when I worked downtown), or a job in the local suburbs, or the supermarkets and stores in my local area. I lived in a bustling town so I was lucky that just about anything I needed was right there. I hated “merging” so if I needed to go anywhere that included the expressways… I either got a ride or didn't go. I also hated to drive in bad weather. Living in Chicago… crazy arctic weather was 8 months a year. When I realized I had to drive through the Pyrenees mountains on an overnight journey back home, alone, I was pretty nervous and not looking forward to it. I was comforted by having “Emily” guide me home… so I guess I didn't feel totally alone. Except for veering off to find my hotel, most of my journey would be on the A-62. Ian wanted me to drive directly home the next day, but I wasn't ready for that. Besides, I had a fridge full of perishables as well as having to arrange an overnight stay at a hotel, load up trusty Emily with nav-sat info, unpack all the clothes from the closets and repack them into the bags again along with the electronics (laptop, chargers, Ian’s difib monitor, etc).

I spent the next day “discovering” the charms of La Rochelle. I wish I were able to stay a little longer because I saw that across the bay there were little boat tours and I really would have enjoyed being on the water. I’m an ocean girl… being on and around water is relaxing and replenishing … both of which I was in dire need of. Back at the apartment I re-packed everything and tried to cook and eat as much perishable food as I could. The rest had to be dumped and I packed up what would keep in the car for 2 days. The following day I checked out early. Unfortunately, my reservation was non-refundable and I couldn’t get reimbursed for the days I had left or the internet I paid for through my original check out time. More money, out the window.

Once I got out of La Rochelle and onto the highway, driving was easy. It was a beautiful day so I didn’t have to freak about driving in a downpour. After about 4 hours of driving I exited the highway for a winding drive through the beautiful mountains of the Pyrenees. The landscape was awesome and at every turn there was more wonder and breath taking views. I don’t know how many tiny villages I drove through, but at last Emily got me to the little hotel snuggled into a tiny mountain village in Saint-Pierre-Lafeuille. It was easier to find than I thought it would be.

I checked in before dark, had wonderful dinner in the hotel restaurant and enjoyed the sunset mountain view from the patio of my little room. Pictures just don’t do it justice. It was very beautiful. I slept easily. The next morning I got up early, had breakfast and checked out for the last leg of my journey. I spoke to Ian the night before and he was already home and in the apartment. He was waiting for me to get home… which I was, in about another 4 hours… God bless Emily. The holiday from hell was over. Ian was home from the hospital. A friend was due to come in from the states within a week and all we wanted was a healthy Ian and correctly balanced meds so that his horrible vertigo stays at bay. A little normalcy was all we wanted.

a la prochaine mes amis
Please feel free to visit my page "A Marzocca's Europe" on Facebook

Apologies regarding the space of time between part II and Part III of a Separate Reality... I'm trying to catch up to start next year blogging in a more "real time-ish" manner... ha, we'll see.  If you want to start from the beginning, go to the BLOG ARCHIVES in the right hand column, click on January of 2012 and click on the first one.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a ... good night xx


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