Europe / Hints for Happier Travels / Travel Tips

When Travel Hands You a Lemon, Juice It:

Putting Preparedness, Resiliency and Flexibility to the Test.

They say shit happens, and it just did. Instead of reading about our fabulous experience at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, you are about to read about one of our few travel lemons, and how we plan to handle it.

Introducing Our Lemon

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Pals on the Costa Brava. We were coming to the end of our third of a four-day press trip hosted by Patronat de Turisme Costa Brava Girona, and we were blissfully descending the stairs of the sandstone bell tower in this charming medieval town after enjoying a spectacular 360-degree view and listening to the bells mark 2:00 PM. I was on the last step of the last flight on the outside of the structure when my foot hit an uneven patch and I went down.

The Bell Tower in Pals (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
The Bell Tower in Pals (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

Now, this wasn’t my first fall while traveling, and the skinned knuckles and grazed knee were typical. What was not typical was my hard landing on my left foot that had slipped behind me. Deciding to try and shake it off, I allowed myself to be helped up by Simon and Esther, our guide. That was when it became apparent something was seriously wrong. My ankle wouldn’t support my weight, it felt numb and a large lemon-sized lump was beginning to form with alarming rapidity.

View from the Bell Tower in Pals (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
View from the Bell Tower in Pals (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
Bells on the Bell Tower in Pals (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
Bells on the Bell Tower in Pals (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

To make a long story as short as possible, we spent three hours in the emergency room of a conveniently placed clinic across from Hotel Carlemany, where we are staying. I rode out in a wheelchair with a cast up to my knee. The X-rays had shown a fractured fibula.

Here is What My Leg Looks Like After Clinic Girona had Finished Their Handiwork (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
Here is What My Leg Looks Like After Clinic Girona had Finished Their Handiwork (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

Assessing the Lemon

While waiting for the final paperwork, Simon asked me if I wanted to continue with our plans for Italy and England. “Hell yes,” I responded without hesitation.

Back in our hotel room, the reality of our lemon set in. We had two choices. Our travel insurance with Allianz not only covers medical care abroad but includes cancelation insurance. In other words, we could go home without paying a penalty.

If we chose to stay, it would be challenging to rent a wheelchair in the various cities on our itinerary, and Simon would have to push me around, or I would have to sit out our scheduled walking tours.

We chose the latter because we made a commitment to Speak in English in Tuscany to volunteer for a week in their English immersion program for Italian professionals. Even more important, we have an appointment for several hours of cuddling and cooing over our two-month-old great-niece, Lara Beth Crowther in less than three weeks. As for the challenges – many of which we have no clue what to expect – we will handle them as they arise. Tomorrow is Saturday, and we will be on that RyanAir flight bound for Pisa. And no, I’m not going up that damn tower!

Squeezing the Lemon

The downside of this travel lemon is that my mobility will be significantly reduced for at least four weeks. We will need to rethink everything from whether to rent a car in Italy and England instead of taking the train as we had planned to possibly having to change hotel reservations because of accessibility issues. A simple trip to empty my bladder now requires careful planning. And as for taking a shower, that will be tricky, too.

Since every lemon has lemonade potential, here’s a list of what we’ve squeezed out thus far:

  • Everyone from our hosts to the Hotel Carlemany employees, to the orderly who wheeled me across the street to the hotel and flatly refused a tip, has been exceptionally kind, concerned and helpful
  • We had travel insurance, and never leave home without it
  • If I had to break a leg bone, the fibula was probably the best one, as it only bears 17 percent of my weight
  • I didn’t break a hip, which would have had me home and through surgery by now
  • I may have more time to write while Simon is out taking photos
  • Otto has adapted to my slow, faltering gate when I’m not in the chair, and guides me with patience and precision
  • This is a golden opportunity to assess the wheelchair accessibility of cities, public entities and attractions from a user’s perspective

So, gentle readers, this is all you’ll get from me this week. No promises, but I’ll do my best to complete the Guinness Storehouse post for you by next week.

Disclaimer: Our Costa Brava visit (not including the broken leg and skinned knuckles) was generously hosted by Patronata de Turisme Costa Brava, Girona. However, all opinions are, as always, my own.

9 Comments

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    Dona Baker

    Mar 04, 2018

    Reply

    You are a trouper, Penny! Even broken bones won't keep you down! Keep on writing; I love it!

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    Karen Padilla

    Mar 03, 2018

    Reply

    Thank God , you are going to be okay. I worry about falls also. The broken hip? The head injury? Lemons - no one's idea of fun. We've had a few, too. One head injury for my husband changed the rest of lives. I took him to the ER to have him checked out. He was on head injury protocol for a week while we were in that location. I had a fall in Santa Fe when my foot caught a gap between the original floor boards that pitched me forward at a terrifying speed toward a glass showcase - head first. I hit that case, the glass didn't break and the glass I heard breaking was a display mirror that was thrown to the back wall from the impact. I refused 911 and as I laid on the floor (because they made me) I noticed the original tin ceiling. I asked my husband for my camera - he refused and thought I was confused. I kept insisting I was fine and I wanted my camera to take a photo of the ceiling. There was no way in hell, he was going to give it to me. So I sat up to prove I was fine. I stood up but I couldn't lean my head back far enough to take the photo. So I sat on a stool holding ice to my head and waiting for the woman to total up my purchases. She gave me a package of Cow Girl chocolate as a gift for my trouble. We walked the block to the hotel and I spent the rest that day resting because the next day I started the workshop I was attending. I luckily had not signed up for any pre-conference workshops and by the 2nd day I could dispense with the ice wrap on my head. I looked like a flapper girl from the 1920's. I recovered from that, proving I'm quite hard-headed. We were traveling within the US. If I had gone to the hospital, which in retrospect would have been the right thing to do, my expenses would have been paid by my insurance. Lesson learned - You can't tell a nurse a damn thing when it's them with injury. I'm 4 years older now and in the last 2 years I have learned just how insidious head injuries can be. I knew all about head injuries having worked for a number of years in the Traumatic Brain Injury unit. I would not hesitate to go to the ER after a head injury now. For older travelers, it can lead to stokes even weeks and months later. Take care. I'm glad you are continuing your trip but don't overdo it. When you are tired - rest. Otto is so smart. Give him a hug from me. You can give Simon a hug, too. I'm sure both boys are working hard to keep you comfortable and safe.

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    JoJoan Rush

    Mar 03, 2018

    Reply

    Oh my goodness Penny. I am so sorry. I had to push FLOYD across Europe 25 years ago and it was no easy feat. Europe at that time was not very accessible. Hope things have changed. Good luck

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    Elizabeth Fowler

    Mar 03, 2018

    Reply

    My sister in law is one tough cookie & great how the pair of you are working out logistics - how to be virtually non weight bearing & travel as a blind person. New ground breaking stuff & the Guinness Distillery can wait. Get that bone healing. Elizabeth x

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    Evelyne Novello

    Mar 03, 2018

    Reply

    Hi Penny! I am so sorry for your unfortunate and painful fall. I admire your tenacity and grot and know your "lemonade " will be worth the extra work in getting anywhere. Take care, my friend, and stay safer now!!!

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    Connie Reed

    Mar 02, 2018

    Reply

    Oh, Penny, I'm so sorry that happened to you. Talk about putting a damper on your trip! You're taking it well, though, and certainly know how to make lemonade out of the lemons.

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    Libbie

    Mar 02, 2018

    Reply

    Penny, I'm so sorry to read about your accident. A couple of things popped out at me as I read. No. 1, you'll have to board that Ryan Air flight by using a stairway from the tarmac. Switching to Aer Lingus might not cost much more and will be much easier for you. It's a much better flight experience in any case. (I'm no fan of Ryan Air!) There are companies in Europe that rent wheelchairs and other equipment. Here's one: http://www.specialneedsatsea.com/ I haven't used them and can't vouch for them but them may be able to supply your needs in several places. They may also be able to arrange a shower chair and other things you need.

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    Patty McCarthy

    Mar 02, 2018

    Reply

    You are a true travel trooper, Penny!! I bet your new adventures will soon help erase the memory of the nasty fall and injury! (And just think how "buff" Simon will be after pushing you around in a wheelchair!) I'm also doing a program with Speak Anglos in Tuscany this spring. I look forward to reading your blog about the experience! Take good care.

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    Duncan and Jane

    Mar 02, 2018

    Reply

    Oh Penny we feel your pain, certainly lots of logistics to consider, the up side is lemonade. Lots of love Duncan and Jane

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