Sunday, 13th July 2014
The next morning we had a lovely, leisurely start. The weather seemed a little overcast so we stayed in bed and read our books with a cup of tea. Eventually it got too much for my husband and he hurried me out of bed so we could make the most of our final hours in Venice - big mistake!!!
We had previously seen signs for a exhibition of Da Vinci's machines and decided that we wanted to see that this morning. This proved to be a little more challenging than expected. Firstly, I felt inexplicably weird - everything was all swimmy and my brain wasn't working well. Of course, it didn't help that my beloved had rushed me out without breakfast. Mind you, after the extensive dinner the previous night we probably didn't need to eat for another week. The other reason it wasn't quite as straightforward as we would have liked was that in the absence of my brain, my husband decided to take charge of the phone and the directions. This resulted in us ending up completely lost and rather frustrated.
Eventually I commandeered the phone back again and a few minutes later we were at the da Vinci exhibition. Curiously it wasn't the original one we had walked past the previous week but by that time we were happy to settle for pretty much anything.
The exhibition was fascinating and had models based on some of his drawings. The explanations were in Italian, English and German.
About halfway through I felt so dizzy and unwell that I had to leave my husband in there and go outside to sit down for a while. Everything was swimming and I felt like the ground was moving under me. It was incredibly weird not to mention disturbing!
So naturally I consulted Dr Google - 'why does it feel like I'm at sea when I'm actually on land'. Dr Google came up trumps with a diagnosis of 'land sickness' or 'Mal de Debarquement Syndrome' which made a nice change from its usual diagnosis of incurable cancer.
Symptoms most frequently reported include a persistent sensation of motion usually described as rocking, swaying, or bobbing; difficulty maintaining balance; extreme fatigue; and difficulty concentrating ("brain fog"). Other common symptoms include dizziness, visual disturbances (such as seeing motion, inability to focus etc.), headaches and/or migraine headaches, the feeling of pressure in the brain, confusion, and anxiety. Many patients also describe ear symptoms such as hyperacusis, tinnitus, "fullness", pain, or even decreased hearing. Cognitive impairment ("brain fog") includes an inability to recall words, short term memory loss, and an inability to multi-task, unable to use a computer for any length of time and some MdDS sufferers report they are even unable to watch television, the symptoms are very debilitating and can fluctuate on a daily basis, affecting greatly daily and social activities.Interestingly, the condition often abates when the patient is in motion such as in a car, train, plane, or boat. Symptoms are increased by stress, lack of sleep, crowds, flickering lights, loud sounds, fast or sudden movements, enclosed areas or busy patterns.
Sadly Dr Google then freaked me out by saying it can last for years. However I have an optimistic nature and I was simply happy I had found a logical explanation that didn't involve incurable cancer or me losing my mind.
After my husband emerged we went to find some food. He was most perturbed that he had been in Italy for numerous meals and hadn't yet had pizza. So we wandered till we found a nice little place that we could get something to eat.
This place was highly amusing! We sat at a table outside and soon the other tables were filled up. To our left was an asian couple with multiple cameras. She was wearing a wedding dress and we had seen them around taking photos. To our right was a group of six older adults who decided it would be hilarious to photobomb this younger couple then confiscate their camera and take group shots of themselves with the bride. The younger couple took it in good spirit and the larger group were obviously well disposed to have a good time. They made me chuckle though when the young man asked them where they were from....They replied with thick German accents "Armenia. We are Armenian though our people have been in Germany for seventy years."
That is certainly some robust cultural identity!
At this point we only had a few hours left before we needed to get to Marco Polo Airport for the next stage of our adventures. So we made our way to a nearby gondola stop - in front of Piazzale Roma - and waited for twenty or so minutes for our turn so we could tick it off our list. Imagine going to Venice and NOT riding in a gondola!
As we waited we were amused to see both an ambulance and a police - the boat versions.
Eventually it was our turn!
Wonderfully, as soon as I got into the boat all my dizziness and nausea vanished and I came alive again!!! I was so happy!
The gondola ride was a lot of fun. There is nothing like seeing the Grand Canal from sea level!
However, since the waterways were still very high the gondolier had some challenges with getting under some of the bridges! At several points he had to lean to one side and on one occasion he got my husband to move to the prow and lean as well! We only just scraped under and as we went under the bridge we could see the marks of those who weren't so fortunate.
We had previously wondered whether it was worth 80 euros for a gondola ride lasting only 30 mins but I'm really glad we did it. Its one of those things that is an iconic experience and it would have been a shame to have missed it.
After this we headed back to our hotel to pick up our cases so we could go back to the airport. We had planned on taking the airport bus but on a whim decided a taxi would be much faster and more comfortable - and it was!
When planning this cruise we decided to tack on a night or two in Paris. We had been there for two nights almost fifteen years earlier and had loved it. Then when we started looking at activities we realised we would have to stretch it out to three nights. And we were thrilled when we realised that the day after we arrived would be Bastille Day! So even though I felt unwell, and was missing my kids terribly, I was excited to be about to fly to Paris!
The flight went really well with a slight hiccup of almost missing the flight despite being and the airport in tonnes of time, and the extended family who decided that they liked our seats better than their own and had no intention of moving. It wasn't long before we were in Paris!
The train ride was easy to navigate but it was fairly nasty to get off one train and go to another through a tunnel that reeked of urine. Great job on the first impressions Paris!
I had chosen a hotel opposite Gard du Nord for convenience due to our train in three days time leaving at 6am - and we were really happy that we didn't have to schlep our bags far. It was a bit of a seedy neighbourhood though - not far from our hotel was a place that rented rooms by the half hour!
However it didn't take us long to get settled and we went out for something to eat then returned to the hotel room for an early night ready for a very very busy day the next day!