Monday, November 14, 2016

Sunday, November 13 – Florence or Flower Locker?

When we booked this cruise, we especially liked that there was no pressure to race off the ship at every port since we had been to most of them.  We made arrangements for only two excursions, one in Casablanca and one in Florence where we had lunch reservations at Ristorante ZaZa.  We ate there in 2001 on our first visit.

Well, the “best laid plans of mice and men” and all that means that we did not get to ZaZa for lunch.  In fact, we never got to lunch anywhere, but we did have an adventure unlike anyone else on the Good Ship Lollipop.  Here’s what happened:

We were up way too early by our standards and had a light breakfast in the room.  By 7:30, we were in the theater where we waited about 2 minutes before being called to board our bus to Florence.  We hate The Big Bus, but it had become our only viable transport after our original group of six dwindled to the two of us; the private escort we had contracted was simply too expensive for just us. 

The ride to Florence [Firenze to the locals] was uneventful.  We were dressed for brisk weather because the forecast called for a high of 55, quite a change from last week’s temps of 80 in Tuscany.  About 15 minutes out from the city center and our “disem-bus-kation,” D began to feel warm and clammy as well as a wee bit dizzy.  Blaming it on the heat on the bus and his multiple layers of clothing, he assumed that the cold air outside the bus would revive him.  Wrong.

Once outside, as the group began walking toward Santa Croce church, he actually felt worse.  He was having trouble walking and told MA that he was, as he said, “staggering.”  Granted, the street and sidewalks were cobblestone, his problem was from the dizziness.  Thing were spinning so much that he sat on the steps of Santa Croce while the tour guide gave her speech about when and where to meet and what to do in an emergency.  When the group dispersed to enrich the Florentine economy, D sat on the steps in front of a storm drain in case he threw up.

We moved to a table at a nearby café, but D feared he would fall off the chair because things were really spinning.  MA went into the café to ask someone to call our local trip coordinator [the aforementioned emergency procedure] and D moved back to the curb in front of the café.  Within 2 minutes of the phone call, Debora, the coordinator, was there.  She and MA hovered and huddled behind D discussing options while he threw up in a plastic shopping bag.  Finally, D agreed an ambulance would be in everyone’s best interests.  It should be noted that several shopkeepers were concerned enough to offer help of one sort or another; D did not want to make a mess in the leather store if he didn’t make it as far as the proffered toilet nor was he keen on the lemon offered by the barista.

The ambulance arrived in about 5 minutes.  He declined the crew’s efforts to help him stand up, but needed assistance walking to and climbing into the ambulance.  Stretched out on the gurney, he had his sweater and shirt pushed up and out of the way while electrodes were attached.  It must have looked like a scene from a TV show.  When it was time to speed off to the hospital, which is behind the Duomo, D asked if MA was coming and was assured she was in the front seat.  Off we went, MA in the shotgun seat, siren blaring, until we reached the hospital.

During most of this, D had his eyes closed to assuage the spinning.  Assorted people pushed the ambulance gurney through the Minotaur’s Labyrinth before settling into a curtained treatment area.  The staff removed the rest of his clothing thoroughly if not gently.  Now our hero was reduced to black socks and matching Jockey shorts, an adult movie in the making.  The socks were pushed down [although the shorts weren’t, thank God], and leads were added to those already covering his body like freckles.  When the almost-English-speaking doctor arrived, he checked peripheral vision, had blood drawn and sent D for a head CT.

And then we waited.  And waited.  All the while, MA and Debora were in the waiting room with no information.  Apparently, we were all waiting for the results of the blood work and for a specialist to review the CT films.  MA couldn’t get anything to eat because D’s wallet was in his pants pocket and the pants were in a bag under the gurney.  Debora offered to take her somewhere and lend her money, but, in the end, they waited together.  Debora finally left to run another tour errand, but returned when MA called later [see below].

Almost 4 hours after we arrived at the hospital, MA was brought the treatment area where the doctor said that all of the tests had been negative; D had had neither a stroke nor a coronary.  In fact, the head CT showed nothing [snickering is allowed here] although there was the possibility of a benign cyst which would not have had any connection to the symptoms.  With that, we were given copies of all of the tests [in Italian, of course], CDs of the scans and a bill for 121 euros.

We were escorted to the front of the ER where we were able to pay by credit card despite having been told we would have to pay in cash.  The gentleman who took our credit card called Debora for us and she was at the hospital in less than 5 minutes.  She called a cab to take us to the bus and called the bus to let the driver know we were coming ahead of the group.  We were on the bus almost an hour before everyone else arrived and we returned to the ship without further incident.  It should be noted that throughout this adventure, the people of Florence were wonderfully kind, concerned and helpful; if you have to go to a foreign hospital, Florence is the place to do it.

Back in the room, D stripped out of his sweat-soaked and still-wet clothing and went straight to bed where he stayed, waking briefly to talk to MA.  She, meanwhile, was not about to miss Indonesian Night in the MDR, so she went alone and garnered everyone’s sympathy while enjoying bami goring.  She was exhausted, too, and the light, and we, were out by 9:00.

And that’s how we spent our day in Florence.

TOMORROW – Resting in Rome


Saturday, November 12 – Fabulous Florence

Well, here we are with yet another sea day, so there isn’t much to report that hasn’t been written before or won’t be written again.  True, we had another formal night [chilled New England lobsters for appetizers!], but the highlight of the day was a Skype chat with Jon and The Boys.  The connection was not good, but we don’t know if that was because of the satellite connection or broadband overload caused by too many passengers using the system simultaneously.  Despite the often-frozen screen, it was good to see and talk with ey

TOMORROW – Florence and our first excursion


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