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A long and eventful day in the port of Naples!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Did you know that Sophia Loren grew up in the slums of Naples? Did you also know that the great tenor Carusa was also from Naples? There is quite a bit of history in the city of Naples. But, it's actually mostly famous for some unique "attractions" just outside of the city. One of these is a beautiful, picturesque region called the Amalfi Coast. It is one of the most scenic areas in the Mediterranean. Sorrento is a seaside resort that is home of the legendary sirens who tried to lure Odysseus onto the rocks. We walked along the narrow and steep streets of Sorrento and stopped at a small restaurant to enjoy a cup of coffee and some delicious pastry.

Another famous city in the area is Positano, where John Steinbeck lived. Our day tour included having a delicious lunch at a very fancy hotel. We even had champagne on the balcony, with a view of the bay.

I have to admit that even though I was excited to go to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and Positano, I was really, really excited to go to our next stop which was Pompeii! Did you know that Pompeii and another local town, Herculaneum were both recovering from an earthquake in 63 AD when disaster struck again with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD? The 20 feet of ash that covered Pompeii did provide a safe "tomb" until archaeologists discovered the site in 1748. It is amazing to see the well preserved wall paintings, store fronts, forum baths and beautiful mosaics that adorned the floors of the town's upper class.

This picture shows a "fast food" store. The big clay pots held stew or other meals so that someone coming through town could grab a quick meal.

These pictures show impressions that were made by pouring liquid plaster into the hollows left by the disintegrated bodies. These "bodies" show us what the people of Pompeii were doing in their final moments.

This was such an amazing and exhausting day! My poor, dear, sweet husband got the raw end of the deal, though. It was almost impossible to roll my Inogen around the streets of Pompeii and he ended up carrying it most of the time! So, when we got back to the boat, we both took a much needed nap. In fact, we didn't even bother going to the dining room for dinner and ordered room service instead!

Thanks for reading!

Back to the Mediterranean!

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Our next stop was Florence and Pisa. Pisa was absolutely amazing! The "Leaning Tower of Pisa" is actually just one of three impressive buildings in the "Field of Miracles." The plan of the residents of Pisa was to create their own Holy City. The bell tower (the leaning tower), a baptistery and a cathedral were unfortunately built on the unstable soil of this former port city. According to our tour guide, after the first three levels were complete, the tower began to "tilt." Instead of trying to fix it or tear it down and rebuild on more stable land, the builder of the the tower, Bonanno Pisano, left town! He didn't return until shortly before his death. He is buried at the base of the tower.

The Baptistery was modeled after the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Florence is a magnificent city! The Italians call it "Firenze," which means the flowering city. The Medici family was a very rich family that had a real love of art. They commissioned work from such artists as Michelangelo, Donatello (not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) and the poet Dante. Probably the most famous work of art in Florence is Michelangelo's David. But, Rod and I fell in love with the church of Santa Croce that holds the tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo!

I must say that with all of the beautiful art in Florence, Rod and I decided that our favorite "piece of art" was the delicious ice cream that we had at this restaurant!!

Thanks for reading!

Thank you everyone, I"m feeling better! :)

Friday, October 26, 2007
Well, I figured out yesterday afternoon why I was having so much trouble bouncing back from the stupid colonoscopy X's 2! I was laying around feeling so "PH-y" and kept getting more and more frustrated. I pulled up my website on Addison's Disease and was reading a section on the importance of increasing steroids during surgeries and had an "A-HA!" moment! I remembered hearing the GI doc saying to give me another 50 of IV steroids after the procedure. When I got up yesterday morning and looked at the list of instructions that the hospital sent home and it said to just take my regular dose of steroids. HELLO!!! It's very, very important to titrate down after a large dose of steroids until you get back to the prescribed dose. So, I called my beloved Dr. Husband and asked him about it and he told me that I was exactly right and to take some extra steroids! I did and within 30 minutes I was feeling better!! It's been a little bit up and down today as I try to figure out exactly how much to take, but I'm definitely feeling better!!

Anyway, I just wanted to share and to thank you again for all of your well wishes and very, very corny and crappy jokes!!

Much love

I'm home, and quite honestly, I feel rotten

Thursday, October 25, 2007
I don't know if it was being in the hospital since Monday, having it take FOUR HOURS for the discharge paperwork, the fact that I had to drink and "you-know-what" for basically three days, having two colonoscopies or getting zapped with a whole bunch of extra steroids along with IV fluids for three days (equals lots of water retention) because of the Addison's Disease, but I feel rotten. The good news among all of this whining is that I only had one very small polyp and it's history.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you all for being here and to let you know I'm home.

much love

I can't take this waiting game...so... back to the trip!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007
OK, it's 10:00 a.m. and I'm not scheduled for "colonoscopy..take 2" until 2:30. I'm driving myself nuts so I decided to be productive and take my mind back to a happier time....Nice, France!!
Rod and I like to think of our experience with our first "port stop" of Villenfranche, France as a learning experience. We had to take these cute little boats called "tenders" from the ship to the town of Villenfranche.

From there we were told it would be very easy to buy a couple of train tickets that would take us to Nice and Monaco. I should have know that we were in trouble when I told Rod it would be a waste of money to get a cab for the walk from the dock to the train station. We walked and walked and walked and then we walked up stairs, lots of stairs. Then after we bought the tickets we had to go back down stairs and then back up stairs to get to the correct side of the tracks (keep your comments to yourself). We decided to go to Nice first. We enjoyed the train ride and arrived safely in Nice. We agreed that we really wanted to go to the Matisse Museum and did have to get a cab for that trip. It was a nice museum and it was filled with drawings, paintings and sculptures by Matisse. The museum is located in the middle of a beautiful park which made the visit that much nicer.

We left the park to grab a cab deciding we wanted to get back on the train to go to Monaco. We couldn't find a cab....anywhere. We even started walking towards areas that looked more "cab-like" but found no cabs. We spotted a hospital and walked there thinking we could easily find a cab. There were no cabs and no one who "spoke English and/or were willing to help us." So, we started walking. We walked for about an hour and 1/2 until we saw a bus stop. Rod said we should get on it, no matter where it was going! So we did.

Luckily we had a nice driver who helped us get to the next bus stop where we got on another bus to go to the train station. Needless to say, we decided to skip Monaco and head back to the boat. From then on, we made sure we either part of a tour group or we were incredibly prepared!
This is a picture that a couple from our boat took of us right before we got back on the ship. Boy! The two of us look like we need a vacation!!

Still in the hospital...feel free to start the jokes....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The gallon of disgusting stuff wasn't strong enough for my "system" evidently because when I woke up from sedation, I was told that I was going to have to stay another night and drink some different kind of disgusting stuff. They did do the upper GI part and things looked good (at least I think that's what they said...I hope I wasn't dreaming that part....).
So, I have already had tonight's "cocktail" and I've been "busy" since I drank it 2 hours ago. I have to have another "cocktail" tomorrow morning at 5:00 and then hopefully have the procedure done early and be able to go home.
I heard the weather was nice today and I am seriously bummed (sorry, pun intended) that I missed it. Butt (:)) I've heard on the tv that it's going to be nice again tomorrow. So, hopefully I can get out of this joint and at least crack (:)) the car window on the way home and get some fresh air!!
Thanks for reading.

Having a little "fun" on the side.....???

Monday, October 22, 2007
Just to let you all know that I'm taking a quick break from the vacation journal to stop off at the hospital. I checked in around noon today and am getting "prepped" for a colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy scheduled for tomorrow morning. I have to be hospitalized because of the Addison's Disease (endocrine insufficiency). Both the GI specialist and the endocrine specialists were very uncomfortable with the idea of me being at home with all of the potential problems that could arise with the Addison's and the PH. So, let the fun begin!!
This is the third time I've tried to do this test. The first time it was scheduled, I ended up in the hospital for a week, discovering that I had Addison's. The second time I was scheduled for the test I ended up having my gallbladder taken out! So, hopefully, the third time is the charm!!
That's all for now.
Thanks for reading.

Barcelona, day 2

Saturday, October 20, 2007
Hello again! I just wanted to do another quick little entry to tell you about getting to meet Marta and her husband James. Marta and James live about an hour away from Barcelona and were kind enough to drive into Barcelona to meet Rod and I for brunch. Marta and I had "met" online through the Pulmonary Hypertension Association discussion board. Marta, like me, has PH. Also, Marta, like me, is on Flolan! It was so amazing to get to meet a woman who lives 7 time zones away, but who has so much in common with me! We discussed what it was like to have PH, we discussed mixing our medicines, we even compared our medicine pumps and the packaging for our Flolan! It sounds like Marta's disease isn't quite as progressed as mine. But, interestingly enough, she is already registered for a lung transplant. Evidently the rules and regulations are much different in Spain than in the states. Isn't Marta beautiful? Isn't James a hunk??? :)

After brunch, Marta and James took us to see one of the big tourist stops in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia or "The Church of the Holy Family!" The construction on this church started in 1882 by Antonio Gaudi and is still not finished! The outside walls of the church represent different important events in the life of Christ. For instance, the east side represents the Nativity. It is a very ornate building. We were told that people either love it or hate it. Here are a couple of pictures so you can make up your own mind.

That's it for now. I'm going to go outside and enjoy this lovely weather.
Thanks for reading.

A Trip in Review...Barcelona

Thursday, October 18, 2007
Hello again! I decided to blog some of our vacation highlights and include some photo's for your viewing pleasure! We'll start with Barcelona.
We flew into Barcelona a day before the cruise left so we could get a bit adjusted to the time change. Did I mention that we were SEVEN TIME ZONES AWAY??? Anyway....after we got settled into our hotel we decided to go out for a walk and take in the sights. Our hotel was only a block away from "La Rambla" which is considered a famous pedestrian street.

It was very interesting seeing stalls selling everything from flowers to turtles! We also saw some very interesting street entertainers including this angel!

I don't know how these people can make a living doing this kind of work!
After we strolled around for a while, we decided to get some dinner. We found an Italian restaurant that faced the "La Rambla." After we ordered we heard and then saw the police driving down the "La Rambla" with sirens blaring and lights flashing! Plus, all of the police had on all of their riot gear including some kind of serious-looking long-barreled guns! The owner, or at least who we assumed was the owner of the restaurant started running around the place, wringing his hands. Suddenly, he runs over to the front windows and pushes a button. Immediately, these metal garage doors come down the outside of the restaurant, covering all of the windows and doors and essentially locking us in! Here are a couple of pictures that we took while we were "under siege!"

So, your mission, if you choose it, is to decide who looks goofier when they are faced with potential death and destruction while on vacation, Rod or I????
Oh, by the way, nothing ever did happen with the police. We did hear some chanting and saw some college-aged kids walking down the street with signs, but that was it! As the restaurant owner pushed the buttons to allow us to leave, Rod said, "See? Nothing bad happened. At least now you'll have some interesting drama to write about on your blog!" He was right!

Well crap! Wikipedia's suggested jet lag recovery time...

Sunday, October 14, 2007
"The condition of jet lag generally lasts many days or more, and medical experts have deemed that a recovery rate of 'one day per time zone' is a fair guideline." We were SEVEN TIME ZONES AWAY!!!! Plus, "Age may also be a factor on the severity of jet lag." But, there is hope for my future......"A recent study in hamsters showed that sildenafil (also known as Viagra) aided in a 50% faster recovery from forward shifts in their daily cycles." One of the medications that I take for my PH is sildenafil. When used for treatment of PH it's called Revatio. So, maybe I'll "bounce back" before the week is over.
In the meantime...here is a picture of Rod and I in Dubrovnik, Croatia before jet lag attacked our poor OLD bodies!!

Thanks for checking in. I'll write more when I can function.


Rome on the Run!

Thursday, October 11, 2007
I'm going to need to make this a quick one. It is nearly 10:00 p.m. here on the boat, floating on the ocean and we need to get up at 4:00 a.m. to get dressed, fed and off the boat by 6:30 a.m. and make it on our plane by 10:00 a.m.
Yesterday was an amazing ( and long....an 11 hour tour!!) day. We went to Vatican City and went through the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel where we saw Michelangelo’s first work. Did you know that he nearly went blind from the paint dripping in his eyes? He also didn’t want to do the job. The pope at the time wanted him to paint the ceiling, but, as a sculpture, he wanted to do statues. Isn’t it incredible to think that the job he hated was one of his most magnificent pieces? Anyway, we also saw the outside of St. Peter’s Basilica (couldn’t go in because of the long lines and a concert for the Pope was scheduled for the early evening) but we were at St. Peter’s Square we saw the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum and numerous other old things! (Can you tell I’m tired?) We also went to the famous Trevi fountain where we each threw in our coins to wish for love and a chance to come back to Rome.
I’m really sorry to cut this so short, but I really need to get to bed. When I get home, I promise to fill you all in and include....PICTURES!!

Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite! Thanks one last time for your prayers and for reading.


Much, much love,

It's the wild traveling tourist!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Hello again from the Royal Caribbean! (Do you suppose they’ll pay me for advertising?) Well, it is Tuesday, October 9th, about 4:30 p.m. and we are just cruising away! I’d thought I’d take advantage of our day at sea to catch you all up of the exciting events! Let me do a little backtracking. When last we visited, Rod and I were cruising on the Tyrrhenian Sea going from Naples, Italy to Venice, Italy. If you look on a map, you’ll see that we went all the way down around the “boot” (we were actually on the “boot” when we went to Positano, Italy on our Naples stop), through the Ionian sea, into the Adriatic Sea and back up to the top of the boot to Venice. We had almost two days to enjoy the sights of Venice and to laze around on the ship.
In Venice, we visited St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Doges’ Palace. If you have ever seen pictures of Venice that show people surrounded by pigeons, then you’ve seen St. Mark’s Square. For some reason, people seem to be enamored with buying a euro’s worth of bird seed and becoming a human bird feeder. I don’t get it. Maybe I’ve just had to clean up too much bird-poop in my life to be fully delighted in having hundreds of “flying rats” as one man called them, hanging on my arms and sitting on my head!
On the second day of our visit, which was Saturday, October 6th, we went on a gondola ride with a couple that we have gotten to know from the ship. (Yes, we have actually socialized and made some new friends!!) It was not nearly as exotic and romantic as it looks in the movies, but it was very cool to float around a town that has no front porches and who’s back doors open right up onto the canal. We did walk around a bit more and were thrilled to find a public park! I was so excited to see some grass!! Up to that point all we saw under our feet was cobblestones, bridges, boats or water!
Sunday landed us in Dubrovnik, Croatia!. We took a shuttle bus to the “Old Town of Dubrovnik.” The Old Town was built inside an amazing 1.5 mile long wall that was built as a fortress. Inside the Old Town we visited a Franciscan Monastery that boasts the oldest working pharmacy in Europe. We also visited a couple of ornate churches and Rod even took the zillion stairs (I’m exaggerating, a little) to go and check out the 3rd oldest synagogue in Europe. He took a couple of illegal pictures so I could experience it. (He’s such a good little criminal!)
Monday was the first time we have encountered rotten weather! And,from what I’ve heard, the timing couldn’t have been better! We stopped at Corfu, Greece. We had luckily chosen a “panoramic” tour which means we sat our butts in a big comfortable bus and were driven around the city. The island is absolutely beautiful and incredibly green. There are over 4 million olive trees on this small island that is home to about 150,000 people. During our “panoramic tour” it rained like stink, we saw lightning over the sea and also had some “goofy Italian” as our tour guide called him, that decided to pass our rather large bus on a very curvy road then lose control of his car and slide into a ditch, completely smashing the front of his car. Our bus driver, Christo, jumped out and got the guy out of his car. He was fine and several other cars stopped. But, to be on the safe side, our driver did stop at the police station to report the accident. Another highlight was stopping at the highest point of the island and enjoying a slice of vanilla cake! OK, I know this sounds like a pretty sad little port stop when a car accident and a piece of cake are the highlights, but, what are you going to do? I could tell you about all of the piles of garbage around the town because the garbage men were on strike, but I don’t want to ruin the beautiful picture you must have in your mind as you think of Corfu, Greece.
Today is Tuesday and, as I said, we are at sea. We’re going back around the boot so we can be in Rome tomorrow. I’m so excited to see that magnificent city! Today we slept in, ate breakfast, took a nap, ate lunch, now Rod is taking a nap while I’m typing. Actually, I’m sure Rod is really tired because he decided to try the rock climbing wall that is here on the ship! He was an animal! I couldn’t believe how fast he went up! He’s going to try the harder section of the wall on Thursday.
Well, that’s it for now. I’m going to try to get online and copy and paste this update before I need to get ready for dinner. Thanks to all for reading and also for your continued prayers for safe and healthy travels.

Much, much love,

p.s. I want to be honest for all of my phriends.....this has not been an easy trip....I don’t want any of you to think that you must be doing something wrong because you haven’t been able to travel like this. Dragging around my oxygen, keeping my Flolan cold, mixing my Flolan and staying virus free (yes, there are numerous colds going around this boat) is hard. But, it is really, really worth it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m determined to walk away from this trip with happy memories for myself and especially for Rod. Now, those of you that don’t have PH, I’m sure what I wrote doesn’t make sense to you. But, I know that my phriends understand, and I love each and every one of them for it.


Thursday, October 4, 2007
Hello from the Mediterranean!! This is the first chance I’ve had to get onto the internet since we’ve set sail. But, now I’m on and ready to roll with the info!!
We left Friday night from Omaha around 7:00 p.m. We flew to Minneapolis and then to Amsterdam and finally Barcelona. We arrived around 4:00 p.m. Our flights were very comfortable and very uneventful. I had no trouble at all. I had mixed an extra cassette of Flolan before we left, so all I had to do was switch out cassettes when we were on a short layover in Amsterdam. I used my Inogen concentrator for the flights, except the long one from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. Rod ordered some oxygen tanks so I could sleep a bit longer in between “switches.” I get about 2 1/2 hours on one Inogen battery, although in an airplane, sometimes it’s closer to 2 hours. (I think I must breath more frequently or something.) Anyway, with the oxygen tanks, I only had to switch out once, after about 4 hours. It worked out very, very well.
We arrived in Barcelona around 4:00 p.m. which is about 9:00 a.m. Omaha time. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Le Meridian, got all settled in and then headed out to check out the town around our hotel. Our hotel was situated in an area called the “Rambla” which is more like a boulevard which was filled with street “actors” and venders that sold everything from flowers to fish....live fish! It was strange to walk around and see cages of parrots, turtles, goldfish and mice for sale! Some of the street “talent” included a man dressed as a cat who hid in a giant garbage cat, making cat noises, then occasionally jumping out and scaring someone. I’m not sure how he thought that would bring him money, but he had his coin can out there anyway! After a nice stroll, we picked out a nice looking Italian restaurant that faced the “Rambla” and ordered some delicious dinner. Right before our dinner arrived, 5-6 police vans pulled up on the Rambla with the lights flashing and their sirens sounding! Policemen jumped out in full riot gear! Then, the restaurant owner, who was jumping around, wringing his hands, pushed some buttons and closed some kind of metal garage doors that covered the entire front of the restaurant, windows AND doors!! We were locked in! No one seemed to know what was going on! At one point we did hear some loud chanting and the “garage door” opened a little bit and we could see what looked like a bunch a college kids marching with signs. Later on, someone told us it was “just” a political demonstration. Whatever it was, it ended, we ate AND were charged for a “sitting fee!” Oh well, at least we got a good story out of it!
The next morning we had a very special treat! A friend that I had “met” online through the PHA website drove an hour from her hometown with her husband to meet us for brunch! It was amazing getting to meet Marta and her husband James. Marta also has PH and, like me, is also on Flolan! We shared PH stories and Flolan stories! We even compared pumps and bottles of medicine! Marta spoke very good English so we had no trouble communicating. After we ate, Marta and James were kind enough to take us on a little tour of Barcelona where we visited the Holy Family Church or the “Segrada Familia.” This is a church that has been a “work in progress” for over 100 years and it’s still not finished!! It is very ornate, has multiple spires and is huge! The best part was that none of us had to pay since Marta and I are “handicapped!” What a country!!
Marta and James got us back to our hotel in time for us to catch a taxi and get to the boat. We set sail around 7:00 p.m.
We have a beautiful room that was even more beautiful because a couple of friends of ours, Ramona and Todd had the cruise company decorate our room with a “Bon Voyage” theme! It is wonderful! We got settled in, unpacked, ate and slept and slept and slept!!
On Monday we arrived in our first port, Villegranche, France. It is a beautiful little port city. We walked around looking at the shops and all of the boats docked in the port. Then we successfully maneuvered the Villefranche train system and went to Nice! In Nice we visited the Mattise Museum which was situated in a beautiful park! We saw numerous drawings, paintings and sculptures by Mattise. They even had some furniture from him private homes! We maneuvered the train system again, successfully and arrived at our boat in time to set sail for Lavorna, Italy!
On Tuesday, in Lavorno, we took a bus tour to Florence, Italy where we saw so many things including Michelangelo’s “David.” We also visited Pisa where the famous “Leaning town of Pisa” is located along with a beautiful church and baptistery.
On Wednesday, we arrived in Naples, Italy. We took an amazing tour that included the beautiful Amalfi Drive, Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii!! It all seemed like a dream, being able to see all of these famous things in person!
Rod and I are both doing great. These tours have been a bit difficult but Rod has been a real trouper! The poor man had to carry my Inogen for much of the tour of Pompeii because the whole area was covered with giant boulders, which doesn’t make for easy rolling!
We’ve both been getting plenty of sleep, PLENTY to eat and have so much fun getting to spend so much time together. Well, I better close for now. It’s formal night for dinner and I’ve got to do something with this hair of mine. Thanks all for the continued prayers for safe and healthy travels. They are definitely working!
Thanks for reading.
Much, much love,