Nothing was sticky

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Best chocolate eclair EVER!!

Imagine that you’re trapped in an interior, windowless 8 ft by 14 ft room with recirculated air for 7 days with another human being who is NOT your significant other. Or even a semi-significant other.

Now imagine the 5 ft by 5 ft bathroom – so small you can brush you teeth in the sink while sitting on the “throne”. Not that I did that…

Well – maybe once. I was in a hurry.

Now imagine that the person you’re trapped with has, not one, but two bouts with an intestinal bug during the 7 days you are in this itty, bitty, closed in room. The first occurrence manifested it’s self in the lower GI tract. The second was in the upper digestive area.

Both involved extensive use of the toilet, if you get my drift.

Welcome to AGMA’s Griswold European vacation!

Vacation blues indeed.

Our first 4 nights in Barcelona were great! Sangria, pinxto, tapas, cava, cider, chocolate. Pretty standard, awesome stuff for Barcelona!

Our hotel, The Denit, was wonderful. Not luxury, but nice amenities and location, location, location. We had a lovely terrace that would have wonderful to use had the weather been a bit warmer.

HOHO (hop on hop off) bus tour, walking tour of the Gothic Quarter with Runner Bean Tours, a Barcelona Guitar Orchestra concert at the Palau de la Musica (amazing place!), a tapas tour with Sandemans New Barcelona Tours (I managed NOT to get my purse stolen on this one), self-directed Monserrat tour, Sagrada Familia (for 4 hours), the Picasso Museum, dinner with an old friend who is in Barcelona for a few months.

Whew. Awesome.

Then the trouble started.

On Friday, Mary (my traveling companion) was struck with some sort of a bug during breakfast and promptly proceeded to act like she was prepping for a colonoscopy. Multiple times.

This was a problem.

We were supposed to board our cruise ship in the early afternoon. It was 10 AM.

Dutiful AGMA went to the pharmacy. My pantomime to the pharmacist the nature of the problem could’ve made me a YouTube star. The pharmacist he knew exactly what the problem was…

9 Euros later, Mary was downing a couple of “plug up” pills. A wonderful front desk clerk who knew of our dilemma allowed us to stay 2 hours past the checkout time so Mary could rest. And hopefully the magic pills would do their thing.

So, naturally, AGMA went out shopping.

Don’t judge me.

“Things” settled down with Mary. She managed to rally when we needed to check out. A quick cab ride to the dock and a painless check-in, and we were in our cabin on the MSC Meravaglia. Mary promptly went to bed where she stayed for the rest of the day and most of the next day.

AGMA was alone and on her own.

MSC is a European cruise line. Most of their customers are from Europe. And Asia I think, judging by the number of kimonos on the formal nights. While most folks spoke English, I was definitely in the minority as a native English speaker. And seriously in the minority as an American.

The ship was new last May and is sparkling. And HUGE. There were 19 floors. Something like 4 pools and 10 hot tubs. Four chocolatiers actually making chocolates in a very large, open shop. A mozzarella cheese making kitchen. A bowling alley with 2 lanes. An indoor tennis court. 10 lounges/bars (one just for champagne). A specially made Cirque du Soleil theater with 2 different CdS shows. An long (think shopping mall long) 2 story atrium with shops and restaurants, and digital projections and shows on the ceiling. A outdoor water park and obstacle course. A large casino, 3 large restaurants, a huge buffet and large theater for their live shows rounded out the offerings.

AGMA was overwhelmed.

Mary perked up on day 2 (Sunday) having missed a trip into Marseilles on day 1. I liked Marseilles. I had the best chocolate eclair EVER from a small bakery there…

All was well in Genoa (day 3), Rome (day 4) and Palermo (day 5).

Then, double trouble struck. Mary got another bug the evening of day 5. This time it was tummy issues. It also involved multiple visits to the bathroom.

But wait…AGMA got sick as well. All of the wine and spirits, and fatty foods I’d been ingesting for 9 days made my pancreas very, very angry. So I was down for the count with acute pancreatitis.

We both missed the tour of Malta on day 6 and I am very, very sad about that. FWP right?

I rallied on day 7 which was an ‘at sea’ day. Mary, on the other hand, stayed in bed for yet another day. AGMA has never seen anybody sleep for almost 48 hours. Because she is 76 and basically hadn’t eaten and had very little to drink for 2 days, I suggested she see the ship doctor.

Nah baby nah – she wouldn’t do it.

But she HAD to get up and dressed on day 8 because we were back in Barcelona.  Our cruise was over.

Our original plan was to go to Park Guell and do some other sightseeing before our flight for Portugal took off that evening. But Mary didn’t have the endurance to walk down the street let alone walk around Barcelona. She had no clue what to do.

AGMA (cue the hero music) to the rescue! I found service called ByHours that rents hotel rooms in 3, 6 and 12 hour blocks.

And I know what your thinking…

Yes, maybe it’s used for that. Okay, for sure it’s used for that, but it is also for travelers with long layovers (no pun intended.) I got Mary a room at a small hotel on Las Ramblas for 6 hours.

It was a nice room. And nothing was sticky. That was encouraging.

To be continued……

Pass the cava

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Even though I’m in Barcelona now, AGMA’d love to tell you that I’m enjoying a cafe con leche and writing this post in a small cafe in the Gothic Quarter.

But I’m not.

As much as I want to dash off a post after our first few days in Spain to let everybody know how it’s going, AGMA is a realist. I’ve been through this too many times before. It ain’t happening.

So I’m in my favorite coffee shop in Atlanta. And I’m going to use that future post date function in WP.  I love that.

This trip is going to be really interesting.

Hubs is staying home taking care of the Princes of Casa AGMA, otherwise known as our cats, Max and Gus.

So I’m traveling with a dear friend who is getting ready to turn 77 in March. She’s young in mind and spirit, and is in great shape physically.  Plus she’s a voracious international traveler.

However, she’s hard of hearing (and won’t get a hearing aid) and I think she’s starting to have some memory issues.

And she has really fuzzy personal space boundaries.  This kinda makes me more crazy than I already am.

You know the type…physically, she moves really close to you whenever you interact. We spent 9 days in Paris 5 years ago and by the time AGMA got home, I wanted to move into a monastic hermitage and live alone the rest of my life. We would look at something in a store window and she was practically right on top of me. I may have gently thrown an elbow at her once or twice.

Don’t judge me.

It was a relief to be in a restaurant and have my own side of the table.

I think it might be related to her hearing loss?

So I’m looking for some suggestions as to how I might let her know in a sweet, kind, but firm way that she tends to get a bit to up close and personal. Anything?

Since I’m getting over the flu, I can use that for a few days.

“Don’t get to close to me Mary, I still have an active virus inside of me and could soon be a biter on the Walking Dead.”

Our trip is in 3 parts.

Part 1 – Barcelona. Cava, tapas/pintxo, paella, cava, crema catalana, bombas, cava, jamon ibericao, cava.

Can you see the pattern? AGMA loves me my sparking!

Since my last visit in Barcelona was so brief, I’m anxious to see what I missed the first time around.

Added bonus…AGMA has a former co-worker working on her masters in Barcelona so she’s going to hang with us on some of our adventures. Nothing beats having an insider show you the local scene!

Part 2 – ‘The Cruise’  THIS is going to be the true adventure. We are going on a 7 night Mediterranean cruise on a cruse line that gets terrible ratings on the all of the cruise bulletin boards. The ship itself is new and supposedly amazing, but everything else pretty much sucks according to the reviews. But it’s cheap – really cheap – and we’ll be seeing places we’ve never been (except Rome and you really can’t visit Rome too much…)

AGMA’s a firm believer of going into something like this with the lowest possible expectations. That way, if something is actually decent, it’s thrilling!

I’m planning on bringing lots of hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes.

Part 3 – Porto, Portugal. Portugal is hot right now. Not with heat (although temps aren’t too bad) but as a tourist destination. In 2017, it was voted by the Word Travel Awards as the Best European Destination. Portugal actually took home 37 of the 123 awards.

Smokin’ hot.

Who knew?

AGMA visited Lisbon and the Algarve about 5 years ago. Since Mary abdicated all of the trip planning responsibilities to me, I decided that we’d go to Porto, home of Port wine. It’s supposed to be incredibly charming and a throw back to “old” Portugal (whatever that means…), and prices for food ‘n stuff are less than in Lisbon.

And after sharing a tiny interior cabin on the cruise for 7 nights with a person who has personal space boundary issues, I booked a 2 bedroom AirB&B in Porto.

Of course.

I’m hoping to be able to post while we’re on the cruise (or at a port with wifi) so you may actually get some real time AGMA updates from the road. Or water.

‘May’ being the operative word…

AGMA has to admit that I’m so looking forward to 2 1/2 weeks without hearing about the Massively Yuge Sh*thole Cheeto every minute of every day. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to the attempted destruction of our democracy, but a little respite now and then is good for the soul.

The only problem is that, when people find out we’re Americans, EVERYBODY (I know this from experience) will be asking us, “What the hell is going on with the US??”

I think my answer will be, courtesy of Molly Shannon’s horrible alter ego comedienne, Jeannie Darcy….

“Don’t get me started. Don’t even get me started.”

Pass the cava.

Temporary help wanted: GA on R&R

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Sophia, my guardian angel, has been busy. Very busy. Like way too busy.

I think she’s ready to quit.

Can guardian angels quit? I hope not…

AGMA’s back! I really wanted to post something is weekend but it didn’t happen. It’s been a rough re-entry between jet lag and prednisone-induced insomnia.

But what a trip… Wow!

I normally don’t blog much about my travels, but this trip may be the exception. So many “interesting” things happened. A bit too interesting.

Our first stop was Barcelona. What a beautiful city. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – oh my – I don’t think I’ve ever said “Wow!” so much.  And the food and wine was yumbley.

But we spent the first 24 hours without our luggage. It decided to stay in Atlanta for an extra day. There is wisdom in packing an extra set of clothes and some basic toiletries in your backpack Grasshopper…

It was in our hotel room when we came in from sightseeing the next day. Miraculous!

Sophia was on duty.

And it wasn’t long before she was busy again.

Aside from it’s beauty and culture and beaches, Barcelona is notorious for it’s thieves and pickpockets.

Yup.

That second evening, we went on a tapas crawl booked through a local tour company. There were like 35 of us and we visited three tapas bars in different parts of the city. It was fun, but then it got “interesting.”

We struck up a conversation with a lovely young, honeymooning couple from Australia and ended up hanging out with them for most of the evening. Very fortuitous. Sophia’s doing I’m guessing.

Normally, I am very vigilant about my purse and wear it over my head across my body. It’s a special cut-proof travel purse with all kinds of latches and locks that I ordered online. However, all that is kind of worthless if the whole purse goes missing.

Yup.

At the second tapas bar we visited, in a moment of jet lagged, prednisone-induced insomnia fog, I set my purse down on the floor beside my chair. On the wrong side. Easy pickin’s for a couple of pros.

Two women walked by and bumped my chair. At that instant, Sophia stuck a pin in my rear and I shot to attention. I looked down at the now empty spot that my purse had recently occupied. AGMA knew immediately what happened.

The fog was gone, replaced by a huge shot of adrenaline. For Pete’s sake, it was only the second day of our trip…

“My purse! Those women took my purse!”

AGMA was wearing as skirt and flats. I’m a marathon runner, but I can do a decent sprint if I have to. Especially amped up on adrenaline.

I went flying out of the restaurant and down the block after them. I had no plan – I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do when I caught them. They were cool operators; they were just strolling down the block. This was not their first rodeo.

“Excuse me, but I think you have my purse and I want it back.” Excuse me??  AGMA’s Emily Post was showing.

They both walked up to me and assured me in calm voices they didn’t have my purse. They even opened up their purses to let me look inside. Smooth…

In the meantime, Trent, our new Aussie friend, followed me out of the restaurant. I guess he thought I needed back-up. I did.

All I remember is saying over and over, “You took my purse and I want it back. You have my purse, please give it back.” AGMA’s nothing if not exceedingly polite.

They were soooo concerned that I was soooo upset. They wanted me to go back into the restaurant to calm down. Sure they did.

Nah baby nah.

So while I was talking to them and keeping them occupied, Trent decided to do a little looking around. He went behind a parked car and, lo and behold, came walking back with…

MY PURSE!!!

At that point, the two women shrugged like “Oh wow – look what he found!”, turned and walked quickly away.  I shook my finger at them and said loudly, “You should be ashamed!”

Seriously? How incredibly lame. At that point AGMA had earned the right to drop numerous F bombs and do a variety of obscene hand gestures transcending any and all language barriers. But I just felt incredible relief…

A quick check back in the restaurant showed all contents present and intact. Whew.

If it wasn’t for Sophia giving me a kick in the butt activating my Spidey senses, it could have been a devastating evening and really ruined our trip. Very much a First World problem I realize, but I’m still incredibly thankful I didn’t have to deal with all the issues around a stolen purse.

Whew.

And this was just the second day of our trip.

Stay tuned for the further adventures of AGMA and Sophia in Europe…

P.S. It’s great to be back!!

Off again

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Cycling: 101th Tour de France / Stage 15 Illustration Illustratie / Peleton Peloton / Lavendel Flowers Field Champs Veld / Landscape Paysage Landschap / Tallard – Nimes (222Km)/ Ronde van Frankrijk TDF Etape Rit (c) Tim De Waele

AGMA’s off again.

Off key, off kilter and off balance. Yes all of that, but off as in so long, farewell, auf weidersehn, goodbye.

ROAD TRIP!!

Well, it’s a road trip that starts with a plane ride.

Actually it started with a plane ride. Due to the fabulous miracle of technology, I’m scheduling this post to be published after we leave. Right about now we should be ass deep in a lavender field in Provence.

Nice image.

Hubs and I are on one of our most ambitious trips yet. Ambitious not in distance traveled or mountains ascended but ambitious in the variety of experiences we’ve scheduled into less than 2 weeks.

Honestly, it didn’t seem that bad when we were planning it. Now that it’s staring us in the face, I’m sort of wondering what sort of mushroom we ate that night.

Tapas and touring in Barcelona, the markets, wine and gastronomy of Provence, the thrill of the Tour de France in Andorra, the holiness of Lourdes and the Running with the Bulls adrenaline rush in Pamplona. In 12 days.

We’re freakin’ nuts.

But as AGMA has been so clearly and soberly reminded of late, she’s far closer to the end of the race than the beginning. Might as well go for the gusto while she’s still on our feet.

Wasn’t that an old beer commercial?

And did you happen to catch the Tour de France part?

AGMA’S GOING BACK TO THE TOUR DE FRANCE!

Did I say that too loud?

It’s all part of the not Aging Gracefully schtick. A relatively normal, middle class 60+ American grandmother to 1.5 children chasing up and down mountains in Europe after world class male cyclists in their 20’s & 30’s wearing spandex.

It’s difficult to explain this late in life obsession so I’m not going to even try.

But thank God AGMA has a late in life obsession.

Something to be passionate, enthusiastic and joyful about. Something to look forward to so much that you feel like you can’t contain your excitement. Something to make you feel like you’re 8 years old again on a summer night in June chasing lighting bugs.

I’m pretty sure the lightening bugs weren’t wearing spandex.

I know plenty of folks my age who feel that, for whatever reason, that kind of joy, enthusiasm and passion is meant for those younger, and not them. And I think that’s incredibly sad because it’s absolutely not true.  Like most of what The Donald says.

My amazing younger son is continually rolling his eyes at me. When I became a massage therapist at 57. When I started my blog at 60. When I ran my first marathon at 61. When I put together my first Tour de France fantasy team last year. When I started my little eBay business a few months ago. When I asked him what kind of a tattoo I should get…

My Lucy and Ethel schemes.

He also is very proud of how AGMA is navigating the choppy waters of later life. He told me so a couple of weeks ago. That felt pretty damn good.

And, if the truth be known, he’s responsible for starting me on the cycling obsession AND the marathoning. But that’s another post.

Behind every successful AGMA is an incredibly supportive son who is also a BFF.

Don’t you love it when you can make your own best friend? It’s just that you have to wait 32 years until they blossom…

It was worth the wait.

So while Hubs and I are picking the lavender out of our crevices and enjoying the discount Euro thanks to those wacky Brits and Brexit, throw caution to the wind and do something that will get your pulse racing and give you a devilish gleam in your eyes.

Please.

Look for AGMA on the TV coverage of Stage 9 of this years Tour de France this Sunday, July 10th. I’ll be the lady in the tall red and white Cat in the Hat hat with the cowbell (gotta have more…), the yellow TdF shirt and the green, yellow and white leis around my neck.

Seriously.

With the racing pulse and gleam in her eye.

Viva la Tour!