Take It To the Limit

We all have our limits. While several things we’ve run across on our adventure have been annoying at times there are other things that have passed beyond merely annoying to outright frustrating or “avoid if at all possible.”

While this path may look somewhat smooth I can assure you it’s not. I have to be careful with every step I take so I don’t fall, creating extra work and strain on my muscles and joints. Smaller cobblestones are even worse.

For example, I have reached my limit with walking on stones or cobblestones, or at least my right hip has. Our wonderful Thanksgiving Day tour of the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Roman Forum had us walking on ancient stone roads for nearly five hours, and the bursitis in my right hip has finally screamed “enough!”

Stones or smaller cobblestones have become the one thing I have come to dread. Because of a past left knee fracture I have to be especially careful about falling again, and in being careful on stone streets I’ve ended up putting lots of extra strain on my right hip. I did fall while I was in Florence because of a cobblestone (thankfully without injury), and while stone streets couldn’t be avoided there I learned which streets or sidewalks were the smoothest, and had the time to rest between outings so as not to aggravate my hip. I left Florence in good shape. All that went out the window on our Colosseum tour, and the bursitis is now at a near-crippling level. We have another two weeks to go in Europe too, so I see a big, fat cortisone shot in my future upon our return to the U.S., but in the meantime it is affecting how much and how long I can walk and what we can see and do in Rome. If I can be grateful for anything it’s that I am not suffering from arthritis, and won’t need a hip replacement. Bursitis is pretty awful though.

A huge tour group of more than 50 in Strasbourg (from a Viking cruise).

Both Brett and I have reached our limit with large tour groups. We have met many wonderful travelers from all over on our adventure and had some great conversations as well as picked up some good tips, and for the most part people from all over are considerate and accommodating, but tour groups have been something else to behold at times no matter their nationality. We’ve run into some with up to 50 people who can fill a square or take over a prime viewing spot in a matter of moments. Since a tour group’s time in any one location is usually quite limited, some members feel no compunction about pushing others out of their way or going in front of even though other visitors have been patiently waiting their turn to view a painting or take in a view. Brett has had his fill with some of the leaders of these large groups too, who are usually polite but then make sure to position their group right where he’s been waiting to take a photo or view something up close. According to him, it’s happened one too many times, most recently yesterday in St. Peter’s Basilica. Mostly though our experience with other tourists and visitors has been very positive, but these big groups have been another thing entirely. (Full disclosure: we were in one big group ourselves, on the wine tour to St. Emilion in France. There were around 40 in our group and while the guide was delightful we were miserable being part of a crowd, and were happiest when the guide let us wander off on our own and gave us a time to meet back at the bus.)

We entered the “time for a haircut” stage soon after we left Switzerland.

Finally, both Brett and I are in desperate need of a haircut, and are way past our limit of where we like to be with this. Brett’s hair is downright shaggy now, and I once again am sporting what I call my “old lady pouf” and want to scream every time I look in the mirror or try to do something with it especially since I am also down to my last drops of styling cream. We both regret not getting our hair cut when we were in Florence, but neither of us could pull the trigger – there was something a bit frightening about not being able to communicate with a barber or stylist in English.

All in all though everything is continuing to go well and we are having a good time, hip pain, head colds and all. But we do have our limits and in a few cases we have reached them. It feels like it’s time to go “home” for a while and we will be doing just that in another two weeks.

20 thoughts on “Take It To the Limit

  1. JJ says:

    I’ve been to Italy twice: 2012 and in July this year. Both times were with large group tours. The first time, we went to the Colosseum, but our tour was cut short due to a protest in the area and the Colosseum workers walked off the job to join the protest! Our tour was just ending when that happened so we didn’t miss anything, other than visiting the gift shop.

    When we were there in July, the tour group was going to the Colosseum, but since we had already been there, I asked the guide if there was something else we could do instead and she recommended the Forum and Palatine Hill since they’re all near each other, so we did that on our own. We bought a ticket that included all 3, but we just stayed at the Forum and Palatine Hill. Since we didn’t have a guide, we just walked around at our leisure, but I remember the cobblestones and a lot of loose gravel. You really have to be careful walking there, but it’s an ancient site so if they paved it, I think it would lose it’s authenticity. It also was very hot that day so we didn’t stay too long, but it’s all amazing to see in person. I’ve also been to the Vatican twice.

    I have to say I admire the stamina you and Brett have. I’m quite a bit younger and I don’t think I could travel for the length of time that you are. After a couple of weeks somewhere, I’m ready to go home! But I’ve only been on large group tours that move from place to place at a frantic pace, so maybe doing it the way you are would be less exhausting. I wish I could do that, but I just don’t have time since I work and the most I can take off at one time is 2-3 weeks. I try to see as much as I can in a short time and group tours are the best way to do that, even if you feel like cattle. It’s certainly not ideal, but there are some perks to going on group tours like being able to skip the lines and not having to arrange transportation.

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    • Laura says:

      I have nothing against tour groups whatsoever, but the unwieldy size of some of them has been frustrating to deal with at time. Yesterday at St. Peter’s I got shoved out of the way while I was viewing Michelangelo’s Pieta by a huge group of Chinese tourists, but American groups have been problematic at times too, literally flooding a square in a matter of moments so that no one else there can see anything. I found the size of some of the Viking cruise groups surprising – If I had paid that much for a cruise I don’t think I would then want to be put in a group of 50 when out and about! But that’s just me.

      We have enjoyed being able to spend time in the places we visit versus rushing through, but we know we have the luxury of doing so because we’re not working any more. Also, for many people a tour is the most affordable way to travel and see places someone might not otherwise be able to go to. But, in my opinion, smaller versus larger is always going to be better, especially on tours.

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      • JJ says:

        Oh, I agree about large tour groups. I also hate the way some of them behave and have witnessed the same behavior you describe. It seems people leave their manners at home in some cases. The next time I go on a group tour, it will have to be a lot smaller–maybe no more than 15 or 20 people, if such a thing exists. My friend was trying to convince me to go on a cruise that goes to Italy and Greece next fall, but there would be 70-80 people so I told her she can go with her husband! That’s just too many people and it would not be enjoyable.

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      • Laura says:

        The tour company we’re using for India allows no more than 12 people per group which is perfect for us. The tour we took of the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Forum was another small-group tour with a maximum of 18 allowed; there were only 11 of us the day we went including two (well-behaved) children – it was a very nice size for moving through the sites and easy for the guide to keep track of us all. Anyway, if you search for “small group” when you’re looking for tours, they’re out there!

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  2. Joan Simko says:

    Stretch those hip muscles. Ice, ice, ice and Ibuprofen. What about going to a clinic there for cortisone? And, as a hairdresser..pictures are worth a thousand words..find a magazine of hairstyles and point to one:) Most salons have books of hairstyle photos, too. Seems crazy you will be back in 2 weeks!

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    • Laura says:

      I do stretch, but am going to spend the day stretching tomorrow. And, not even one of the houses/apartments we’ve stayed in has anything even resembling ice! We have good insurance and I’m pretty sure I could get some sort of treatment here for the bursitis, but it’s not an emergency, just uncomfortable, and I’m unsure of the protocols that would be followed here (“Sorry lady, besides cortisone/instead of cortisone you’re required to go through three weeks of physical therapy” or something like that).

      I told Brett he should have gone to the barber and said, “George Clooney” and he would have gotten a great hair cut. I think we’ll both hit up the barber shop when we hit Portland, although I was going to ask you for a salon recommendation!

      We too almost can’t believe we’ll be back in Portland in just two weeks! The girls are excited too – we’ll be staying in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

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      • JJ says:

        I noticed the lack of ice when I’ve been to Europe. One time my friend’s foot was painful and I asked the hotel desk for some ice and they looked at me like I had two heads. I told myself next time I go, I’m going to bring one of those gel pack things that you can put in the freezer. Maybe you can pick one up when you get back to Portland. The one I have is small and is meant for travel (not heavy).

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      • Laura says:

        Thanks, JJ – that’s a really good idea. We also need to pick up a small sewing kit. I have ruined not one but TWO pairs of my pants here in the past three days – there are sharp things everywhere, and I caught the pants (a heavy cotton knit) on them and tore holes. One hole is small enough that I can repair it but the other pair had to be thrown out. I can thankfully manage for the next two weeks with the pants I have left, but it’s very frustrating to have two pairs unavailable now.

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  3. tracy says:

    I hope you recover enough to enjoy Rome. It is good you are listening to your body. My Mom and I found transit easy to use when we didn’t want to walk TOO much (she’s 80). Try the Citymapper app, it works great to give real time arrivals (its hooked to the ATAC system, Rome’s transit system) if you want to get around without walking everywhere.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Tracy! We are taking it slow, and for now sticking with places closer to home. We’re taking tomorrow off completely (it’s supposed to rain all day) and then depending on the weather will decide where to go on Monday, and then visit the Vatican museums on Tuesday before departing on Wednesday. We are big fans of using transit; however, our closest bus is the #64, also known as the “pickpocket special,” so we walk whenever we can or take the Metro.

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  4. Pat Wolfson says:

    You must be tired! I think that we all forget how hard it is to be away from “home.” Are you going to Lisbon next? If so, I have a Facebook friend in Porto, about 3 hours away. She has traveled all over the United States and speaks fluent English, in case you need anything. Let me know and I’ll contact her. Also I remember being in a tourist bureau in a small town in Italy; the folks all spoke English, knew where to go for any need, and had detailed illustrations of the human body that you could point to, to obtain help for any malady or injury. In case you want to see a doctor; we did and he spoke perfect English! Good Luck!

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    • Laura says:

      Thank you so much for the support, Pat. We are tired, but not of traveling. Rome has stressed us out for a variety of reasons, and then adding illness and pain on top of that hasn’t helped. But, we’re still having a great time here and are glad we came. We plan to rest tomorrow and then will head out again on Monday and Tuesday to visit a couple more places before we depart on Wednesday for yes, Lisbon! We have dreamed of visiting Portugal for several years, and we may try to head up to Porto for an overnight visit.

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  5. Vivian says:

    There are over 100 American military bases in Italy. Could you get medical care at one of those? Since you’re using Tricare, it shouldn’t be a problem. just google for the nearest location. Hope you both feel better soon.

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    • Laura says:

      Sadly, most of those are not really “bases” as we think of them but small detachments and such, and without medical facilities. The closest actual base for us with medical facilities for us might be Camp Darby, back up near Pisa, but that’s over an hour away by train, and my situation isn’t that bad. I’m resting today (Sunday) and staying off my feet and hopefully will feel much better tomorrow.

      Never knew though that there was so much U.S. military in Italy! It was fascinating going through the list to see what’s here. Brett spent considerable time in Sigonella and Naples when he was in the navy, and I knew about the air force bases up north, but had no idea there was so much else here.

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  6. Jo says:

    European pharmacies usually have at least one English fluent pharmacist. And they are trained to give advice and medicines that you don’t see in the USA. Absolutely worth a visit. You can pick up a gel pack there and a good salve such as Voltaren. And walking with nordic walking sticks is in vogue, will be a big help in the not falling category.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks for all the good advice! The one type of medicine we did not bring was something for a cold because many U.S. cold medicines are not allowed in European countries. Brett has so far not wanted to stop in an Italian pharmacy to get something and is “toughing it out.” He is getting better. A stop for a gel pack though might be a good idea for my hip. I am resting today and should be OK by tomorrow, and will be careful not to over exert myself. I have also upped my pain medication – I had a terrible toothache a few years ago and before I could get to the dentist he told me to add one extra tablet to the dosage because that was the difference between prescription strength vs. over-the-counter. Doing that now has made a big difference in the amount of pain relief I get now. We’ve also picked activities for tomorrow and the next day that will require less walking than some other things.

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  7. Janette says:

    So sorry your hip is really acting up. I have been told that European pharmacists are much more like RN’s here—so you might try limping in there.
    As for the hair–just take in your starting picture from this blog! (August 29th?) The stylist should be able to follow it. BUT it is a large city and it might cost much more then you want to spend.
    I stayed for a week just outside of the Vatican walls. When I got to the museums when it opened, left for mid day and returned just before closing. I huddled next to guards when I wanted to stay in the Sistine Chapel for a long linger.
    One guide told me that it was wonderful that I got loads of close pictures- but I was now in one picture that her fifty people will ever get of the statue. So, I just stood back when they came and reproached in a relaxed way. Rome is always busy (and just think- you are there for the “down time”). It is still the only European city I would like to return to—as you love gelato – I love all of the different tastes of Bolognese sauce!

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    • Laura says:

      I cannot imagine what the crowds must be like here in the summer! So far we haven’t had to wait for anything other than around 40 minutes to get into St. Peter’s Basilica, and that line moved quickly too. We had skip-the-line and a special entry into the Colosseum, and have reserved times for the Vatican Museums on Tuesday so hopefully it will go well.

      We are doing well here, all things considered, but haven’t been bit by the “Rome bug” yet. I think coming off a month in Florence we feel overwhelmed here, and like there’s no time to get a feel for the city and its rhythms.

      I gave the hip a full day’s rest today and think, along with pain medication and some stretches, that I will be OK tomorrow. Brett’s cold is slowly improving too. Because we’ve let it go so long, at this point there’s nothing we can do about our hair but hope for the best!

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  8. Laurel Hill says:

    Just catching up on your posts after a crazy but fun Thanksgiving holiday and weekend with family dinners and visiting kids, grands and dogs. So sorry to hear that Brett has a cold. I caught one at the end of our trip to Paris and there just isn’t anything over there that kicks it out like American drugs. I pack them now always. And I can’t imagine those cobblestones are great for your bursitis. Glad to hear you’re listening to your body and soon to be near a steroid shot.

    Could not agree more re: tour groups. We had a bus unload while we were visiting Versailles and ended up racing to keep ahead of them. Ugh. The jockeying for position that cuts off everyone else’s sightline is just so annoying. We visited some lighthouses on our last trip to Maine and went early, early to avoid the worst of it. Generally there were two or more buses unloading as we left. It can be just maddening.

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    • Laura says:

      So great that you had a good Thanksgiving with your family. We are really missing the girls, but we’ll all be together in about three weeks.

      I cannot imagine what it’s like here in the summer, with an increased number of tourists and all the tour groups. Racing to keep ahead of the groups is what we’ve done this entire trip, and we’re traveling during the low season!

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