Monday, December 7, 2015

Scheduling conflict

Way back when we were first married, the dilemma of where to spend the holidays arose, as I am sure it does for many newlyweds. After many years, we settled into a routine of Thanksgiving with Tony's family and Christmas with mine. Being in Germany means thinking of a new plan. Also, Tony's job requires that he be gone on holidays quite frequently. This year, though, he did not have any jobs over the Thanksgiving weekend and we decided to travel. We wanted to get away from the cold grayness of Germany so we chose to go to Portugal. We could stay on the coast and go to Fatima and have a wonderful time. That was what I pictured. The reality was quite different. The following could be looked at as a complete disaster, or as a chance to find the good among all the not so good. I choose to look at it the second way.

Firstly, the scheduling troubles. Portugal 2015 just happened to occur at the same time as the Reosti Pukefest 2015. Peter started the whole thing three days before we were to leave. I got it 24 hours later and Anna 24 hours after me. That put us less than 12 hours from when our flight was to leave. After much debate, we chose to go since we already had paid for the flight and the apartment. Poor Anna. She felt miserable, but we tried to make her as comfortable as possible. We picked up our rental van and headed toward the coastal town where the apartment was situated.

We found the apartment in what can only be described as a ghost town. All the houses, restaurants, and hotels were boarded up for the winter. Nothing was open. A lone car came to meet us at one of the closed restaurants to give us the key to our place. She assured us that some of the businesses would open up in the evening. She was wrong. We got some groceries 20 minutes away and came back to let the kids rest. We opened the door to no power, no heat, and no linens. We found the breaker box and turned on the lights. The only heat source were three tiny space heaters. The lack of linens was not mentioned on the website we booked through. The last straw came when I walked into the kitchen so the kids could not see my tears. (I felt responsible for this horrible day) Something about the coffee pot caught my eye. I moved in for a closer look and discovered this light, feathery, gray mold cascading from the old, dried up, used filter left there who knows how long ago. We turned off the lights, locked the door, and walked out. We called the owner and said we could not stay there and asked for a refund. We are still in negotiations.

Driving back to the larger resort town where we got groceries, we tried finding an available hotel room. We would have to get two rooms because we have four kids. We happened to have parked in front of a travel agency. So Tony went in to beg for help. She was most kind and had friends who ran hostels, but none could be ready on such short notice. There had been one other apartment we had looked at, but it was near the casino and had no ocean view. We called. It was still available. We took it.

The next day was Thanksgiving. We got ready to go into Fatima and headed out, stopping to play on the beach for a while. By the time we got there, Anna was feeling poorly again. The rest of us got some lunch across the street from where we parked and I let Anna rest in the van. Poor Anna. She got sick all over again right there in the parking lot. We didn't even try to go in, we just loaded everyone in the van and started driving the hour back to the apartment. We hadn't even gone 10 minutes when Jack said he felt carsick. I managed to get a plastic bag back to him just in time. Therese joined him shortly after getting back to the apartment. Right then, I decided no matter what, we were going nowhere on Friday. We would all just recuperate. And so we did. I am very grateful for Netflix.

Saturday, we made it successfully to Fatima. After exploring the grounds, we walked through the town to the Stations of the Cross. Beyond them were the original homes of the children to which Mary appeared. We wanted to go there, but daylight was quickly running out and we wanted to make it to the Vigil Mass since Tony had to leave the next day.

Yes. Tony had to return a day earlier than he thought. Rather than buy 6 tickets, we opted to keep our original flight and just send Tony back early. This meant one day in Portugal with four kids all by myself. These are the times when you find out just how much mercy God has for you, because I know that I do not have the strength on my own. After leaving Tony at the airport in Lisbon, we made our way to the Castilo de Sao Jorge. The kids had read about the castle in "The Mysterious Benedict Society" books and were most eager to visit the castle themselves. I thought the roads in Germany were narrow and scary. They have nothing on Lisbon, my friends. And here is where I will brag. I parallel parked a 9 passenger, 6 speed manual transmission van in one try, uphill. Then we tried navigating by foot to the castle, but ended up at a cathedral instead. There we hired a tuk tuk, which is basically a golf cart to take us the rest of the way. The views were spectacular and we had the best day so far, which considering the preceding days, was not hard to accomplish.

The next morning, I got up early and had everything ready to check out by 8 am, since the van had to be returned by 10 am at the airport. We then had a short 6 hour wait for our flight. We played on the playground equipment until it's fun had been completely exhausted. I bought some playing cards and taught the kids a new card game. I bought a sticker book for Therese. I also loaded a new movie onto the Ipad. A lifesaver for sure, I tell you.

Would I do this again? No. I would take a raincheck and lose some money rather than take sick kids on a trip. I am truly grateful for having been able to visit Fatima, though.

We obviously made it home safe and sound and we are now in the busy week of rehearsals before Therese makes her debut in the Nutcracker. She has been taking lessons for three whole months.

Fatima, attempt number 2

The sun was in their eyes.

Inside the original basilica

still not feeling 100%

the holm oak tree planted to replace the original. It is right beside the spot of the first tree.

He always picks flowers for me.

at the end of the Stations of the Cross

along the path of the Stations

Lisbon, Portugal

Look! A tuk-tuk!

view from the castle

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had fun and made wonderful memories. The photos are beautiful!