If I had not been so busy making as many memories as possible, if I had not just spent a night flying over the Atlantic Ocean for the trip of a lifetime, I might have been quite miserable on our trip to England.
We arrived in London during a weekend shutdown of the Metro. Instead of a smooth transition from plane to train to hotel, signs directed us to the bus. Eager young men hauled our suitcases up flights of stairs and onto the bus. No one waited to drag our suitcases down the long street to our bed.
Excuse me, not bed – beds. Our tiny room had one narrow, metal bunk bed with thin mattresses and a metal ladder with foot-piercing narrow rungs to the top bunk. The bathroom had the basics, but absolutely no room to change our minds, let alone our clothes.
Embracing the British stiff upper lip, we accepted it and left to tour Kensington Palace.
That first night, after sleeping upright on the plane, climbing hundreds of stairs and walking forever, I woke up with multiple cramps in my leg. Nearly fainting from the pain, I stumbled to the bathroom for a drink of water, found a pair of pantyhose in my suitcase and pulled them on. The cramps ceased. I slept.
I really did not feel like the Energizer Bunny in the morning, but we had traveled a long way to see this historic city. I pulled on warm socks and a jacket against the cool weather, stretched out travel-weary muscles and went to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Late that afternoon, we quit walking, grabbed a double-decker tour bus and collapsed into the nearest seat. We listened to the tour guide chatter as we recuperated on the bottom deck. An hour later, re-energized and eager to snap photos, I headed to the open, upper deck. I have some great shots of Big Ben and The London Eye (a massive Ferris wheel) but I missed one of kids in school uniforms walking down the street. As I stood to switch sides for a better shot, the bus jerked. I tumbled backwards and hit my upper arm hard against the metal brace of a seat.
I sat down, put the camera on the seat and gasped for breath.
“You don’t look very good,” my husband observed.
It felt broken, but it wasn’t. It was bruised, tender and swollen. Fortunately, we had a couple of days of riding small tour buses to see Stonehenge, quaint cottages and ancient churches.
One evening I pulled off my socks and discovered a red rash around my ankles. I shrugged it off as too many hours in socks and fell asleep on my flat, narrow bed jammed tight against the window.
The ankle rash grew from pin pricks to dots to blobs.
We went to Scotland and a more comfortable bed. The arm sported a visible bruise. The blobs itched like chigger bites.
“Do not think about the chigger bites. Do not itch them,” I told myself as we left to drive high in the mountains over Edinburgh.
The chigger bites grew. They merged into a red band of blotches creeping up my leg. The itch left. The blotches stayed and bothered me, but not enough to insist on a medical visit in a foreign land.
We flew back to St. Louis to visit my son’s family. I warned them about my rash and I said we would take a hotel room, if it worried them. They were not worried, but I was when blotches appeared on my stomach along with a couple re-shaped into a bull’s eye on my leg.
The physician’s assistant at the Urgent Care asked if they itched – not anymore. If I had been tired – well of course, I have been traveling like crazy.
She shook her head in bewilderment and sent me to the emergency room. The triage nurse asked the same questions and shook her head. Two hours later, as I waited for a blood test, a nurse told me, “well, you are officially tonight’s puzzler.”
She sent me away with a prescription for medication used for Lyme Disease. The next morning I thought my ankles looked a shade less intense. As we visited relatives the next few days, the spots began to fade. Sunday night, we happily collapsed into our own bed and slept for hours. A week later the pills ran out. No more spots: itchy, blotchy or spreading.
The picture book of our trip includes absolutely no photos of my raw-red ankles, bruised arm or the bunk beds.
Yep, we had a good time … just look at the pictures and you can tell that.