Friday 23rd December – Not a Great Day for Travel

Good morning. Actually, not good. I’d been up in the night with a sore tummy, cough, dry throat and trouble breathing. It all came to a head in the shower where I threw up and had hot/cold shivers. I was still optimistic as I returned to my bed, I set an alarm for 9:30am so I could rest for an hour, then go down to get some food in my tummy. When the alarm came around, I gingerly descended from my top bunk only to sit down on the vacated bottom bunk and put my head between my knees. One of the girls in the room asked if she could do anything for me and I asked if she could bring me some breakfast from downstairs because I didn’t think I could make it down there. She kindly went off to ask reception if she could oblige. Within minutes of her closing the door, I had another big chunder in the small vanity sink in the corner of the room. Now I was really feeling terrible. I hurled until the sink was full and blocked. I did my best to unblock it, but it was no use. I felt so miserable to be alone and at my most vulnerable in a room shared with nine other people, but I could do nothing. After cleaning myself up and covering the sink with a towel, I went down to reception to ask for a plunger or some other tool to clean up the mess. They couldn’t offer anything and said housekeeping would deal with it, much to my protests, I didn’t want anyone else to have to deal with my mess, but they said it would be fine. When I asked about a doctor, they said there was an SOS service that came to the hostel so they organised that for me and said I could stay past the normal check out time of 11am if I had to. Honestly, they couldn’t have been more helpful.

By the time I got back to bed, I was feeling a little better (having emptied my body of all the yucky stuff) but I stayed in bed for another hour and a half before Dr. Philippe knocked on my door. A very nice French man with perfect English, he did a quick assessment and told me I had a virus of some sort and prescribed me a few different medications to treat all of my symptoms. I paid him EUR70 in cash, which was pretty much all I had, so lucky. He instructed me to stay in bed for the next two days and said I could eat bananas, rice, cooked vegetables and pastry. Of course the French doctor would prescribe pastry! I didn’t have the guts to tell him I’d be leaving bed in a few hours to get back to Tilburg, so I just thanked him profusely for coming and retreated back to my resting position in bed.

I resolved to rest until 1pm when I would have to leave to catch my BlaBla car back to Tilburg. As foul as I was feeling, I did not want to be in a hostel with this illness so was optimistic of surviving a four hour car ride and a short train ride to get back to a private room. I dozed until the time came, then brushed my teeth and slowly packed my bags, ready to go. I checked out no issues and walked out into the cold, looking down, as if the big wide world would get me if I looked it in the eye. The pharmacy was right across the road and the lady very helpfully filled out my script and explained again how to take each medicine. She sold me some more tissues also. I sat in the chair of the small pharmacy to take my first round of meds. Back out on the “ghetto” streets, I walked very, very slowly towards the center of the city. I passed many bike stations and longingly thought of how nice it would be to glide along on two wheels, but just plodded on, consuming as little energy as possible.

I stopped at a Chinese take-away restaurant where I bought a huge tub of steamed white rice for an astounding EUR15. It was a lot of rice, but no amount of rice is really worth that much, but I couldn’t argue without French and I was sick so I didn’t care, I paid and walked away with my medicinal food. I also stopped at a grocery store for some bananas, but neglected to buy the prescribed pastries wanting to play it safe for now.

After over an hour, I’d walked the two kilometres to the train station near the Louvre. It seemed like an obvious meeting place and it felt like I was in the right spot. I had time to eat a small amount of rice and a banana while I waited. As 2:30pm, the pick up time, came and went, I got nervous. My phone did not work in this country and I had no other way to get home and no more energy to get anywhere else, so I was not feeling good. Fifteen minutes late and still nothing, I was really starting to worry. At about this time, a lady came over to me and spoke in rapid French, among which I recognised the phrase “BlaBla”. I nodded and turns out she spoke English so she explained she was also waiting. She had a working phone at least so we could get in touch if nothing happened. Eventually near 4pm, a young girl came running across the street and explained that her father was parked around the corner and she was very sorry for the delay. She found the last passenger waiting nearby and we all crossed the street to the waiting tiny Citroen hatchback. Our driver Yvan, was a well dressed Asian man and very polite and accommodating. He did well to fit all of our small luggage into the back of the Citroen. With five passengers crammed into the leather seats, it was not going to be a comfortable ride.

We set off and drove north out of the city. Half way out, Yvan realised he’d forgotten something so we navigated our way back through the city traffic to retrieve it. Almost an hour later than we’d originally planned to leave, we were driving in the right direction again and he followed exactly the path I’d taken to walk to the pick-up point, driving right past the hostel, so in hindsight I could have saved myself the walk, but I can only imagine how frantic I would have been at 4:30pm wondering where the hell my ride was so it was for the best.

I had a few small naps against the rear window and snacked on my rice and bananas to pass the time. We stopped once for a bathroom break where I was well enough to walk around without incident. Four hours later, I was happy to emerge from the cramped, uncomfortably firm seats at the Eindhoven train station. I bid my fellow passengers goodbye and a happy Christmas, which they returned, and I was off. As I left, the lady said, “I hope you don’t get a cold!” Ha, ha, if only she knew what I’d been through that morning, a bit late for that!

I bought a ticket at a machine for EUR8 and found my platform without much difficulty and I was happy to see that my train was due in five minutes (the next one would be in an hour). Half an hour later, I was at Tilburg station, my travel nearly over. I left the station and walked the few hundred metres to Alex’s apartment building where he buzzed me in and I let myself up. I was happy to be back with my mates. They had some vegetables cooked and ready for me which I mixed with my rice and ate with them (they enjoyed a creamy pasta) before going straight to bed. Having taken my medication all day, I was happy to have a clear nose for the first time in a week so I could breathe properly.

Bla Bla Fact #1: You just have to have faith. They will come eventually.

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