Staying healthy in Portugal

So against all odds we arrived in Portugal well without many delays and we were living with a big happy bunch in our rented villa. (previous SOS stories)
We were enjoying our vacation in this wonderful country. We visited the magnificent university in Coimbra, were at the beach in Nazaré at a few hundred meter of the drying fish, visited the amazing marble white church in Alcobaça, we ate grilled sardines in outdoor restaurants, ...

Monastory church at Alcobaça (source: Jo Campos)

At one of the restaurants they offered snails as appetizer. I totally loved them. They were salty, totally different from the "Burgundy" style snails with garlic butter as we sometimes eat in France and in Belgium as an entree. I ate lots and lots of them. Far more than anybody else. Once started it was hard to stop.

The next morning we were ready for another big tour: the cathedral of Batalha, the pelgrimage town of Fatima and the Templar castle in Tomar. At the breakfast table I already felt cramps and I had to run off to the toilet urgently. When we got into the car and left on the windy road, the nausea got stronger and stronger. I concentrated on breathing slowly and deeply and watched the road. I knew we were almost in Batalha as we had done this road before on our way to Nazaré. I'd almost be free to get out of the car.

But when we reached the square in Batalha , my dad simply turned right and continued on the road. "Where are we going? I thought we'd visit the cathedral today?"
"Ah yes, we'll do that in the evening, we'll visit the furthest destination first, so we are now driving to Fatima".

At that moment my stomac gave up. My reflexes were just fast enough to open the car door before I started throwing up. It probably took a full minute before my parents realised where this sudden breeze of hot air and those funny noises came from and before they had had the reflex to pull over followed by my aunt's family in the car behind us. The sight of my hanging out of the driving car must have been quite 'interesting' for them :p. From then on it took another 3 stops of roadside furtilisation before my stomac was empty.

When we arrived on the big square in front of the basilica in Fatima I was amased by the long line of people crawling on their knees across the square towards the shrine following a line made up by different tiles, surrounded by their loudly praying families begging Our Lady for some kind of favor. On the left side there was a huge black wall where a huge mass of candles were burning. When approaching the wall the heat just hit into your face and made you back-up again. If you wanted to insist anyway in order add a burning candle, the candle itself was already soft and bent by the time you could place it there.

My mom didn't allow me much time to look around but guided me to the covered sides of the square where I had to sit down as she feared that I might be suffering from a sunstroke. I pleaded that I already felt a 1000 times better now that I was out of the moving hot car but she was deaf for my arguments. I had to wait there while the rest of them were walking in the middle of the esplanade taking pictures.

All of a sudden she had noticed on the other side of the square against the side walls a Red Cross post. "Come with me, we'll go and ask them whether they have something against motionsickness and nausea", said my mom. We quickly pointed to the others the direction wherewe were going and we crossed the square again in the Portugese summer heath.

The 2 volunteers didn't understand anything my mom was trying to explain to them in French and we didn't understand anything about their Portugese questions. Just when we were about to give up, they turned towards an open door in the wall behind them and a little nun appeared.
"Parlez-vous Français? Venez venez, suivez-moi" (do you speak French? Come in, come, follow me) and she directed us into the room behind the Red Cross post what seemed like a nice cool basement. Afterwards I realised it was indeed some kind of huge basement under the higher up terrasses outside. My mom tried to explain that we just wanted some kind of medication against nausea if that was possible, but the nun did not allow us to make a lot of interruptions.
"Suivez- moi" and she walked to an elevator in the back.

In the elevator my mom stated again that we just wanted to know whether we could get some kind of anti-nausea pill. "oui oui très bien, suivez-moi" (yes yes, very well, follow-me). Before we realised it we had arrived in a big building with long hallways, were zigzagging in them behind the nun and we were given a seat in a very busy waiting room with enquiry desks. The nun came back with a bunch of papers that we needed to fill in. They wanted our full address, name, medical history, ....all of it. Clearly that seemed like a bit of overkill in our request for some simple motionsickness pill. We both walked up to the nun gestering that there was some kind of misunderstanding and that we wanted to leave.
"Oui oui, n'ayez pas peur, asseyez-vous " (yes yes, don't be afraid, sit down) she said and gave us back the papers to fill in. As we were all confused and this nun clearly had her mind set to us filling in the papers, we gave in and started filling all the data that she had requested. It's hard to go into discussion with a Portugese Frenchspeaking nun.

After we had filled in the papers she told us to sit down again and repeated a couple more times "N'ayez pas peur" (don't be afraid) when looking at our confused faces. And then she disappeared out of the room. We were sitting nervously in a room buzzling with activity yet totally cut-off of the rest of the world. In this pre-mobile phone era we had no means warning our family outside who only knew we'd quickly go and ask for a pill at the Red Cross stand. The longer it took, the more stressed we were and wondering whether we'd had to try to escape out of this myriad of hallways by ourselves, ...yet we remained seated as instructed.

All of a sudden the nun appeared again in front of me and told me to come. However when my mom stood up as well, the nun pointed her back to the chair. "N' ayez pas peur Madame". She took me a couple of rooms further and introduced me to a doctor. Finally someone asking for the reason I was there. Hesitatingly I tried explain in my high school French about the snails, the morning diarrhea, the moving hot car. I did not have any words for vomiting though, so I had to resort to movements and sounds. The doctor kept his kind, interested, serious face throughout my explanation and was making notes.

In the mean time I heard in the hall way an approaching door knock and my mom's voice getting louder at each door "Goofball, are you in here". Surely she wasn't going to stay seated in the waiting room as soon as she realised the nun had actually left the room with me. So we were quickly reunited and she joined me while the doctor examined me.

A couple of minutes later I was declared fully healthy apart from some motionsickness or badly digested food (as we had guessed ourselves already). He explained us how to exit the building and gave us a prescription of Primperan. So an hour after we went to ask at the Red Cross post whether we could have something against nausea, I had had a free full check-up and I had a prescription but we still needed to find a pharmacy downtown to give me the medication. Outside we met my stressed uncle and dad again who were already in a state of rescue operation as we had been missing for an hour.

After our visit to the pharmacist we could continue our busy tourist schedule without further sickness interruptions. My mom still told me to stay in the shade, wear my hat and sit down as much as possible all day...which I did obediently when she was in sight.

Me sitting in the shade in the Templar Knight's castle in Tomar feeling perfectly fine


Wholly Burble said…
What an ordeal. I'd have been fairly tramatized long before I got to the doctor. Probably had you just rested you'd "given up" everything that wasn't happy to stay with you LOL. Great picture of you feeling good!
Luisa Perkins said…
That's a great photo of you! And such a vivid, interesting post; I love the part about not being able to argue with the nun.

How awful to have had the stomach distress! I hope it didn't put you off snails forever; I love them!

That cathedral is gorgeous.
I love the picture. I also love snails, but found out much the way you did, that I'm allergic (yes, you had that experience once - I've had it every time I've had snails since 1984).

What an adventure! I'm sorry you didn't really get to see the sites that day.
charrette said…
Cute photo!
Would have loved to be a fly on the wall while you're trying to pantomime "vomit" for those nuns!

I suffered from motion sickness a lot growing up. Miserable! Dramamine became my new best friend.

--Took me awhile to figure out how to comment when all the buttons are in Dutch (?) are amazing to keep/write an entire blog in English!
Goofball said…
@wholly burble: glad you like the picture. So do I :p.

@Luisa: ooooh that nun, she was so stubborn, you can't believe it.

and no, I am still a big fan of snails. Yummm

and that monastory church is one of the most splendid ones I've ever seen. Never seen such pure simple gothic... breathtaking it is! There was actually a wedding taking place when we were there. I just remember that.

@Jen: luckily for me I am not allergic to snails. Just had a bad digestion day I suppose.

@charette: haha, yes my pantomine. Well, the doctor got the picture and luckily he didn't laugh at me.

I was so surprised that you get the comment screens in Dutch. I never realised I do to. I don't know what determines that. I've just changed my dashboard into English but it didn't help.

Well, glad you've figured it out!!

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