Cruisin’…..but maybe not

A boat the size of a small town? Nah. Cheeky and/or cheesy entertainment? Nope. Formal attire night? Gag!

So no, when I vowed to eschew the cruise for the rest of my days, I wasn’t kidding. I’d stick with the small group hiking/ walking trips which typically numbered between 10 and 20 companions.

My favorite vacation was probably the hiking and cooking one I took in Abruzzo just before the pandemic hit. There were no noteworthy landmarks but who cared? The landscape, which featured acres of olive groves, rolling hills, charming villages and the gentle waters of the Adriatic were all I craved. We cooked alongside delightful Italian nonnas,and of course devoured our culinary creations, downed with local wines, at garden picnic tables under the sun or moon, depending on the day. And the piece de resistance, at least for me? I got to speak my beloved Italian. The exchange may have been no deeper than “do you salt the eggplant or not?” but I still managed to experience my usual joy of speaking the local lingo with the natives. Honestly, deploying my linguistic skills on foreign ground is one of my life’s greatest pleasures.

So what in the world was I doing on a river cruise in France? Parkinson’s disease, that’s what. I didn’t think I could sustain my typical walking pace since my legs often ached after just an hour. But I felt desperate for a vacation where the lingua franca would sound like bonjour, buon giorno, or buenos dias. And river cruises, I’d learned, featured none of the icky excesses (dress up night, endless buffets) of the ocean liners and offered what sounded like interesting shore excursions. Sign me up!

So how was it? My nautical adventure is now in the rear-view mirror so I feel qualified to report that:

  • The amenities are quite nice. My stateroom ( a word I never imagined would be preceded by the word my) was attractively designed and well maintained.
  • I met some lovely people, and almost everyone was pretty friendly.
  • The food was good. Many days it was actually excellent, only a few just so-so. I only had one meal I’d describe as bad but someone else found the veggie burger delicious. Overall, no complaints.
  • The staff was unvaryingly attentive and pleasant.
  • The shore excursions – a couple of small towns, a winery – were perfectly fine, if nothing special, though the local guides were excellent. I’d taken a hiking trip in Provence, where I am writing from today, 25 years ago, and we’d visited a number of villages in this area that displayed significantly greater charms. But of course we hadn’t been limited then by the need for access to a river port where the boat could be docked a short bus ride away from whatever attraction was on the itinerary.
  • Lying in my bed with the curtains open and watching the shoreline go by was very soothing, and de-stressing had been a major goal of this trip. Mission accomplished.

But something was missing for me, and it was…..

  • FRANCE! I seek an immersive travel experience. I want France to wrap her arms around me and squeeze me tightly. I want to smell her aromas – her Gauloises, her boulangeries, her fromageries – and observe her distinctively stunning landscapes, cityscapes and people. I NEED to hear her “Bonjour Madame” all around me. So I know I’m in, you know, France. It probably goes without saying that, except for the brief periods ashore, I was hearing English all day. While I was in France. Aaaargh!!’
  • I wanted the wait staff to ask for my order in French, and for me to respond in kind. None of the staff on this vessel spoke French, though that may be a function of how things are in this industry.
  • Speaking of meals, how about having some in a place that suggests France, as opposed to a pleasant-enough but soullessly generic ship’s dining room that could just as easily be in Buenos Aires or Oslo. I did skip the shipboard lunch one day in favor of a charming and scrumptious cafe repast on actual French soil in the picturesque town of Arles, famous as the place where Van Gogh painted Starry Night, among other works. For the privilege of having an authentic foreign meal, I paid for two lunches since I’d already paid with my cruise reservation for the missed one on the boat.

Please don’t misunderstand. I didn’t have a bad time. I enjoyed the company and especially, the respite from stress. But it was disappointing.

So…no more cruises for this lady. If my disease takes me to a place where I’m significantly less mobile, maybe I’ll revisit. But for now, I’ll stick to the real France. This kinda felt like watching France on TV.

A bientot!


I know I recommended this before but it truly does warrant a second mention. Shipping Out, David Foster Wallace’s take on cruises is biting (in a good way), oh so clever, and just plain hilarious. I dare you not to laugh.


Paris: Parkinson’s miracle or mystery

When I left for Paris eight days ago I was experiencing tremendous stress, and a good number of Parkinson’s symptoms, by which I mean muscle stiffness, extreme aching from my waist to my ankles, and twitching in my left foot. All of these symptoms were painful and lasted, cumulatively but not consecutively, about 2-4 hours a day.

I did my best to work through the pain, distracting myself with TV, social engagements ( which sometimes constituted a nice long phone chat), a walk. But when the pain refused to let up I turned to my friend Ativan (aka lorazepam). Without fail, within about half an hour this teeny tiny white pill cured what ailed me, softening my muscles, un-tremoring mt foot, and eliminating all pain, which begs the question: why don’t I just take it earlier in the pain phase? Because it’s addictive and can lead to cognitive impairments. So I aim to limit its use to no more than three times a week.

Since arriving in Paris I haven’t been tempted to use the Ativan once. Nor have I experienced more than the occasional twinge of pain. Why could this be?

Now we must employ the scientific method, though the details of what that is escape me. Never mind, I’ll just make it up as I go along.

First, we must determine the facts. Fact 1. Pain present, along with stress, when I left for France. Fact 2. Absent the usual sources of stress, almost as soon as I arrived in Paris, I actually relaxed. Even if thoughts of stressors invaded my brain, they did not take root. Fact 3. A few days before departure for France I reached my goal dosage of pramipexole. Maybe that’s the reason. Fact 4. Waaaay more exercise here. At home I could manage an hour and a half walk on a really good day. In Paris, I’ve been walking – briskly-between two and four hours a day. Fact 5. I just started taking Co-Q10 and magnesium.

I propose a study to determine the effects of beautiful places (Paris, for example) on Parkinsonian symptoms. I would be happy to stop whatever I’m doing to join such a study. In the interest of science, of course. Though perhaps the study might introduce another variable: urban vs. rural places. How about Kauai? I’ve heard good things.

But wait. You may have observed that the study is, in effect, already underway because, when vacation’s over, I’ll be returning to my normal, stressful life. Will my Parkinson’s symptoms return? Will I remain relatively pain-free? Your faithful scientist/study subject will report back.

And now, more Paris!

My new home in lovely 13th arondissement
Needs no caption
Tres charmant
I think I may need to stay in Paris a couple more weeks. A food and knitting festival???? Sign me up!
More Paris
What I wore to fancy dinner party

Mrs. Brown paints the town!

But what color does she paint it? I’m having a delightful time in Paris with no loneliness, though I did see a friend a couple of days ago. Few words in this post, mostly pictures.

Green at Restaurant Anne. Tres yummy were turbot on bed of puréed potatoes, snail balls ( the green things) with Parmesan, butter and parsley; plum tart
Aforementioned snail balls
Red and yellow Plum tart
Clean is the color of Notre
Dame behind me
50 shades of white on elegant woman of a certain age
Sparkling gold Eiffel Tower
Chic black-clad Parisians
Red bricks at La Place des Vosges

More to come! A bientot!

A funny story about

depression. Okay, gotcha, it’s not really funny but it might make you feel a little better about your own down-in-the-dumps moments in a misery-loves-company sort of way.

We Parkinsonians tend to look for patterns in both our bodies and our minds. We may establish that the late morning “off” time (those painful/disgusting/ yucky sensations) occur daily around 11:30 and usually last till 1:00. One person gets through the episode with distraction; a chummy chat with a good friend does the trick. Another does yoga, and someone else finds solace in sit-coms.

A few months ago I started to experience these depressive episodes, and they had a physicality to them that I’d never experienced before.

I now knew what things I’d only read about felt like. For example: “a cloak of darkness descended upon her.” I have no idea where I read that, but I’ll tell you this: I’ve worn that cloak! I’ve felt its weight and its cruelty.

I was sitting on my bed one night, trying to I describe the depression-as-physical phenomenon to a friend when I happened to glance at my foot…and found my metaphor. “Put your hand on the top of your foot,” I instructed my friend, as I did the same. “Your foot represents the physical pain/discomfort of Parkinson’s – your tremor, your muscle stiffening, whatever your symptoms are. The toes represent your emotions and they are attached to your foot, which represents your physical experiences. They are inextricably linked. So for me, that means that when the pain associated with my muscle stiffening – my most unpleasant symptom – occurs, the depression comes right along with it. I recognize it for what it is, which sometimes makes it easier to get through, but not always.

I asked my neurologist if my “findings” were scientifically valid and her response was “absolutely.” I won’t share her exact explanation because I barely remember a word of it, but it was satisfying to know that I’d hit upon something, and it was real.

I hope you are able to find relief if you are experiencing any sort of depression connected with your condition. I suspect you’d find many grateful fellow-sufferers if you shared what’s helped you weather those difficult episodes.😃🤪

I promise my next offering will be of the cheerful variety because… Paris, where I am at this very moment. And here’s a bit of positivity for ya- I got a new “do” yesterday and it was really fun. What I especially loved was the vibe of the salon, a camaraderie among the staff I’d never seen before. Smiling and teasing one another, they appeared to be having a blast at WORK. Their mood trickled right down to me.

And here I am, newly shorn and wondering if I’ll ever be able to replicate this look at home. Hmmmm.


All I know about comedian Gary Gulman can be said in one word: hilarious. And his HBO special, The Great Depresh, made me wet my pants (again). Have fun!

Cheese, Cheese, Cheese

Fromage! To die for (or maybe from)

Cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese

Cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese

Cheese cheese cheese cheese cheese

A haiku for you, appearing as a pinned tweet on Twitter

What the French have perfected


Where I’m going next week


What my sister gave me for my birthday. Thanks, Sis.

Cheese (of the month club)

What I’m not supposed to eat any more. Merci, Monsieur Parkinson.


Why no cheese? There’s been some research suggesting that dairy hastens disease progression. We certainly don’t want that! Dr. Laurie Mischley has created an online course on all things Parkinson called Parkinson School wherein she discusses what we should and shouldn’t eat in order to slow disease progression. I’ve just started watching the videos and I am finding them extremely helpful. However, please remember these two things: 1. I’m not a doctor and 2. I have never come close to being a doctor, having nearly flunked a required college biology class. From my layperson’s perspective, I find the lectures instructive but you can decide for yourself.

It’s your classic good news/bad news scenario, like the old Twilight Zone episode where blind-as-a-bat bookworm Burgess Meredith survives the apocalypse in a library, only to have his glasses break.

Here I sit awaiting a much (much, much, much)-needed vacation to the Land of Cheese (sorry, Wisconsin). Some of the things on my itinerary: 1. Dine in a Michelin-starred restaurant (one star) for the first and probably only time in my life since this is a splurge. Never fear, I shall report on this adventure. 2. Dine at a communal-table pop-up restaurant in a swanky private apartment (another splurge, another report unless taking photographs is considered déclassé. I vow to be nothing if not classy). This one has had some friends particularly concerned about me vis-a-vis Covid due to the communal dining. I promise no kissing, how’s that? 3. The Cinematheque film museum. 4. Create lots of endorphins through the testing of many perfumes. In case you’re wondering if I made that up about perfumes and endorphins, the answer is yes. But then I looked it up, and it’s true! 5. I really do need a new wallet. And a purse. Seriously. 6. Finally, and optimistically but also kinda pessimistically, walk. As much as I can, which we all know will be a fraction of the ground I used to cover on any given day. (I have to stop saying stuff like that, accept my changed circumstances, and roll with it.)

And of course, eat cheese. Just un peu. I’m human, for God’s sake!