In 2012 we decided to do our first “giant” trip that involved planes, trains, and automobiles, multiple weeks, and multiple countries in Europe. We started out in Brussels, headed to a fifth floor (EUROPEAN fifth floor, so really sixth floor. Don’t let them try to fool you) walk-up with narrow curlicue stairs in the Gambetta in Paris, then went off to Madrid, Barcelona, and back to Brussels before flying back to Zambia.
There are many things you can’t plan ahead for while traveling, no matter how dedicated, resourceful, and thorough you try to be. Like, for instance, a rotovirus outbreak.
You can’t plan for a rotovirus outbreak, people. YOU CAN’T PLAN FOR THIS.
It started off so innocently – we got off the train from Madrid (after being yelled at in Spanish by an old lady who was just generally disgruntled that the seat next to her had been reserved and she had to move her bag) and got to our rental apartment. We chit-chatted to some Canadians with whom we were sharing the building (“Do you think the water is safe to drink?” they asked. We, fresh off the plane from the third world, had just assumed that we could chug the magic clear liquid from the pipes safely). We stowed everything in the Hemingway-esqueness of the surroundings and headed off to walk around and just *see* our first day.
It was lovely. The weather in December was sunny and crisp, and after the slushy, icy rain of Brussels it was heavenly. And I don’t need to extol the wonders of paella to anyone, I think. At least, I should not have to.
It was so gorgeous that we even had a moment with our kids.
We should have known. We should have know that what we experienced in beautiful Day 1 of Barcelona was just to lull us into a false sense of complacency. Because by Night 1, the horrors started.
It started with my husband, who woke up with a start at midnight and ran to the bathroom, where he remained until approximately 3 am. “He must have eaten something bad,” I thought.
But it was not that simple.
By 6 am the small blond daughter was puking and banging on the bathroom door. By 9 am the older daughter had joined her and they were engaged in what resembled an Exorcist-type, projectile vomit fight-to-the-death over who would get to sleep on the toilet.
Meanwhile, my son and I were seemingly unaffected, and flushed with pride and a sense of accomplishment in our super-strength immune systems, we decided to go out for a stroll on our own.
It was just after a brief, but delicious encounter with some tapas that I began to feel it.
We had walked quite a way from our apartment at this point, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back. Luckily, Barcelona in 2012 was quite literally covered with feces, although generally of the canine type, however I figured that if it were really an emergency, no one would be able to tell the difference.
I managed to make it back to the apartment and collapsed. Both girls and the husband were sleeping off the earlier viral betrayal of their bodies, and I had the bathroom to myself. This was a relief, because I love my kids – but I carried them for nine months, gave birth, breastfed, and wake up at ridiculous hours to take them to out-of-town swim meets. I’ve earned the right to the toilet. But try explaining that to a puking 12-year-old. It’s not a comfortable argument.
By the next morning, as I was in the throes of a rotovirus vomit hell, my husband and daughters were feeling much better. Better enough, in fact, to do some sightseeing without me.
By the time we were ready to head back to Brussels to catch our plane back to Africa (who gets explosive diarrhea AFTER THEY LEAVE AFRICA? This is the most backward part of the story!), we all seemed to have weathered the storm. My son even seemed to be immune – not one single problem in the four days we spent in the city we now christened “Barfalona”.
Until he ran to the trash bin at the train station and puked out four days of paella in his loudest, most attention-grabbing manner. That was a fun overnight train ride, let me tell you. A whole train full of people with rotovirus and a broken toilet.
The worst part is that we were so occupied with being sick in Barcelona that we forgot to buy a Cagador.
As luck would have it, in planning our latest multi-city adventure, we found that if we spend a few days in Barcelona we could get a non-stop flight to our next destination (which is served by a limited number of flights to begin with), and we are eager to give it another try.
Hopefully without the rotovirus outbreak this time.