July 16, 2014

Coping in Copenhagen

Two points for starters:
  1. Note that the title reads coping in Copenhagen, not with Copenhagen. I loved Copenhagen. As usual, the problems were of my own making.
  2. I’m in the wheelchair only because I decided it would be quicker for us to tour the Tivoli Gardens. If I'd hobbled about on my cane, we wouldn’t have gotten very far. I brought my friends Terry and Prav over from London to push me around.
A Few Factoids on Copenhagen and Denmark
  • The Danes are the happiest people on the planet. According to the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report, Denmark -- with a score of 7.6 -- beat every other country on a global happiness scale from zero to ten. Americans aren't especially happy; we landed in 17th place, between Mexico and Ireland. We talked with a Danish gal on the train who laughed scornfully when we asked about the Danes being the world’s happiest people. She was just back from a trip to the States and wished she could have stayed.
  • Copenhageners dine well. This small city boasts 15 Michelin stars. Noma, the “New Nordic” restaurant, has been named the World’s Best Restaurant three times. 
  •  Copenhagen rivals Amsterdam for the popularity of bikes. Half the people here pedal to work.
  •  Copenhageners are law abiding. It’s said that even at 3am on an icy cold night with no traffic in sight, they’ll wait for a green light at pedestrian crossings.
Our Weekend in Copenhagen
We arrived in Copenhagen early Friday morning. After settling in at our hotel – the excellent Babette Guildmeden – we got a nice introduction to the city on a canal tour. We had enough energy left to take a walk in the park across the street from the hotel.

My London pals Terry and Prav arrived Saturday morning, and we immediately headed out by train to the Louisiana art museums. The name has nothing to do with our state of Louisiana. The museum’s two benefactors both had wives named Louise.

Fifteen miles from Copenhagen, Louisiana consists of several small museums surrounding a sculpture garden park in a beautiful setting. I spent half an hour just sitting on a bench near a Henry Moore sculpture on a bluff. From my perch, I could see Sweden -- 15 miles across the water.

My seatmate on the flight from the USA planned to take the train from the Copenhagen airport over the bridge to Sweden and arrive at his summer house in southern Sweden within an hour.

We spent Saturday night at Tivoli Gardens, the world’s oldest amusement park. Unlike today’s amusement parks, Tivoli is smack in the middle of the city. We didn’t go on any of the rides. Several looked sufficiently scary.

The park is beautifully landscaped with lots of flower gardens and restaurants. The lady who rented me my chariot for the evening recommended a restaurant where we enjoyed an especially good meal.

We had a farewell Sunday brunch with Terry and Prav at a modest waterfront restaurant patronized by locals. After saying goodbye to my friends, I napped while my two travel partners from the USA did some more touring.

Late Sunday afternoon, we checked in to our cruise ship, docked near our hotel. I’m writing now -- Monday morning -- on the ship. We’ll spend the day docked here and start our cruise north tomorrow. I won’t be doing many blog posts during the cruise, since internet access will be sketchy as we approach the Arctic Circle.

Coping with Jet Lag
My jet lag seemed unusually debilitating this time. I was brooding about my dear late friend Lili, who traveled more than me. She cut way back on international travel when jet lag started to feel like having the flu for a week. This time, my much younger travel mates seemed to be suffering almost as much as me at first, but they bounced back quickly.

Coping with Insomnia
I experienced sleep issues pretty regularly until I finally learned how to deal with them. It's a good thing, because this time the insomnia was more difficult than usual.
After going through the "summer from hell" -- the result of OD-ing on Tylenol PM and Ambien several years ago -- I’m leery of sleeping pills. I might permit a temporary indulgence for a day or two after an international flight. Since the jet lag seemed worse this time, I used the pills for three nights. But I began to feel the onset of depression that always accompanies my extended use of the pills.
It took more effort than usual this time, but my remedies usually work:
  • Do not stay in bed, tossing and turning.
  • Get up.
  • Do my “secret handshake” meditation.
  • If that doesn’t work, I stay up. I do stretching exercises or whatever. I won't go back to bed until I feel sleepy or accomplish the last step:
  • Drink lots of water until I have a bowel movement. In my experience, constipation and insomnia are almost always linked
  1. .Insomnia is just one of the ailments addressed by my cure-all supplement -- the seratonin-booster 5-HTP. I upped my dosage of that  a bit. I'm sure this helped as well.
Coping with my Limitations
This issue was especially frustrating for me in Copenhagen. It’s a wonderful city for exploring on foot or by bike. But biking is no longer an option, and walking has become more difficult.

I know I need to walk more often. I’m making more use of my cane, and I’m scheduled for lessons with my physical therapist on using my trekking poles.

But, let’s face it: aging and Parkinson’s are progressive diseases. Yet I'm thankful that I can still make trips like this with my nearest and dearest.

Coping with a New PD Symptom -- Difficulty Swallowing
When I used to sit down with friends to eat, they'd often comment: “You won again!” after I cleaned my plate well ahead of everyone else. Eating more often with others on this trip than at home, I've noticed the opposite: My meal mates have usually been waiting for me to finish. Sometimes, I'd even lose interest in the meal, because chewing and swallowing felt like too much work.

I had a vague recollection that difficulty swallowing was linked to Parkinson’s. When I did a quick Google search on the association, I found this headline on the first link: "Difficulty swallowing can be fatal for people with Parkinson's."

We’ll talk more about this issue tomorrow.

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