Taking a city break – by Helen May


During my first blogging year, I often wrote about my holidays. I’m not sure if it looked as if I was always on a trip – I wasn’t; I just wanted to tell the world about the great things I have done without letting diabetes getting in my way. But after my initial enthusiasm, I’ve realised there are only so many “I climbed a mountain” stories to tell. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gone on holiday or that when I do I spend it relaxing on the beach (more like getting bored on the beach).

One of the holidays I enjoy which I haven’t written about before is city breaks. And unlike my getting-away-from-it-all holidays, I guess it is more common. So much so it may be difficult to see the diabetes angle: I stay in a nice hotel, usually in Europe, in a city with easy access to healthcare, …

But someone without a condition like diabetes doesn’t need to worry about access to healthcare and I don’t want to either. I want a normal holiday. Unfortunately, it is not always that easy. A holiday in a city is not the same as a typical day in the office: I eat more, I drink more and I do more exercise.

Oh yes, I definitely do more exercise when I’m away (not that I’m that slovenly when I’m at home). Although cities usually have lots of public transport options, you see so much more on foot. And when you’re on a bus or tram, you can’t ask the driver to stop so you can take a photo. So armed (or legged?) with a sturdy pair of shoes, I traipse around the city, through parks, up hills, down narrow passages, along tree-lined avenues and beside rivers (have you noticed how all good cities have some waterways: Amsterdam, London, Lisbon, …).

If there’s a tower or any high building around, I need (yes, it is an inbuilt need) to climb it to see the sights from a different angle. The lack of a lift does not deter me from climbing to the roof of Basilica di Santa Maria in Florence or to the top of Croke Park in Dublin or to the ramparts of St Georges Castle in Lisbon. I may not be racing around but the readings from my meter certainly show me that I have been on my feet all day.

Did I mention that I eat more when on a city break? From the continental breakfast (I’m not a fan of cooked breakfasts that have been congealing for 30 minutes) to the delicious local breads for lunch with the tasty cakes or Dutch Apple Pie in Amsterdam for afternoon tea and finally the rich dinner later in the evening, I eat and I enjoy it: I have to fuel all that walking somehow. So throughout the day, I need to keep track of what I am eating and count the carbs. And beforehand, I need to make sure I have enough insulin with me to last the break.

Finally, drink. Alcohol is certainly something that differentiates camping in the mountains from holidaying in a bar-strewn city. Not that I need to check out every bar in town. But it’s very pleasant to sup on a beer over lunch. Then enjoy an appetizer in the early evening (preferably on the banks of that river I mentioned earlier) followed by a bottle of wine during that gorgeous dinner.

Finally, ambling through the city streets on the way back to the hotel, it’s difficult to resist the cute looking bar for a nightcap or two. So, as well as adjusting my insulin for the walking (and climbing) and all the wonderful food, I also need to adjust it for the alcohol.

And then, after a good night’s sleep, I am up again to find another tower to climb, another local delicacy to taste and another local tipple to sample.

When I write about any of my holidays, I get excited by the memories of the places I’ve been to and the sights that I have seen. Whether it’s tracking gorillas in Uganda or being amused by the elephant balancing on its trunk outside a gallery in Madrid, I cannot forget about diabetes.

But I want to experience these events as a visitor not a visitor with diabetes. So whilst I am comforted by the existence of a good hospital around the corner in the same way as any other visitor to the city, it’s nice to know it’s there but I don’t want to see inside. And on all my holidays, I never have.

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We’re a group of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done a formidable task and our entire community can be grateful to you.

Great post and interesting for us Type 2’s who do not use insulin but take fixed amount of pills daily. We cannot always indulge in life’s food and drink pleasures because we cannot off set it with the insulin. Our pills only do so much the rest is down to our food and drink choices and will power.
I work in China most of the time and have to be very careful at night as sitting in bars is a regular occurrence else it means sitting in the hotel like a prisoner. So I drink tea both green and black as opposed to alcohol. Yes others look at me thinking I am mad or wonder if the large black tea with no milk is a very large whiskey. Sure the occasional beer but not regularly. And eating out can be a challenge as they use a lot of oil but I have found ways to manage it and have good control and will power (the heart attack did that for me earlier this year). I wonder how it is on insulin. Is it that you can over indulge and just up the amount of insulin. Sorry not being critical I honestly dont know how its done. Enlighten me if you could, I am sure it cannot be that simple.

But I have to admit travelling is a great thing and other cultures and customs make it all the more interesting. One things for sure the ordinary people in all countries are far more friendly than their governments are. And walking cities is a great pastime that always shows the real city, as you say missed in a taxi or bus or tube.

great post, holiday is coming and we should enjoy it with our family. Spending our time with them tightens our bond even if we are sick or diagnosed with a type 1 or 2 diabetes. We are planning to go to the beach this weekend and relax, enjoy and have fun!