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Fall in Love with Europe

LONDON, ENGLAND 

I don't normally blog, but I recently traveled to Europe, for the first time in my adult life. My family spent some time there, as my father was in the Air Force when I was a baby. Given that I am in a wheelchair and was worried, initially, about accessibility on this trip - I figured I'd share my experiences in hopes that it encourages individuals with disabilities to travel more, internationally.

 

PLANNING TRIP

When my sister, Heather and I began planning this trip – we were given a website to find the travel package for the trip. I stumbled across Sage Travel and found that there were fees involved in planning the trip. So – I ventured out into the ‘inter-webs’ on my own and used www.hotels.com and www.expedia.com. Both companies provided the option to view and select in room accessibility, roll-in showers, and a wheelchair accessible restroom. This made our search much easier to book our hotels and communicate with the hotels to ensure that the accessible rooms were available for us upon our arrival. We ended up flying Delta Airlines to and from Long Beach and it was fantastic!

 

PACKING

I always label my wheelchair with tags that have my contact information, and directions on how to fold and operate my wheelchair (side note: I typically use a Quantum powered wheelchair that reclines and elevates my legs, but because I do not trust the airlines to not break my wheelchair, I travel with the Foldawheel PW-1000XL by Wheelchair 88 Ltd. It’s powered, foldable and weighs 65 pounds.) It really helps the handlers and makes them recognize that the wheelchair is crucial to someone’s independence. For this trip – I put directions in French, too.

Power outlet converters are a must! If you use multiple powered equipment, I highly suggest investing in 3-4 converters. I needed these to charge my wheelchair, for my c-pap machine and of course my phone and external phone battery charger. I also did not know that charging my equipment would take longer to reach a full charge. When I return to Europe, I will invest in additional batteries that charge when I’m out and about and rotate the charged batteries.

 

STAYING CONNECTED

We ended up not getting phone service for this trip and instead rented a hotspot from Vision Global WiFi. The hotspot costed $47 for the week, and they’ll ship it to you before your trip and you can mail it back after. It was very convenient, but I think I’ll also spring for phone service on my next visit (I got separated [... okay - lost] from my sister, AKA, keeper of the WiFi, and was unable to text her).

 

LONDON, ENGLAND

Upon arriving to London, I surprisingly saw accessibility signage posted throughout Heathrow Airport. There are accessible toilets that are detached from the non-accessible stalls, emergency ropes to get help if needed, tons of space and a thoughtful sign that said ‘remember that not all disabilities are visible’.

We discovered that the train to where we were going was non-operable. We unexpectedly took an Uber Assist that cost about $40. There are wheelchair accessible cabs, but the cost was about $80.

We stayed at the Tower Bridge Hotel and were so pleased with the stunning view we had! The hotel was nice, and had a Starbucks and restaurant attached. The biggest perk was the breakfast buffet. I really appreciated not having to plan breakfast, but rather meeting with our friends at the buffet to plan the day. Around the corner there was a little market where you can purchase snacks, water, and anything else you needed. We stayed in the accessible room with a roll in shower, bars near the toilet, and an automatic opening door. The only thing that was difficult was the height of the bed. The bed could not be lowered because the base was a box. I'm 5', and had a difficult time getting in and out of bed and could not do it myself.

MIND THE GAP AND OTHER OPTIONS

They aren’t kiddin’! Most of the train stations are accessible with elevators, which was nice. However, the gaps … are wide. I entered and exited the trains backwards with assistance from my fellow travelers. As mentioned before, I used Uber. There was, thankfully, a WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) option. At peak hours, I did have to wait a bit to catch a ride, but it was very convenient to use, especially to and from the airport and Eurostar train station.

WHAT TO DO ACROSS THE POND

To say that the architecture is beautiful was an understatement. I found myself completely in love with the cute and charming homes and apartment buildings and was in awe of the Shard and Walkie Talkie buildings. It was nice to grab tea to go and roam the beautiful city.

Here are the places that we visited:

Over all London was more accessible than I expected and boy, was I thankful!

PARIS, FRANCE

Sis and I took the EuroStar from London to Paris. The trip took less than two hours. There was a ramp for me to get onto the train, a wheelchair accessible toilet, and parking spot for me at a table I shared with my sister. We were provided with a lovely lunch, and were assisted off the train when we reached our destination – Gare du Nord.  To my surprise there was an entire office specifically for disability assistance. There I was able to use the restroom while my bags were watched and ask for help calling a wheelchair accessible taxi to our hotel.

CITY OF LIGHTS

Paris is truly beautiful and the sites - remarkable. We stayed at the Hotel d’Espagne, a boutique hotel, hidden in an alley of other boutique hotels. I was sure to book an accessible room, and was guaranteed one, but, when we got there, we were met with two steps to get into the hotel. While we were able to hop the two steps, it was not easy, and rather frustrating that a hotel would have an accessible room, with steps at the entrance. Nonetheless, the hotel was very cute, complete with a free continental breakfast.

GETTING AROUND IN PARIS

I did not take the train or bus system in Paris. I relied solely on accessible taxis and Uber WAVs. We were in a location to walk 15-20-minutes to where we were going, and that was rather convenient. Here is a list of the places we visited in Paris:

The entire trip was fantastic and a great getaway. I realize that as a community with limitations, simple day to day tasks can be emotionally and physically draining to get through. Planning and traveling add to these stresses. Let me tel you its so worth it. There is so much beauty in the world and we ALL deserve the opportunity to get out theee and see it. 

If you have any questions regarding any aspect of my trip, please feel free to contact me