Good Planning and Preparation Make Travel with a Disability Much Easier
I am in the process of planning what will probably be the last 'big one' in Europe for my wife and I. As a 67 yo electric wheelchair user I am starting to feel the strain of these long trips with lots of destinations and the checkin/checkout/transfers that go with them. Besides I have a business that needs my attention and long periods of absence are not good for it. But I am almost there with the arrangements for this one and I thought I would share them and again about how it all went when we get back to Australia.
In May we fly from Sydney to Frankfurt where we overnight at the fully accessible Ramada (it promises) near the Hauptbahnhof (railway station) because the next morning we catch the train to Vienna for 3 days, then the train to Prague for 3 days and finally the train to Berlin for 4 days. The hotels in Frankfurt, Vienna and Prague are near the stations to allow us to walk there and back, avoiding the need for accessible transfers.
From Berlin we fly to Paris for a week and will stay at our regular accessible hotel the Novotel Les Halles in the 1st arrondisement. We will have a week of walking (wheeling in my case), galleries, shoe shopping for Suzanne, dining and just simply observing and being Les Flaneurs we would just love to really be. At the end of the week, our accessible ramp access van will be delivered to the hotel by a car rental company we have used before (Ptitcar - they will also meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel on arrival) and we’ll drive to Burgundy (Beaune) to visit friends for a couple of days then on to Provence for 2 nights before finally heading for Barcelona for a week. We have left the booking of our fully accessible hotel there in the hands of the very reliable and knowledgeable Alan Broadbent at DAT http://www.disabledaccessibletravel.com/.
When we leave Barcelona we are still undecided about which way and where we will stop on the way back to Paris. But Carcassonne, Bordeaux, Limoges and Tours are all on our list although we won't be able to stop everywhere because we have a date to be in London. In any event the hotels on the road in France, that almost always can meet my very significant access needs, are the Mercure and All Suites chains and certainly the Mercure is everywhere. But there are others and regional France is much more reliable than Paris, and because of this we may not even make any bookings for this last leg in France beforehand.
When we arrive in Paris we will hop on the Eurostar at Gare du Nord for the fast trip to London. For those that have not done this it is a MUST DO experience. Because wheelchair users and their traveling companion get reduced fares (even less than the 2nd Class fares) and an AUTOMATIC upgrade to 1st Class because that is where the only wheelchair spots are located. The food, service and comfort are equivalent to Business Class air travel.
On arrival in London at St Pancras, even though ALL London taxis are accessible, with me in my chair and Suzanne and our luggage/disability equipment it is too tight to fit in one cab, so I will hop on a bus at Islington and get off at London Bridge Station, all London buses are accessible as well with automatic ramps and wheelchair users TRAVEL FREE OF CHARGE.
Then I will wheel down Tooley Street to the Hilton Tower Bridge, a great hotel with a great attitude from the staff and absolutely fully accessible. It's also in a fantastic location for wheeling to the Tower of London, the city, the Globe Theatre and the National Theatre. In fact if the weather is good we walk/wheel everywhere. If it's not we catch a bus. The RV1 to Covent Garden goes from over the road or any other bus from London Bridge to the West End. London is so much more accessible since my first trip as a wheelchair user back in 2001. I just love it and if it were not for the weather I would happily live there.
Finally we will have another accessible car delivered to our hotel from our friend Trevor Politt at http://www.wheelchair-travel.co.uk and drive down to Corfe Castle in Dorset for 8 days in one place of much needed R&R at the accessible Mortons House Hotel, before finally heading home to Sydney.