Making Travel More Accessible

Did You Know?

The MS Foundation publishes a quarterly magazine, MS Focus, for the purpose of inspiring and empowering “those affected by MS with the information necessary to make the most complete and educated decisions concerning their healthcare.”

The Winter 2016 edition of the magazine focused on “Making Travel with MS More Accessible.” We are honored to have an article published in this issue, and want to share it here … and hope you’ll share too!

Accessible, travel, Alaskan cruise, Alaska, accesibility scooter, multiple sclerosis, cruise ship, Celebrity Solstice, Images by RJM

Susette and Carrieanna – Alaskan Cruise 2016

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Cruise Guides for People with Mobility Challenges

Cruise Guides for People with Mobility Challenges Earlier this month I received an email from Sally James, a freelance writer who has recently been working with one of the UK’s leading travel portals on a guide for people with disabilities, showing how even on a cruise they can enjoy full mobility and accessibility help.

Sally asked me if I would be interested in seeing what she has written, and of course I said “Yes.” And after looking it over, I thought the guides would be worth sharing on my blog. Continue reading

The Lady of the Lake, and Tea at the Colonel’s Homestead

The TSS Earnslaw, known as the “Lady of the Lake,” is believed to be the oldest working coal-fired steamship in the Southern Hemisphere. Anything Is Possible Travel - Lady of the Lake, and Tea at the Colonel's Homestead Named after Mount Earnslaw (the highest peak in the region), she is 168 feet in length, 24 feet across the beam and weighs 330 tons. Continue reading

Necessary Places

After spending hours in a tour vehicle, or wandering through a museum, market or garden, that all-important stop to take care of bodily needs is essential.

Images by RJM

It’s important to know how to properly use the facilities!

When traveling with a wheelchair, knowing where to find an accessible “Restroom / WC / Toilette” is even more important. Continue reading

Cruisin’ Love!

Carrieanna recently returned from her very first cruise. It will not be her last!

The adventure begins!  Carrieanna and Vicki on deck.

The adventure begins!
Carrieanna and Vicki on deck.

She and her Aunt Vicki (a cruise veteran) took a seven-day trip to Alaska (the Alaska Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise) on the Celebrity Solstice. Along the way they stopped at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as spending one evening at the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC.

The cruise included MS educational programs, accessible shore excursions and, of course, some amazing experiences — not to mention many photo opportunities!

I asked Carrieanna a few questions about her experience. Continue reading

Don’t know much about art …

… but I have visited a few incredible museums!

Here’s a short list:

In the Netherlands:

In Italy:

In Egypt: Continue reading

The Kindness of Strangers

Paris, France 2009

Over the years I have heard that Parisians are rude.

I have never found that to be true — well, with the possible exception of *that one* taxi driver in 2002.

In fact, while visiting Paris in 2009, Carrieanna and I found the exact opposite to be true.

As noted in a previous blog post, we were in Paris to celebrate Carrieanna’s birthday. Continue reading

A Day in Paris!

I believe I first became infatuated with Paris as a seventh grader, when I chose to take French as my foreign language class instead of Spanish, which would have been far more useful, but not nearly as romantic!

However, it wasn’t until 2002 that I actually visited the City of Light, and that’s when I fell in love with Paris. And realized that a 12-day visit was not enough. I wanted to go back someday.

That “someday” occurred in late fall of 2008.

Rich, my sweetheart, wanted to take his daughter (and me, of course) to Paris in April of 2009 to celebrate her 27th birthday.

Because Carrieanna uses a wheelchair, Rich wanted to make sure that she would be able to get around well enough to enjoy the city.

So he and I planned an 8-day trip to Amsterdam – a favorite destination – in November of 2008, during which I was to take the train to Paris for a day to check accessibility.

Prior to our trip we studied the Paris chapter of Rick Steves’ “Easy Access Europe – A Guide for Travelers with Limited Mobility.” (A very useful book; I highly recommend it.)

We also made a fairly detailed itinerary for me to follow, so that I could get as much information as possible in the few hours I would be in Paris.

And finally the day arrived. Rich and I had been in Amsterdam for three days, and on Friday, Nov. 14, 2008, I spent A Day in Paris!

As I wrote in my journal:

“The Adventure begins!

“I rise with the 5 a.m. wake-up call (although I’ve been awake off-and-on since 2 a.m.), and dress carefully for cold weather, and an all-day excursion to Paris.

“Our taxi gets us to Central Station in plenty of time. We go to the Thayles information desk (at Central Station), and get information* about taking a wheelchair to Den Haag and Paris next year. …

“Finally the train arrives, and I’m off to Paris! By 8 a.m. it’s light, though overcast and gray. …

“I found a taxi across the street [from Gard du Nord – the train station], and went to the Hotel Brighton.”

We had already made reservations for a three-night stay in April of 2009. We chose  Hotel Brighton, a four-star hotel, because it had handicap-accessible rooms.  We were also delighted with the location!

Advertised as being “in the heart of Paris,” Hotel Brighton is located on rue de Rivoli, directly across from the Tuileries Garden. During our stay in April we had a view of the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffle Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe from our upstairs suite.

(Here’s a sneak peak of our view in April)

“The gentleman at the Brighton’s front desk was fairly flustered by all my questions,** but was helpful – and grateful for the €10 tip.”

(The elevator at Hotel Brighton. Large enough for the wheelchair – barely!)

“Upon leaving the hotel, I cross rue de Rivoli …

… and head toward the Louvre (parallel to Tuileries Gardens).

“I wandered a little in the area between the Louvre and Arc de Carousel, enjoying being there! I gleaned the information and pictures about accessibility to the Louvre and to the Gardens. …”

[“Easy Access Europe” gives accurate and detailed tips on how to find the accessible entrance, which I visually confirmed.]

“A walk over a bridge across the Seine …

… to the Musee d’Orsay entrance …

(Note the slanted curb cuts.

Wheelchair users will need to be careful to maintain their balance.)

” … where I bought some roasted chestnuts (nothing special) and then crossed the footbridge over the very busy street (Quai Des Tuileres).”

(View of Musee d’Orsay from across the Seine.)

“Back into the garden area …

(Tuileries Garden, with Hotel Brighton in background)

” … where I walk towards the Place de la Concorde and, more importantly, the Musee l’Orangerie.”

(Because this museum was closed for renovation at the time Rick Steves published “Easy Access Europe,” he does not rate its accessibility. I was delighted to find that it was fully wheelchair accessible!)

Here I enjoyed two large oval-shaped rooms, each with four large murals of  ‘water lilies’ painted by Monet.

“Two full rooms, wrapped by the water lilies murals. Incredible!”

“Other notables include Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, Cezanne, and other impressionists.”

(Renoir)

“And the garden area contained some Rodin statues. Well worth the visit.”

(Rodin’s “The Kiss”)

“I walked extensively in the rue de Rivoli area, in search of a market, without success. So I caught a taxi which took me to Montmartre and the tourist shops I wanted.”

(Sacre-Coeur)

(While the grounds of Sacre-Coeur are lovely and offer a panoramic view of Paris, the interior is not wheelchair accessible. )

“I found gifts, and a market for bread and wine and chocolate. … and  after buying a baguette with tomatoes and cheese for a late lunch, I walked and walked and walked and walked, in search of a taxi.

“I found myself in Quartier Pigalle — not a great area — and finally located a taxi to take me back to the train station.”

(Gard du Nord)

“Right on time, and a full train, we left Paris at 6:25. I napped and reflected on the journey back, grateful for the fun opportunity – Paris for a day! – and aware of the challenges.”

[Future posts will describe our April 2009 adventures in Paris — including our miracle story of getting to the top of the Eiffle Tower!]

 

*Additional questions we asked at the Thayles information desk:

  • How early should wheelchair users arrive at the train station (both in Amsterdam and in Paris), in order to board Thayles? Is there an access ramp available at each station?
  • How soon can we make the train reservation? (We eventually chose to have the staff at the Ambassade Hotel in Amsterdam get our train tickets for us.)
  • Where is Comfort 1 (First Class; the accessible section of the train), and how does it compare to general seating?

**Questions asked of the desk clerk at Hotel Brighton (with some responses):

  • Location of taxi stands nearby (Just around the corner)
  • Can the hotel get museum passes for us? What is surcharge?
  • Best way to cross rue de Rivoli to get to Tuileries Garden (There are crosswalks at both ends of the block.)
  • Are there curb cuts? (Yes)
  • Can Carrieanna access our room? How? Are there any steps into either room? (She could easily wheel from her room to ours; there were no steps.)
  • Approximate cost for taxi to Eiffle Tower.
  • Location of the Statue of Joan D’Arc (a favorite historical figure for Rich; we found this about two blocks away from the hotel entrance)
  • Do they have maps of any of the museums? (The hotel did not.)
  • Any information about access to boat tours? (Pamphlet available in hotel lobby)
  • Where are the grocery markets in the area? (Three blocks or four blocks away; somewhat hard to find unless you have directions — which the hotel was happy to provide)
  • Who do they recommend for wheelchair rental in Paris? Can the Brighton arrange for that rental? (We rented a wheelchair in Amsterdam and brought it with us to Paris.)
  • Do they have any other suggestions for wheelchair users?

Lands End, and the Labyrinth thereon …

On a warm and sunny day in late April, Sherry and I took a short road trip. Our destination was Lands End Coastal Trail on the northwestern edge of Golden Gate Park, and a hike to the labyrinth at Lands End Point.

We began planning this trip nearly three years ago, when the Sacramento Bee newspaper printed an article by Chad Jones on Sunday, August 30, 2009. I was excited about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from the south side, and walking along this part of the headlands.

But life events – and bridge repair – caused us to postpone … indefinitely.

So when my dear friend, Sherry, told me that she and her family had visited it recently, and what an awe-inspiring walk it had been, I knew it was time for me to go. We found a Friday that, miraculously, was clear on both of our calendars, and with lunch and cameras packed, we headed west.

Traffic was as reasonable as possible for Westbound 80 at 9:00 a.m. However, we crossed the Bay Bridge at 9:45, and shortly after 10:00 a.m. we pulled into one of the many open parking spaces. [Note to weekday travelers: Bridge toll is $6 between 7 and 10 a.m.; $4 thereafter.]

The paved trail was wheelchair-accessible for the first portion of our walk. Not to the labyrinth, though; sadly.

The afore-mentioned Sacramento Bee article provided some historical information about the area. I’ve included it below because, for me, it helped set the tone and encouraged me to be mindful during our walk.

  “Originally the home of the Yelamu people, part of the Ohlone tribe, this windswept and desolate area was later held by the Spanish (mid-1700’s), followed by the Gold Rush of the mid-1800’s.

 “In the 1880’s visitors boarded Adolph Sutro’s steam train to ride – for 5¢ apiece – from downtown San Francisco to his elaborate Cliff House restaurant and Sutro Baths. “Opened in 1896, the baths could house 10,000 people, some enjoying the water, others exploring Sutro’s collection of tropical plants” … or the amphitheater shows, galleries and museum exhibits (including an Egyptian mummy).

 “The restaurant, of course, remains. The baths are mostly gone; a four-alarm fire in 1966 destroyed the structure; the ocean has helped reduce the Sutro Baths to ruins.”

Sherry and I started our walk from the Lands End Parking area.

I wanted to check accessibility of the trail, and found that the path was paved until we got to Mile Rock Overlook. The pavement ended, and at first the dirt path seemed to be level and smooth enough for wheelchair access. However, we soon came to steps that would not accommodate a chair, nor would much of the path thereafter.

Edge of the Path – Overlook

Sherry is a kindred spirit. Especially when it comes to photography!

We chose not to ascend these steep steps, which would have taken us to a eucalyptus grove and another view.

Instead, we backtracked a little and went down the many, many steps to the “Y” in the path.

Had we gone left, we would have reached Mile Rock Beach.

We veered to the right instead, and walked out to Lands End Point, where we picnicked and enjoyed the view and the beautiful weather.

Top of Lands End Point

And then … the labyrinth.

Sherry walking the labyrinth

  Situated – literally – on the point of Lands End, the labyrinth was created in 2004 by Eduardo Aguilera. Made of small stones, Aguilera described the walkable maze as a “shrine to peace, love and enlightenment.”

I was moved.

By the view – Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge – and by this sacred space. Walking a labyrinth is, for me, a spiritual experience.

 We took our time, and mindfully walked our path.

 

Finished with our labyrinth walk, we headed back up the umpteen stairs

  [I’ll count them, the next time I’m there!]

Retracing our steps, we headed to Point Lobos and the Sutro Baths. They, too, were inaccessible.

As was mentioned above, the baths were destroyed by a fire in 1966.

There’s a newly-opened Visitor’s Center – fully accessible – at the end of Point Lobos Avenue, with clean bathrooms, a small gift shop, and helpful staff.

We had a lovely day, and because we wanted to maintain our happy mood by avoiding the Friday afternoon westbound traffic, Sherry and I left at 2:30 p.m. However, there are more trails for me to explore, and I plan to return to Lands End in the very near future!