In late November, 2016, Carrieanna received this letter from her Uncle Ted, a former Grand Exalted Ruler (1991-92) and still very-active member of the Elks: Continue reading
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.
Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky speaks French and loves Paris – she has been there many times.
In April of 2009, we three — Rich, Carrieanna and I — spent three days in Paris.
This was Rich’s first visit; he wrote the following letter to Becky:
“Thought you might enjoy a Paris report from a first-timer.
“Our trip to Paris began aboard Thalys from Amsterdam Central Station to Gare du Nord. Rental wheelchair folded next to one seat – first class, yet! From Amsterdam to Brussels train runs regular speed;
“Brussels to Paris … warp speed!
“Was it Antwerp where we changed crew … new conductors, stewards, stewardesses?
“And there he was, our new steward … Ashken, tall, slender, young, devilishly handsome, charming, with a smile to light up any lady’s heart. When he learned that Carrieanna was traveling to Paris on her birthday … free extra small bottles of French wine … even sang Happy Birthday to her. Whoa! What an introduction to Paris!
(Vegan meal; a little birthday dessert and wine!)
“My first impression of Paris was how LARGE it was, in terms of space, population, and most of all – architecture. Everything is huge … Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, d’Orsay, even the hotels.”
“I loved the colonnades along rue de Rivoli. Easy wheelchair entrance into Hotel Brighton, and very cordial, welcoming staff … fellow even remembered Jeri from her stop there last November gathering information for this trip.
“Carrieanna’s room is designated “Disabled Accessible” and overlooks (4 stories down) a small courtyard. The room is spacious and well-appointed; good light from tall windows. And, I go no further before mentioning that our entire time in Paris (save for the last late night) we had warm weather and bright sunshine!
“The room Jeri and I had, down the hall and around a corner, just a short walk from Carrieanna, was larger and overlooked rue de Rivoli. The tall windows opened inward and allowed access to a narrow balcony, where the three of us could comfortably stand.
”The view, as I remember it, from left to right: Towers of Notre Dame, Louvre, including pyramid, Tuileries Gardens, d’Orsay, the obelisk [in Place de la Concorde], the Invalides, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, [Pont Alexandre III], and the Eiffel Tower. Magnificent. That will be my most lasting image of Paris!
“The trip was Carrieanna’s 27th birthday gift. We dreamed of it for a long time and discussed it for an even longer time … what to see, what to do … We left each day fairly open in terms of scheduling, although we knew that in our three days and nights there we would want to visit our “Top Ten” places.
“So, we pretty much followed Carrieanna’s lead. And, no sooner did we get over “ooohing and aaahing” at the view, then she had us in a taxi on our way to Eiffel Tower … about 3:00 p.m. The taxi stand closest to Hotel Brighton, which we used often, was almost in front of the Westin. Well, out of the taxi and into the masses … “No, I don’t speak English … No, I don’t want any trinkets ….”
“We three were amazed at the size and the beauty of the tower.
“We spent a couple of hours there, taking photos and being amazed. Then we roll to the nearby Seine River boats.
“Wheelchairs on first, Thank You Very Much (rendered, of course, in French).
“Great seats, clear views, warm weather … and we cruise past the gorgeous monuments, buildings and bridges.
(Seine River Cruise, via Bateaux Parisiens)
“Taxi back to Tuileries Garden for our final meal of the day (about 7:00 p.m.). Surprisingly good food. Jeri finds baguettes, fruits, juice and French wine nearby.
“Back to the view until about 9 p.m. …
“The tower is sparkling like a Christmas tree, on the hour, and we “just have to” go back to the tower. She is drawn as if by magnetism.
“A couple of hours again, before finally getting back to Hotel Brighton about midnight.
“Jeri had earlier worked out with Carrieanna that her birthday present to her would be to take her up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. They were clear, from every source, that wheelchairs were not allowed beyond the second level. They decided this day, Saturday, was too crowded, so they would wait for another night.
[And that’s a story to be told in another post!]
“Trees budding and blooming everywhere. All sorts of flowers blooming. And military personnel with automatic weapons at the Eiffel Tower. What a great first day.”
(To be continued ….)
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.”
“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.”
(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?