Travel is always worthwhile. Trying out new food, learning about different cultures and attempting a few words of the lingo are all part of the fun. We discuss a few of our favourite overseas destinations.
City breaks provide a great opportunity for disabled people to visit countries they’ve never been to before. With access and facilities usually of a better quality than in more outlying or remote destinations, they provide a superb opportunity to explore in relatively ‘risk-free’ circumstances.
Whilst some people have bemoaned the increased homogenisation of cities, you’re still likely to find that each will retain some degree of identity and independent culture, be it displayed in the food, art, architecture or even attitudes of the people that live and work there.
Clearly, because cities are, generally speaking, thriving centres of commerce and culture you’re also more likely to find solutions where it comes to decent travel options as well as a far better choice of modern, accessible accommodation providers.
Pilgrims have been making their way to Rome for over 2,000 years and indeed, some of the incredible buildings that were around then, still survive. You might think that it would be an especially difficult place to travel as a disabled person but you’d be wrong. For many, many years, Rome has been welcoming people drawn to religious and historic sites, many of whom are elderly and in some way disabled. This has meant that Rome is pretty well geared up regarding access and facilities, especially where the more popular attractions are concerned.
Sistine Chapel – At the heart of the Vatican complex is arguably the greatest work of art ever created. Not all of the Vatican tours are wheelchair friendly but there are accessible toilet facilities throughout the museums.
This is one of those cities where you can let it all hang out – and lots of people do! Yes, Amsterdam has a renowned naughty side but away from the red lights you’ll find culture and splendour, great art and architecture. Some of the attractions, such as the Van Gogh Museum or the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum are world class and there are also plenty of open places where you’ll be able to sit back and relax whilst the busy city continues on around you.
Amsterdam is a famously flat city with barely a bump and that’s what makes it good for cycling. You should note, however, that the cobbles are quite rough in places and this can sap the energy of people with mobility impairments.
Heineken Experience (Brewery) – Although the brewery is still operational, the Heineken Experience is designed as a place to have fun through interaction. The accessibility is generally very good.
The Place de General de Gaulle is the hub of the city, filled with cafés, shops and boutiques. The square itself is busy and beautiful – good for people-watching or admiring the Flanders-influenced architecture.
Getting around isn’t a problem since Lille Metropole buses are accessible, but the city is relatively compact anyway.
There are several attractions that make for great days out including Lille’s zoo which is situated inside a public park and is free to stroll around. The neighbouring castle is still a military barracks, but there’s a broad flat path around its walls. It simply goes around the famous star-shaped building’s footprint, so you can’t get lost. It’s also fun to rummage around the second hand bookshops in Vieille Bourse – but remember, the books are all in French!
The French have a habit of eating later, so you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants that serve late into the evening. Also note that many shops and restaurants will have ramps tucked away behind the counter, so it’s worth asking at the door if they have appropriate access.
Palais de Beux Arts – This is the second largest arts museum in France (only the Louvre in Paris is bigger) with a permanent collection ranging from renaissance masters to present day chancers!
This famously bustling city is easier than you might think to get about. Whilst most of the buses on the network are wheelchair accessible, the Metro is a quicker way to move around the city. Most of the stations are wheelchair friendly but you can get information including details regarding accessible stations at: HYPERLINK “http://www.tmb.cat/” www.tmb.cat/
Eating in crowded tourist areas, especially in Las Ramblas is much more expensive than in other places. Just move around a little to find much better prices especially for drinks. Neighbourhoods like Gracia and Borne offer great alternatives to Las Ramblas or Plaza Catalunya.
The Barceloneta beach is fully accessible with a bathing assistance service. This service is intended for people with impaired mobility and aims to facilitate the entry and exit of the water to enjoy bathing. (An amphibious chair is available.)
Picasso Museum (Museu Picasso) – The museum is mainly focused on Picasso’s time in Barcelona and the surrounding areas. Although it is located in an historic building, it’s fully accessible and has disabled toilet facilities.
Brussels is used to international visitors, being that it’s the capital of Europe (the seat of the European Union). Indeed, over a quarter of its population is made up of foreigners with some 40,000 people working directly for the EU so you’re bound to get a warm welcome and have few difficulties communicating in English (French, Flemish or German).
The de-facto centre of the city is the Grand Place, an impressive 15th century town square where almost all of the buildings are of historical significance.
STIB, buses have made efforts to make their fleet accessible for people with reduced mobility. In Brussels, all buses are low-floor vehicles and new buses are equipped with a retractable ramp. Tram and bus stops are fitted with a rubber mat enabling partially sighted people to find their way easier to where the vehicles stop. The Brussels Metro has installed lifts as part of its refurbishment of the major underground stations. Every station has a map in Braille and routes platforms and exits are marked with tactile floor surfaces.
Mannekin Pis (Statue of peeing boy) – Just around the corner from the Grand Place, the Peeing Boy, or Mannekin Pis, as it is called by locals, is a curious, if cheeky little statue. The statue has become the best known mascot for the city and attracts thousands of visitors – it has become a focal point for events and festivals throughout the year. (He is often decorated in one of 700 ‘costumes’ depending on the occasion.)