Escaping day-to-day life, even just for a few days, is a great way to relax and get a taste for somewhere new. If you happen to fall in love with a place, there is nothing stopping you from returning for a longer stay in the future.
By Niamh Duffy Barcelona
From the minute I arrived in this beautiful sun-drenched city, it immediately captured a place in my heart. With endless culture, architecture and a level of accessibility to rival the best I’ve seen, it is set up to suit everyone’s tastes and needs. Barcelona is continually working to achieve its main objective; creating a cohesive city with a respect for diversity.
Whether you are interested in the Roman-era city walls or the sculptural masterpieces of Modernism, there are sights to see around every corner. A mix of breath-taking creations by Gaudi can be seen across the city, from Parc Guell’s location up in the hills to the magniﬁ cent Sagrada Familia right in its heart.
Of all the beautiful cathedrals in the world, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is completely unique in its design and atmosphere, with craftsmanship and detail that will leave you speechless. Still under construction, the cathedral is also currently undergoing work to make it more accessible and has a dedicated entrance to the main hall, for disabled people.
If there is beauty in building, it exists in Antoni Gaudi’s incredible Casa Batlló, an example of architectural brilliance at its ﬁ nest. It welcomes all visitors, and as the nature of the building makes it difﬁ cult to navigate the house with larger wheelchairs, they are happy to provide more suitable wheelchairs, free of charge.
Barcelona is the perfect place to spend a day exploring history followed by a day relaxing on the golden sand. Barcelona truly is a worry-free haven for disabled people. With wooden pathways on the beach and assisted bathing services throughout the summer, no one has to miss out on the chance to go for a dip in the sea to cool down after a day of exploring.
The night-time also holds limitless possibilities. Start with sunset drinks on a terrace with panoramic views or watch and listen as live music transforms the city with the rapid-ﬁ re rhythm of ﬂamenco creating the perfect soundtrack for your break. It’s one you need to tick off your list.
Amsterdam is truly unlike any other city. You never know what you’ll find as you head into its canal-woven core. Tilting gabled buildings create atmospheric narrow lanes that buzz with coffee-shop culture. For a city built around water, the accessibility is surprisingly good with wide bridges crossing all of the major canals.
As a city full of art, you won’t have to travel too far before bumping into a masterpiece. The Van Gogh Museum is a must, with the world’s largest collection of his work – including one of his famous ‘Sunflowers’ paintings. Then head across the Museumplein to the Rijksmuseum, a national collection dedicated to the arts and history. Note the iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. The signs began as a marketing campaign but have now become a landmark and a representation of the city’s willingness to accept everyone, regardless of race, gender, nationality and ability.
Explore the city aboard one of the deluxe Blue Boat Company boats which have a hydraulic lift enabling wheelchair users to board, and cruise through the Amsterdam canals. I found this the perfect way to see everything without having to worry about my powerchair battery running down.
Of course, if you are into sampling a Dutch delicacy, the Heineken Experience is an interactive, self-guided tour through the historic brewery of the famed Dutch pilsner beer. The building was built as the first Heineken brewery in 1867 and remained the company’s primary brewing facility until 1988. The experience consists of a museum showcasing the history of the Heineken beer and brand, interactive exhibits that explain the brewing process, and an opportunity to sample and enjoy the beer itself.
A printed guide detailing the accessible route is provided to each wheelchair user at the ticket booth. Exhibits are spread across four levels but are accessible to wheelchair users via lifts.
A highlight of mine on our Limitless Belgium Tour is a trip to picturesque Bruges, with its fairy tale lanes and dreamy canals opening up to reveal market squares lined with breath-taking towers, historic churches and old whitewashed alms-houses.
Head to the south of Bruges to see the Minnewater, a small rectangular lake surrounded by trees where the tragic love story of Minna and her beloved Stromberg resulted in a popular legend which tells us that eternal love is bestowed on couples who cross the Minnewater Bridge. Visitors can enjoy the surroundings from the bridge itself, or one of the benches along the lake or explore the peaceful park.
In the heart of the city is Bruges’ market square, nestled in the shadow of the majestic belfry tower, which has been, variously, the scene of medieval festivals, tournaments and uprisings. If you’re lucky to be visiting in December, visit the traditional Christmas market which has everything from warming hot chocolate to seasonal souvenirs to enjoy.
When in Belgium why not sample one of their specialty beers? The Duvelorium, located in the Historium, is fully accessible and the perfect place to rest and relax on a visit to Bruges. It’s a cosy bar where you can learn about and sample the beers, as well as enjoying a priceless view over the Bruges Markt (market square) from the terrace.
Bruges is an old town that relies on its history, so accessibility can be an issue, especially with so many cobbled streets.
Nevertheless, they are doing everything they can to improve things while preserving its beauty – including producing a detailed guide of accessible attractions, restaurants and disability friendly facilities.
Exploring with Limitless Travel
I have personally explored all three of these cities for Limitless Travel and have picked out the very best bits for you to see. So if you fancy experiencing these amazing city breaks for yourself, visit: www.limitlesstravel.org now or give us call on: 0800 612 2605 and we’ll do the rest…
ABLE Magazine’s travel section is sponsored by Post Office Travel Insurance