Tuesday, 1 June 2010

by Henrietta Goillon

If you've never been to Paris then you have missed an amazing experience. As a city offering beauty, culture, history, gastronomy and sheer atmosphere, it cannot be equalled.  I recently took my two children there for a four-day break, complete with wheelchair and carer so it can be done. It is true the French are about 10 years behind the British in terms of disabled provision so some careful planning is required.

Eurostar makes getting there easy. The journey to Paris takes a staggering two hours 10 minutes only from King's Cross St Pancras, London and deposits you right in the centre of Paris. The train is completely wheelchair friendly -- staff are extremely friendly and helpful. They put a ramp up to the train for you to enter on your scooter or wheelchair. Wheelchair users plus their companion travel in first-class for the price of a standard ticket i.e. £60 return each. This includes free meals with champagne and wine on the return journey. There is a disabled toilet on board also. Visit www.Eurostar.com for details. Tickets can be purchased online and printed at home.

I would recommend booking a taxi in advance to collect you on arrival. G7 is a taxi firm that has a fleet of specialist disabled taxis. These marvellous Horizon vehicles are equipped with an electric ramp so all you have to is drive up the ramp into the vehicle, wait for the wheelchair to be secured and travel in style with your companion. These taxis can accommodate up to four people plus a wheelchair user, but I would recommend booking well in advance. The unique G7 Horizon phone number for disabled users is 00 33 1 47 39 00 91 --  they speak good English if you ask. Remember your mobile phone as they will text you an ETA.  I used these taxis for all my sightseeing which made getting around very easy.

Hotels in Paris do not generally offer disabled facilities as in the UK so choose carefully. I would highly recommend the Access Paris Project (PSHP), written by disabled people who've actually visited these places. They produce an invaluable guide to the city which is available online in return for a small donation. Visit www.accessinparis.org -- this includes details of wheelchair friendly hotels, as well as a wealth of useful information on sightseeing and the good loo guide. A word of warning here -- disabled toilets in Paris are rare and tend to be centred around the main museums: where they do exist they are often cubicles within the ladies or gents, thus if your carer is of the opposite sex they will need a bit of front in order to reach the cubicle. The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay are both reasonably well

The Louvre is an exciting place to visit containing more art than almost any other museum in Europe. But be aware that it is enormous -- you can only hope to see a fraction of its treasures in one visit so choose carefully what interests you. They have a good website www.louvre.fr which you can study in advance to make a shortlist. The queues outside just to get in can be prodigious but do not join this queue: people with limited mobility or a wheelchair will be fast tracked through to the platform lift which takes you down to the entrance hall. Disabled people and carers are admitted free of charge so there is no need to queue for tickets. A guide for disabled visitors is available from the information desk -- this is quite useful as it shows the position of all the different lifts available. Otherwise there are staircases everywhere!

The Eiffel Tower is accessible for wheelchair users up to the first floor, but be warned that the queues are usually horrendous. However a restaurant booking will fast track you to the front of the queue for the lift so this is well worth considering. Visit www.tour-eiffel.fr.

Avoid August which can be very hot and when half of Paris is closed for holidays.  But whenever you go to Paris you will have a wonderful time -- my kids loved it! There is truly something there for everyone and that includes those in wheelchairs.

June 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment