Accessible holidays at home and abroad

Ireland

 

If you’re looking for a break away this summer in Ireland, take a look at Newton Lodge self-catering accommodation in Castlewellan, Co Down.

This four bedroom house was built in 2013 by owners Dessie & Catherine O’Neill who took great care to make the bungalow accessible to wheelchairs and people with impaired mobility.

The bungalow has ramps at the front and side to make it easily accessible, and all doors are 962mm (36 inches) in width for a clear opening.

The kitchen is open plan with a low level sink and induction hob, with clear space under it making it accessible for wheelchairs.

One of the four double rooms is fitted with a ceiling hoist which offers access from beds (profile bed and single) to the ensuite bathroom. The large ensuite bathroom includes a bath, level access shower facility, raised toilet with drop and grab rails and a wheelchair accessible wash basin. There is also an assistance buzzer for emergency use.

All bedrooms have wall mounted TVs and fitted furniture. Two bedrooms are furnished with zip and link beds offering more flexibility and the fourth has a king size bed.

Newton Lodge is also a great base for mountain biking, hill trekking, pony trekking, water sports and golfing.

The hosts will endeavour to meet any special requirements which may be needed. Families and groups are welcomed at Newton Lodge and prices start at £375 for three nights to £850 per week.

For more information see http://accessibleholidaysni.co.uk or email info@accessibleholidaysni.co.uk

 

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France

 

Edmund Stammers took a trip to Bordeaux in April this year and was impressed with the accessibility of the city. He talks through his trip below and what he enjoyed the most about it.

 

Bordeaux 

In April this year, having decided at fairly short notice to take a quick break, Bordeaux came to mind immediately due to the lovely spring climate, culture, food and, it goes without saying, wine.

Typically, the dates we chose to fly were days when there were no direct flights so we flew with Cityjet from Dublin to Paris, and then flew with Air France from Paris to Bordeaux.

Check in at Dublin was faultless, as was boarding. Luckily we had a bit of time between flights as the assistance at Paris was a long time coming to take me off the plane. Eventually we were hustled through the airport, fast tracked through passport control and, because of the delay, boarded last onto our connecting flight.

Shortly, over an hour later we landed in Bordeaux. From there we were given every assistance from the aircraft seat all the way through to our transport outside.

Transfer to our hotel in the city centre was pre-booked and our driver was waiting in the arrivals area. Whilst of no great significance, he was obviously only used to the folding type of wheelchair, and my Quickie was a bit of a mystery to him.

After some typically Gallic flair, humming and blowing he managed to get everything into the car.

As a note on this issue, I don’t like being crammed in, so I had booked a vehicle suitable for four passengers, four medium suitcases and a wheelchair. Had we been a party of four it would, to say the least, have been interesting!

It was then a fairly short 30 minute transfer from the airport to the city.

When we arrived at the hotel, our driver had to use an intercom to gain access and get us in. It was interesting to note the number of wheelchairs and scooters being used in and around the hotel.

As it was a short break, we decided to spoil ourselves and we stayed at Le Grand Hotel, Bordeaux (part of the IHG group).

At first glance the place looked impenetrable with a 150mm step up from the square followed by steep steps up to the entrance. However, a doorman very quickly appeared with a folding ramp and showed me a discreet entrance with a lift leading directly to reception.

Check-in was quick and easy, especially as we had been given a room upgrade.

Unfortunately, the bathroom in our room wasn’t quite as accessible as I’d hoped. I couldn’t get the wheelchair through the door from the bedroom so I had to go around through our sitting room to the other door.

The suite, however, was superb, with fabulous views across to the Opera House.

If you are staying in the city centre of Bordeaux it is very easy to get around. The city centre is, in the main, pedestrianized and kerbless which I found great.

Most of the main cultural and heritage interest is within 10 or 15 minutes stroll.

There were no issues with getting the wheelchair anywhere. There is a modern, efficient tram throughout the main areas and every carriage is accessible.

In the outlying parts of the city there is a network of small buses and again, each has a capacity for wheelchairs.

In addition, I was very impressed that within every 100 metres of the city there is an accessible public toilet.

Whilst engaged in a bit of retail therapy, I noticed that a good number of shops had a step or two at the entrance.  Most of the shops, however, had a button to press to get assisted access. The same applied to the only museum we found time to visit – the Museum of Aquitaine. The staff, whilst not speaking any English, were eager to help.

Bordeaux is of course known for its cuisine and wine. There are just over 1800 restaurants in the city catering for just about every taste.

We were tired on our first evening and just wandered across the square to the first hostelry we found (sacrilege, I know, but Italian and we dined on antipasto, followed by veal and a couple of bottles of excellent Chianti for less than €100 including a tip).

Subsequently, the next day, we had our lunch at a family run oyster restaurant where we sat outside and enjoyed a bottle of good white Bordeaux with our food. This little brasserie was lovely where everyone seemed to know each other and no English was spoken.

We pushed the boat out on our last evening and dined at Le Noailles on allees de Tourny. It was classic French cuisine which included Aquitaine caviar, foie gras and scallops with a wine list to match. It all came in at the same price of a very average meal in Ireland so we were delighted.

Bordeaux really is a city to relax and enjoy yourself.

Don’t set yourself an agenda, just wander wherever takes your fancy. Every corner and alleyway holds something new.

We sat and had a breakfast of fresh pastries with hot chocolate / lemon tea in the main square, and fed the sparrows while watching the world go around. We also found a little corner bar and spent an hour (with a beer) looking at the architecture; wandered in and out of churches and antique shops; and sat with a bottle of water and listened to a virtuoso violinist playing for herself (and anyone who wanted to listen).

We only had one incident with the wheelchair while we were there. In a part of the old city, a builders van was blocking a drop kerb. Whilst it didn’t matter to me, a passing pedestrian took objection and gave him a dressing down that surpassed my level of French!

We did use one taxi within the city. The driver was extremely helpful (although, in typical French fashion, it was not until we got out that it became apparent that his English was better than my French). He also made sure that the wheelchair access at the Museum of Aquitaine was ready for us. Just one thing to note, be aware that French taxi meters move a lot faster than ours do!

Our return journey was pretty much the same as outbound, with very poor assistance at Paris. Although this time, my long-suffering companion got a chance to look at the goodies in the beautician section of the shops while we waited. We also enjoyed a surprisingly good meal at the airport.

I know that at times we criticise them, but, to be honest, OCS at Dublin Airport is about the best in the world.

Now to the main question – will we go back? The answer is yes, I can’t wait until October!!

 

Ed’s Tips

  1. There are direct flights from Dublin to Bordeaux, but not daily.
  2. Very little English is spoken away from the main city centre, including in top restaurants, major hotels, and some shops, so some French is very useful.
  3. In the summer Bordeaux is very hot and is a holiday destination for French people. When I talked about arranging a return visit we were recommended to stick with spring or autumn.
  4. Later this year there will be a fast train service from Paris to Bordeaux, taking just an hour. We’re thinking about that for our next trip.

 

 

 

 

 

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