Welcome to the first blog post in a new series called Trip Reports, filed under the Reader Mailbag.
Every so often, I dip into the mailbag to answer questions about accessible travel from readers just like you. Occasionally, readers like to share a story and photos from their own accessible journey — those stories will now be part of the Trip Reports series. If you have a question you’d like answered or would like to share details from a recent trip, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
The following trip report was submitted by Mary and Terry Haas from Florida. They wrote:
We took a Uniworld river cruise on the Joie de Vivre ship from Paris to Normandy. While the company discourages wheelchair users due to limited accessibility, they were actually very accommodating. The combination of walking and using a wheelchair on shore excursions worked out. Specifically –
They were adamant my wife had to walk on/off the ship but took the folding wheel chair and stored it in the lobby where it was accessible for shore excursions. She had to walk everywhere on the ship but we specifically chose this boat since it had an elevator to three of the four decks as well as a chair lift to the sun deck on the top of the ship.
First excursion was Château de La Roche-Guyon – on this and all excursions the bus drivers put the wheelchair in the luggage area. At the site it was a long walk through gardens so we used the chair. The paths were solid dirt and I could push the chair. At the chateau there were numerous steps to get in and inside so she decided to remain outside but did walk to an interesting ground level exhibit.
Monet’s Giverny was next – again a long walk through the gardens using the wheelchair and while a bit narrow at times the wheelchair worked on the dirt paths. She did not try to go in the house.
Rouen was next – all day walking tour of the city – much too long for her to walk so we again used the chair. Some on city sidewalks, inside the cathedral, etc. but most on rough cobblestones so I reverted to going in reverse as the front wheels were a constant problem but we did see everything.
In Normandy I pushed her in the wheelchair for the entire time. Solid dirt paths so we went everywhere except the farthest point on Omaha Beach, but did not feel we missed anything. Overall, far too much for her to walk. She did not go on the beaches as it was too sandy.
Check out this Guide to Wheelchair Access at the Palace of Versailles.
In Versailles, we used the wheelchair over some rough cobblestones in the approach to the palace by backing up most of the way. As we had been inside before realized it would be very difficult with the crowds and small space and really wanted to see the gardens – found they have a golf cart option (small fee) and we went to the head of the line and thoroughly enjoyed the day in the gardens and the cart.
On our last day in Paris we had a tour of the Opera Garnier – again used the wheelchair and the tour director was very accommodating finding the limited elevators for us to avoid the numerous stairs. All Paris taxi cabs as well as the Red on/off buses handled the wheelchair with no problems.
Mary and Terry Haas
Interested in taking a wheelchair accessible trip to Paris? Start with the Paris, France Accessible Travel Guide, a free resource filled with information on the wheelchair accessibility of Paris attractions, hotels, public transportation, taxis and more!