We began by travelling to Ebbsfleet to catch the Eurostrar train. Great accessible parking, easy access to the station, helpful staff, lift to the platform.
The massive ramp to the train was moved into place. A scary moment as I had my chair on tilt and the ramp was steep – lesson not to carry all the luggage on my chair! Onto the train – Dad sat in standard class as it was too expensive for him to sit in premium standard with Mum and me (the only way a passenger with wheelchair can travel). We got free breakfast dad took his own sandwich.
At Gare du Nord another ramp but much better, a drive on, lower and drive off thing. Great service at the Tourist Information office on the concourse with details for all the buses we needed for our planned trip. Bought a carnet of tickets (10 tickets are better value) and easily found the bus stop. Kneeler buses with ramp are excellent. Access and exit the rear doors then shout to the driver your destination so he knows when to lower the ramp when you want to get off. The metro and batobus (river taxi) are not accessible.
Got off the bus at The Louvre. My research said the only access was the Pyramid entrance so we went straight there. The people exiting didn’t seem to see us waiting to enter as they streamed out but eventually the staff rescued us and we got whisked inside to an amazing lift down to the main foyer.
Entry was free for me and Mum so only Dad paid (if we had booked online we would have paid for 3). Left our coats and there was a separate left baggage check in. First we went up to see the Mona Lisa. Easy to find, lots of signs, 2 lifts and a long way round but worth it. We worked our way forward to the front and suddenly the barrier was lifted I was beckoned forward and I was sat alone in front of the lady herself. Everyone else was behind the barrier. Yes her eyes seem to move and wherever I was in the room she watched me!
We then decided to go and see the Venus de Milo. Wow, what a journey. Signed from the Mona Lisa it looked easy but not for a wheelchair. The staff sent us to a variety of different routes and after many false starts we eventually got there after about 30 minutes. The access guide to The Louvre just shows lifts and the staff say there is full access, it would definitely help if they knew how to get from A to B themselves using the lifts.
Lunch was in restaurant, great food and then we experienced the disabled loos. All inside the ladies, at the back so a squeeze to get in. I wonder if there is a reason why French people who use disabled toilets don’t need to dry their hands after washing (every disabled loo I visited was the same!!!)
We had exactly the same problem with lifts leaving, we followed the signs to exit by la Tuileries Garden (long walk to our bus stop this way at Place de La Concorde only to find it was not an accessible route). A member of staff tried to help only to find the staff lifts out of order so we ended up having to re-enter the Louvre and leave but the only accessible entrance that we’d come in on. La Tuileries Gardens was fine, got to Place de la Concorde to find bus stop out of order, as we had walked over half way to our hotel we continued on foot. Dropped kerbs always available but a bit of a drop or steep rise in places. Eventually got to the Eiffel Tower and found our hotel nearby. Beware it seems (my experience) disabled rooms are for 2 people with a double bed and no third bed possible. We had a standard room for 3 so it was a bit tight for my chair but I managed. The hotel had little open lifts to bar and restaurant.
Day 2. Quick trot to Eiffel Tower. Long long queue. We went to access entrance, although we had not booked we were taken straight through with Dad going to buy tickets. Mum and I were half price. First into and out of lift. Staff great and fabulous views.
Walked up through park onto the bus to Gare du Nord. Because it was so quick at The Eiffel Tower we had time to get off on The Champs Élysées and go to the Christmas market, wonderful chocolate stall! Several presents done! Very busy, but strange again people didn’t seem to see me! But I only saw a few people in chairs and then mostly manual.
Back on the bus and once we found the Eurostar lift a great reception. Only downside was the disabled loo (view through open door of men going – a ‘French thing’ apparently) which was too small for my chair so I ended with a second eye full as I did a turn outside the men’s room! Then home! Dad got an upgrade and sat with us on way back as standard premier was not busy. Thank you Eurostar.
PARIS, I loved it – but make sure you plan and prepare for the unexpected. Definitely not as straight forward as you might imagine, but who wants to have an boring life anyway, NOT ME!