Wednesday, October 09, 2013

European Vacation 3: Paris and beyond!

(continued from Europe 1: Amsterdam and Europe 2: Belgium

... After some struggles with train bookings and accessibility prep (see Belgium), we were on our way to gay Paris! 

The fast train is... FAST. In one hour we were jetted into the center of Paris via the TGH - who bumped us up to first class, and provided taxi service for us. The taxi driver was awesome, explaining monuments along the way to the Hotel Derby near the Eiffel Tower.

As with hotels in the previous three cities, we booked months in advance, and knowing there would be some barriers, such as the one step up to the front door and the narrow bathroom door, we booked the hotel for its compromises and its location, and in this case, its price. Our walk in rates for all hotels were nearly double what we'd paid for online, so do your research and book in advance!

We were only in Paris two nights, and that was a bit of a whirlwind - we'd hoped to trade in our vacation ownership for the entire stay in Paris, and unfortunately there wasn't much with access in the city, so we locked in the Marriott resort out near Disney (45 mi. east) when the trade came in, and added on two nights in Paris at the Derby.

While there we racked up 26 miles in two days on foot touring the Eiffel Tower, the Arc du Triomphe, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Palace Invalides, and a boat tour... 13 miles each day, in the pouring rain. Well equipped with rain gear we made do, and while neither the entire Arc nor the top of the Eiffel weren't accessible, getting up close and personal to both were worth it, as was the line at Notre Dame, the aimless backtracking at the Louvre (elevators are not ideally placed), and the boat tour. Our one recommendation on the boat tour: KNOW the two accessible stops - Eiffel and Orsay - because there are a plethora of stairs at the other six. Miraculously we lucked out on that one. Highlight of the day: Getting up close and personal to the Mona Lisa - wheelchairs roll right up to it!

In addition to the sites, we took in the food again here; quaint little restaurants that wowed: Royal Grenelle, Majaraja, and the best pan au chocolates, baguettes, and cappuccinos of our lives.

After Paris, we rented a car and toured the nearby countryside - and racked up some of our favorite memories of the trip while stationed at the gorgeous Marriott Ile de France Resort.

From here we headed down toward Loire and toured accessible Chateaus: Chambord, Chaumont and Amboise and checked out the towns of Vouvray, Tours and Blois, dining on the way home in Orleans. Four words: Thank God for Garmin. Easily the best $75 we spent all month.

One day we visited the nearby big cat reserve (awesome if you love big cats - very accessible park and up close and personal shots!) and made dinner at a countryside fresh veggie and meats stand. YUM, BRIE and homebrew!

We also toured the Champagne Region and had a full accessible tour of Mercier in Reims and a partially accessible tour in at Mumm in Reims - and lots of champange to accompany.

Last excursion - we drove out to Versaille and toured that - the trams were helpful here (they always helped Craig transfer on board) but overall this was perhaps wrong to do last, we were tired, short on time, and overall disinterested in the huge estate and gardens after the chateaus we'd seen in Loire. But it was free. Personal preference.

Very last, the Charles de Galle airport was... challenging. For an international airport, the accessibility is unimpressive. We waited for an hour to get an escort from the check in desk to bring us to the gate, due to some issue with elevators and ascending moving sidewalks that seemed do-able though they wouldn't let Craig near them. They did park us at the Red Carpet club for a half hour for the hassle, and escorted us through security smoothly, which was nice.

Overall, despite the language barrier at time, we were pleasantly surprised at France's access - not as universal as Amsterdam, but not as bad as we'd anticipated. And the entire three weeks? Truly a life enriching experience we'll treasure for the rest of our lives!

And last, France in Photographs: 































1 comment:

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