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Posts Tagged ‘hotel’

I just got home late last night from a week of skiing with NEHSA (New England Healing Sports Association).

This was the first sports clinic that I have been too and I now realize how much fun I have missed for the past 20 years.

This particular clinic was held at Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire. I cannot say enough good about the organization, the location and the Veteran’s Administration for putting on such an event.

The skiing was SO much fun! But the bonus for me was meeting so many great participants and volunteers to make the week a huge success.

A special thanks to my ski instructors, Mark and Kevin! They were phenomenal to work with and get to know. And to Ken who joined in with our group and let us use his Go-Pro to capture one of my “finest” moments! lol

The plaque on the trophy that I was awarded says it all! And here is a link to a video to show my comedic moment. Skiing 

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Our second day in Italy did not start out quite like Wendy and I planned. We were both exhausted when we finally hit the bed, so we should have known better, but we did not set our alarm. We were not leaving the hotel until 8:00 AM. so we thought we would be fine. I woke up to look at the clock and it was 7:15 AM!! Now if you want me in a panic mode, being late for anything will do it. But Wendy and I got ready, packed, had our luggage downstairs, ate breakfast and did all of that in 45 minutes. Let’s just say I did not let any grass grow under my wheels that morning.  Lol

Wendy and I boarded our mini bus and set out for the Colosseum. We enjoyed the many sites along the way of shops, cafes, people and lots of traffic.  As we approached the Colosseum it definitely was the major presence in the area. Once again, seeing a picture of something in a book versus real life is totally different. In its day, the Colosseum must have been amazing, but it now gave me the impression of something that needed to be treated with great delicacy. I guess I had never thought of it that way before. Monumental in size and history it was spectacular. But thousands of years of wear and tear, as well as being scavenged by people to build other structures, have taken its toll. In the pictures you can see holes covering the entire structure. The holes are where materials – iron and marble – were removed for other building projects. Of course it is now being preserved and protected, and there are reconstruction efforts going on as you can see from the many scaffolds.

The Colosseum itself was approximately 160 feet high, could hold 55,000 spectators and had over 80 entrances. It took about 8 years to finish the structure and was built on the site of an artificial lake that was originally part of Nero’s gardens in the center of Rome. It consisted of four stories above ground and one story below ground where the animals were kept. There were also mechanical devices that were used to raise the animals to the center of the arena.  There was also a canopy, made from sails to shield the spectators from the sun, which could be pulled over the structure in a matter of minutes. This was accomplished with giant poles, ropes and about 1000 men.

The interior of the Colosseum was very accessible. Entering at the ground level the floors were mostly flat stone and ramps. At one end there is an elevator that can be used to access all floors. As with most ancient sites that I have been to, I just take my time and bounce my wheelchair over the rough spots. Even though the surface may be flat, there are cracks between the stones and lots of holes that love to catch my front wheels. So I strongly advise the slow and easy approach to getting around. That is much better than taking a nose dive from my chair.

The grounds around the Colosseum were very beautiful with lots of trees, flowers and other ancient monuments. The pine trees around here were beautiful. They are Italian Stone Pines and are very different from the White Pines that I am familiar with in Maine that grow straight and tall. They are referred to as Umbrella Pines and branch out to create a lush looking canopy. There is also the triumphal Arch of Constantine, which is a towering 69 ft high, just outside the Colosseum. We also saw the base of Nero’s statue that has been excavated. It is approximately 75 square feet and was originally covered with marble. Nero commissioned the 120 ft. Colossus of himself to be made from bronze and placed outside of his private palace. After the death of Nero, the head of the statue went through several changes depending on who was emperor at the time. It was later moved to the Colosseum area around 128 A.D., but there is no trace of the statue today.

After leaving the Colosseum we went on a small trek to the Roman Forum. On this walk we saw many beautiful and ancient buildings all around us. And of course what would a tour to the Colosseum be without seeing some Gladiators! Going into the excavated Forum was very “interesting” for a wheelchair. It was a flat paved surface but the incline was extremely steep. My guide had my wheelchair and backed me all the way down.

For centuries the Forum was the heartbeat of Roman public life. Everything important that happened in Rome happened at the Forum: processions, speeches, commercial activity, Roman Senate meetings and elections all took place here. The Forum also was the home of the ancient city shrines and temples. Much is still in the process of excavation and restoration but the temple complex of the Vestal Virgins is very well preserved along with many other monuments, arches and shrines.

When it was time to leave the Forum I thought, “Oh great, mountain climbing time.” My guide then grabbed my wheelchair and told me to hold on. He then started running to get up some speed and up the mountain we went! He was shouting in English and Italian all the way – “Excuse me! Pardon me! Look out! Get out of the way!” I’m still laughing about it remembering the people diving to the sides so they wouldn’t get mowed down by us. When we got to the top he was completely out of breath and I felt like I had just got off a rollercoaster. Got to love it! Lol

All of us then boarded the busses and headed to Civitavecchia where we would meet our new home for the next 14 days, Mariner of The Seas.

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You have your passport and your destination in mind–now you need to find a reliable tour company that is familiar with accessible travel. In my case, I have done my travels through a group that hosts numerous tours. The group is extremely detail oriented and works directly with the travel agency, so I have complete confidence that the standard travel arrangements will be faultless. With that being said, when I helped coordinate the accessible tour to Israel two years ago, I stayed very involved in the details since this was the first trip of its kind for this particular group. But after much planning and many meetings, the accessible piece of the pie went very smoothly.

I highly recommend getting connected with a tour group that promotes accessible travel, or with a group that is willing to listen and work with the many issues that a disabled traveler has to consider. For instance, if my flight has a layover, has enough time been allowed to get to my connecting flight? If I land in Concourse A, and my connecting flight is in Concourse D, I am going to need more time than the average bear to catch my next flight. I’m sure you have seen people running through the airport to catch connecting flights. Or people getting zipped across the airport in golf carts (which are not wheelchair accessible). Smaller airports are usually not a problem, but some of the larger airports I have to take a subway train from one concourse to the next. And what if I need a restroom break between flights? All of this takes extra time for me. So make sure the travel agency plans accordingly.

Parking at the airport is also something to look into. Some airports offer free or reduced rate parking for disabled people. Allow me to add a note of personal experience here. I contacted an airport once and asked about parking, getting a confirmation that parking was free for disabled individuals. The one thing they forgot to mention is that there was a time restriction of five days. We were there for six days and had to pay the full price. Live and learn.

And then there are the seat assignments on each flight to consider. You need to call in advance to confirm an appropriate seat that is not in an emergency exit and one that is accessible for a transfer. Be very specific in your request when asking about seats. Each plane is designed differently and the reservations people need to know and understand what you need. For instance, I found out (also the hard way), that the arm lift on the aisle seats raise up out of the way, allowing for a transfer, on only one side of some plane models. I was given a seat where the armrest did not raise up, so I had to throw my body up and over the armrest to get into my seat. Not the most graceful thing I have ever done. So be sure to ask reservations what model plane you are flying on and to have them place you on the correct side of the plane. If the customer service person you are talking to does not know, then ask for one that does. All of these questions can be asked politely, but they do need to be asked.

Hotel arrangements at your final destination need to be checked and rechecked. Just because a hotel claims to have an accessible room for you, does not make it so. A blue handicap sign on the door with a grab bar in the bathroom does not make it wheelchair accessible. I have actually requested reservations to measure door widths and available space in the room and bathroom to maneuver my wheelchair around. The tour company I use is familiar with what I need and is very good at making sure it will work for me.

Last but not least is ground transportation at your vacation spot/spots. I called three weeks ahead once for a car rental with hand controls. You guessed it. The wrong size car was waiting for us with no hand controls. Car rentals can be very tiresome. On the trip I made to Israel, we had a tour bus with a wheelchair lift which was wonderful. On our upcoming cruise, we will be making many port calls and the tour buses will not have wheelchair lifts. So a car and driver has been assigned to our group especially for me. I can easily transfer into and out of the car, and follow the rest of the group around on the bus. Yes there is an added expense to do this, but the money will be well spent to make our vacation an enjoyable one.

Once again, the tour company I use has done the bulk of what I talked about. But I still keep my finger on the pulse of everything. It is much better to deal with everything on the phone before we leave, than to get to Europe and find out there are problems that for a disabled traveler can quickly turn into a fiasco.

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