by Shlomit Grossman © 2001
2001, Shlomit and Boaz Grossman, of Israel, took in the Spanish beauty of Barcelona and the
Pyrenees. Boaz, who is a paraplegic, found easy rolling throughout Barcelona and excellent access in Pamplona,
Ainsa, Zaragoza and Bilbau.
September 2001, Shlomit and Boaz Grossman, of Israel, took in the Spanish beauty of Barcelona and the Pyrenees. Boaz, who is a paraplegic, found easy rolling throughout Barcelona and excellent access in Pamplona, Ainsa, Zaragoza and Bilbau. All photos Grossman © 2001
Dear disabled friends:
We are a couple in our
50s, but young in soul and spirit, and we travel a lot around the world.
My husband, Boaz, is paraplegic due to his 1967 war injury in a degree
that confines him to the wheelchair, except for a few steps with the
help of canes. He is also a big guy so that his wheelchair requires at
least a 70 cm wide doorway to get access. I'd like to share with you the
wonderful experience we just had touring Spain for two weeks. The trip
was carefully planned and was a success.
prepared our trip with the help of the Internet mostly, but also the
Lonely Planet Guide to Barcelona, some local Israeli guides, maps of
Michelin 1/400000 Espania/Norte and Espania/Noreste . Most important: a
guide I found in the web called Spain, which gives the most precious
information in regard to the disabled traveler. Its link is http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/services/tourism/tourism-publications/documents/spain.pdf
planned the trip for two weeks (which we find optimal), our targets
being Barcelona and vicinity ( 1 week) and the Spanish Pyrenees. In
tour) and Costa Brava (a day tour)
- 7 days stay, accommodation in Barcelona
2. Scenic Pyrenees:
1st day: Barcelona - Andorra ( N-152 to Puigcerda, N-260 to La Seu d'Urgell, N 145 to Andorra).
3rd day: Pont de
Suert - Ainsa (on the N260 to Torla and the gate to the national
park of Ordesa , Back through Ainsa
and on the A138 to Torreciaudad, and Back to Ainsa)
Ainsa - Pamplona (from Ainsa on the N260 to Boltana, on the
A1604 to Castillo de Leres, on the N230 and N 330 to Jaca and on the
N240 to Pamplona)
Pamplona - San Sebastian
- Zumaia - Pamplona
6th day: Pamplona -
Bilbau ( N1 and A68)
7th day: Bilbau
- Zaragoza (on the A68)
8th day: Zaragoza
- Barcelona (on the N11)
Rented cars: We found
out that Europcar has hand controlled cars to rent which can be
reserved through direct e-mail with them Reservations.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The service was kind,
but it took two weeks of inquiries and correspondence to finally have a
reservation. Three facts are worth mentioning: a. The cars are a bit
small, at least for paraplegic big guys ( Nisan Primera).
b. The hand control is,
god knows why, on the right side of the wheel, the opposite of the one
used by Boaz. It is on the same side as the gear stick, and it is
difficult in parking and similar situations where you have to use both
gas+brakes control and switch between reverse and drive gear.
c. The car is rented
without aids as a "knob" on the wheel .One should bring his
own. Also, handicapped signs and license (like the ones that hang in
front window in the US are recommended).
On the first two days
of our trip, we used and got introduced to the following transportation
- One from
the airport (with four pieces of luggage and the wheelchair) were all
managed in a regular airport yellow taxi to the disbelieving eyes of the
driver. In the city of Barcelona the taxis will take willingly a
wheelchair passenger once he can sit on a regular seat and let his
folded wheelchair be put in the rear baggage space. The drivers are nice
and the fees reasonable.
Buses: Some of
the local buses in Barcelona are equipped with stairs that unfold to a
ramp and the wheelchair can be wheeled to the bus. Unlike
NYC, the driver does not step out to help the passenger but waits
until he is wheeled in and
positioned himself. Drivers were sometime not talkative. When we wanted
to get off the bus, we had to wait until the regular passengers went
down then the doors close - we were sure that the driver did not notice
us waiting to exit, but then the ramp was opening - all this without the
driver saying one single word to us. You can see which buses are
equipped with these ramps by a wheelchair sign on the front and rear of
found out that one subway line in Barcelona, the L2, which is the
central line, is fully fitted to wheelchair passengers. Each station
along the line has lifts from street level to the cashiers and from the
cashiers to the ramps where the train is fully leveled so the entrance
and exit are very smooth. This was a real treat because it was also very
rapid and with a high frequency.
turned out to be the smoothest walking city we traveled--probably
because of the Olympics. The transition from pavement to roads was an
olive oil one, even in the older parts of the city. Barcelona gets the
Lesser grades go to the
other cities like Zaragozaís walking center near the
the Pillar Piaza and Bilbau, which does not have enough ramps on the
walking path along the river.
beautiful and interesting. Surprisingly convenient to the disabled
tourist in walks and accessibility to sites. Part of the places were not
fully accessible, like the famous
Gaudi church of the holy family
"Familila Segrada" where some paths are not accessible,
and the entrance is through a ramp, which is a little steep. Gaudi's
Park Guel was also only partly accessible, but the accessible part
is worth a visit. But you walk the beautiful avenue of "Paseig de
Garcia" and the Gauidi buildings are in front of you, like
fairy tales objects. The architectural village "Pueblo Espaniol"
is only partly accessible. It was a little commercial, but the display
of all the houses designs is fascinating. In all the sites with a
limited accessibility, we had to pay a ticket only for me which was of
course at least very considerate. The beautiful port is a walker and a
wheelchair paradise as has ramps all over, and there is a lot to see and
here I'll comment only on the Dali Museum in
Figures, which is a
magnificent attraction, especially to Dali fans. The museum used to once
be a theater and the upper part, which contains the major part of the
display, was not accessible to our sorrow. The rest of this one-day tour
was a symphony in green and blue. We drove to Dali's home in Port Ligat
and the neighbor town Cadaques, with their white houses, all glittering
in the sun. The afternoon was a scenic and quite difficult drive in the
southern part of the Cost Brava, on the GI682 road - Don't miss it!! It
overlooked the partly hidden villages of San Feliu and
Tosa del Mar and
last - Blanes from which we took the highway to Barcelona.
A huge monastery on the peeks of the Monserat Mountains,
which reminded us of the
Meteora in Greece. Steep and bizarre rocks - one has to see it to believe that nature is the greatest of
artists. The monastery is a panoramic viewpoint. It is accessible, and
with the wheelchair sign, we got our car to the very top. One building,
though, is not accessible--the monastery museum to which you go down on
stairs with no ramp. Besides this, every place there is accessible and
there is also a comfortable disabled bathroom.
is built on a mountain, and reminds visitors of a fairy
tale from the Grim Brothers. It is steep and hard to walk unless
you are on the main street in the center. One thing to remember: always
look for elevators that bring you to the upper street so you don't have
to climb the uphill road.
National Park De
Auiguestortes (near Espot): The place is a pearl, usually
accessible only until the parking. With our disabled sign, we got a
special ticket from the eager to help staff. We could go with our car
(while other hiking or with the park's jeeps) to the ice cold, dark blue
Lake De Sant Maurici
. There we found a wooden path enabling a
wheelchair to go right to the waterside.
Not accessible but if you go to the parking, you can follow the park's
bus after you get a special ticket. But, unlike the park we visited
before, you could not go on from the parking. We were told that the
walking is very stony and difficult, so we left it at the entrance to
the park. The entrance itself, near Torla, is very beautiful and you see
the frightening Monte Perdido from there. What we missed was the
remarkable scenery of the canyon.
Museum: Fully accessible and huge. We entered from the river walk on
the other side, which had us go uphill. Entering from the other side is
site in this city is the Pilar huge square with the basilica "Nuestra
Senora del Pilar" (our lady of the pillar). The square is
impressive. The basilica, present building from the 17th century, is
fully accessible and fascinating. It is full of statues and carving and
is easy to navigate to, but one has to note the
entrances to the rental cars return. If you missed the right entrance,
you may have to make another round as I had to. We departed several days
after the shocking events in the twin buildings of the World Trade
Center. One advice I can donate: Take the minimum in your hand luggage
(except for medicines of course). Put in the suitcase scissors of any
kind, screwdrivers etc. because the security check will not let you take
them with you on the plane, rather you will have to put it to the
staff's care or to say goodbye to the things. As always, we took the
wheelchair with us to the door of the plane, and insisted on getting it
before going to the ground. That way we avoid breaking parts of the
chair when treating it as a regular baggage piece.
stayed in a disabled personís room at the 4-star Melia Confort
Apolo (Tel. 0034-934431122, Fax 0034-934430069). The room was
spacious in all aspects. The bathroom had a bath and was very spacious
(we brought a folding bath chair). All the facilities in the hotel are
accessible, and above all the staff is warm and kind and serves with a
kind of hospitality you rarely find . The cost was modest relative to
the services level: 24000 ESP (including VAT) for two people (breakfast
not included). The hotel is located within walking distance from the
Center avenue of the Rambla, the old quarter
Barrio Gotico, the Marina
Port Vell and Montjuic hill, which makes it very attractive. In front
the hotel, is a bus station and a subway with a lift for wheelchairs.
The area is a little low-class with many immigrants, which we found
fascinating and colorful.
A problematic issue -
the parking. The hotel has a link to a private parking, which is
expensive (3000 ESP per day) and quite difficult to manage. In the
streets - crowded, but you can find in the area places with paid tickets
(on weekend - free). In the hotel neighborhood, there were no places
reserved for disabled drivers, but we found some near museums and sites.
We counted on the wheelchair badge hanging in front of the car in places
where space was reserved for wheelchair drivers.
Andorra - We
reserved a disabled room at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Andorra La Vella
(Tel. 00376874444, Fax 00376874445). The hotel is situated in the center
of the city, right below the municipality building. It took us a while
to find it, so our suggestion is to ask from the hotel to fax you
with the confirmation instructions how to get there. The room was
very small, the bathroom convenient but with a funny flaw to shower--
the seat was such that the valves were in the back of the disabled
person--hard to operate and by random movement the hot water operated
unwillingly. The surrounding of the hotel is difficult to walk aside
from the main street as it is steep, but the views are breath taking
(not from the room where you saw a very close neighboring house). The
cost was relatively cheap because we are members of the Holiday Inn
priority club : 16700 ESP with parking per night.
Pont de Suert
The Hotel Can Mestre (Tel. 0034973690306, Fax 0034973590514), was
a two-star hotel we found in the Spanish guide for disabled people. We
were told in advance that because it was a renovated old house, the
elevator begins after climbing several steps from the rear. As we had no
alternative, we took the managerís promise to help us with the chair
to the elevator. We did not regret it - The hotel is situated in the
heart of the old small town - the Piaza Mayor, and there was a feast
with dancing and music there that evening. We were helped upstairs and
the room was large and old stylish wooden topped with an accessible
bathroom - one could not ask for more there. The cost (7000 ESP)
included a nice breakfast in the first-floor dining room. When
departing, we were helped by the manager and workers downstairs to the
- The town
had no hotel with a disabled room. The hotel we finally chose was the
three-star Apolo Hotel, (Tel. 0034-974500888, Fax 0034-974500836,
e-mail: email@example.com) a brand
new hotel , accessible to the room, but alas - the bathroom was not
accessible to the wheelchair as the doorway was too narrow. We managed
with mutual efforts, but it was a pain in the neck.
The hotel cost was very reasonable: 7400 ESP for night, 3100 ESP
for two dinners with wine, and 2000 ESP for two breakfast buffets. The
hotel is not far from Aisa main center, but you have to drive to the
medieval part of the city, which is the more beautiful one.
Pamplona - We
stayed in the three-star Abba Reino De Navarra
0034-948177575 Fax 0034-948177778), situated across the Japanese garden
and by the university area. The hotel is accessible, and we got the
sixth floor disabled room with a magnificent view. An important fact to
bear in mind is that in three-star hotels, as much as they are nice, the
staff does not include bellboys, and it depends on the staffís good
will to help you carry all the extra luggage that a disabled traveller
usually carries. We always tipped these nice boys and girls -- even if
they were managers that gave us a hand. We stayed there two nights,
making it a base for tours to San Sebastian area. It was not expensive:
16800 ESP per night. The location is convenient, near many restaurants
and coffee shops.
stayed at the Barcelo Hotel Nervion 9 Tel. 0034-944454700 Fax
firstname.lastname@example.orgThe hotel was
situated by the river, not far from the Gugenheim Museum, which we
visited by walking from the hotel. Parking on the street is crowded, so
we used the hotel free parking. No elevator to the parking so that only
I could park and exit the parking. The cost was reasonable: 17000ESP,
including breakfast buffet. The staff was very nice.
town was the last before we returned for two days to Barcelona. The
hotel we reserved was the modern renovated three-star Hotel Oriente
(Tel. 0034-976203282). The hotel is situated in the Coso street, which
is a busy center city location. It is very convenient but troublesome
with parking. The hotel has a private parking which is near by. The
location is also in walking distance from the old city and the Lady of
the Pillar church and Piaza. The staff was young and nice and the room
very nice and fully equipped. It also had the bathroom chair with the
valves in the back of the seat...Why couldn't the architect think of
installing the valves in the side?
The cost was reasonable: 15000ESP, including breakfast.
That's all guys, as I have no intention to wear you out too much. I skipped the part of the wonderful tapas bars, the seafood restaurants, the deep tasty Spanish wine and at the top - the wonderful figs you pick up on the roads. There's still time to tour the area, till October. After that - you'll have to wait for spring as the Pyrenees are too cold in the winter.
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