What is a girl to do, when she falls in love and has to travel 4600 miles to see her new love??
Well, first time I laid my eyes on a Oracing wheelchair, I shared it on my facebook page as if it was a girls favorite new designer shoes, hot actor, or some other highly coveted thing we love. For this “Push Girl”, this chair has all the hot good looks and stable, strong build a girl can depend on! Plus, that mysterious and exotic foreign birthplace…well…I was looking for something uncommon, and was tired of the same old chairs “next door”. This girl craved some variety! So I set my sites on how to make my way to Spain and met my new love in person!
I began with trying to find a home swap. I didn’t want to have to pay for a hotel and airfare, so I started scouring all the sites I have in the past…homeexchange.com and Home for exchange.com. (It is the lack of accessible properties or reliable information on accessibility on these sites that inspired TravabilityProperites.com, where one can swap, rent or buy accessible properties worldwide.) I had to figure out where my new love lived and try to find something close by,a hard task, made even more difficult as I needed a wheelchair accessible, or at least reasonably so…property. No luck when I need to go in May, yet it would appear the entire country went on holiday, just not until July and August. Nobody was leaving in May. Then my wise Australian business partner told me I should fly into Barcelona rather than Madrid (they were about equal distance away from Gandia where my love was waiting for me.) He said I should not miss the opportunity to tour Barcelona, as it was the home of the 19?? Paralympics and had made great strides in accessibility.
So I started a new search for swaps in Barcelona and got lucky! A young, hip couple wanted to come to south Florida in August and said I could have their apt in the city in May. No car, but close to public transit and an elevator to reach apt. A nice tub for a soak after a long day of sightseeing…I am in!
I quickly booked my tickets as the flight went up $300 in one day and only 2 seats left on direct flight from Miami to Barcelona. I was flying alone for my first time internationally, and meeting a friend there so I didn’t want to deal with a layover. 13 hours was bad enough! Whew!
American Airlines did a superb job at handling me and my wheelchair…even though my rigid frame Quickie Gti didn’t fit in to the cabin closet as it always does on most plane configurations…they took my Spinergy wheels off and stowed them and took the rest of my titanium chair and put it under the plane in baggage hold. It came back in perfect shape and the staff was so nice and friendly and made me feel very comfortable on my first long flight solo. I was even given bulk head seat and they now have a special check in desk for those who require special assistance …so I didn’t have to wait in line to check in.
Miami International also has a policy now that allows those with disabilities to drop off their luggage curb side and self-park while they hold your bags for you. Clearly I couldn’t be expected to drag my 70 pound bag full of 11 days of shoes, wardrobe, makeup and toiletries from the parking garage ☺
So I dropped of bags, headed for short term parking where it is free with modified vehicles with hand controls, parked, put my backpack on my back of chair, my duffle bag on my lap with all my “must haves” that will stay with me in flight. In case my bags are lost or delayed or in case of an “accident or illness—I have all needed supplies and meds, change of clothes, patch kit for Roho, extra tire tubes in case of flat, Roho air hawk cushion for my long seat ride, blow up neck roll, file with FAA guidelines for wheelchair passengers, and all my documents/numbers and itinerary for trip. If anyone wants a full check list I have developed for use on trips over the years, write us at Deborah.davis @pushliving.com and I will email.
I then go and checks bags, and have the nice wheelchair assistance folks do their job and escort me to my gate. They help me through security, which I need as they get me through with ease, and wait for me with my stuff while I get my friendly TSA pat down, I never had I had a unpleasant experience with those great folks whose job is to do this for wheelers, and I have done this many times. They are kind, and follow procedures with respect and dignity. That has been my experience. I also make a point to be exceptionally nice to them and thank them for a job well done.
So I arrive in Spain and meet my friend at baggage claim, rent a car and head right out to Port Olympia were we sit in the sun and eat fresh seafood tapas and have a glass of wine. After, we take a much needed nap, wake up late, hungry and decide to take rented car out to city and find some food. Note to first time visitors to Spain…they eat late…but not past 1am! And they have many surprise police road blocks that test you for drinking. AND they actually want you to have an international driver’s license. If you don’t, they will impound your car.
So be sure, to get one before you go. And take a cab or public transit if you plan on drinking on a night out in Barcelona. Parking is difficult downtown anyway.
The next day, we set out for the Familia ____but ended up enjoying the sunny day and the row of outdoor cafes lined up in the center of Gaudi Avenue. Outdoor market, cured meats and warm Spanish scarfs were in just the thing for this Florida Girl!
Later we asked a cabbie for a recommendation …and he took us to a great Restaurant known for it’s fresh seafood and celebrity visits, right near the ocean called Salamanca http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d1007529-Reviews-Restaurante_Salamanca-Barcelona_Catalonia.html. They serve Black Paella, the best wines and have a classic ambiance and excellent service. They have an accessible restroom located in the back. I went outside to find the easiest entrance into the door.
The next day we went back to the Olympic Park and had lunch at one of the best seafood restaurants…El Cangrjo Loco. You can sit downstairs or upstairs with the view…but no elevator inside…or bathroom upstairs. To access upper level with views of water, you need to go to upper level of the plaza and approach the restaurant from that level.
We then went for a long walk along the ocean boardwalk…and were amazed at the ramps and wooden pathways across sand for closer water access on the beach all throughout the way.
Later we went to La Rambla – Barcelona, where they have the most fabulous statues of Lions.
You are highly encouraged to walk the Old Town or Gothic Town. Barri Gòtic – the Gothic quarter — at Barri Gothic – Barcelona. We were seeking a famous Jazz club, but found the venue had steep steps leading downstairs. They offered to carry us, but I was not keen. So we had plenty to do, in this amazing area with smooth and easy paved streets and so much fascinating things to explore. The Barri Gòtic is adjacent to the northeast side of the Ramblas, the famous street to stroll.
The next day we head out to Barcelona Zoo. My admission was free as was my companion. What a surprise!
I loved the elephants and they have a ramp to a high platform you can over see them from and right below are a pond of enormous hippos! They are such amazing creature up close!
There is not much there in way of food, so we walked across the street and found some outdoor cafes. We then made our way to another famous area-La Rambla Catalonia, where we were set to meet the most experienced accessible travel guru in Barcelona, Alan Broadbent of Disabled Accessible travel (good name huh..great for google search) http://www.disabledaccessibletravel.com/https://www.facebook.com/disabledaccessibletravel
His company is the main provider of accessible travel services in Barcelona and what a world of knowledge and history is this man! We had a lovely dinner at an outdoor café with Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft, who was doing a sabbatical in Spain, learning Spanish while living a single female in a $5000 a month accessible condo wheeling distance from all the best shopping and restaurants. Alan taught us all about the Catalonia culture and its influence in Barcelona. One fact that made such an impression is he told us that Spain’s President made a pledge that he wanted the country to be the most accessible country in the world. Let me tell you, so far, I am very impressed.
The next day we decided to take a hop on hop off Bus that was accessible and had taped guided tour info via provided ear buds. We started at Port Olympia…and had a drink at the famous and incredibly designed Hotel Arts Barcelona on the pool side patio overlooking the port.
After you can cross the street and grab the bus. We stopped at the Maseu Blau Museum where we looked at the Poisonous things exhibit. It’s amazing we are all not dead yet with all those things crawling around!
Next stop was Tibidabo, where we attempted to get a cable car to the Tibidabo teleferic station … We got off and couldn’t find our way, so we just started pushing up a very steep hill up a toney neighborhood until we saw a bus stop and a young man who was searching for the same place. He asked the bus driver and we found that we could take this bus, with an accessible ramp to the top where we could then take the ____ to the top of Tibidabo. The ____ was closed at 4:00 but we found an adorable little cliff side bar with a look out that was worth the trip! Note: we later found out that the Blue cable car that was advertised on Bus Tour to take us to Tibidabo is not wheelchair accessible.
Next, we walked from the last stop on the bus tour back to Old Town for a reserved Authentic Spanish Flamenco Show in an amazing old building with a candle lit courtyard and traditional old style furnishings and paintings. Espai Barroc is located on the opposite side from the Museu Picasso (which by the way—if you visit you don’t need to wait in long lines if you are a wheelchair user, there is a separate ticket window). http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187497-d606659-Reviews-Espai_Barroc-Barcelona_Catalonia.html
The streets are very smooth in Gothic Town as well as most everywhere we went throughout Barcelona. I didn’t bring my Freewheel for this trip and frankly didn’t miss it.
Now we are off for the main reason I came to Spain…to go to the seaside town of Gandia to pick up my new love…a love I have spent months developing and communicating via email. I selected the dimensions, the height width and the perfect custom color. My new love…an Oracing ridged frame suspension wheelchair with custom side guards, tapered front end, ergo seat with strips, leather frame protectors and even an original design push bar with padded handmade leather padded grips.
We were greeted by Felipe Garcia, the owner and a brilliant c-56 quadriplegic design and production genius who has built this company and built a team of the best from all over the world to come to Gandia and make custom wheelchairs, bikes and sport chairs. Bike-on.com is a dealer and who I purchased my new chair from with the help of dedicated and patient representative Stephen Feldman.
We were able to book the 4 star RH Bayren Hotel & Spa for less than $100 per night with an accessible room that had a gorgeous roll in shower. Ramps from the Hotel Pool to the boardwalk lead us to a smooth surface stroll on the famed beachfront. I recommend the Barracuda restaurant, as they have great casual food, wifi, a ramp and an accessible bathroom. Do not forgo the Spa massage here, with its sophisticated décor, well trained masseuses, and reasonable prices. After a 5 hour trip from Barcelona, it was just what I needed. For a great dinner, head a few blocks North from the Hotel to La Pizzeria, which contrary to its name, is an excellent upscale Italian restaurant with a ramp!
While in Gandia and while the most excellent team at Oracing where making some final changes to my chair, we were encouraged to drive south another 40 minutes to port town of Denia…where we had a fabulous meal at The Port Restaurant. Now this restaurant did not have an accessible bathroom and the only on I found was not quite so…with scary boarded ramp steeply entering in a storage room where the fully accessible bathroom was located. Loll!
When we got back to Oracing, just after 5pm, my chair was ready to take home. We doubled kissed our hosts Felipe Garcia, Owner and his fabulous production team goodbye and me and my new love took our long 5 hour journey back to Barcelona. On the way we stopped at the most scenic view on the southern side of the city where we stopped to take in the sun setting on a most successful trip.
We found an amazing little restaurant by using our rental car’s’ navigation system to select nearby restaurants. We just picked one in close proximity that we liked the name of and took a chance and followed our guide. We showed up at the La Cupula, and to our surprise we arrived at an accessible, cliff side, breathtaking, movie scene like location. We panicked a bit as we sat down until we saw that the prices were not going to break the bank!
The following day we decided to take the car out of Barcelona for the most scenic and amazing drive I have ever experienced. …but not one for the faint of heart! As you drive the windy two lane mountain side road up to the Monastery of Montserrat, you will want to go slow and take in the breathtaking views!
Once you get to the very top, you can park, but I did not see any reserved spaces for wheelchairs, so I would recommend you get dropped off close to the entrance, as the parking is located below a steep climb up a slope.
The sun came out, and we enjoyed the lookout, the architectural wonder of this landmark Benedictine abbey and basilica. Tip: A little trolly—no ramp but they carried me in, will take you up to the main entrance. A good thing as the wind was blowing, and I was freezing up there! They have a funicular- a steep Incline you can take to the top of the mountain from the station there, and if you are inclined, a mass, a black virgin statue (not accessible) and a boys’ choir.
The final day I was back at terminal 1 and was pleasantly surprised that the airport police said we could park our car at the entrance for as long as needed so I could be assisted with my luggage into the terminal for my flight back to Miami. Another special wheelchair assistance desk awaited me, and I was told I could take my old chair back free of charge as it was “medical equipment.” YAY.
So, as you can see, there is much to fall in Love with about Spain. Barcelona and Oracing both did not disappoint, and I recommend both for the best of PushLiving!