Wheelchair Accessible Travel in
Burgundy and Perigord (the Dordogne) - 2007
Howard L. Chabner and Michele E. DeSha
© Howard L. Chabner and Michele E. DeSha 2007
Howard and Michele Chabner, of San Francisco, CA, toured the Burgundy and Perigord (Dordogne) regions of France, before capping off their trip with another Parisian visit. They stayed in an accessible 12th century abbey, visited picturesque villages, ancient monastic sites, and sculpted gardens. Along the way, they also sampled fine wine, gourmet dining and some of France’s most scenic terrain.
This article is the fruit of our late May and early June 2007 trip to Burgundy and Perigord (the Dordogne). It’s intended as an introduction, a starting point for your research and a way to convey realistic expectations. We hope it will help you plan an access strategy based on your interests and mobility capabilities and limitations.
This article is dedicated to our friends Claude and Chantal Martelet, with great warmth and many thanks.
For information about wheelchair accessible travel in Paris, see Paris Passerelles, based on our 2003 trip, and Supplement to Paris Passerelles, based on our 2005 trip. For information about hotel access in Paris, see our Paris Hotel Wheelchair Access Survey 2000 - 2007. They’re on the websites where this article is published.
We traveled on our own. In planning our trip we used the Internet and other information sources but not a travel agent.
We’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, but you should confirm all information, especially access details, directly with hotels, museums, transportation providers and other facilities. As in all research, primary sources are much better than secondary ones. Things change. It’s essential to re-confirm information shortly before acting on it.
About Us. Because one’s physical capabilities and limitations, and his equipment, affect the access achievable and his point of reference informs his perception of access, we’ll tell you about ourselves. We are fortunate to live in San Francisco, where wheelchair access is generally excellent. Howard has muscular dystrophy and uses an electric wheelchair. Michele is able-bodied. On this trip Howard used a Quickie P110 folding electric wheelchair that is 25 inches (63.5 cm) wide, weighs approximately 100 pounds (including the batteries, which are removable) and has gel cell batteries. The footrests are elevating and removable; the wheelchair is 48 inches (122 cm) long with the footrests in the shortest position (including Howard’s toes protruding past the footrests by 2 inches (5 cm)). Howard is 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall and, when seated, 57 inches (1.45 meters) high. He cannot walk and can transfer to an inaccessible car only with great difficulty. All other dimensions in this article are approximate; we didn’t have a tape measure.
Good News About Smoking. Throughout our trip we encountered almost no smoking in restaurants and very little inside cafes. All restaurants either have non-smoking sections or prohibit smoking altogether. We encountered smoking only when sitting near the bar in a restaurant that also has a bar. One hears about voluntary efforts, increased taxes on cigarettes, new restrictions on smoking and better enforcement of old restrictions, but whatever the reason, we were thrilled.
A Great Time to Visit. Late May and early June proved to be a terrific time to visit Burgundy and Perigord. The countryside was green and lush, the flowers, plants and trees in glorious bloom. There were few tourists in either region - we never had to wait at monuments, museums or restaurants, we encountered few tour groups, and traffic on the roads was light. In Perigord early June is still low season for hotels and rates are lower than in late June, July and August.
Solo Wheelchair Travelers. Considering the terrain of Burgundy and, especially, Perigord, and the site conditions and construction style of many of the monuments, castles, churches, etc., we believe it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for most wheelchair users to tour these regions without an able-bodied companion.
Because we travel together, certain inaccessible features in hotel rooms that would present significant barriers for someone traveling alone aren’t obstacles for us. We don’t mean to minimize their importance but we sometimes forgot to keep track of them. Also, given the terrain and other conditions described above, it seemed to us that a solo wheelchair traveler would have great difficulty touring Burgundy and Perigord even if hotel access were perfect. In describing hotel rooms, we generally haven’t included items such as door pressure, door swing clear space, and accessibility of light switches, temperature controls, electric outlets, window latches and curtain pulls. We recognize that even a relatively accessible hotel room, restaurant, store or monument may be extremely difficult or impossible for someone in a wheelchair traveling alone. It’s also important to be aware that many hotels outside the town centers have loose gravel paths that would be difficult for manual wheelchair users traveling alone.
Hotel Access Terminology. When inquiring about access, be sure to ask for an adapted room (“une chambre adaptee”). In France “accessible” in describing a hotel room means merely that there is what Americans would call an “accessible path of travel” to and, perhaps, within the hotel room. “Adapted” means the room has been modified to make the bathroom and other major elements usable by people in wheelchairs.
Vacation Rentals. In planning our trip we considered renting a gite, which can be anything from a rustic, spartan cottage to an elegant country home. We found accessible gites in various regions; a list of those we contacted is included.
Phone Numbers. The telephone country code for France is 33. Phone numbers are given with the single digit area code used for calling from outside France. To call within France, add a zero before the area code. For example, the number 011-33-1-23-45-67-89 from outside France is 01-23-45-67-89 from within France.
Appendices. A hotel access questionnaire is Appendix A. You are welcome to adapt it for your own use. A metric conversion guide is Appendix B. A list of accessible vehicle rental companies in Europe is Appendix C. A list of accessible gites we contacted is Appendix D.
This article and the appendices may not
be reproduced or used for profit without our written permission, but readers are
welcome to reproduce or use them for any other purpose.
A Call for Advocacy. Researching your trip, the trip itself and the time after your return are great opportunities to educate and advocate for access. If we learn in our research that a hotel, transportation provider or museum isn’t accessible and providing access appears feasible, or that something is accessible but could be improved, Howard often sends an immediate email with detailed recommendations. On our trip we provide feedback in real time. After we return we write detailed letters advocating better access, including appeals to government officials. We aren’t only critical - we try to acknowledge and appreciate good access, and we also recognize the logistical and architectural difficulties and limitations in making old buildings and ancient sites accessible. Our communications have usually been well received and our efforts have helped spur access improvements.
Howard has written letters to the mayors of Rome and Paris about access issues, including the need for more curb ramps, and to the Rome and Paris airports. When writing to government officials, we send copies to local disability organizations if appropriate. We’ve sometimes found that a request or recommendation from us, as foreign tourists, can lend additional credibility to similar advocacy by local individuals and disability organizations. Sometimes our efforts add to the cumulative weight of those made by locals. Ironically, it may be easier for officials to ignore or delay action on a complaint by a local than one by a foreigner.
We urge you to use your trip as an opportunity to help move the ball forward on wheelchair access - you will already have the information and the impressions will be fresh in your mind, so writing an effective letter or email won’t take much extra time.
We spent several days in Paris at the beginning and end of the trip - always an exhilarating thing to do!
There are many more curb cuts and curb ramps in Paris than in 2005, some of which have textured, contrasting surfaces for blind pedestrians. Though some are steeper than would be permitted in the U.S., many are gradual and even the steeper ones are a real improvement. Paths of travel along Rue de Rivoli and on Ile St. Louis have especially improved. Rue des Rosiers in the heart of the Jewish section of the Marais has been turned into a pedestrian walkway, the sidewalks raised and many of the curbs eliminated, which has also resulted in lower threshold steps at stores and restaurants. We also noticed many more disabled parking spaces throughout Paris than in 2005.
Hotel - Where We Stayed
Artus Hotel. Three star. 34, rue de Buci. Phone: 1-43-29-07-20. Fax: 1-43-29-67-44. www.artushotel.com. Email: email@example.com.
Well located in the 6th Arrondissement in the heart of St. Germain, this small hotel is in an old building renovated in a sleek, modern style. We stayed in room 102, one of two adapted rooms on the ground floor. (The elevator is tiny, so no other floors are accessible.) These rooms are reached via a rear entrance on a quiet street behind rue de Buci; unfortunately, there is no direct access from the lobby. The rear entrance is level with the street. The lobby is up a threshold step of only 3 or 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) from the front entrance, but there are six or seven stairs from the lobby to the adapted rooms. The rooms have no view, but the upside is that they are very quiet and private.
The bathroom is large and tiled in elegant green-veined marble. There is a spacious roll-in shower with both a handheld shower hose and a large rain-style fixed shower head; it was exhilarating and delightful to shower with both simultaneously. The shower has grab bars but lacks a built-in bench. (A shower chair may be available upon request.) The transitions are very smooth between the bedroom and bathroom, and from the main bathroom area to the shower area, and the floor is graded well so the water drains easily yet the slope is quite gradual. The sink is large, with plenty of space to roll underneath it. There is more than 3 feet (90 cm) of transfer space on one side of the toilet. Unfortunately, there is no grab bar on the wall alongside the toilet. There is a wall-hung fold-down grab bar at the other side of the toilet (the side furthest from the wall). The toilet is a typical French style toilet, which means it is not long (i.e. the space from the rear wall to the front of the toilet is shorter than in a typical American or Italian toilet). The tank is built into the rear wall, further reducing the length of the toilet. When the fold-down grab bar is in the raised position, it protrudes a bit from the rear wall, so a wheelchair cannot back up far enough to get completely parallel to the toilet for a side transfer. Despite these flaws, this is probably the most accessible hotel bathroom we’ve seen in Paris.
According to the hotel staff, the bathroom size is 43 to 53 square feet (4 to 5 square meters); room size is 172 square feet (16 square meters); and the bedroom and bathroom doors are 36.2 inches (92 cm) wide. These numbers seem accurate. The bedroom is well lighted and, while it isn’t large, Howard was able to move around in it without difficulty. The breakfast room is in the cellar down a flight of stairs, so the hotel serves guests who use wheelchairs breakfast in their room. We didn’t see the other adapted room, but were told it’s identical to the one we stayed in. The hotel staff was extraordinarily gracious, professional and helpful; for example, they emailed pictures of the bathroom when we inquired about access, and they elevated the bed when we requested it, cleverly using reams of computer paper.
We visited the Museum of the Orangerie, which had reopened in 2006 after an extensive multiyear renovation. Enter two serene, white, oval rooms flooded with natural light from above and you will be surrounded by Monet’s Nympheas – his dazzlingly colored lilies on curved panels that encircle the rooms. You’ll feel like you’re floating serenely in them. The lower level features a superb collection of paintings by Cezanne, Matisse, Renoir, Modigliani, Soutine, Derain and other modern masters. Access is excellent - the Nympheas rooms, on the ground floor, are accessed via a gradually sloped floor, and the other galleries via a large elevator.
Musee de l’Orangerie. www.musee-orangerie.fr.
We also enjoyed our visit to the Rodin Museum, which has a recent addition that’s completely accessible. It’s in a new building separate from Rodin’s house. The second floor of Rodin’s house remains inaccessible, but the first floor and magnificent garden are well worth a visit. Rodin’s expressive sculptures are extraordinary, and the house and garden feel like a secluded, country oasis in the bustling heart of Paris. Besides the large wheelchair accessible bathroom in the garden, there is a medium size accessible bathroom in the new building. For more information about the Rodin Museum, see our article Paris Passerelles.
Musee Rodin. www.musee-rodin.fr.
As in most museums in France, admission for both museums is free for a person in a wheelchair and his or her companion.
Airport Ground Transportation in Paris
As in 2005, AIHROP provided excellent accessible transportation from and to the airport. The vehicle was spacious, modern and well maintained; the driver punctual, skilled and courteous; and the price reasonable. Phone: 1-41-29-01-29. Fax: 1-41-29-01-27. www.aihrop.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessible Van Rental
To tour Burgundy and Perigord we rented an accessible Peugeot Boxer from LVEA (Location de Vehicules Equipes et Automatiques). LVEA delivered it to our hotel in Paris. The vehicle was in immaculate condition. The employees were punctual, responsive and professional. They don’t speak much English, but the LVEA website has an English section. LVEA also rents other types of accessible vehicles. We highly recommend LVEA.
Michele drove. The Boxer is not designed to be driven from a wheelchair. The Boxer is quite large; it’s much larger than a lowered floor, side ramp Dodge or Chrysler minivan. It was the only accessible vehicle we could find to rent with an automatic transmission and sufficient interior height. (Howard is 57 inches (1.45 meters) high when seated.) It is very high, and Howard fit with lots of headroom to spare. It handles well and is well made and well designed, with useful features such as a video camera that displays images of the area behind the vehicle whenever the transmission is in reverse. It can accommodate three wheelchair passengers and five or six able-bodied ones. There is a manually operated ramp at the rear that retracts under the floor. Although it handles very well, driving a vehicle this large is tiring because it requires more concentration than driving a minivan. Also, one sits high above the ground compared to a car or minivan.
Howard & Michele with the Boxer van.
It’s a good idea to bring a copy of your disabled parking placard. In France, as in many U.S. states, a disabled parking placard is only issued to an individual, not for a vehicle, so LVEA couldn’t supply one.
LVEA main office, in Provence: LVEA PACA; 51, rue Celony; 13100 Aix-en-Provence. Phone: 4-42-93-54-59. Fax: 4-42-26-60-96.
LVEA Paris region office: 90, mail de la Fontaîne ronde; 77176 Savigny-le-Temple. Phone/Fax: 1-60-63-53-59. www.lvea.fr. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Driving in France
On this trip we drove 2,664 kilometers (1,652 miles). The major highways we’ve driven in France, the autoroutes, are truly scenic and impressively designed. Many are toll roads, and the tolls are a bit high for Americans used to freeways or inexpensive tolls. But they’re well worth the price. One can make good time. The roads are well maintained. The signs are easy to understand, even if you don’t read French, and for the most part the entrances and exits are situated logically and intuitively. Except at the approaches to major cities, there are no commercial signs - a welcome relief from the visual pollution of McDonald’s and similar signs so ubiquitous on American highways. Apart from direction signs, the only signs are those for rest areas and for tourist and historical sites; they’re informative, understated, uniform in appearance, few in number and noncommercial. Autoroute entrances and exits are relatively limited, and drivers tend to stay in the right lane except when passing. Drivers were generally skilled and safe, and very few zigzagged from lane to lane. We saw no road rage. The rest areas are well marked, easy to enter and exit, and feature nice amenities like well kept landscaping, picnic tables and privacy between vehicle spaces. The view is often scenic, and though the rest areas are close to the highway, one doesn’t see much of the highway.
The autoroute from south of Burgundy to Perigord is new and goes through some spectacular, verdant countryside, including sweeping river gorges, and features sleek, aerodynamic bridges and tunnels. The horizontal surfaces of the tunnels are covered with grass, so the only thing one sees as one approaches a tunnel is its bore.
The local roads can be slow, but gorgeous scenery is the reward. Most local roads are well maintained. Although there is some commercial signage, it tends to be local, small, understated, informative and unobtrusive - it doesn’t detract from the scenery. On the outskirts of villages, towns and small cities are well designed, well marked traffic circles with roads leading to other villages, towns and small cities. Occasionally we misread a sign and went the wrong way, but the circles are forgiving and you can drive around them more than once if you don’t see your sign the first time.
In our articles about Paris, we’ve remarked that bathroom access in Paris is problematic - wheelchair accessible public bathrooms are scarce except at the major museums and, whether accessible or not, bathrooms generally are small and poorly designed. In both Burgundy and Perigord, we were pleased to find that accessible bathrooms are more plentiful and generally larger and better designed than in Paris. That doesn’t mean one can expect an accessible bathroom in most restaurants or stores, but many monuments, historic sites and tourist offices have accessible bathrooms that, while generally not as large or well designed as in California, are usable. We didn’t take detailed notes, but we’ve tried to indicate their relative size. Those described as small or medium size generally don’t have sufficient turning radius for a person in a wheelchair to close the door by himself, but are large enough for a wheelchair user to enter and either face the toilet or maneuver adjacent to it, and for the door to be closed completely by someone else. Those we describe as large are big enough for a wheelchair user to turn around and close the door himself.
Burgundy is quite large, comprising four departments (a departement is the basic administrative/political subdivision in France) - Nievre, Yonne, Saone-et-Loire and Cote d’Or. Burgundians are justifiably proud of their region’s gently rolling hills, expansive views, rich green farmland, picturesque hillside vineyards, dense forests, beautiful villages, peaceful rivers, intelligently engineered canals, harmonious Romanesque architecture and historic wood-timbered medieval buildings with colored ceramic tile roofs. The countryside is dotted with champagne-colored Charolais cattle grazing lazily in small groups.
Burgundian history is complex and rich. In the major battle by which the Romans ultimately consolidated their control over Gaul, Caesar defeated the Gallic leader Vercingetorix in 52 BCE in Alesia, which scholars believe to have been in Burgundy. Some of the roads in Burgundy date from Roman times, and there are several Roman antiquities sites. After alternating periods during the Middle Ages of independence and annexation by France, Burgundy ultimately became part of France in 1477. During the height of their power, wealth and sophistication, the Dukes of Burgundy controlled not only most of modern Burgundy, but Flanders (Belgium), Luxembourg and much of the Netherlands. Historic Burgundian painting, sculpture and architecture reflect a strong northern influence.
There’s a lot to see in Burgundy; we had a terrific introduction and hope to return to see more. It’s a good idea to stay in more than one location. Allow more time than you think you need.
Hotel and Restaurant - Where We Stayed
Abbaye de La Bussière. 21360 La Bussière-Sur-Ouche. Phone: 3-80-49-02-29. Fax: 3-80-49-05-23. www.abbayedelabussiere.fr
Our stay here was not only one of the highlights of our trip, but one of the best experiences we’ve ever had traveling. This 12th century abbey was acquired a couple of years ago by an English couple, Clive and Tanith Cummings, who with much hard work turned it into a luxury hotel with an extraordinary restaurant. Situated in the Ouche River valley, between Dijon and Beaune, the Abbaye is ideally located for exploring the wine towns of the Cote d’Or. With only 10 guest rooms on 15 acres of serene, verdant parkland through which a small river runs, there is ample space to relax, stroll, wander, reflect and imagine. The grounds include a beautiful topiary garden and a pond with ducks. The grounds are relatively flat, although some of the paths have loose gravel surfaces and manual wheelchair users would require assistance. The graceful, harmonious buildings have been meticulously restored and elegantly furnished with tasteful restraint and deep respect for their history and architecture.
We stayed in the adapted room, named the Ferte room. It’s the least expensive room, a welcome change from the situation one sometimes encounters where the only room large enough for a wheelchair is among the most expensive. The room is in a separate building not far from the main building. It’s along a fairly flat path from the main building. Like all the buildings, its walls are thick stone. The threshold at the door is an inch high or less. There is a beautiful view of the park. The bedroom is neither large nor small, with ample room to maneuver a wheelchair. The bedroom and bathroom are well lighted. The doors are at least 32 inches (80 cm) wide. At 26 inches (66 cm) high, the bed is a bit high; Howard was able to transfer with moderate difficulty, but his wheelchair is higher than typical. Considering how accommodating and detail-oriented the Abbaye staff is, however, the chances are that they would be able to lower the bed if necessary.
The bathroom is large and has a huge roll-in shower with grab bars and a large built-in bench. The transitions are very smooth between the bedroom and bathroom, and from the main bathroom area to the shower area. The floor is graded well so the water drains easily yet the slope is quite gradual. There is plenty of space to roll underneath the sink, although the sink is near the door and one must approach it at a bit of an angle. There is well more than 3 feet (90 cm) of transfer space on one side of the toilet, and there is a grab bar on the wall on the other side of the toilet. Bathroom access is excellent.
Awaiting us in our room were a small bottle of champagne and another of crème de cassis, which together make the crisp, fruity, slightly tart Kir Royal aperitif (www.kir-royal.com), and several scrumptious housemade chocolates. This was but a foretaste of the delectable dinners and breakfasts in store. Olivier Elzer, the young chef at the gastronomic restaurant, recently received his first Michelin star, a well-deserved honor. We won’t describe the meals in detail, but we will say that every bite was delicious and the meals were memorable. Based on local bounty, the cuisine was satisfying without being too rich, and the preparations were innovative but also firmly rooted in Burgundian tradition. The service was attentive, well paced and unpretentious, and the wine list terrific and fairly priced. Even the Continental breakfast included a delicious surprise - a small salad of perfectly cut fruit was served with a creamy, light strawberry sauce. The dining room is in a romantic two-story cloister surrounded by an arched colonnade with plaster figures on the capitals, vaulted ceilings with Gothic ribs, and historically authentic gold and gray metal chandeliers. There is a medium size accessible bathroom in the nearby lobby.
Everyone from Mr. Cummings to the front desk staff to the housekeepers made us feel welcome and did everything they could to make our stay memorable. This began with an email of detailed access information, including photos, in response to our inquiry, and ended with the young sommelier pitching in to help with our luggage when we left. We feel lucky to have found this place.
Hotels - Other Possibilities
We found the following hotels in our research but didn’t visit them. Except as indicated, the staff told us there is an adapted room with a roll-in shower.
Hotel Le Compostelle. (In Vezelay, in the Yonne.)
Place du Champs de Foire; 89450 Vezelay. Phone:
3-86-33-28-63. Fax: 3-86-33-34-34.
email@example.com. We were
told there is a large bedroom and large bathroom, but they are not adapted and
there is no roll-in shower. The door is 30.7 inches (78 cm) wide.
Les Eaux Vives. (In Pougues les Eaux, northwest of Nevers.) Two star. 62 route de Paris; 58320 Pougues les Eaux. Phone: 3-86-90-17-35. Fax: 3-86-58-72-98. www.hotelleseauxvives.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotel du Nord. (Near Avallon and the Morvan Forest.) Two star. 25, place de l'Église; 89630 Quarré Les Tombes. Phone: 3-86-32-29-30 Fax: 3-86-32-29-31. www.hoteldunord-morvan.com. Email: email@example.com. From the website photos the bathroom looks well designed.
Hostellerie de la Poste. (In Clamecy, in the Nievre.) 9, place Emile Zola; 58500 Clamecy. Phone: 3-86-27- 01-55. Fax: 3-86-27-05-99. The hotel told us it currently has no adapted room but is building one and expects completion by the end of 2007.
Hôtel de Verdun. (In Nevers, in the Nievre.) Two star. 4, rue de Lourdes; Nevers. Phone: 3-86-61-30-07. Fax: 3-86-57-75-61. www.hoteldeverdun-nevers.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The adapted room is located on the ground floor and all the doors are at least 35.4 inches (90 cm) wide.
Located on the banks of the Loire River, Nevers is the capital of the departement of the Nievre. Now part of Burgundy, its rulers historically were allied with the kings of France rather than the dukes of Burgundy. Parts of the old city are on a moderately steep hill. In front of the city hall, between the museum and the cathedral, is a large flat parking lot with several disabled spaces.
The Musee Municipal, in the former ducal palace, is accessible. The entrance is on a steep street with a tricky compound angle, which Michele helped Howard navigate. All floors of the museum are accessible by a medium size elevator, which was comfortably large enough for Michele and Howard.
The Cathedral of St. Cyr, near the museum, is accessible via a side entrance on the side furthest from the museum. There is a moderately sloped wooden ramp down the one step. During our early evening visit soft, colored sunlight glowed through the modern, abstract stained-glass windows.
Apremont-sur-Allier – a Beautiful Village near Nevers
This picturesque village of ancient sandy colored buildings along the Allier River well deserves its official designation as “one of the most beautiful villages of France.” There is a gentle harmony to the buildings and they complement the terrain perfectly. The highlight of the village is a floral garden, which we missed because of rain and unseasonably cold weather. There is also a carriage museum. The village is flat and there is a wide, smooth, paved pedestrian path along the river. Apremont is a short drive southeast of Nevers and is located in the departement of the Cher, not in Burgundy.
Apremont Tourist Information. Phone: 2-48-77-55-06. Fax: 2-48-80-45-17. www.apremont-sur-allier.com. Email: email@example.com.
Strung along a steep hill whose summit is visible from afar, beautiful Vezelay is difficult to navigate in a wheelchair but well worth the effort. Assistance is required whether your wheelchair is manual or electric. The serene, airy, luminous Basilica of St. Madeleine, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture with a Gothic choir, sits atop the hill. It’s much easier to drive there than to try wheeling uphill and there is a large, level parking lot. The church is accessible via a side entrance with a moderately sloped wooden ramp. The hilltop is flat and there is a lovely park with ancient ramparts and a panoramic view of the gorgeous valley below. The dirt paths in the park are relatively flat, although there is loose gravel in some places and many people in manual wheelchairs would require assistance.
We enjoyed a leisurely, delicious lunch of regional specialties including Charolais steak, river fish and Burgundian snails at Le Cheval Blanc, a family-owned restaurant at Place du Champ de Foire at the bottom of the hill. Le Cheval Blanc is also a small hotel; we didn’t see the rooms so we don’t know about access. Most, if not all, of the other restaurants on the main street are inaccessible.
Château de Bazoches-du-Morvan
This 12th century château, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Vezelay, bought in 1675 by the pioneering military engineer Marshal de Vauban, is of greater historical interest than aesthetic. Michele visited it briefly. The castle and bathrooms are up a flight of stairs and there is no elevator. The gardens are accessible but not especially interesting.
Château de Bazoches-du-Morvan. Phone: 3-86-22-10-22. Fax: 3- 86-22-12-37. www.chateau-bazoches.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This late Renaissance château designed by the Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio, a contemporary of Palladio, is an important example of the Italian influence on French architecture and interior design. We were informed by email that, unfortunately, neither the gardens nor the castle is accessible.
Le Château d'Ancy-le-Franc. 18, Place Clermont-Tonnerre; 89160 Ancy-le-Franc. Phone: 3-86-75-14-63. Fax: 3-86-75-10-30. www.chateau-ancy.com Email: email@example.com
Château de Tanlay
We were informed that the gardens and castle are accessible with help. Tanlay is in the northern part of Burgundy near the town of Tonnerre. We didn’t make it there. Phone: 3-86-75-70-61.
One of the highlights of our trip was this Cisterican monastery, founded in 1119 by Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard) as part of the Cistercian campaign to return monasticism to a life of simplicity, poverty, work and contemplation. The complex is a masterpiece of Romanesque architectural simplicity, unity, proportion, harmony, stone and brick masonry, and use of light. Its austere, luminous beauty is compelling. The architectural details tend to be stylized and either abstract or based on nature, in contrast to the human figurative art prominent elsewhere at the time. One can imagine the discipline required to live in unheated stone buildings in the cold winters. One of the most interesting buildings was the forge - one of the earliest industrial-scale metallurgical workshops in Europe, it was established in the 12th century and operated by a sophisticated hydraulic system using water from a nearby canal.
Howard & Michele visit Fontenay Abbaye
The grounds are flat, and most of the paths are compacted dirt, although a few are bumpy stone. All the buildings are accessible - some have no stairs at the entrance, and the others have single threshold steps of perhaps 6 inches (15 cm). The only completely inaccessible area is the monks’ dormitory, which is up a flight of stairs. There is a medium size accessible bathroom down a moderately sloped dirt path near the parking lot. The gift shop, well worth a visit, has a threshold step of around 6 inches (15 cm).
Fontenay Abbey. 21500 Montbard. Phone: 3-80-92-15-00. Fax: 3-80-92-16-88. www.abbayedefontenay.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dijon is the largest city in Burgundy and was the seat of the sophisticated, wealthy court of the Dukes of Burgundy when Burgundy was a powerful, independent duchy that included much of the Netherlands, Flanders (Belgium) and Luxembourg. Dijon has a fine old central area with half-timbered medieval buildings and some buildings with colored ceramic tiled Burgundian roofs. The center of the city is flat and has a large pedestrian zone that’s interesting to see and easy to navigate in a wheelchair. Many of the other streets lack curb ramps, but they are flat.
The Musee des Beaux-Arts, housed in the former palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, has a wonderful broad collection of painting, sculpture and decorative arts including Rubens and other Flemish and Dutch Masters, some Italian Renaissance paintings including a Rafael, and 20th century paintings. It also includes local, historically important artifacts such as the bizarre, creepy, sculpted tombs of the 14th and 15th century Dukes of Burgundy, Philip the Hardy and John the Fearless. Allow plenty of time to see this large, high quality collection.
There is an accessible entrance at the side. There is one step 12 inches (30 cm) high; ask the museum guard to set out the portable metal ramp. Wheelchair access to the gallery floors is by a large elevator operated by museum staff. There is a small accessible bathroom on the ground floor.
Musee des Beaux-Arts – Dijon. Phone: 3-80-74-52-09 or 52-70. Fax: 3-80-74-53-44. www.dijon.fr. www.musees-bourgogne.org. Email: email@example.com.
The churches of St. Michele and St. Etienne each have several stairs at the entrance and are inaccessible.
Beaune is the center of the wine trade in the world famous Cote d’Or wine region. The surrounding countryside has beautiful vineyards clinging to steep hillsides. The medieval center of town is compact, charming and slow-paced. It’s mostly flat, although there are some moderately sloped streets, and some of the streets have cobblestones. There are several pedestrian zones and historic plazas. There are many well preserved medieval buildings of oak timbers and stone, some with Burgundian ceramic tile roofs in geometric patterns and some with roofs of slate or other stones. Beaune is smaller and less modern than Dijon, and it was easy and fascinating to lose ourselves in time.
Hospices de Beaune – Hotel Dieu. The history and architecture of this institution, founded in 1443 by private philanthropist Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, and Rolin’s wife Guigone de Salins, are fascinating. The hospice was far ahead of its time. It was designed for the long-term and acute care of the poor, and for their spiritual well-being and aesthetic delight as well. Rolin believed that the poor are entitled to beauty just like everyone else, and commissioned the best local artisans to build a “Palace for the Poor.” Over time, the institution also cared for middle-class patients.
The hospice’s most emblematic architectural feature is the steep roofs of multicolored, geometric patterned ceramic tile so characteristic of Burgundy. The buildings are historically important and a showcase for Burgundian painting, tapestries, furniture and other decorative arts. Arranged around a central courtyard with a well (where plexiglas has been placed on the ground in one spot so visitors can see the river Bouzaise flowing beneath the courtyard), the buildings include the grand Great Hall of the Poor (where patients were served with pewter utensils rather than the wooden ones they were used to) with its brightly painted ceiling beams, a large well-equipped kitchen, a chapel and a pharmacy. The hospice continued to operate as a hospital until 1971 and the institution still operates a nursing home, although at a different location. The hospice owns large, high quality vineyards bequeathed to it over the centuries and conducts a famous auction of its world-class wines every year.
Considering the age of the complex, wheelchair access is excellent. The main entrance has several stairs but there is a level accessible entrance nearby. However, the street leading to it, and the courtyard inside the hospice complex, are made of large stones; the ride is quite bumpy. There is a separate brochure with access information. The staff was very welcoming. All the buildings are on one level, except that the room with the polyptych of the Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden, and the gift shop, are up one level and are accessed by a large open lift. The accessible bathroom is one of the largest, most modern and best designed we’ve seen anywhere.
Hospices de Beaune. Phone: 3-80-24-45-00. Fax: 3-80-24-45-99. www.hospices-de-beaune.tm.fr. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wine Museum. The Wine Museum is up a relatively steep cobblestone street. The cobblestones are large, so the street and the museum courtyard are bumpy. The museum is inaccessible - there are two or three high stairs at the entrance and no lift. A separate, accessible building in the courtyard has several interesting ancient huge wooden wine presses on display.
Wine Tasting - Marche aux Vins. Beaune has many wine stores and wine bars, and even the most modest café has a good wine list. We tasted at Marche aux Vins, located down the street from the Hospices de Beaune. There is one 7 to 8 inch (17-20 cm) step at the front entrance. This wine market is housed in an atmospheric 13th to 15th century Gothic former church with vaulted ceilings. Candlelight adds to the atmosphere. The basic tasting tour starts in the cellar, which is accessed by a medium sized elevator. However, the wine is set out in a room with large, loose stones on the floor, and Howard immediately got stuck, requiring several people to free him. To make it up to us, the staff took us back up to the ground floor and treated us to some superb first cru red Burgundies not included in the basic tasting! Although we preferred to taste from glasses, the admission price includes traditional metal tastevins (tasting cups), which are a unique souvenir. The bathroom is not accessible, but the Hospices de Beaune, with its excellent accessible bathroom, is nearby.
Marche aux Vins. 2, rue Nicolas Rolin. Phone: 3-80-25-08-20. Fax: 3-80-25-08-21. www.marcheauxvins.com
Church of Notre Dame. This simple, graceful church of eclectic design, not far from the Wine Museum, is accessed easily via a gradually sloped surface leading from the street through the right entrance portal. The cloister is partially accessible.
Restaurant in the Cote d’Or - the Ferme de Rolle
We had a superb dinner of leek tart, duck breast and Charolais steak at this rustic, homey restaurant on a ridge above the Ouche Valley in the heart of the Cote d’Or. There are four or five stones stairs at the entrance, but Howard was able to get in easily via a moderately sloped path at the right side of the terrace. We sat in the covered terrace and enjoyed the view of the dense forest below and the approaching sparkling lightning storm which, fortunately, hit a minute after we had finished dinner and gotten into the car. We drank a magnificent bottle of 1999 Gevrey Chambertin and the charming, gracious proprietress was willing to sell us a bottle to take home. The Ferme de Rolle is difficult to find but well worth the effort, and the drive there is scenic.
Restaurant la Ferme de Rolle. Phone: 3-80-61-40-10. Fax: 3-80-61-44-63. www.fermederolle.fr.
VI. PERIGORD (THE DORDOGNE)
Perigord is the name of a region; the departement that is coextensive with it is named after the Dordogne, the mighty river bisecting it. Perigord is divided into four areas - White, Green, Purple and Black, the latter named for its thick forests of dark oaks. We spent most of our time near Sarlat, the main city of Black Perigord (Perigord Noir). More rugged than Burgundy, Perigord features dense forests, powerful rivers, dramatic gorges, craggy cliffs with castles and fortified towns perched atop them, and small farms in the flat areas. Many prehistoric sites are located in Perigord, the most significant, best documented and most famous being Lascaux. Control of various areas in Perigord went back and forth between the English and the French during the Hundred Years’ War, and later between Catholics and Protestants during the Wars of Religion. Although the English were ultimately defeated in 1453, they now have their friendly revenge - many homes in Perigord are owned by English people.
Perigord may look small on the map and the distances may not be great as the crow flies, but the region is dense, many of the roads are winding, some are steep, and small villages and towns dot the routes. We stayed in two locations. Allow plenty of time to explore!
Hotels and Restaurant - Where We Stayed
Domaine de la Barde. Three star. Route de Perigueux; 24260 Le Bugue sur Vezere. Phone: 5-53-07-16-54. Fax: 5-53-54-76-19. www.domainedelabarde.com
This family-owned hotel is in a rustic, charming, lovingly restored 13th century stone manor house (a “noble lair”) with a magnificent steeply pitched lauze roof (a traditional Perigord roofing style using flat stones) and light blue shutters. The secluded grounds include a formal French topiary garden of neatly trimmed symmetrical hedges, a stream and an inaccessible above-ground swimming pool (above-ground probably because of the proximity of the stream). It’s around a half hour drive to Sarlat and perhaps 45 minutes to Perigueux.
We were told there are two adapted rooms. The one we stayed in is in a separate ancient building and is accessed directly from outside. (The other one is probably in the same building.) The threshold is around 2 inches (5 cm) high. The huge bedroom has thick stone walls, a high ceiling, atmospheric wall sconces and a large non-operating fireplace. The doors are at least 32 inches (80 cm) wide. The bedroom floor is ceramic tile. The bed is a metal four-poster -- romantic but the posts made transfers difficult for Howard!
The bathroom is medium size. The roll-in shower is small. There is no built-in bench, but a shower chair is available. A narrow strip of floor tile, perhaps ¾ inch (2 cm) high, surrounds the shower. The sink is large and height adjustable, but there is no counter for toiletries. There is approximately 3 feet (90 cm) of transfer space on one side of the toilet, but no grab bar on the wall on the other side of the toilet. The toilet is high and short (i.e. there is not much space from the back of the tank to the front of the toilet), making transfers somewhat difficult.
Domaine de la Barde has a terrific, fairly priced restaurant offering traditional Perigord cuisine, including delicious foie gras, duck confit and veal, and regional wines, cheeses and desserts. The room is elegant and the service was gracious, proud and professional. Like many restaurants where we ate in France, we felt we would be letting down our hosts if we didn’t finish everything. So we obliged! Our dinner was memorable.
The husband and wife who own Domaine de la Barde were gracious and welcoming.
Domaine de Rochebois. Four star. Route du Chateau du Montfort; 24200 Vitrac – Sarlat. Phone: 5-53-31-52-52. Fax: 5-53-29-36-88. www.rochebois.com. Email: email@example.com.
Superbly situated near the Dordogne River on a beautiful green hill with a panoramic view of the valley below and the far hills in the distance, this hotel features terraced, manicured grounds and a nine hole golf course. Less than a 10 minute drive from Sarlat, it’s ideally located for exploring the Perigord Noir (Black Perigord). The main building dates from the late 19th century, with the other buildings added much more recently. The style is Italianate, not Perigordienne. The main entrance has a threshold 3 inches (7 or 8 cm) high and an electric door.
We stayed in room 27, which is in the lowest priced room category. We were told there is one other adapted room. (The hotel has 40 rooms.) The room is in the new wing, one floor below the lobby, and is reached by a fairly large elevator. The elevator was large enough for Howard and Michele together. The bedroom is large, and there was plenty of room for Howard to maneuver after some extraneous furniture was removed. A sliding glass door leads to a terrace with a view of the gorgeous green countryside. The bottom of the door frame is 3 inches (7 or 8 cm) high, but Howard was able to get over it with Michele’s help. The terrace is flat. The bedroom and bathroom are bright, well lighted and cheerfully furnished. The doors are around 33 inches (85 cm) wide. We were told the bedroom is 215 square feet (20 square meters) excluding the bathroom, and this seems about right. The bedroom floor is ceramic tile with a slightly uneven surface.
The bathroom is large and very well designed. Shimmering green ceramic tile accents the walls. There is a roll-in shower with grab bars and a small removable wall-hung seat. The shower is somewhat small (with dimensions stated as 26.7 inches (68 cm) by 33 inches (84 cm)), but this was not a problem. The transitions are very smooth between the bedroom and bathroom, and from the main bathroom area to the shower area. The floor is graded well so the water drains easily yet the slope is quite gradual. There are two sinks and loads of space for toiletries, which Michele really welcomed. There is plenty of space to roll underneath the sinks. One of the sinks has a pullout spray hose. The mirrors are large and low enough for a person in a wheelchair to see himself easily. There is 3 feet (90 cm) of transfer space on one side of the toilet and a grab bar on the wall on the other side of the toilet. Unlike most toilets we’ve seen in France, this one is long (i.e. there is a lot of space from the back of the tank to the front of the toilet). The bathroom access is among the best we’ve seen anywhere.
The staff was friendly and helpful; they elevated the bed on our request, placing books under each leg.
Hotels - Other Possibilities
We found the following hotels in our research but didn’t visit them, except as indicated. Except as indicated, the hotel staff told us there is an adapted room with a roll-in shower. All the hotels are in Sarlat.
Hotel Clos la Boetie. Four star. 95-97 Avenue de Selves; 24200 Sarlat. Phone: 5-53-29-44-18. Fax: 5-53-28-61-40. www.closlaboetie-sarlat.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hotel Madeleine. Three star. 1, place de la petite Rigaudie; 24200 Sarlat. Phone: 5-53-59-10-41. Fax: 5-53-31-03-62. www.hoteldelamadeleine-sarlat.com. Email: email@example.com. This hotel is well located at the end of the medieval center of Sarlat. There are two adapted rooms. The hotel emailed photos of the bathroom, which show an accessible toilet and sink but a shower too narrow for a wheelchair and with a high step. There is a medium sized accessible public bathroom near the lobby, which Howard used when we were in Sarlat. The staff was accommodating in permitting Howard to use the bathroom. There is a 3 inch (7 or 8 cm) threshold at the hotel entrance.
Hotel de Selves. Three star. Phone: 5-53-31-50-00. Fax: 5-53-31-23-52.
www.selves-sarlat.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The adapted room is on the ground floor. This hotel is owned by the same people who own Hotel Clos la Boetie.
Sarlat, the exquisite jewel of Perigord Noir, is centrally located for exploring the region. Though small, it has more well-preserved medieval and Renaissance buildings than the other cities in Perigord. The town center is in a small valley and much of it is flat, although the streets radiating east of the main shopping street, the 19th century rue de la Republique, are steep, but rue de la Republique is flat. Some of the streets have cobblestones, but the pavement is relatively flat. There are not many museums; most of what there is to see is to be appreciated from the outside.
In the medieval center an ancient church that had fallen into disrepair and disuse for decades was transformed by architect Jean Nouvel, a native son of the region, into a market that is open most mornings. At the border between the old town and the new is a small, well kept park dedicated to the people of Sarlat who were killed in World War II, including soldiers, Resistance fighters, and those deported to concentration camps. We saw several elderly people paying their respects.
The town’s most prominent son is Etienne de la Boetie, a writer and humanist who tried to reconcile Catholics and Protestants and whose Discourse on Voluntary Enslavement, published posthumously (he died in 1563 at age 33), questioned why people submit to the authority of tyrants when there would be no tyrants if they didn’t.
Sarlat - Restaurants
Sarlat, like much of Perigord, is a center of foie gras, other duck and goose products, black truffles, walnuts and peaches. If you like duck and goose, you’re in for a real treat. The local aperitifs of walnut wine (vin de noix) and peach wine (vin de peche) make a refreshing start, and walnut liqoure a soothing conclusion. The delicious regional salad includes goose gizzards, goose neck stuffed with goose meat, and smoked duck breast, arranged over lettuce and topped with walnuts and walnut oil dressing. Follow that with duck breast or duck confit and one definitely appreciates a strong regional red wine such as a Bergerac, Pecharmant or Cahors. For dessert we enjoyed walnut cake topped with chocolate sauce. For those who don’t care for duck or goose, the steaks and fish are also delicious. For vegetarians, there are omelettes of black truffle or mushroom.
The following restaurants in the medieval center of Sarlat serve delicious Perigord cuisine and are family-owned, informal and moderately priced.
La Rapiere. This was our favorite; we ate here twice and everything was superb. There is one 6 inch (15 cm) step at the entrance and there are several outdoor tables. Place de Peyrou. Phone: 5-53-59-03-13. Fax: 5-53-30-27-84. www.larapiere-sarlat.com. Email: email@example.com.
Le Tourny. Here we took a break from duck and enjoyed a hearty coq au vin (chicken/rooster in red wine). The husband runs the kitchen and the wife the dining room. There is one 6 inch (15 cm) step at the entrance and there are several outdoor tables. 1, rue Tourny. Phone/Fax: 5-53-29-17-80.
Le Commerce. This is the largest and most rustic of the three. It has a large outdoor terrace, which is on a moderately sloped street. 4, rue Alberic Cahuet. Phone: 5-53-59-04-26. Fax: 5-53-59-15-79.
Château de Beynac
Built to be impregnable, this feudal stone castle, on a forbidding site high atop a steep cliff, has an extremely steep stone path leading to the entrance and many stairs inside; it is completely inaccessible. Howard waited outside while Michele toured the castle. It was easy for Michele to imagine the rugged, hard life of the defenders of this spartan castle. The castle is well preserved, with its battlements and towers intact. The streets of Beynac town below appeared too steep for a wheelchair, but we didn’t try them. Beynac is less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Sarlat.
of the Dordogne river
“One of the most beautiful villages in France,” Domme is an exquisite, well preserved bastide town near Sarlat. We spent a marvelous afternoon here. Bastides are fortified hilltop towns built by the French and English before and during the Hundred Years’ War. The central area of Domme is mostly flat, although there are some steep streets radiating down from it. Much of the walkway along the ramparts is flat, and there is a breathtaking panoramic view of the Dordogne Valley below and the hills on the other side, including the Domaine de Rochebois where we stayed. The meticulously maintained, golden-hued stone buildings, with their abundant flowers and blue shutters, are charming. The drive up to Domme is steep and the road is narrow, but there is a large flat parking lot in the town center with two or three disabled spaces and a small accessible bathroom.
Gardens of Eyrignac
The majestic, serene gardens perfectly complement the manor house, dovecote and other buildings, although the manor house dates from the 17th century and the gardens were planted in 1960. The gardens were designed by the current owner, a proud descendent of the family that built the estate in 1653, and are maintained by his son with the help of professional gardeners. The centerpiece is a formal French topiary garden with trompe l’oeil perspective effects, and there also are magnificent English and Italian style gardens and a garden of abundant white roses with a terrific view of the green valley below. The manor house and other buildings are of golden stone with steeply pitched traditional gray roofs, some made of lauze, flat stones arranged horizontally. An audio guide is available in English with informative explanations about French gardens - for example, formal French gardens are designed to show best when seen from one floor up (but believe us, these were gorgeous even when viewed from ground level), while Italian gardens are designed to be best experienced by strolling through them. After 10 minutes in this magical place one forgets all one’s cares.
Almost the entire grounds are accessible, and the staff was eager to show us the accessible itinerary. Most of the paths are flat, and they’re made of compacted dirt, not gravel. There is a fairly large accessible bathroom near the ticket counter and bookstore.
Michele in the
Gardens of Eyrignac. The gardens are located 12 kilometers (7 miles) from Sarlat. 24590 Salignac. Phone: 5-53-28-99-71. Fax: 5-53-30-39-89. www.eyrignac.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Lascaux II and Montignac
Lascaux II is a meticulously created replica of the 17,000 year old cave paintings discovered in 1940 in a nearby cave. The real Lascaux is closed to the public in order to preserve the paintings. Lascaux II is in a cave and, understandably, completely inaccessible to wheelchair users. Visits are by guided tour only; Michele found the English language tour fascinating. The time of the English language tour can vary, so it’s a good idea to call ahead. Tickets must be purchased in the nearby town of Montignac, next door to the tourist information office.
Montignac is quite charming, its center is flat and there are new curb cuts throughout the main street. There are no curb cuts on the approach to the bridge crossing the Vezere River, but traffic is light and it was easy for Howard to cross the river by remaining in the street on the bridge. Both sides of the river are worth exploring.
For those interested in exploring more prehistory, there are other, less famous caves in the Perigord region, and several prehistory parks and museums. We did not research them.
Lascaux II. 221 Bis, route d’Angouleme; 24000 Perigueux. Phone 5-53-05-65-65. http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/lascaux/en/
Perigueux, around an hour and a half drive northwest of Sarlat, is much larger. We arrived there late in the day and didn’t have time to see much. The old city center is mostly flat, although some of the oldest residential streets are steep and are paved with bumpy cobblestones. There are some picturesque old buildings and plazas, although one is always aware of the modern city. St. Front Cathedral has a side entrance up one step of 8-9 inches (20-23 cm).
The Museum of Perigord has a renowned collection of prehistoric and Roman artifacts; unfortunately, we arrived too late to visit it. We also would have liked to have seen Vesunna, a museum in the ancient area of town that houses the remains of a large Gallo-Roman residence. The Vesunna museum was designed by architect Jean Nouvel, a native son of the region. Vesunna. Phone: 5-53-53-00-92.
Michele drove to Rocamadour, a spectacular medieval town an hour to an hour and a half drive southeast of Sarlat in the Lot region. Perched along a dizzyingly steep rocky cliff, and with most streets either steep or with stairways, most of Rocamadour would be impossible in a wheelchair, although one could park at the top and enjoy the view. Howard remained in Sarlat and enjoyed strolling through the market.
Rocamadour Tourist Information. www.rocamadour.com.
Electricity and Charging Your Wheelchair
France uses 220-volt AC power. The standard plug has two prongs and a hole for the ground pin (the ground pin protrudes from the wall outlet). Plug adapters are available at any good travel store in the U. S.
If you use an electric wheelchair, we strongly recommend getting a wheelchair battery charger with settings for 110 and 220 volts. It eliminates the need for a separate converter. A surprisingly small, lightweight and inexpensive charger with dual settings is available from MK Battery. www.mkbattery.com.
We highly recommend dry gel cell batteries, which are non-spillable, safer and more acceptable to airlines than wet batteries.
We experienced no problems charging Howard’s wheelchair in our hotel rooms.
Sunrise Medical - Quickie - France
ZI route de Meslay 37210 Parcay-Meslay
or 13 chemin de la Painguetterie, Chanceaux sur Choisille 37390
Phone: 2-47-55-44-00. Fax: 2-47-88-58-03
Global Access News - Disabled Travel Network has terrific general information about traveling in a wheelchair, and articles and links about travel to a variety of destinations. It also publishes a superb monthly e-zine with informative and interesting tidbits and links to accessible hotels, apartments, transportation and museums. To sign up, go to the website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (Note the new website address.) www.GlobalAccessNews.com.
Access-Able Travel Source has an excellent database of articles and links about accessible travel to a variety of destinations. www.Access-Able.com.
APF Paris (Association des Paralyses de France – Paris). www.apf.asso.fr website contains useful information in French about access and disability rights. They will answer specific questions by email. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Paris Tourist Office. www.Parisinfo.com and www.paris-touristoffice.com are the URLs of the official website of the Paris Tourist Office. The website has lots of great information in English about Paris. For access information, go to “Practical Paris/Tourisme & Handicap,” “Practical Information/Disabled” and “Hotels & Accommodations/Disabled Access.”
Tourisme & Handicap is a program of the French Ministry of Tourism that promotes accessibility of tourist sites and facilities for people with physical, hearing, visual and mental disabilities. It awards the Tourisme & Handicap label to facilities it considers accessible, but doesn’t appear to apply a rigorous, uniform set of access criteria, at least for hotel rooms. The website is a useful starting point for research, but we don’t advise relying on the label. Association Tourisme & Handicaps. 280, boulevard Saint-Germain; 75007; Paris. Phone: 1-44-11-10-41. Fax: 1-45-55-99-60. www.tourisme-handicaps.org.
Access in Paris.org www.AccessinParis.org This is the website of Pauline Hephaistos Survey Projects, a British organization that has created access guides to Paris, London and Israel. The information about Paris is very detailed and well organized.
Franceway. The English language web site www.franceway.com contains a list of French disability organizations under “Travel/Practical Information/Welcoming Disabled Persons.”
Maison de la France, part of the official French Tourist Office, has a comprehensive, well-organized website and publishes excellent brochures and maps in English. The brochures don’t deal specifically with access. Brochures and maps can be ordered from the website. www.Franceguide.com.
Trip Advisor. www.TripAdvisor.com This website includes consumer reviews of hotels worldwide. Although the reviews typically don’t include access information, they’re very useful when combined with access research. In researching hotels, we often start with Trip Advisor, compile a list of hotels that look interesting, are well located and fit our budget, and then inquire about access directly with those hotels.
The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France. By Ina Caro. This fascinating traveler’s history reads like a novel, using architecture and geography to make French history come alive. It includes Perigord (the Dordogne) but not Burgundy. 1994. ISBN 0-15-600363-5. Published by Harcourt Brace & Company.
My wife and I will arrive in [ ] on [ ] and depart on [ ]. We will stay for [ ] nights.
I use an electric wheelchair that is [[ ] centimeters ([ ] inches)] wide. I am unable to walk at all. My wife is not disabled. We would like a non-smoking room with one large bed. We have the following questions about your hotel:
1. Do you have any specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms? If not, please disregard the other questions. Thank you and we would appreciate a recommendation of hotel in the area that does have specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms.
If you do have specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms, we have the following questions. Please answer even if you are fully booked for the requested time, because we are interested in your hotel for the future.
1. Is it necessary to go up or down any stairs in order to get from the street entrance to the guest room? Does the building have an elevator? If so, how wide is the elevator door and what are the interior dimensions of the elevator?
2. In the bathroom, is there space for a [ ] cm wide wheelchair on one side of the toilet? What is the width of the doorway into the bathroom? What is the height of the toilet? What is the size of the shower? Can a wheelchair roll into the shower? Are there grab bars near the toilet and shower?
3. Are all the doorways in the room at least 75 cm wide?
4. What is the size of the room? Does this include the bathroom?
5. Was the building renovated recently?
6. Would you please email some photos of the bathroom and the bedroom.
If you do have specially equipped (adapted) wheelchair accessible guest rooms, is the room available on the nights mentioned above? If yes, please quote your best rate.
Thank you very much. We can be reached at [ ]. We really appreciate any help you can provide.
Very Truly Yours
Metric Conversion Guide
One inch = 2.54 centimeters.
One centimeter = 0.3937 inches
One meter = 39.4 inches
One square meter = 10.76 square feet
One kilometer = 0.62 miles
One mile = 1.61 kilometers
One kilogram = 2.2 pounds
One hundred grams = just under ¼ pound (3 ½ ounces)
One pound = 0.454 kilograms (454 grams)
One liter = 0.264 gallons = 1.056 quarts
One gallon = 3.785 liters
Accessible Vehicle Rental Companies in Europe
The following companies rent wheelchair accessible vehicles without a driver. Companies listed here may also rent vehicles with drivers, but we’ve compiled this list primarily for people who wish to drive themselves. An “accessible” vehicle is a minivan, van or minibus that can accommodate people who remain in their wheelchair as passengers. We didn’t inquire about vehicles that can be driven from a wheelchair, or about hand controls.
It’s imperative to find out particulars such as the dimensions of the vehicle, especially the headroom; whether it has manual or automatic transmission; whether it has a ramp or a lift; whether the wheelchair access is in the rear or the side; and whether the vehicle can be driven outside the country where the rental company is located. Vehicles with wheelchair access from the rear are more common in Europe than those with side access. Vehicles with automatic transmission are becoming more common in Europe, but it is still easier to find accessible vehicles with manual transmission.
It’s a good idea to bring a copy of your disabled parking permit. In some places, as in many U.S. states, a permit is only issued to an individual and not for a vehicle, so the rental company won’t be able to supply a disabled parking permit.
Wheelchair Travel Ltd.
1 Johnston Green
Guildford, Surrey, GU2 9XS
Phone: (011-44) 1483-237-668
Fax: (011-44) 1483-237-772
Trevor Pollitt is the owner.
Rents Mercedes Sprinter and Ford vans with automatic transmission, and large Renault vans with manual transmission. All vehicles are right hand drive. Mercedes rear entry head clearance is 56 inches (142 cm) and interior headroom is 60 inches (152.4 cm). Primarily rents vehicles without driver, but can supply driver. Also provides airport and local transportation in London. This is a very experienced, detail-oriented and well-organized company.
PARAVAN-Straße 5 - 10
Phone: (011-49) (0) 7388-9995-66
Fax: (011-49) (0) 7388-9995-79
Paravan manufactures lowered floor Chrysler and KIA minivan conversions. The Chryslers are very similar to the lowered floor Chrysler conversion common in the United States, including a side entry ramp, except that the ramp retracts under the floor, which reduces the headroom by a couple of inches. Paravan will rent these vehicles without a driver and will deliver outside Germany. Paravan has an English website.
BAUMANN Technische Reha-Hilfen
Alter Ziegeleiweg 4-6
Baumann manufactures or supplies various types of rehabilitation products and medical equipment, including accessible vehicles.
and Libertycare GmbH i.G.
72654 Neckartenzlingen (near Stuttgart)
Phone: (011-49) (0) 7127-23-79-67 or -68
Fax: (011-49) (0) 7127-23-97-93
Edgar Datene is the owner.
As of March 2007 Rolli-Mobil sells, but no longer rents, accessible vehicles. However, this company seems to change its focus over time, so it may be worthwhile to inquire with them.
Buitengewoon Reizen Landstede
8021 CW Zwolle
Phone: (011-31) 038-45-57-030
Fax: (011-31) 038-45-57-035
Gerda van 't Land is the contact.
Phone: (011-31) 06-24-42-22-45
Wheeling Around the Algarve
Rua Casa do Povo 1
Algarve - Portugal
Phone: 00 351 289 393-636
Fax: 00 351 289 397-448
David Player is the owner.
This company owns and rents accessible vacation properties in the Algarve region of Portugal. It rents various types of accessible vehicles, including lowered floor Chryslers, to customers who rent properties from it. It has an English website.
Edf. Mar y Sol
Avenida Amsterdam 8
E-38650 Los Cristianos
Phone: (011-34) 922-750-289
Fax: (011-34) 922-750-283
Located on the island of Tenerife, Spain, LeRo rents accessible vehicles and medical equipment, operates accessible tours and provides personal care assistants and related services. It has an English website.
Phone: (011-41) (0)52-202-33-33
Fax: (011-41) (0)52-203-12-21
Mietauto rents vehicles with and without driver. As of March 2007, accessible vehicles are available only with manual transmission. It has an English website.
Pro Infirmis Switzerland
Post Box 8032 Zurich
Phone: (011-41) (0)44-388-26-26
Fax: (011-41) (0)44-388-26-00
Pro Infirmis is a nationwide disability organization providing a variety of services for people with many types of disabilities. It does not rent vehicles, but can provide good information about vehicle rental and accessible transportation in Switzerland.
Inaccessible Vehicle Rental Option
For those who are able to transfer to and from a regular vehicle and wish to rent for at least 17 days and up to six months, a good option is the Open Europe program from Peugeot. Open to non-EU residents, this program includes almost the entire line of Peugeot vehicles. Delivery is available throughout France and at major Western European airports. The vehicles are brand new and the price is less than renting from a third party. Technically, you “buy” a new vehicle and “sell” it back to Peugeot at the end of the period. There is an English website.
Accessible Houses, Apartments and Gites
I Need a Holiday Too
Located in La Roche
Derrien near the river Jaudy
21 Rue St Jean
La Roche Derrien
22450 - Brittany
Free Phone: 0800 949
Phone: (+33) (0)2-96-91-55-97
Mobile: (+33) (0)6-22-62-84-74
Located near Gresignac in the Perigord Vert area of the Dordogne
Le Grand Bost
Located in the Perigord Vert area of the Dordogne
Phone/Fax: (+33) (0)5-53-80-16-74
Southwest (excluding Dordogne)
La Coume Gites
Located in the Aude area of Languedoc-Rousillon
Domaine de La Coume 11270 Plavilla Aude (11)
Phone – This is a UK number: 08446-179-265
Located in the Quercy Blanc area of the Lot
Calvet - 46800 Lebreil
Phone: (+33) (0)5-65-22-95-81
Domaine du Crestet
Located near the town of Vaison-la-Romaine
Route Ste Anne - 84110 Crestet
Phone (+33) (0)4-90-36-38-09
Fax (+33) (0)4-90-36-23-86
Maison La Luquette
Located in the Var area, near the village of La Cadiere, near the Mediterranean
One of the
owners is a nurse
939, Route de Saint Anne du Castellet
La Font de la Luquette
83740 La Cadière d'Azur
Mobile: (+33) (0)6-18-42-55-17
Fax: (+33) (0)4-94-90-18-72
Editor's note: Don't miss the following access reports by Howard & Michele Chabner. Just click on the title.
Paris 2003-2007 and Burgundy, Perigord
Paris Passerelles - Wheelchair Accessible Travel In Paris 2003
Paris Appendices: Hotel Wheelchair Access Questionnaire, Metric Conversion & Hotel Wheelchair Access Survey Results)
Paris Passerelles Supplement 2005
Burgundy, Perigord (Dordogne) and Paris 2007
Rome, Florence, Vicenza & Naples, Italy 2003-2006
Rolling in Rome 2003
Rolling in Rome 2009
Vicenza, Florence & Rome 2005
2006 Navigating Naples 2006
Cordoba & Seville
Toledo, Madrid, Segovia
Additional Information & Appendices A, B & C
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