10 Days in Europe – Special Needs

By 8th June 2016Europe16, Special Needs

Here is a summary of how we got on with Marcus during this trip.

General

  1. Driving.  We’ve done a few of these types of trips now and Marcus is used to being in the car and on the Ferry.  We have to make sure that he is comfortable in his car seat – don’t forget they are not as comfy as a normal seat!  Our seat leans back slightly and has ‘wing’ sections near his head so he can rest or sleep quite easily.  He loves the Ferry although still is nervous as we drive onto the ramp and into the boat.  Can he sense our excitement / tension / anticipation I wonder?  Or is it the smaller enclosed space that he doesn’t like?  Marcus doesn’t need any special attention in the car, he is happy to sing along to the radio, play with toys and just stare out of the window.
  2. Sleeping.  At each accommodation Wendy has to take the time to check out the sleeping arrangements.  This can be quite a challenge at times and by the end of a multi trip holiday she is fed up of it.  It’s still worth it though she says – as both Marcus and us get a better nights sleep.  Every time we go away we always take a blow up bed for him.  That way, if the room just doesn’t work out, or we are not happy with it, we can have him sleep in with us.  It’s not a bad price to pay to have peace of mind and safety for him.  Marcus is still in nappies and now he is older, fills them quickly!!!!  We have tried to double nappy him at night, used pull-ups on top of his happy and other combinations.  Most of the time this works.  The pull ups seem to keep the nappy in place more through the night – he seems to wriggle more on holiday!
  3. Transport.  Over all Marcus is happy on trains, cable cars, boats, planes, taxi’s – any sort of travel really.  As long as you talk about it with him before he gets on and make a bit of a fuss about it, he is happy.  However, due to our large pram, its sometimes more of an inconvenience for us to collapse it and carry it.  As a result, we try to stay on foot most of the time, or minimise the use of really busy public transport.

Paris

We are able to spend the full day in Paris centre.  We arrived by car and used no public transport while we were there.  We parked in a disabled bay and displayed our Badge.  Underground parking is restricted by height.  If you have a car with a roof box, you really need to look at places on the street.

I used these websites to find parking – ParisInfo and ParkingParis.

Paris is a pleasure to wander about.  Wendy was quite surprised at how wide and open many of its streets and squares were.  Often we found ourselves walking along the river or through a park.  Even the main streets had plenty of room.

Like other major cities, food is not a problem.  Marcus is quite picky, but we found something for him whenever we wanted.  And I managed to ‘tidy away’ what he didn’t.

Disabled access was not a problem that we noticed.  But having Marcus at this age is more like having a toddler and pram.  Just much bigger.  It can be carried, folded and stored if needed.  The main issue we had was just the sheer narrowness at the very top of the Eiffel Tower.  There were no obvious provision for disabled people.  When we were really near the top, I had to wait at one section whilst the others queued up (the pram would not fit) and then we were able to go through a separate gate and into the lift.  No real problem, just awkward.

That said, our blog shows that we spent the time just seeing the sights and not really going into many places.  Hopefully, we will get the chance to explore more and let you know how we get on.

EuroDisney

We spent the full day at EuroDisney.  Both Parcs are easy to get round and no problem with the buggy.  Some sections are cobbled, so there are some ‘bump bumps’ but nothing uncomfortable.

We had pre-booked tickets.  Once we arrived we went to the ticket booth, showed our ticket, our Blue Badge and a letter that we had written up by Marcus’ Paediatrician.  It simply stated his disabilities and associated illnesses.  There was no problem with this at all and we were directed to a separate Guest Services building where we could pick up our ‘fast pass’.  All of the details that you need are included on their website.

This pass allowed us to get to the front of the queue for age appropriate rides, and allowed 3 others to accompany Marcus at the same time.  It was excellent.  You still had to queue sometimes – obviously there are other people with similar priority passes, but never more than a few minutes.

Of course though, there are some rides that he can’t get on, so you have to queue as normal – see our blog for our 2 hour wait on the Tower of Terror!

Food in places like this is much of a muchness.  There are places to eat inside and outside.  And picnic areas to.  We had no problem finding food that he liked and getting space to eat it.  Although in one restaurant, we decided to leave the buggy in the entrance and carry Marcus to the table – it was just so busy.  We could have made space though if we wanted to.

Rides are noisy, fast and with flashing lights.  This excites Marcus rather than worry him, so he was in his element.  I’m not sure if you could cope very well though if your child was sensitive in these areas.

Lake Como

Italy is old.  Really old.  And in most places, tight.  They were not thinking about disabilities when they built it.  And even with adaptations now, most buildings simply don’t have the structure or space to create disabled access throughout.  You might get a ramp up one section, but not be able to get to every floor, for example.

That said, Italy specialised in Squares and Plazas, so the main part of each place usually is wide and open.  Streets are generally either smoothly paved, sometimes with marble, or cobbled.

The roads around the Lake are quite narrow.  We have a 7 seater car, complete with roof box and you must have your wits about you.  People give way and are considerate, but most are used to driving there, so their patience will wear thin if you take too long.  It’s very doable though.  Don’t let the roads put you off, just be prepared for it.

Here are the key areas we visited and any special features worth noting. –

  1. Como City.  We parked both above and under ground.  No issues.  They have disabled bays too.  You can get the bus around the City, but the bits that you want to see are all very central, so you can walk them.  We did one side of the old town to the other – it’s about 20 minutes walk.
  2. Bellagio.  There is a medium-sized parking section just on the south side of the town.  Again, we were able to park in a disabled bay.  The main issue with Bellagio is that most of the shops, aside from the main street running along the river, lead up the hill.  We did one of them with the pram.  It was awkward as they have kind of made deep steps all the way up – this helps you to walk but is tricky with the pram.  So much so, that I only got half way and gave up.
  3. Villa Balbianello.  We travelled here by private boat.  We were not able to take the pram with us so I took it back to the car.  It’s not the end of the world as Marcus does have some mobility, but I did have to carry him for large sections of the tour.  Getting off and on the boat at the Villa is also tricky – although it is moored up, you are on the cliff side and need some assistance.  You will want to check out the website yourself if you are unsure – it might not be possible for your child.  Shame – it was a highlight for us.  Once at the Villa, paths are well made and clear.  There are steps throughout the building. We had to carry Marcus on all of these.  He was able to explore the gardens himself, but needed a close eye.  If you have an adventurous child, they could quickly get out of sight.
  4. Seaplane over Lake Como.   You can park your car outside the hanger.  We were able to get on the Plane whilst it was on land. It was tricky getting out of it and then walking along the narrow pontoon back to the shore.  In the plane, it was like being in a car but with Plane style seatbelts.  Marcus can sit up unaided so was fine.  I’m not sure if they would allow you to put a car seat in – but would be worth an ask!  It was noisy inside but not over powering.  Visibility was good from all sides of the Plane, however Marcus is quite short so couldn’t see everything.  In fact, just think about what your child would be like in your car, without their child seat.  If they could manage to sit and see out of the windows for 30 minutes – it should be achievable.
  5. Brunate Funicular.  We had parked already in Como city and walked here.  There was some parking, but not a lot nearby.  There is a ramp and then a few steps up to the train carriages.  The higher of the carriage you want to go, the more steps to content with.  We were able to wheel the pram into the section that we sat in – there was room, but not loads.  Seats were more like bench seats than individual ones and there was room to stand up as well.  The journey was smooth, quiet and quick.  At both ends there were barriers to get through with your ticket.  For these we lifted Marcus and the pram over them – although we could have searched out an attendant and had them open up the gates if we wanted to.  Once in Brunate you are on open roads and paths.  Everything is steep.  It was a workout with the pram.  I don’t think an electric buggy would last long.  For it being so high up the mountain, I was surprised at how many cars passed us.  And at speed!  So be careful as you go.  Of course that also means we could have taken our car up.   There was a disabled bay at the Lighthouse once at the top.  There is no way you get up inside the lighthouse with a buggy though.  It’s just too narrow.

As I write this all though I realise how depressing it could sound, yet we have visited Italy a lot and managed.  I think you need to just do what you can and accept that at times someone will have to wait with your child whilst the others in your group do ‘that thing’.  Then you can swap over if you want.  It takes more work and effort, but we have always loved our trips and don’t let the work put us off.

Milan

We arrived in Milan centre by metro.  See our practical guide for details of parking etc.

The Metro is just like the underground in any other city.  There are escalators, steps and lifts.  Depending on the busyness of the Metro, depends on how easy it is to get on with your pram.  We found it straight forward.  We carried Marcus out of the station at Duomo M1.  I don’t know if they have a lift.

Again, Milan is like any other major city.  No real issues getting around on foot.  It does though have Trams.  These are quite quiet and you need to watch out for the tram track when crossing the road so you don’t get your pram wheels caught in them.

We didn’t visit the insides of any old buildings – just open and accessible shopping areas, squares and buildings.  This was easy enough.

Food wasn’t a problem.  Just eating too much of it was the issue.

Not so interesting fact! – We have Marcus nappies supplied to us through the health service.  They are a non UK brand and we have never seen them in UK shops.  We had left Marcus’ nappy bag in the car by mistake – oh no!  My Dad valiantly walked into the first pharmacy we passed and came out with a pack of nappies – exactly the same ones we have sent through!

Zermatt

Our practical guide sets out how to get to Zermatt as it is car free.  Marcus coped with this fine, but there was a lot of lifting things in and out of cars / taxis.  Having more adults in the group made it easier and the drivers themselves were especially helpful.

Once in Zermatt its easy to get round.  Even the narrow streets are wide enough for the pram.  It is in a mountain valley though so you will be pushing up as much as you push down!  But it feels like your pushing up more.  Steep steep steep. Unevenness everywhere.

Electric cars are allowed in the centre and are quiet.  So watch out.  They don’t go fast .

Through parts of the town, runs the Gornegrat Bahn, the train up the mountain.  It’s like a train track but with a cog system to it.  This can be awkward to get your pram over – you will most likely need to lift it up, or find an official crossing section.

The cable cars that we used were easily big enough to get the pram in without any worries and there were lifts everywhere you needed them on the way.  Once you leave the comfort of the inside of the Glacier paradise though, you are out on the snow and ice, or on metal walkways and railings.  We were able to take the pram into the Ice Palace however the entrance ramp in and out is very steep and can get slippy.

Food was more of an issue in Zermatt – most restaurants serve great quality food, but it can also get quite narrow in choice.  There is a McDonald’s though if you struggle!  Fries always seem to go down well with Marcus.  Even if the price did stick in my throat!

Bruges

Cobbles, cobbles, cobbles.  Beautiful, but bumpy.  That’s my Special Needs review of Bruges.  Ha ha!

There is no obvious public transport in Bruges.  It’s tiny.  You can get a horse and carriage if you want……

It is easy to get around on the streets and paths, just watch out for cyclists weaving through the pedestrianised sections.

Bruges is old.  That brings the usual hit and miss disabled access ramps and wide openings.  I don’t think there is a lift or escalator anywhere in Bruges – but I’m sure someone will tell me otherwise.

Your chances of getting up the Belfry for example are non-existent, unless you can carry your child to the top.  You deserve a medal if you manage it.

There are no issues with food.  Tons to choose from and the usual McDonald’s, Pizza Hut etc can be found on the main shopping streets.

We took a boat tour.  We had to leave the pram at the entrance of the queue.  There are individual seats on the boat, with no seat belts.  You can sit round the inside edge of the boat on a bench style seat if you prefer – you will have more control over your child this way.  There is no movement on the river so you are not getting knocked about, or worrying about getting on and off the boat.  Although Marcus did manage to break the tip jar with his overly enthusiastic tipping technique as he disembarked.

Shops can be small inside and usual will have a step or two up into them.

The main issue in the shops can be the number of tourists – it’s such a popular place!  Just be patient.

 

If I have missed anything or you want more information on a place please just ask.

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