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I Shouldn't Be Alive: Spain & Italy...in August...in a wheelchair!

I Shouldn't Be Alive: Spain & Italy...in August...in a wheelchair!

Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 10:04 AM
  #41  
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Overview of Seville...

Overall I loved Seville. If you can handle lots of cobblestones and pop up one step here and there then you shouldn't have a problem. To be honest I think rolling on the cobblestones here was worse than going over those in Rome, so its a VERY bumpy ride and can be hard on your tires (if they're pneumatic).

When we spoke to people they were VERY nice and accommodating, but it was different here because I didn't feel like anyone went out of their way to help you unless you asked. I don't mean this in a bad way and there were some exceptions here and there, but its just different... You'll see when we get to the Italy portion of the report how people there are instantly by my side as soon as they see even a potential obstacle in my way. Everyone went out of their way to help me with the smallest things and I've experienced this in England and France as well - but not at all in Spain. Here, like I said, I was treated for the most part like everyone else - which is nice, but not always practical. It was weird and kind of awkward when someone would see me struggling to get into a building, but the employee would just smile and look at us instead of offering to help. Again, I don't mean it necessarily in a bad way because everyone was so nice once we spoke to them, its just different from other places I've been. You'll see that it is like this in Barcelona too for the most part, so I'm assuming its just some type of cultural difference - maybe they think its rude to insult someone's independence and help them without being asked? I have no idea, but it definitely wouldn't keep me from going back to Spain it just struck me because it was so different from other people's behavior.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:51 PM
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Adoc86 - Just wanted to let you know how much I am loving your wonderful trip report. We all know how much time and effort it takes to post something so detailed. As I am hopefully going back to Spain next September, I very much appreciated reading your experiences in Seville. My children and I loved Barcelona, we were there in June 2010. I hope you did as well. Looking foward to the rest of your report.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:40 PM
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Still LOVING your report and your insight
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 02:03 PM
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Again, I'm so loving your detailed report. We're big animal lovers too, so I had no intention of visiting the bullring, even without bulls in it, but you're changing my mind.

Maybe you wanted to save this for the end of your great report, but I'm interested to hear what Michael thought of the European trip, as you said it was his first time (or what he thought of Spain in particular), and whether he's caught the European travel bug.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:56 PM
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Hurry, get to Barcelona...really enjoying it too.

Michael sounds like a great catch!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:14 PM
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Thanks TexasAggie!

Lexma90 - I completely understand what you mean. We initially didn't have any intention of going, but we're glad we did. I don't support it at all, it just makes me sad that an innocent animal is killed for sport. But we learned a lot, not enough to change our minds, but enough to make it not as depressing - like about how the bull is treated during the years before it fights and that the meat is butchered and eaten so at least its not a total waste. I still feel a little guilty saying that I enjoyed it though, haha...

Susanna - yeah, he's the best
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:19 PM
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I forgot to add...

I'm pleased to say that Michael had an amazing time and loved the vacation! Each city/area fully won him over and he is very excited about our next trip. In my mind it would be hard for anyone not to enjoy it, but you will hear about some Australians that we met in Tuscany who just hated every place they went to in Europe, unreal!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:43 PM
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What a great report - captivating! And so interesting from your point of view - shows what someone can do if they really want to!

I was in Seville a couple of years ago and went to see a flamenco performance in the same venue - it was terrific.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 03:42 AM
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tagging for weekend reading...
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 04:57 AM
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Count me among those enjoying this immensely. Thanks and I'm looking forward to more!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 12:18 PM
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Adoc - i had to laugh at your description of trying to find the flamenco museum - we had the same problem trying to find the cassia de pilatos! we must have walked around for at least an hour looking for it. we did enjoy it once we got there, though.

looking forward to more!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 02:46 PM
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Loving this! Your Flamenco Museum story reminded me of trying to find La Scala in Milan. We literally walked around every side of that building before finally realizing that yes, this is it!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2011, 07:17 PM
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I'm really enjoying your report. We stayed at the Hotel Amadeus in 2009 and did many of the things you did, including getting lost trying to find the flamenco museum, so it's really nice to revisit Seville through your account. Looking forward to hearing what you thought of Barcelona.
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Old Sep 24th, 2011, 11:24 AM
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Day 5 - We arrive in Barcelona!

We get up and checkout of the hotel. We're told that the taxi was arranged last night and should be here any minute. As if on cue a taxi driver comes to the door and starts taking our bags. I hadn't asked for an accessible taxi, its not really necessary since I can easily sit in a regular car seat, but the hotel had taken it upon themselves to request one. The ramp comes out of the van and I roll in. To be honest I hate riding in these kinds of things, its the same reason that I drive a Jeep instead of a van back at home, but I think its really nice that the hotel went out of their way to get it for me. I think because I spent the first 14 years of my life sitting in regular chairs that I still prefer it. I'm really lucky, because I'm able to easily transfer to them so I almost always do when I have the option.

We arrive at the airport and its far busier than I would have imagined for this time of day. We're booked on a short flight directly to Barcelona. When planning we had considered taking trains, as that is what I have mostly done in the past, but its a semi-time consuming form of travel and we wanted to make the most of every day.

We check-in at Iberia and we're told to wait by the counter and a disability assistant will come help us. Like I said before, I've never been to an airport where there were designated wheelchair assistants to usher you around. To be honest with you its pretty nice, but more so because we never get lost and go right through security rather than the fact that we really need any help getting around, haha. The assistants always look at me strangely when I push myself and I think that they must rarely ever see anyone that is "truly" in a wheelchair - everyone else appears to be elderly or only using their chair temporarily.

Usually when someone tries to push me I tell them that its not necessary and that I'm fine. I think its hard for people to understand that as easy as it is for them to walk, its just that easy for me to push. Imagine someone coming up behind you and steering you in the direction they want you to walk, you probably wouldn't like it very much. Unless there is a crazy hill or rough terrain then I usually prefer to be on my own. So when the attendant comes to help us to our gate I am about to tell him that I'm okay and don't need to be pushed, but he looks so proud to be doing it and I don't want to bust his bubble and take the purpose away from his job. He pushes me to security and we go right through with barely a glance. We get to our gate and he tells us that he will come back 10 minutes before boarding to help me onto the plane. He looks unsure whether its okay to leave me, as if I won't be able to move at all and I'll be helplessly stuck in the same spot until boarding. I assure him that its fine and that we'll see him later.

We have a good amount of time before boarding so we decide to get some breakfast. Michael hates flying, HATES it. The flight from the US wasn't bad because we left at night, but he almost always gets sick on morning flights. Its weird, because he easily gets motion sickness on certain things, but not on others - like on amusement park rides he's perfectly fine. He usually does better with a full stomach so we make our way to a small cafeteria-type place. There are lots of pastries that look good, but I'm not thrilled that they're all just sitting out in the air for flies to land on them, people to cough all over and touch them, and just sitting to go stale. Why not cover them with a plastic container or something? I'm probably overly picky about those kinds of things though and I'm sure they would have been fine.

I'm not really hungry so I let Mike pick out some things and I will just nibble off of what he gets. We buy a ham sandwich and doughnuts - a weird breakfast, I know.

About 20 minutes before boarding we're approached by the same disability attendant that helped us earlier. We're taken onto the plane and go through the same process as the last flight.

Its a short ride to Barcelona and we have a smooth landing. We land at 10:30am and head to baggage claim. The airport is very modern and very clean - the floor is so shiny it almost looks like we're walking on a thin layer of water.

It doesn't take us long to collect our bags and get a taxi. We speed out of the airport and toward downtown Barcelona. The combination of seeing the mountains ahead of us and it being such a hazy day makes it feel like we're some place really exotic.

We drive down La Rambla and we instantly think of New York City. There are people everywhere, shopping in the stores that line the street and eating at sidewalk restaurants. If we felt alone in Seville its probably because everyone was here. I see a TopShop and make a mental note of where it is so that I can stop in later - I have wonderful memories of this store putting a dent in my wallet during my trips to London.

We arrive at Hotel Pulitzer, which is right next to Plaza Cataluna. Of all the places we visit on this trip, I had the hardest time picking a hotel in Barcelona. Usually on this kind of vacation it doesn't take me long, because there are only a handful of accessible options to choose from. Barcelona had a ton of options though and a lot of them were in great locations. I think the fact that it is a pretty metropolitan city is partially responsible for this, but mainly I attest it to the 1992 Olympics. Usually wherever the Olympics go, accessibility follows. I'm usually excited to hear where future game locations are for this very reason. I knew when a list of over 100 accessible hotels came up in my search that I wouldn't have to worry about having a problem in this city.

We go into the hotel and my first thought is that its very modern. We're greeted by friendly receptionists that speak perfect English and we're told that we'll be staying on the third floor. We go up to our room and it instantly puts me in mind of the W hotel we stayed at while in New Orleans. There's a lot of black furniture and walls, dark wood floors and modern art. Our key even looks like my government work badge and makes me laugh. We also have a balcony with a lovely view of the street below which I hadn't expected. Its a lot different from our last hotel, but very nice and extremely clean. The bathroom is huge and has a shower with a shower seat in it. Spacing is a little bit tight in the room itself, especially between the bed and the dresser, but its not a big problem and we just nudge the bed over a bit.

We settle in and unpack. Around 12:30 we head out to start exploring and decide to head to the Barri Gotic. We go outside and its such a nice change to walk on flat pavement - there will be plenty of cobblestones to deal with again later so I welcome the break. We get to the Barcelona cathedral and find a very steep ramp on the left side. I'm surprised when we get to the top to find that the cathedral isn't accessible. I feel like it would be so easy to just place a portable ramp there and I wonder why on earth no one ever thought of it. Now that we think about it the ramp we just went up to get to the base of the building is so steep because its not meant for wheelchairs, its meant for vehicles. The cathedral is under restoration and there is scaffolding along the right side of it. I insist that Michael go in, at first he is stubborn but I tell him to go in and take lots of pictures so that I still get to see it. He isn't happy, but he does it anyway and I wait outside. I watch as people pour in and out of the cathedral and I wonder if we're going to have bad luck with many of the other sights here in terms of going in with my chair.

Mike comes out and shows me a bunch of pictures he took. He says it was beautiful inside, but tries to downplay it so that I don't feel like I missed out. I can read him like a book. I'm disappointed but not upset, not like I will be if I'm unable to see La Sagrada Familia. We take some pictures of the outside and walk down a little alley toward the Placa del Rei. At this point we're starving and start looking for some place to eat lunch. We stop at a little place called Gloria's, where we get a table outside and are seated amongst mostly Spanish people. We order a sausage, bacon and olive pizza and two waters. We sit and look through the guidebook to decide where we want to go after Placa del Rei. The book has lots of suggested neighborhood walks and we decide to follow the one for the Barri Gotic.

The pizza comes and is delicious. We finish up and pay our 18 euro bill. On the way to Placa del Rei we pass the Placa de Ramon Berenguer el Gran, which has one of the largest surviving sections of the second Roman wall from the 4th century. There is a man forming giant bubbles in this area and we stop to watch some kids and a dog chase after them.

We reach Placa del Rei and we're the only ones here. This is where the medieval Royal Palace is and where the Catholic monarchs are said to have received Christopher Columbus on his return from the new world. We take some photos and read some history before moving on. We walk around for a while, losing ourselves on the map a couple of times. We see a crowd and follow it to Carrer del Bisbe, a lovely street with a beautiful arched bridge connecting the two sides. Despite it being so crowded I stop and take some photos of both the bridge and the gargoyles on the rooftops surrounding it. We're surprised to read that the bridge was actually added in 1928 and isn't nearly as old as it looks.

At this point I'm tired of consulting the map so we just drift onto a side street and find some artisan shops and boutiques. I LOVE this and could have spent all day perusing through these places. I know Mike's mom and sister would love this area too and I keep an eye out for anything they might like. As we walk along we look into cellar windows and see artists painting and drawing. I feel like we're seeing something special that not just anyone gets to see and I'm so happy that we decided to come this way. We pass a small soap shop that smells both delightful and overwhelming all at the same time. I really want to go in and buy my mom some soap, but I tell myself that its our first day and that we'll have plenty of time for gifts.

We drain into another vein of the area and come upon lots of little bohemian restaurants. Parts of it kind of remind me a little bit of Austin and I tell Mike that we should try to come back here for lunch one day.

We wander for another hour before we end up in Placa del Pi. We decide to stop and get some ice cream - vanilla with chocolate cookies for me and raspberry and mandarin sorbet for Mike. We sit on some steps and watch the people around us. Its at this moment after seeing such a small glimpse of Barcelona that I turn to Michael and say, "yeah...I could live here."

We finish our ice cream and relax for a few minutes before heading to El Call, an area that one comprised the Jewish Quarter of the city. We wander around these small streets for almost an hour before deciding to go back to the hotel.

We finish unpacking, take showers and get ready for dinner. We flip on CNN to catch up on what we've missed, but quickly turn it off deciding that we don't want to hear or think about anything depressing while on vacation.

We go back out in search of dinner around 10pm. We walk for a while with no real destination in mind, only with the intention of getting away from the chaos of La Rambla. We end up looking at the menus of a few tapas places and settle with Taller de Tapas. We sit outside and order a glass of wine and coca-cola light for Mike. We have the tomato bread, which is thin, crispy bread with tomato juice on it - as if a tomato was just squeezed on top. Its very good and we're hoping that its an indication that the rest of the meal will be good too. We're surrounded by a mixture of Spanish and tourists, but its a nice atmosphere and we find a lot of things on the menu that sound good. We order the seafood paella, fried crispy artichoke shavings, chicken kabobs, and fried eggs with potatoes and chorizo.

The artichoke shavings come out and they're delicious, light and delicate, but not too greasy. The fried eggs come out and are also very good, but the chorizo has kind of a weird taste to it. We've had chorizo many times before, but this particular dish has a really strong taste and we can only handle small bites of it and end up mostly eating around the meat.

The paella comes out next. This is the first time I've ever had paella and I'm a little disappointed. A lot of the seafood is overcooked and doesn't have a lot of taste. Living in Maryland we're used to having great, fresh seafood so it stands out to us right away. The rice is pretty good though and we finish most of it.

Our waiter comes by and asks us if we want dessert. We look confused and tell him that we're still waiting for our chicken kabobs. He gets a quizzical look on his face and checks the order form to see that we did indeed order them. He promises that they'll be out soon, which is fine because we're in no hurry and its nice to have some time in between dishes. In the meantime Michael orders another coca-cola light and I have another glass of wine.

Fifteen minutes later and Michael still hasn't received his soda, although I was brought my wine. We watch as our water runs around and looks frantic. He stops by again and says that the kitchen has lost our ticket, but that it will be right out. I ask about the soda before he runs off and he says, "another coca-cola light?!?" as if its so unheard of and that we must be camels to drink so much. We're not sure why its such a weird request, but we blow it off and don't think much more about it.

The soda is brought over and our chicken comes out shortly after. Lets just say I wish we hadn't reminded him about the chicken. I ate one bite and its all that I could manage. Nothing was really wrong with it, I think that the seasonings just weren't really our taste. We sit for a while and enjoy the cool, breezy night. We pass on dessert and ask for our bill, deciding to stop for ice cream on the way back to the hotel. Our waiter is still running around like crazy and ends up dropping a tray of plates. A guy walking by claps and the waiter looks mortified and turns beet red. It looks like he's just having a really bad night and I feel bad for him.

The bill comes and now we realize why our waiter had had such a weird response when we asked for another coke. It appears that we were charged for 3 - it must have been the responsibility of another employee to bring us the soda, since a different guy had indeed brought our wine and water over. Our waiter must have just assumed that the 2nd one had came and that Mike drank it right down like a shot. No wonder his eyes got so big when we asked for another so soon. He apologizes and removes it from the bill. Our dinner comes to 52 euros and we're left with mixed reviews on the restaurant. Some things were very good and others were definitely not to our liking. The service wasn't great, but to be fair we think a lot of it was due to the guy just having a bad night.

We stop at an ice cream shop not far down the street. We go in and we're trying to decide what we want when two American women walk in behind us. One instantly yells to the employee, "is this made with milk?" He looks confused and obviously doesn't speak English. She repeats slowly, "is this made with milk? I can't have milk. Is there any milk in this?" She then turns to her friend, "I can't have any milk, I wonder if there's milk. I bet there's milk." The guys behind the counter just stare at her and she turns back to them and asks again, "Is there any milk in this? What is this made with? Do all of them have milk? Are there any without milk? You don't understand what I'm saying do you, how can you not speak any English to understand my question about what is in this? Ugh, I know its going to make me sick because I can't have milk and I bet it has milk." I want to turn to her and tell her that everything in here has milk in it, that the shop itself is made of milk and that she better hurry out before a cow walks out of the back. Really, if you have that much of a problem with milk then why are you in an ice cream shop? I hold my tongue and she turns back to the employees again, "Can I try that one.... NO, that one RIGHT there! Oh I bet there's milk in this, I can taste it. It has to be milk, oh no! I wonder if they have smoothies, do you have smoothies? Oh, you don't understand me. DO YOU HAVE SMOOOOOTH-IES? You know, smoothies. How do they not understand what that means? Oh I know there was milk in that..." Holy crap! Michael and I can't believe what we're seeing and how rude she is being to everyone there. They may not understand her, but I'm sure they caught her tone since it is kind of hard to miss. I can't stand it any longer and I turn to her and say, "there are some sorbets down there, those shouldn't have milk in them..."

She looks at me as if I'm speaking another language, then she finally says, 'ohh... wait...are you sure sorbet doesn't have milk? I can't have any Milk. Shannon look down there, there are sorbets, do those have milk in them?" I give up! We quickly order and run out of the shop. I'm so embarrassed to even be associated with being from the same country as them. We laugh and enjoy our frozen treats. Halfway through I turn to Mike and say, "I think I'm having a reaction to the milk in this ice cream..." he laughs and we still can't believe how that woman was reacting. We finish up and head back to the hotel.
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Old Sep 24th, 2011, 11:26 AM
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I'll try to have our Barcelona pictures up by sometime tomorrow. Have a great weekend everyone!
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Old Sep 24th, 2011, 12:57 PM
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lol adoc - what a hoot.

I wonder if that woman would recognise herself from your description?
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Old Sep 24th, 2011, 05:54 PM
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I am ROTFLMAO...I can completely relate to how you felt in that icecream shop...sometimes I just have to shake my head in disbelief at people.

I would have loved to have seen the look on that gal's face if you did say a cow was in the back....priceless! These are the travel moments you will remember forever!

Looking forward to more of this great report!
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Old Sep 25th, 2011, 02:09 AM
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Wonderful report! Informative and a great read. Thank you for the "ride."
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Old Sep 25th, 2011, 05:54 AM
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Still greatly enjoying this report!
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Old Sep 27th, 2011, 07:58 AM
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Sorry for the delay guys! We had a pet crisis that resulted in an emergency surgery on Sunday, so its been a crazy couple of days.

Here are the Barcelona pictures...
http://photobucket.com/bcnspain2011
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