Pollyanna persists in planning

Old Dec 30th, 2020, 08:29 PM
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Pollyanna persists in planning

I refuse to believe that I will be physically unable to travel by Summer. Nephew #13 (of14) graduates HS in 2021 and should not be deprived of the same travel opportunity enjoyed by his dozen cousins/siblings. Acknowledging that I may have some residual mobility impairment but hoping nothing more than a cane and judicious scheduling will be required, I am starting to think about destinations. Europe has always been the default but I'd consider alternatives. Some of the thoughts banging around my head:
  • Paris can be done using bus transport if the Metro stairways/unreliably available escalators and long interline connections are not feasible. I am quite familiar with the city, niece may still be living there, decent day trips (Versailles, Chartres) available. Plus, I love Paris.
  • London - runs a close second to Paris for me. Pretty accessible, IME, and so much to see/do. Easy for his first foreign travel as little language issues. Could combine with Paris quite easily.
  • Portugal is probably too hilly - at least Lisbon and Porto environs, anyway, and not sure he's that interested in other sites.
  • Spain - family connections in Madrid and Barcelona. Other places (Segovia,Toledo, Granada, Sevilla)?
  • Italy - Rome has some pretty steep stairs to access metro stations and elevators are often on the fritz, but the local version of uber is pretty good, based on our previous experience. Might have to rethink Pompeii with all the schlepping over uneven ground, and Venice is deffo questionable if my leg is not at least 75% functional. Florence should be doable.
  • Ireland? I'd not be up to drive but many years ago hired a driver for a circumnavigation of the isle with my mobility limited mother and it was a breeze. Not sure what attraction that may hold for an 18 year old (other than breweries, distilleries and pubs!)
  • Germany - Frankfurt has great air and rail connections. Heidelberg - Nuremberg - Munich, maybe combine with Italy?
Just starting with this musing, welcome all suggestions/comments/critiques
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Old Dec 30th, 2020, 09:43 PM
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I don’t have anything more useful than what you’ve proposed but wished to say that I admire and applaud your indomitable spirit.
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Old Dec 30th, 2020, 10:03 PM
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Have you considered Bologna? We were there last year and now it's one of my favorite places in Italy. It's a university town so there are lots of young people and it has a very lively, youthful atmosphere. Great market area that turns into restaurant & bar area in the evenings. Easy access by train to surrounding towns. And I don't recall it being hilly in town.
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Old Dec 30th, 2020, 10:06 PM
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Fingers crossed that you can pull something off Seamus. Obviously you’ll need to allow recovery days which you may not have needed to do in the past.

After a quick scan can I suggest Ostia Antica which isn’t unlike Pompeii but is a much easier day and is only a 30 minute train ride from Rome. It’s different in that the city was abandoned several times and basically left to rot before being occupied again. From memory this happened several times. We enjoyed both cities but as I said, OA was a much easier day.
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Old Dec 30th, 2020, 10:13 PM
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Copenhagen.
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 12:03 AM
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A friend and I navigated Ireland via train and drivers, getting even to Dingle Peninsula, Blasket Islands, etc. Great pub culture of course, but also music and the arts.

It's a three-hour train ride from Dublin to Galway, also a young town with great pubs and music.

Germany was I thought incredibly easy to navigate; Munich and Berlin both remarkable in their own ways, and Nuremburg of course historically and culturally rich. Copenhagen also, as suggested--and easy ride over to Sweden.

I'm all for Italy, and the trains/food/culture of course fabulous. Agree Venice might be harder to navigate with the bridges.

Still, for a young first-timer, London and Paris are hard to beat; so much to see and do in easy day trips (to Oxford, for ex.).

Could you say a bit more about his interests?
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 02:09 AM
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I just called my travel agency to book a flight from Zürich to Seattle in the summer. Prices are incredibly cheap right now but the only reason why they can book the flight for me is because I'm a US citizen. I've also chosen to go through a travel agency because:

1. to aquire additional administrative support and expertise, especially in these times of travel
2. to support travel agencies

Travel agencies are struggling right now and I believe in supporting local businesses whenever possible.
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 02:19 AM
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Regarding mobility issues in Rome: My friend sprained her ankle badly in Rome and so we rented a wheelchair for a few days as well as using taxis. Surprisingly, Rome works well with a wheelchair and the Italians are very accommodating for those with mobility issues. In fact, we had the most incredible experience in the Vatican Museum because of the injury. We had booked our visit on a Friday night and were able to be the first to enter the museum. We went through those usually very crowded corridors without a tourist in site. In the Sistine Chapel, there were perhaps ten of us viewing the amazing ceilings and walls. My friend's ankle healed up quickly and she could continue her trip without limping.

So don't rule out Rome but just make sure you have a very sturdy wheelchair to help you out in those moments when walking becomes unbearable.
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 05:50 AM
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My only concern for Seamus re Rome is this. I'm used to big cities but Rome is the only city I've ever been in where I was literally afraid to cross the road. The traffic is fast and there are all those little Vespas! I managed not to get Vespa tire tracks on my back but there were lots of times when we had to be pretty spry about getting out of the way. Buenos Aires traffic was pretty crazy but Rome made it (and NY and London) look like child's play!

I agree that Berlin is a very interesting and pretty easy to navigate.
I've never been to Copenhagen or Amsterdam but both are on my go-to list.

London (my first love of all cities anywhere) has a lot of very deep tube stations and I'm not sure about the elevator situation.
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 06:21 AM
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Moved to Europe board.
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 07:17 AM
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I will throw this out there for you Seamus but maybe consider a Rabbies tour while in the UK. Let them do all the driving for you and there have been some travelers who has some mobility challenges on my tours. They didn't use wheelchairs but like my mom, they are were slower and they let her sit on the bus by herself or get off and stay around the bus instead of doing some walking/hiking. You can pick just a few days or longer to fit your itinerary. They aren't like other tours and dont rush the group. It's just a thought.
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 09:09 AM
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avoiding-stairs-tube-guide.pdf
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 09:28 AM
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Another Pollyanna! I have some thoughts regarding our travels since Richard's spinal issues, which you'll recall are similar to yours.

General

1) Two words - airport wheelchair transfers (oh that's three)! They are a godsend. I've observed there is no consistency as to how you book them - sometimes with the airline, sometimes with the airport, sometimes online, sometimes by phone, etc. I book early and check often and sadly about 20% of the time there is some kind of failure - usually it can be rectified but sometimes with a bit of rushing at the end. Which leads me to .......

2) watch transfer times in airports. A couple of times we were using points and we had no choice on the connecting flight. They were too tight. I won't ever do less than two hours now - and more if a very busy airport (especially CDG!)

3) still on transportation - watch aircraft. Several times we've flown on large planes only to connect to a small aircraft with small, narrow stairs (Embrauer or similar). We cope but I'd avoid it if possible.

4) we've only done a train once - not in a hurry to repeat. Elevator was down so that meant a lot of stairs and the wheelchair assist process is way less developed (YMMV)

5) locations with Uber (or similar) make the whole thing so much easier. If you tire it's easy to get a ride and not worry about language/directions/etc. We have literally stopped at a corner - said "that's enough" - and less than a minute later we're in a car heading back to our accommodation. It really takes the stress out of planning your day's activities. I have used local taxi apps as well as Uber - prefer the latter but the Taxi apps are getting better

6) Richard travels with his walker even if he doesn't always use it. We check it through --- have found it's not terribly inconvenient to manage and when he needs it we're really happy to have it. Also it serves as a convenient chair for him if we're waiting. It also sends a signal to people around him and they are more careful I think.

Re Europe locations:

We've been to the following since his issues began, all successfully

- Copenhagen
- Stockholm
- Helsinki
- Valencia
- Malaga

Based on our previous trips, the following would be accessible we believe and are on our list for post pandemic travel

- Lucca
- Bologna
- Barcelona
- Madrid

Re Paris - we spent a couple months there 10 years ago in the 1st and I think it would be fine (assuming as you say you don't use the Metro and to that I'd add my liberal use of taxis/uber). I took my 82 year old MIL there about 15 years and we did very well.

Re accommodations - I scour the pictures of apartments or hotels for the following:

- stairs .... there's always a surprise staircase! But emails to the front desk or owner usually flush them in advance. As long as there's a railing Richard is OK - mainly I'm trying to minimize surprises so we can make informed decisions. (and we have been the beneficiaries of much kindness - in Casablanca the Riad measured the height of each stair to our room and changed our meal service to our floor to minimize Richard having to traverse the steep stairs. I should note we really wanted to stay there and did so with our eyes wide open but they really went above and beyond)
- bathtub versus shower - again we prefer the latter but can deal with the former particularly for a short stay
- comfortable seating - again emails to owners/front desk helps with that. We've swapped out chairs if necessary
- in general an email in advance describing our requirements has always helped. In one case it got us an upgrade - in another it prevented one! (which was a good thing because the upgrade room would not have been appropriate for us)

I'm sure I've missed something so will add as I remember - I hope the above doesn't sound daunting - it's all very doable and has become quite second nature to us. Pre planning is really important; having an exit strategy; excellent communication between traveling companions - and the liberal application of tips. Canadians are not known as great tippers and certainly that description fits me but I've become the queen of tippers - because I'm so grateful for the help that enables us to continue to do the thing we so love.

All the best to you and Luis for a better 2021! Liz and Richard
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 09:29 AM
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Long reply in moderation (seriously - can't you just fix the spam issue IB?)


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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 10:43 AM
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Can’t edit — add Sevilla to the list of possibilities
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Old Dec 31st, 2020, 11:17 AM
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Barcelona has so much to offer, is interesting to young people and is super easy to navigate using Taxis now and then. Taxis there are cheap too. The city is very nice for walking. You could even have an afternoon at the beach for a rest.
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Old Jan 1st, 2021, 12:45 AM
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The Paris/London combo is hard to beat and taxis help make travel in London easier to navigate. I love that you are planning a trip and am sure whatever you decide your nephew will love to be with his uncle!
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Old Jan 1st, 2021, 05:54 PM
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Seamus, you pose an intriguing question here.
I'll just suggest that maybe look into the Umbrian town of Bevagna. It is flat flat flat and has excellent proximity to a wide range of worthy daytrips.
Just a friendly add-on tip: be sure that all your accommodations (rentals/hotel rooms/whatever) place you on the ground floor. All it'd take to ruin your day would be a broken elevator or a sudden, unannounced repair.

I am done. the Best Wishes.
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Old Jan 1st, 2021, 08:23 PM
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Thanks to all for the thoughtful responses. Keep 'em coming!

When things are a bit more normal, would one of the Iceland stopover itineraries be a possibility?

Copenhagen - hmmm, never been, would be a first for all of us. Any suggestions what might be of interest to an 18 yo? His young at heart but not at knees uncles?
Same with the suggested Italian towns - what might appeal to the young 'uns?

Barcelona was, honestly a once and done for me, except for the fabulous Boqueria market. It was pretty easy to get around (save maybe for Park Güell) so stays on the list of possibilities for now.

I am sufficiently seasoned to not rely on a promised elevator/escalator being in service at at the time of our visit - once burned, ever leery, as they say.
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Old Jan 1st, 2021, 10:23 PM
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First of all let me say your nephews and nieces are indeed lucky to have such a wonderful uncle!

Iceland is fantastic and we’ve done two trips, one a 5 day stopover en route to mainland Europe. Loads to see and do, but lots of walking over uneven terrain, not sure how it would work for you. Maybe you may want to research this some more and ask on the Iceland forum.

Copenhagen was beautiful, though I was done after a couple of days. But I know my young adult niece and nephew loved it, they were out late every evening listening to music and the long daylight hours meant they could wander around till the wee hours. In fact my niece was talking of going there for spring break this year, pointed out the weather would be very different in early March, plus we didn’t know what the Covid situation would be like. For good reason, I don’t believe we can safely travel anytime soon!
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