Side Trip to Germany

The best thing the River Cruises offer are the side trips, which are arranged by hearty hiking, moderate or easy tour. Of course I elected to go on the easy tours (with my walker).

When the Mani docked at Zons, Germany. We left the ship for a shore excursion of Cologne old town, dominated by the huge Medieval Cologne Cathedral. Each passenger was given a bottle of water and assigned a QUIETVOX with an earpiece so we could hear our guide without him shouting, or without interference from other guides.

I walked with my walker (~100 yards) from the boat to the waiting shuttle bus. We took the leisure tour for older passengers who could not climb steps or walk long distances. After a 15 minute bus ride we stopped in Cologne city center to view the Great St. Martin’s Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. Since Mass was being held, guides were not allowed to conduct tours. However, we were permitted to stand in the narthex and shoot photos.

judy in Cologne            cologne

 

 

I woke up this morning to a rain storm. I wasn’t concerned since I didn’t plan to hike to Marksburg Castle high up on  hill in Koblenz. We stayed on the ship and picked up the hikers in Braubach. After lunch we were treated to the highlight of the trip. On the central Rhine we sailed past ~20 castles built from the 12th to 20th Century. Since castles and monuments were on both sides of the river, I stayed in the cocktail lounge flitting from one side of the room to the other. Currently most of the well-preserved castles are now trendy hotels.

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While in the lounge we watched a demonstration on the preparation of Rudersheim Coffee (coffee, brandy, sugar, whipped cream, dark chocolate) and were give a recipe. The coffee was served with German treats of finger sandwiches, cherry cake, and other sweets. Sugar high!

With so much chocolate brandy, I returned to my stateroom for a nap and almost missed dinner.

Join me next time for a trip to Heidelberg, Germany.

 

Viking River Cruise

River Cruise–Amsterdam to Basel

It has been a while since I updated my blog on Accessible Travel. I spent a year getting my novella Lake Biwa Wishes published. The story is fiction inspired by a ski trip I took while spending two years in Japan. judy-book

My book is available in paperback as well as in e-book from Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and iBooks. It’s a short read—good for an airplane ride.

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VIKING MANI LONGBOAT

After spending two days touring Amsterdam, We arrived at the Viking docks by noon. Luckily our stateroom was available, even though check-in time was 3:00. The Mani is a new ship (2014), so we were quite satisfied with our quarters. We had a Veranda Suite with one bedroom, a bathroom, a sitting room, and a private balcony with two chairs and a table. There was plenty of storage space due to efficient engineering and design.

The Mani had a full restaurant and an informal cafe for quick or small meals. After a three course dinner in the Restaurant we got acquainted with some of the other passengers, most of who were from the USA. We discovered that coffee (with an automatic espresso machine), tea, and pastries were available 24 hours in the lobby.

Entertainment in the club-room featured entertainers relative to the country we were in port. pianist

 

 

 

On the first morning we participated in a safety drill. Since the Rhine River is not very deep, if the boat sunk, the two top levels would be above water.

I got a workout with my walker since our suite was ~50 yards from the elevator, library and lounge/bar, .IMG_7972

You can follow me on the rest of my trip through Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland in future blogs.

Comments about your experience on river cruises are welcome. Follow my blog and let me know what you think.

Portland, Oregon

I took time out from my volunteer duties at the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) General Assembly (GA) to tour some of the sights in Portland. Over 1,000 people attended the week-long PCUSA GA meeting held at the Portland Convention Center (PCC).

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General Assembly Plenary Session

We reserved a handicap room at the Marriott Courtyard, which had an electric scooter (ETV) waiting for me. The PCC was a short three blocks from out hotel. Portland is ideal for accessible travel. Every street corner has a slope for wheelchairs, and the stoplight timers provide enough time to cross the street.

When we needed to attend dinner meetings or parties downtown—on the other side of the Willamette River, we were able to ride on the MAX Light Rail. Portland’s mass transit system is efficient and accommodating. Upon arrival at the airport, each conference attendee received a free transit pass for the week. The MAX Light Rail has no ticket collectors which speeds the loading and unloading process. Conductors do random checks—if someone does not have a ticket or pass, he/she is fined several hundred dollars (the incentive for purchasing a ticket or pass). The trains have cars dedicated to bicycles and wheelchairs. Finding the right button to push to enable a ramp is tricky the first time (we missed our stop), but other passengers were eager to assist.

 

Portland is famous for its coffee and boutique beers.

If you travel there, be sure to imbibe. We had a celebration dinner at the Departure Restaurant in the Nines Hotel, recommended by an Uber driver (used from the airport). Excellent views from the 15th floor restaurant and excellent food ($$$).

 We also took a MAX Light Rail to the Lan Su Chinese Gardens—a lovely contemplative attraction with a two-story tea house overlooking a tiny lake. Lan Su’s motto is Between Lake and Mountain Lies True Meaning. I was handed a map for wheelchair accessibility. Some of the trails are for walkers only.

 

On another day we rode the Aerial Tram from the Portland Health & Science Center to take in a lovely view of Mt. Hood.

 

Amsterdam

Our river cruise on the Rhine began in the city of Amsterdam, where we spent two days. After a twelve hour flight from San Francisco, I was tired (even though I slept most of the way), but I was eager to see Amsterdam. A larger than life sculpture of the words I AMSTERDAM welcomed tourists at the airport.

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Amsterdam Airport

We loaded our luggage and my walker into a waiting taxi and headed to the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in the middle of the city.

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There were bicycles everywhere! And construction! After a quick pizza snack in an outdoor café across from the hotel, we couldn’t resist a nap. Dinner that night was in the adjoining restaurant—specializing in Mediterranean cuisine.

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People like outdoor cafes

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The Van Gogh Museum

The next morning, we purchased tickets for my two favorite museums—the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum.  Our concierge recommended going to the Van Gogh first, since the tour groups begin with the Amsterdam. We waited in a long line and finally entered the museum. At the coat check I was able to borrow a wheelchair free of charge (leaving my driver’s license).

When we were ready to go to the Rijksmuseum , the taxi driver was reluctant to take us there since the distance was only three blocks away. After much prodding he finally agreed to drive us to the other museum. But he dropped us off at the wrong entrance. We got off in front of a courtyard with a life-size chess game.

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Rijksmuseum Courtyard

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Entrance (the real one) to the Rijksmuseum

After viewing all my beloved Dutch Master paintings, we had lunch in the museum restaurant. I have found over the years that the European museums have wonderful gourmet restaurants.
On our return to our hotel, we found a Pedi cab, which provided a terrific experience. The Pedi cab had the ability to traverse where autos could not. Although the driver had to pedal, the vehicle was equipped with a motor for steeper hills. Our driver was an ex-pat from Canada who moved to Amsterdam to teach school, but found he could make more money with his Pedi cab business. He charged a flat fare, so we were treated to a sight-seeing tour through the backroads of the central city.

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Judy sitting in the back seat of the Pedi cab

Site Seeing Tours

Site Seeing Tours

I love to go on site-seeing tours of a city before I decide what I want to visit in depth. Hop on and Off Tour Busses are great, but not if you are handicapped. Besides, you could spend most of your travel day waiting for the next bus. On my last trip to New York City, I arranged for a limo tour.

Hint:    The concierge or valet from your hotel usually has a friend or relative who has a limo and will accommodate you and two others. The limo had room in the trunk for my wheelchair.

You and the driver decide how long a limo tour you want. The cost is by the hour. In two hours (depending on traffic) you could direct the driver to go to where you want, instead of letting him/her decide your itinerary. On one trip to New York we drove past the UN Complex, through Central Park, past Museum Row, and the Dakota (where John Lennon was shot). We even stopped at the building where my husband’s grandfather lived as a child. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to Battery Park with a view of the Statue of Liberty.

On our latest trip, we drove to Chinatown, stopping for photos along the way, and ended in Times Square, where we ate a late lunch at an Irish Pub.

Museums

On rainy days the best place to visit is museums, and New York has some of the best. We spent one day visiting the NY Museum of Modern Art, and another day at the Guggenheim Museum. The restaurants and cafes in the museums have gourmet lunches.

Hint:    Most museums around the world will lend a wheelchair to guests. Just leave your driver’s license—which is returned when you turn in the wheelchair.

Celebrities

During Grandparents Day at my granddaughter’s school, each student was assigned to write a poem with their guest.  We sat at a table with the famous Erica Jong and her granddaughter. I am a writer, but not as famous as Ms. Jong. Needless to say, I felt intimidated in the presence of the iconic poet and novelist. Luckily, my granddaughter was not affected in the least.

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Judy & Erica Jong

Airline Travel

Airline Travel for Disabled Persons

When traveling on most major airlines, request a wheelchair when you make your reservation. Upon arrival at the check-in desk, remind the agent of your wheelchair reservation. You will then be invited to sit in a special handicapped section to wait for a chair and assistant. The assistant will confirm your boarding pass against his/her information. The assistant will then wheel you (and your travel companion) to the gate, using elevators and shortcuts. You will be wheeled to the front of the TSA check-in line.

HINT: If you travel frequently, you might consider applying for a TSA pre- check for a small charge.  https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck .

On our last flight from SFO to JFK my husband and I were on the pre-check list at no extra cost. Check your ticket and/or boarding pass. If you are a pre-check passenger, you do not need to remove Shoes, Laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, Belts, or Light jackets. During the screening process, TSA officers may swab your hands, mobility aids, equipment and other external medical devices to test for explosives using explosives trace detection technology.

We flew to JFK on Delta Airlines and sat in the Priority section, where we had extended leg room, meals, wine, etc. It was worth the extra cost.

I’ve found that the cheapest tickets are not the best deal. Sometimes you need to spend a little to save a lot. When we flew on SwissAir to Zurich, we originally purchased coach tickets. We were offered to bid on upgrades to Business Class. Our bid was accepted. We saved almost $1,000 per person and rode on a ten hour flight in comfort. Our seats reclined into a flat bed. On our return flight to SFO, we accepted the same offer. Another $1,000 per person saved–$4,000 in round-trip total. In addition we were able to wait in the SwissAir Business Class waiting room, where we were  provided free snacks and drinks. On our short flight from Zurich to Amsterdam, business class was the same as coach, only in the front of the cabin.

 

 

Planning your Trip

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The first you should do when planning a trip, is to find out if the hotel, airline or tour can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers or motorized scooters.

HOTELS
Many hotels have a loaner wheelchair for their guests. When I reserve a room at a Marriott chain hotel, I ask if they have wheelchair loaners or can arrange for a third party to rent me a chair. Also be sure the hotel has handicap guest rooms. Handicap rooms may be spacious with a king or twin beds, no sofa, but with space for a wheelchair. This is not standard.

Bathrooms must have grip bars next to the toilet and in the shower. However, there are two types of handicapped bathrooms. Some have bathtubs, some have roll-in showers. At the Marriott Courtyard I stayed in in New York City, I requested a roll in showIMG_1457er, which was equipped with a hand held shower head. I also requested a shower chair, since I can walk a few steps. The hotel staff were very accommodating.
Hint: I carry a suction grip bar in case the shower or bath tub does not have a grip bar. This can be purchased on line or in medical shops.

I also need a refrigerator to store my medication. If your hotel room is not equipped with one, you can request a portable refrigerator. Well established hotels will supply one.

My next blog will cover airlines.

New York City Guggenheim Museum.                    Upper East Side Apartment