MemberJune 29, 2018 at 12:24 am
I recently returned from a 2 week trip to France with my 83 year old mother. Mom uses a walker due to a stroke about 5 years ago. Her main mobility issues are difficulty with stairs, and limited speed and distance. The main part of our trip was on a Viking River Cruise (which was excellent!), but we had a few days before and after on our own. We rented a mobility scooter for her to use during the trip. A few comments on some of the places we went:
Aix en Provence – we stayed at St. Christophe hotel, right off the city center. They have a fully accessible room on the first floor. We were able to pull mom’s scooter right into the room. They have an attached garage (need to reserve a space in advance) with an elevator. The staff was fantastic! The city center and main streets around it are very accessible, every corner has curb cutouts, many shops/restaurants have no step to get into. For the most part the sidewalks and pedestrian streets were smooth. Some rough cobblestone but not a lot. Aix has a small tourist tram. I didn’t see any room for a wheelchair or scooter, but ours disassembled so we could put it in the front cab.
Avignon – We were on the Viking river cruise at this point. Going from the boat dock into the city was easy on the scooter – an accessible/ramped passage under the street, and curb cut outs everywhere. There was a small patch of rough cobblestone (about 20 feet) right inside the city wall, but then pretty smooth streets from there. Unfortunately, the rough cobblestone returned in the plaza in front of the Pope’s Palace. Avignon also had a tourist tram, but it departs from this plaza, so you have to get over quite a bit of this cobblestone to get to the tram. That was very difficult for my mom. There wasn’t a space for the scooter on the tram, but the departure area always has an attendant there so we left it there (along with various strollers).
Arles – I did a walking tour, and the areas we covered were all accessible (mom didn’t do the tour, but I took note). The central Arena/ampitheater has several steps leading to it in front, but to the left there is a short drive winds over to the main gate, so wheelchairs/scooters can easily get around the steps. The first level that we were on is all accessible, including entry into the seating area of the arena. Pavement through our tour was smooth, curb cutouts throughout. There is a smaller theater ruins we walked by but didn’t go into, but I did see some accessible ramps by the entryway.
Viviers – mom used her scooter for the walking tour while I was on a day excursion. So I didn’t see anything first hand, but she didn’t report any issues.
Tournon – we did an excursion to the Train de l’Ardeche, a steam train that runs through a picturesque valley. Mom used her walker for this. The parking lot and station are all accessible (and have handicap accessible bathrooms), but there are 3 steps to get onto the steam train. There is no handicap accessible car or lift to use. Mom was able to get on/off the train with assistance. This was a lovely day trip, and I think the station could make the train accessible with an adapted car and a lift. I hope they do that some day.
Lyon – Most of Lyon was accessible for the scooter – smooth sidewalks/roads, curb cut outs. The exception is the “old town” area which has large rough cobblestone. We took the tourist tram through the Croix-Rousee area. The tram has a handicap accessible cab that easily fit mom’s scooter. (This was the end of the river cruise.)
Paris – we stayed at Hotel des Nations St. Germain (St. Germain area, left bank), which had a handicap accessible room on the first floor. The only issue with the room is that we felt the bathroom could have used a proper shower seat. There was a small padded stool that mom used, but they should have one that is built for this purpose. Other than that, great hotel, very helpful staff. There’s not a lot in the immediate area, but 5-10 minute Uber rides to most places we wanted to go. (Great metro access, but not accessible access.) Mom likes those tourist trams, so we took 2 in Paris – one in Montmartre (right by Moulin Rouge) and the other, operated through Another Paris, went through the Latin Quarter. We had to reserve a spot on the Another Paris tram to ensure getting a spot for mom’s scooter – they have a ramp and it rolled into the end cab. Mom just had her walker for the Montmartre, but I didn’t notice if it had wheelchair/scooter access. We had no problem finding accessible restaurants, cafes, etc. in Paris. (I didn’t check out all the bathrooms, so by accessible, I mean easy entry into the restaurant.) For a boat ride on the Seine, Bateaux Mouches has a fully accessible dock and ramp (a bit steep) down to the boat.
So, all in all, a very good trip. This was mom’s first going abroad, and we really didn’t know what to expect in most places. I was pleasantly surprised by all the curb cut outs everywhere we went. The smaller towns were much more accessible than I expected.
MemberJuly 1, 2018 at 11:25 am
That is such great info! Always been a dream to go to Paris…
Neat to hear it was your mom’s first trip abroad – that is so special.
Sorry, can you explain the cruise a bit more? Do you ever just stay in the boat, or just to get between locations?
MemberJuly 1, 2018 at 4:53 pm
That was very informative indeed. Just to clarify, did you also have the scooter on the Viking river cruise? I understand that they are not generally allowed on the river cruising ships in Europe.
MemberJuly 3, 2018 at 6:30 am
The river cruise was 7 days, and we stopped in 5 (I think) towns along the way. Think of it as a floating hotel. There are excursions in each town, or you can go out on your own. For a few of them we left for the excursion in one port and while we were gone the boat moved to the next town so we returned to a different port. You can always just stay on the boat.
Scooters and Viking… I don’t know what their actual rule is on this, as I’ve heard different things. From the very beginning I told our cruise rep that we would have a Luggie, which is a folding, portable scooter. While they said mom couldn’t use the scooter on board, they never voiced any any problem with having it to use on excursions. The Luggie folds accordion style to about the size of a carry-on, so my intent was to keep it in the room, carry it on/off board and just take it on the excursions so mom could keep up. Unfortunately, there was a snag in the reservation process and we ended up with a scooter that could be disassembled to 4 parts, but was no where near as compact as the Luggie. Viking was very understanding and accommodated us with that. But I heard from someone else that they heard the absolute “no scooter” rule as well. I don’t know if the difference was our original plan to have one that folded up and could be easily carried/rolled on and off the ship, or if I just had a very nice cruise rep (hope I don’t get anyone in trouble here!).
I can understand the limits of scooters on the river cruises. There isn’t room to use one on board (halls are skinny and if a laundry/room service cart were out you couldn’t pass, another person couldn’t pass, etc.), and the rooms are too small to store one. We were allowed to keep ours parked in the lobby by the elevator, but there was enough room there for one – if more than one person needed to do that there just isn’t space. Having a folding one that can be stored in the room seems to solve those problems.
A few other logistical issues – if a boat has to raft off another, as they often do, they sometimes have to connect via the rooftop sun decks. If you can’t do stairs, you won’t be able to get off the boat (or get back on if they have moved). We were lucky in that we only rafted once, and that was with another Viking and the boats connected at the lobby level. But no cruise line can ever guarantee a rooftop raft situation won’t occur. Road/sidewalk/pavement condition is also an issue – there’s a lot of cobblestone or rough surfaces that aren’t really scooter friendly. The Viking program director was really great and gave me a lot of information for the excursions, but there are too many variables and they can’t be expected to know how every situation will play out. Also, I am physically able to be my mom’s assistant, move/carry the scooter, do the extra work that comes with all this. The staff is extremely helpful (seriously amazing people), but assisting passengers with scooters really isn’t their job.
I think what it comes down to is that the cruise lines don’t want to set expectations that they might not be able to meet, due to circumstances beyond their control. If someone can’t get on/off board, or do an excursion because it’s not accessible, the cruise doesn’t want to take the blame for a bad trip. I get that. We took a chance, knowing the risks, and we really lucked out.
I talked to 3-4 cruise operators before deciding on Viking, and they all have different policies. One requires all passengers to be able to board without any assistance (walkers/canes, etc.) and even has a no walker rule for excursions. I met a woman in Arles who was on an Emerald river cruise and she was using a scooter. The big reason we chose Viking is because they own their own docks, so there is a better chance of being the first boat in, and their boats connect via lobby (not rooftop). There was always the possibility a non-Viking ship would be between 2 Vikings, but again, we lucked out.
Sorry for the long post, but I hope that helps clear things up a bit.
MemberJuly 3, 2018 at 11:50 am
Thanks for the excellent description – made it so easy to understand!
Good point about not being against scooters, just not wanting to set expectations they cannot meet. That seems very fair.
MemberJuly 4, 2018 at 12:35 am
Wow, thank you so much for that detailed response. I too have a Luggie for my husband but had actually discounted a European river cruise after reading the fine print in the terms and conditions of a number of companies. Even though it would only be used for excursions, it seemed like it was a non option. You have given me hope that it is in fact achievable. Once again thank so much for the information.
MemberNovember 11, 2018 at 5:40 pm
Hi, Did you hire the scooter in France? Had your mother used one previously. I will be taking my mother in 2020 for her 80th birthday, she normally uses a walker, but perhaps hiring a scooter would be useful especially with jetlag and general fatigue.
MemberNovember 12, 2018 at 6:36 am
Yes, we rented the scooter in France. We went through Rascal (scooters-rascal.com), and they have multiple locations. So we were able to pick up in Marseille (we actually had them deliver it to the airport) and then dropped off in Paris at the end of the trip. Mom had only used the scooters at the grocery store, so this was somewhat new, but it was really easy to operate and she rarely had difficulty. We had a “portable” one, that broke down into 4 parts – once I got a hang of it I could assemble & disassemble it really fast, and luckily every Uber had a nice empty trunk that it could easily fit into.
The scooter was essential so that mom could keep up with a tour group and not get too fatigued. We would have been very limited without it.
Also, as an added bonus, most of the museums in Paris give priority access to handicapped persons. So we were able to skip the lines, even at the Louvre! Many museums give discounts or free admissions, too.
MemberMay 21, 2019 at 1:44 am
I’ve just visited the almost 1000-year-old village of Gourdon on the French Riviera as a manual wheelchair user. It is a stunningly beautiful and quite accessible, Provencal village and offers amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea. You can read the full accessibility guide here:
AdministratorMay 21, 2019 at 4:30 pm
Looks so nice!
Are most streets cobbled like that in the south of France?
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