The best souvenirs of any trip are the stories that you bring home in your suitcase. SCI BC Peer Murray Siple has no shortage of extraordinary wheelchair travel tales to share. Follow his adventures around the world in this accessible travel series.
I took the wheelchair accessible Eurostar train which rockets from downtown London to downtown Paris via the Channel Tunnel in under two hours. I stayed in Montmartre at the Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacré-Coeur Hotel, hoping to see neighbourhoods that Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri Matisse had their own adventures in. Unfortunately, I arrived in Paris with the flu and spent the first few days in my room recovering. Hotel rooms in Paris are usually extremely small. Mine had a bed, closet, and just enough room to fit in one-way, then back into the roll-in shower to turn around get back into the room to leave again.
Once I was mobile, a friend invited me out for Nuit Blanche, a dusk ’til dawn art festival that holds the entire city in its thrall. We first had to travel by non-accessible taxi (no wheelchair van taxis in Paris) to the outskirts of town to meet his friends from Central America then the plan was to walk and roll through the art displays all night. Soon enough, we encountered the many bridges or “passerelles,” over the canals. Most had stairs that I would have to be carried up by new friends—adventure is everywhere I guess—we made it without being dropped down stairs or being tipped into a canal. But by the time we reached downtown, Nuit Blanche was over.
The following day I rolled alone along the Seine past Notre Dame and to the Eiffel Tower whose elevator, of course, was under repair. Paris sidewalks are too narrow for wheelchairs, so I fought my way through the middle of side streets where dog excrement is a constant reality. I asked numerous people for a quick hand and “Why are you here?” was a typical response. Paris is many things but it’s not London, especially while using a wheelchair. Maybe if my French was better? After a few photos, I left. Onto the next destination…