Welcome to Accessibility Reviews!

Find reviews of places to visit, places to stay and places to eat as well as a few other things! The front page displays my latest blog post while other pages have links to places to eat at, stay at or visit. Use the search function if you are after somethings specific or have a look at the map. The links page has some useful websites as well as  a link to an interview I gave to Euan’s Guide, explaining why I set up Accessibility Reviews. Please use the comment function to add more detail to any of my posts – it all helps make this a useful resource for everyone!

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Could try harder!

How do you reach those automatic doors?

 

The Ashford International Hotel is theoretically accessible but I don’t think they are really committed to getting it right.

We stayed here one night before getting the shuttle the next day and, as you can imagine, chose it for its convenient location rather than its character!

How do you reach those automatic doors?
How do you reach those automatic doors?

When we first arrived, we parked in a marked Blue Badge bay but then realised that to leave the car park meant negotiating a rather bumpy ramp so we decided to use the drop off space by the main door instead. There was a really rather bizarre wheelchair route from the car park to the door which involved a short pathway and then the choice of either rejoining the road or going over some very rough grass to reach the automatic doors. There was no way to get to the automatic doors without going over the grass. We were glad we decided to use the drop-off area but then realised we were going to have to use the revolving doors. Eventually we noticed a blue button with a wheelchair symbol which we pressed and I think it slowed down the speed of the revolving. It was fine but I wouldn’t really choose to use revolving doors in a wheelchair!

Weird wheelchair route Ashford International
Weird wheelchair route Ashford International

The reception desk didn’t have a lowered portion which again doesn’t really show commitment to making things accessible. We checked in and went off to find our room which was down a lot of corridors and meant negotiating heavy fire doors. The route the receptionist indicated was actually not the shortest route!

Weird wheelchair route Ashford International
Weird wheelchair route Ashford International

The room was good and spacious but the bathroom was rather strange. It had a very good shower seat and the basin could be raised or lowered as required but the basin was so close to the loo that you had to sort of sidle in to access the loo. Not brilliant for anyone let alone people for whom sidling is not that easy! The accessible loo in the lobby was an awful lot easier to use.

Not much room to access the loo!
Not much room to access the loo!

This is starting to sound like a list of moans. When we went to the restaurant we discovered that the tables were not the sort you can sit at in a wheelchair so I had to transfer into one of their dining chairs. Generally, I like sitting in a dining chair but when you’re tired it can be easier to just stay put in your own chair.

Restaurant Ashford International
Restaurant Ashford International

On entering the restaurant we were greeted with the information that I was the “Guest of the Day!” What treats did this entail? A plate was put on our table with Guest of the Day piped on it in chocolate and sprinkled with stars. Our excitement and gratitude knew no bounds. Actually, it explained the two mini bottles of prosecco in our room with a note addressed to Hayley explaining that she was Guest of the Day. I was evidently Hayley.

I can’t actually remember much about the meal, other than that we didn’t fancy any of the starters so had mains and desert. The staff were very pleasant and efficient.

Revolving door, Ashford International
Revolving door, Ashford International

We then decamped to the sitting area in the lobby which was rather chilly as the outside doors were open at the far end.

Tricky ramp to exit carpark, Ashford International
Tricky ramp to exit carpark, Ashford International

Breakfast next day was in the same restaurant so there was the same issue with seating but the breakfast was fine with plenty of choices. Could have done without a member of staff having absolutely violent BO, though.

To summarise, a conveniently placed hotel with some accessible features but we would not stay there again, it was just too much like hard work! They emailed a link to a feedback form and I ticked the box asking to be contacted but have not heard anything back, showing yet again that they are not really committed to great customer service and accessibility. Their loss!

For more details and photos, see my review on Euan’s Guide.

Click here for more accessible places to stay.

Ye olde accessible pub!

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The Black Horse Inn at Thurnham near Maidstone in Kent is an 18th-century inn that manages to be accessible too!

The Black Horse Inn, Thurnham, Kent
The Black Horse Inn, Thurnham, Kent

We stayed here one night on our way back to York from Folkestone and although I’m not sure I would stay here again as there are probably other, better places in the area, it was fine and convenient and better than the Ashford International we stayed at on the way down. (that’s another story!)

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The old part of the pub has been extended sympathetically so that when you’re inside, you can’t really tell where the old parts ends and the new parts begin. According to the website, the pub is mentioned in The Canterbury Tales, so presumably there was an earlier pub on the same site. The accommodation is in barns across the car park from the inn, the four rooms at the top of the slope being accessible, family rooms.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The rooms are pleasant and spacious, ours had a double bed and a single plus a couple of tub chairs, coffee table, tea and coffee making facilities (the UHT milk said it tasted like fresh milk and it did!) and a spacious wet-room style bathroom with a fold down shower seat, a couple of grab rails and two sinks, one lower than the other so more convenient for wheelchair users.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

To get into the pub, they have ingenuously created a brick-paved pathway that takes you up to the back of the pub, although you could go via the car park if you preferred. When we arrived, it was Sunday lunchtime and extremely busy but once we were checked in, (there is a separate reception, but it was closed) we were able to park opposite our room or you can park directly outside and there was a slope to get in to the room.

Accessible pathway at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible pathway at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

We ate in the pub in the evening. The tables were not ideal with a wheelchair but you could get pretty close up to them. The food all sounded great and although it didn’t quite live up to expectations, it was fine. I did the terribly English thing of, when asked if the meal was all right, I said it was fine when in fact the pork belly I had chosen was rather dry. We had a very nice Greek sharing platter for a starter and my glass of rosé was very good so all in all, a good meal. IMG_1725

Breakfast was good with plenty of choices: I had smoked salmon and scrambled egg, Pete had a full English and there was toast with jam and fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

The staff are pleasant and efficient, it was easy to find, in fact it was surprising to find such a quiet little village so near to the motorway, so a very convenient place to stay.

Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent
Accessible, family rooms at The Black Horse, Thurnham, Kent

For more detail on the accessibility and photos, see my review on EuansGuide and click here for more accessible places to stay, eat at or visit.

Accessible gourmet stopover

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

It’s just as well we only stayed one night at La Cour de Rémi otherwise we might not have fitted through the door on the way out!

If ever you need somewhere that is a bit of a treat and within easy reach of the channel ports, this is it!

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

The hotel rooms and restaurant are in the stables of a château that was the headquarters of the British tank command in the First World War. Sébastien, the proprietor, has created a lovely relaxed atmosphere with his friendly team of staff, comfortable rooms and fabulous food. There’s an additional room in a treehouse.

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

It is slightly a work in progress still: the paths need redoing, they were very rough and there was no slope into the restaurant. The staff had to bring a wooden board but that worked a treat and everyone was very jolly and good natured about it. In other circumstances it could all have been a bit awkward but it certainly wasn’t here – all just part of the laid-back atmosphere. They will be sorting out the access so maybe we’ll just have to go back to check it out!

Parking space, La Cour de Rémi
Parking space, La Cour de Rémi

Our room (chambre 2, if you are looking at the website) was really spacious with a sofa and two upright chairs with arms. It wasn’t entirely user-friendly as they make use of original features, so what had been the trough for the horses’ feed overhung the head of the bed and did not make a very good headboard! Also, the bed was a bit low and the bathroom floor very slippery when wet but generally it was fine as a disabled-adapted room as it had grab rails and a shower seat. The toiletries were lovely and there was also tea and coffee making facilities. Only one coffee sachet though, so we had to ask for some more but it was worth it as it was surprisingly good coffee!

Chambre 2, La Cour de Rémi
Chambre 2, La Cour de Rémi

Dinner was a really fun experience. Once we had negotiated the temporary slope, we entered a restaurant with tables I could sit at in my power chair (hooray!) and with a huge wooden table down the length of the room, apparently hewn from a single tree trunk. At this, a member of staff was industriously slicing home-made bread. We were brought some of this along with a terrine dish half full of rough-hewn home-made pâté plus a stone jar full of gherkins. This was our ‘amuse-bouche’ or appetiser! Pete would happily have eaten nothing but that all evening! Our food was equally wonderful (best fish I’ve ever eaten!) and they use plenty of home-grown vegetables, fruit and herbs from their lovely walled garden as well as other regional produce.

La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
La Cour de Rémi, Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

Breakfast was equally fun: a brioche loaf between the two of us with two kinds of home-made jam, ham and cheese and boiled egg along with lovely coffee and hot milk. I love it when they offer you hot milk so you can have milky coffee that isn’t cold!

Tank Corps memorial, La Cour de Rémi
Tank Corps memorial, La Cour de Rémi

They are planning to add a little museum about the tank corps but if we were to visit again, it would be for the location, the atmosphere, and, yes, the food.

The chateau de Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais
The chateau de Bermicourt, Pas-de-Calais

For more details about the accessibility and more photos, please see my review on Euan’s Guide.

Click here for more reviews of accessible places to stay.

 

 

 

Relaxed, accessible hotel

Carpark, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

Les Saules was a very relaxing place to spend a couple of days on our way from Calais to our gîte in Normandy. We spent two nights here which meant we had a day to explore the local area, the Baie de Somme, so we went to the coast for some extremely bracing sea air!

Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The hotel is quite modest in style but does what it does very well, which is to provide a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere in pleasant, comfortable surroundings with good food and helpful, welcoming staff.

Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Les Saules, Baie de Somme

Our room was on the ground floor and had a terrace outside with table and chairs, looking over the grounds which were very attractive, including a couple of ponds with ducks. In fact the terrace reached all round the hotel and there was an outside dining area which would have been lovely had the weather been more settled. There was a bit of a door sill to negotiate to get out to the terrace but Pete had cunningly brought a couple of pieces of slightly chamfered wood for just such an occasion and they made it easier to get in and out.

Carpark, Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Carpark, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The hotel has a spa but it’s just as well we weren’t intending to use it as it would have meant negotiating the pebbly car park. There was a disabled bay in which we parked initially before realising that I wouldn’t have been able to negotiate the pebbled surface. Access was fine at the front of the hotel, just a couple of slight bumps, so we used the driveway as a drop-off area then Pete would park the car afterwards. There was further parking on a tarmac surface.

The Spa, Les Saules, Baie de Somme
The Spa, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The bathroom had grab rails and a shower seat; I would have welcomed an extra drop-down grab rail so that there was one each side of the shower seat and the loo was very high but I guess different arrangements suit different people. You can see more or less what the room was like on their website if you look at the ‘chambre premium.’

It seems to be becoming more common for hotel rooms on the continent to have tea and coffee making facilities and they were happy to provide us with some milk.

Les Saules, Baie de Somme
Les Saules, Baie de Somme

When we went to the restaurant the first evening, we realised that the majority of the tables were too narrow for my power chair to fit under so I would have had to transfer to a dining chair, which I can do but it all adds to the hassle, so I was pleased when a member of staff pointed out that a nearby table in a different style would work (it was one of just a couple of old, wooden circular tables) so we used that and asked if we might reserve it for the next evening and they even reserved it for us for breakfast!

The terrace, Les Saules, Baie de Somme
The terrace, Les Saules, Baie de Somme

The food was good without being fabulous and they use local produce and have some local specialities on the menu. Disappointed they had run out of decaffeinated coffee though!

Breakfast involved croissants, pastries, and cheese, fruit and yoghurt and also eggs. This provided us with a slight puzzle: we had assumed they were hard-boiled and started to peel one when we realised they were in fact raw and you are supposed to pop them into a bath of hot water to cook. The laughing waiter assured us that we were not the first people to make that mistake. Fortunately we realised in time to avoid getting raw egg everywhere!

The next day we investigated Le Crotoy, Fort Mahon and other places along the coast. It was incredibly windy so we didn’t venture outside the car other than to take photos and try to find postcards but I think it would have been possible to get along the prom at Le Crotoy at least. It clearly suited the people windsurfing and kite surfing at any rate!

At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme
At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme

I would stay at Les Saules again as it was a very pleasant place and the access was OK. It was just over sixty miles from Calais, so convenient for the tunnel or ferry.

At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme
At Le Crotoy, Baie de Somme

For further details on accessibility and more photos, see my review on Euan’s Guide.

See my website for more reviews of accessible places to stay.

 

Lovely, accessible gîte in Normandy

Beautiful, spacious, peaceful and with a fully accessible ground floor, La Fresnaie is a great base for exploring the local area with its picturesque towns and villages and wonderful, rolling countryside.IMG_1590

La Fresnaie can be booked for four people or six: the ground floor has two bedrooms and a wet room style bathroom, while upstairs there are a double and a twin, a bathroom and toilet.

The terrace, La Fresnaie
The terrace, La Fresnaie

Surrounding the house is a terrace, some of which is shaded so you can enjoy the sun or keep out of it, whichever you prefer and there is plenty of garden furniture for if you want to eat or sit and relax on a sofa. The car parking is also covered so you can easily pack or unpack the car, whatever the weather.

The terrace, La Fresnaie
The terrace, La Fresnaie

The grounds, which include the home of Paula and Nigel the owners and two other cottages, are beautiful with plenty of the ash trees that the place is named after and we were thrilled to see red squirrels running about and to spot buzzards wheeling overhead.

A lot of thought has gone into the accessibility: grab rails by the loo and shower which has a drop-down seat. The doorways have a very low threshold so there is no problem with access and in the kitchen the worktop which includes the hob is at a lower level with space underneath.

A few things could be improved to make it even more wheelchair-friendly, for example, the dining table was of the sort that you cannot fully pull up to in a wheelchair (we popped a book under each leg to raise it up but of course that did make it rather high!). Fortunately, the table outside was of a different design and we were able to eat out there quite often. I could have done with a vertical grab rail by the loo but I guess that sort of detail is going to be different from one person to the next.

La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux
La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux

We were not too worried about whether there were many accessible things to do in the local area as we fully intended to have a very relaxing time after the incredibly stressful few weeks I had just had at work (long story). There were recommendations in the visitors’ book but this is where the difference between perhaps pushing somebody, a child may be, in a wheelchair and accessing things in a power chair are two different situations. I tend to duck out of exploring things which look rather hard work as, the greater the hassle, the less worth doing it becomes. Just driving around spotting ‘dream cottages,’ getting glimpses of castles and absorbing the still traditional French village way of life was great fun in itself.

La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux
La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux

For all there were big supermarkets on the edges of some of the towns, many people still pop to the local boulangerie for their daily baguette.

La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux
La Roseraie, Lassay-les-Châteaux

The supermarkets were useful as, much as I like to support local businesses, quaint little shops are not generally accessible. Many French supermarkets have a ‘traiteur’ counter where you can buy portions of home-made style meals to take home. They are so much nicer than a ready meal and much easier than actually cooking from scratch. We tried a good range of them as with hotel stays on the way to and from the cottage, we were not bothered about eating out during our week in Normandy, and they were delicious.

Lassay-les-Châteaux
Lassay-les-Châteaux

When we visited Lassay-les-Châteaux, a lovely little town with a wonderful castle, we explored La Roseraie, a delightful rose garden, perhaps slightly past its best so late in the season but still full of a huge variety of beautiful roses. It is very easily accessible from the main car park of the town which is tarmac and the paths in the rose garden are fine gravel. We also visited Domfront, Bagnoles de l’Orne and St Fraimbault – all very picturesque. Many towns and villages are ‘villes fleuris’ – full of flowers at this time of year.

Domfront
Domfront

Our intention was to have a really relaxing time and we certainly did. We had chosen somewhere that was lovely to be at even if we didn’t do very much and that was pretty much exactly what happened. Just being at La Fresnaie, relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet was exactly what we had hoped for!

La Fresnaie, Loré, Basse-Normandy
La Fresnaie, Loré, Basse-Normandy

For further details on accessibility and more photos, see my review on Euan’s Guide.

 

Hi-tech, well-designed powerchair

WHILL model C powerchair

I recently had a home demo of the WHILL model C powerchair from TGA Mobility. I had seen some videos about it on-line and it looked robust, well-designed and hi-tech so I thought I would give it a try but unfortunately it’s not for me.

It has lots of plus points: it copes well with uneven surfaces and would easily deal with a kerb of up to 2 inches, its cleverly-designed wheels mean it has a very tight turning circle and it can even go sideways. You can operate it remotely via an app, so if you were sitting on a chair, for example, and the WHILL was not next to you, you could use your mobile to bring the WHILL over. The armrests are quite low so I could pull right up to our desk without having to raise the arms.

WHILL model C powerchair
WHILL model C powerchair

On the other hand, I really don’t think I would need to operate it remotely, so having the cost of that technical innovation included in the price is a bit of a waste. The seat is in two parts – the basic seat and the cushioned part, which is perhaps why there was a peculiar rocking motion as I went around. It is easy to manoeuvre but while the joystick is positioned for your stronger hand, the on/off and speed controls are on the other side which I found a little problematic.

The deal-breaker for me, though, was not being able to lift the foot plate, which would mean not being get out of the chair independently. Also, the large front wheels get in the way a bit when getting on and off. I was almost relieved that it wasn’t the perfect powerchair given the hefty price-tag.

The rep showed us how the chair worked (although not the remote operation) and we tested it both indoors and out and he put no pressure on us whatsoever which was great and he said our comments and feedback were useful to him for future demos.

Everyone’s needs and abilities are different, so for some people this well-designed piece of kit will be perfect.

 

Accessible tapas!

Ambiente, Fossgate, York

We had a fun time at Ambiente in Fossgate, York, sharing various tapas dishes between four of us. Having eaten tapas galore in Spain, I would say that these seemed pretty authentic, although some were better than others.

Ambiente, Fossgate, York
Ambiente, Fossgate, York

They describe the food as having “a Yorkshire twist” – they use local as well as Spanish suppliers, for example, the morcilla is a mixture of local sausage meat and Spanish black pudding, round a quail’s egg, so it’s actually a delicious kind of Scotch egg.

The croquetas, patatas bravas, chorizo y patatas and buñuelos de pescado (fishcakes) were also fabulous. The pulpo (octopus) was good too but I wasn’t impressed by the gambas (prawns) or the champiñones (mushrooms) – a good excuse to try some of the other items on the menu next time! The bread was good too, a soft, herby focaccia.

Staff were pleasant and efficient. Pete had checked out the place in advance as we weren’t quite sure about negotiating the doorway: there is a bit of lip which is higher on one side than the other but with both doors open it was easy. The trickiest thing were the cobbles nearby. There is no actual parking for the restaurant, but there are parking bays in the street. According to the council website, those with a Blue Badge can park in them free of charge, although there was no mention of this on the parking meters. We pulled up in a nearby private parking area in order not to have to set up my power chair on the road. This meant negotiating some rather bumpy cobbles but nothing my chair couldn’t cope with. Pete then parked the car in a bay over the road.

Inside the restaurant there is plenty of room to manoeuvre and the tables are high enough that you can sit at them in a wheelchair. There is an accessible loo with grabrails – didn’t use it, though, so can’t describe it in detail. There was background music but not too loud. They have two branches in York as well as one in Leeds and Hull.

Here are some other eateries I’ve tried.