Valley View is a lovely cottage for two: comfortable, spotlessly clean and well-equipped plus it has amazing views. It also makes a really good base for exploring the area and there are plenty of accessible things to do.
The cottage comprises a sitting room, kitchen-diner, bedroom and ensuite bathroom, all of which have plenty of space to get around easily in a wheelchair and the access is really easy, just a slight ramp to get you over the threshold with hardly a bump. The table is high enough that you can sit at it in a wheelchair. Thatch Close Cottages comprises three cottages in total, all of which can be linked in different combinations for larger groups.
There are various high-tech features such as the kitchen worktop with hob and sink will rise and lower at the touch of a button as will the bathroom wash basin and the dressing table. Despite this, the overall feel is of a cosy cottage and the decor is charming.
The spacious bathroom has a shower seat, lots of grabrails and even a wash-dry loo.
I was really impressed that the website included a list of everything that was included as so often you are not sure quite what to bring. In the event, one or two of these were actually missing but it was just a case of mentioning it to Ed, one of the owners and they were provided straightaway. Ed and Marion are obviously really keen that people enjoy their visit and will lend equipment such as a shower wheelchair or toilet seat raiser (which some places charge for) and they even have a talking microwave and other kitchen equipment for the visually impaired. In fact, when Ed asked if there was anything that would improve the place and I mentioned that the sofa was a bit low, he promptly fetched some feet to go underneath it which raised it up – perfect! The household equipment generally is very good quality – although I’m not sure any two of the glasses matched each other! – however, we have been in some cottages where the kitchen equipment is a bit worn. Here everything was in really good condition and there was all you could need for meal preparation.
The cottage complies with very high levels of accessibility on the National Accessibility Scheme and has been inspected by the Fire Brigade. It has various safety features such as an emergency pull cord in the bathroom and emergency lighting in case of power failure. There are further details and a full accessibility statement on the cottage website.
The emergency lights do unfortunately mean that there is some light at night which might disturb some people and the patio could do with some TLC but otherwise the cottage is fabulous and even includes a generous welcome basket including breakfast ingredients, a bottle of wine, home-made cake and marmalade. The cottage can be linked to the ones next door for larger groups. You could hear some noise from through the wall, but not too bad.
There are plenty of accessible things to do in the area, such as Symonds Yat – we parked up at Yat Rock and had no problem accessing the lookout point with my scooter – there are also plenty of benches on the way. We also visited the original Hampton Court which has the most amazing walled garden which was fully accessible and my scooter coped fine with the lawned area. Entrance was free for a carer so we only had to pay one entry fee! The woodland trails would have been too much for my scooter though but very nearby is Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum with very attractive woodland and the paths lead to a viewing point with amazing views over the countryside. It is free and even the parking is free for a Blue Badge holder.
Another day we visited Ross on Wye where if you park up by St Mary’s church you can go through the churchyard to a park called The Prospect with, you’ve guessed it, amazing views! We later parked down near the river and there is a riverside path which is easily scootable too and very attractive. The tourist office sent us some leaflets about the area, including a ‘buggy route’ around the town – we didn’t follow all of it, but it’s good to know that they are thinking about accessibility.
This is a gorgeous part of the country and Valley View is a great place to stay with plenty of accessible places to visit within easy reach.
The adventure started at Heathrow. As previously, we stayed at the Hilton T5 and met up with my brother, this time for a fabulous meal at Mr Todiwalah’s Kitchen – the most delicious Indian food you can imagine! We’ve had the odd hassle with accessible rooms at this hotel in the past but last time and this, they’ve given us the sort of room we wanted, with a proper wet room style shower.
Some months previously, BA had contacted us to say that the flight had been put back a couple of hours, which meant that the next day we had loads of time to kill, so we had a very leisurely breakfast, packed up then did some reading until it was time to go to the airport.
A week or so earlier, we had phoned the airline, as they suggest you do, to check that there was no problem with them transporting my Powerchair (this was the first time we’d travelled with it, having previously taken my Luggie scooter with us). They assured us that this was fine, so we were slightly annoyed if not entirely surprised when we went to the Special Assistance check-in desk to find that they had no record of the details we had given over the phone and did not know much about this particular sort of battery. They even suggested we rang the manufacturers to get more details! Eventually, after two different more senior members of staff had been summoned they decided it was fine and even gave us a code to identify the battery for future journeys, which did in fact prove useful on our return. Seriously could have done without the stress though!
There was so little time between the gate being announced and boarding commencing that I didn’t get to board first, but ended up being transported past everybody who had been asked to wait. A while ago, I might have felt rather embarrassed about this; now I just tend to think that if this is how it has to be, then so be it! This was in an airport wheelchair from which I was then transferred to the on-board wheelchair which they then lift onto the aircraft, having strapped you in as if you are about to do a parachute jump! Not great, but it gets you to your seat.
Arrived at Bilbao, we then had to pick up the hire car. I have no idea why picking up a hire car has to take so long, – they were taking about 30 minutes per person so we must have waited at least an hour plus of course the time it took to deal with us. We had specifically requested an ordinary, low car and an estate because of having to lift the Powerchair in and out. Despite a member of staff when we booked saying the details of our request would be passed on, there did not appear to be any record of this but they did their best to accommodate us and at least we ended up with a low car.
Off we set, armed with our AA directions which had served us well before in Spain. However, we should have consulted a map at the same time! Lesson learned! Knowing we were fairly likely to be late, I had e-mailed the hotel, the Parador de Argómaniz, sometime before to explain and they had said to ring them if we were going to be later than 11 as that’s when the restaurant closes and they would save us some food. I rang them once we were on our way and gave them an idea of when we might arrive and they asked what food we would like them to have ready for us. This was before we went haring off on the wrong road and had to come back, eventually getting ourselves back on track and arriving at 12:20. This of course isn’t particularly late for Spain, but even so, we were quite tired by then so the omelette and huge plate of chorizo, jamón etc and of course a drink were very welcome indeed!
Our room was a decent size and comfortable, with wide doorways and a few grabrails in the bathroom, although the shower stool was just an ordinary stool and not the most supportive thing!
Breakfast was varied – eggs, cold meat, cereals, bread, fruit, yogurts, served in the restaurant on the top floor, with its amazing wooden beamed ceiling. We spent the next day mainly relaxing out on the terrace enjoying the peace and quiet and looking at the wonderful view except when it got too hot – but that’s why they invented siestas! They may be dying out but when you’re on holiday…
Dinner was also in the fabulous dining room with plenty of choices of local food and wine and pleasant staff who were quite happy to provide me with a copy of the menu to bring home to show my students!
The next day, after another great breakfast we checked out and headed for Vitoria to find a supermarket which we had previously looked up on the internet. According to Google maps it was accessed via a service road but after several fruitless steps to find this and asking directions from people who didn’t know where it was, somebody finally told us you reach it via a slip road off the main road! Then it was very easy to find, so we stocked up and headed for Getaria. This time Google maps and Streetview had been really useful as we knew exactly which road to take and which landmarks to look out for and found Epotx Etxea easily. We sat on the terrace in the shade (it was over 30°) and marvelled at the view, before the owners’ son arrived and showed us around, then it was time for a cuppa and a relax!
In the morning we were up early and there was the most stunning sunrise – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sunrise as red as a sunset! The plan was to do no driving that day so we simply revelled in the lovely surroundings, the amazing view and the sunshine. The most strenuous thing we needed to do was wave at the owners as they came and went in their car!
Andrés, the owner, who I had corresponded with over the booking, came and introduced himself and we chatted about the house and surroundings. There are vineyards all around, in fact, Mahastí is the local Basque word for vineyard and there was a home produced bottle of the local white wine, txacolí, in the fridge. In the gardens there is a lemon tree, an orange tree, (I thought it was a lime as the fruit was still green!) a fig and a grapefruit tree. Andrés said to help ourselves so dinner one night involved lemon juice with the smallest carbon footprint imaginable! Thunder and lightning heralded some cooler weather.
Andrés also recommended where to go to get postcards, so the next day we headed down to explore Getaria (spotted the restaurant featured in The Trip to Spain, I think!) and to buy postcards. Getaria is definitely a working port and, I have to say not the most beautiful place in parts although it does have an old town but I’m not sure how accessible that is and a lot of it is cobbled. It also has a small beach and even beach wheelchairs.
Then it was on to Zumaia where we parked and explored the riverside promenade, clearly a popular place for a stroll. During the afternoon, back at the house, Maikar, Andrés’ wife came and introduced herself – we couldn’t have asked for friendlier hosts – happy to chat and to advise when asked but not intrusive: just perfect!
The next morning it was raining again but it cleared up and we headed for Zarautz to see what it was like, post some cards and buy some more. At first I thought we’d go after lunch then I remembered that of course small shops in Spain don’t reopen until about half past four, so that’s when we went and, yes, they were just about reopening by then – quite reassuring to find out that some things don’t change! At one point, naughtily, we parked by a bus stop (not blocking anything, I hasten to add) while Pete ran into the tourist office and the police came over and nearly gave us a fine. Playing dumb and asking for some directions got them onside and they let us off!
The next day, Friday, was our final day and quite hazy and warm. We went back to Zarautz, parked in the car park near the front as recommended by the tourist information lady the previous day and went out onto a terrace overlooking the sea. From there we could see the long promenade or Malecón, so we headed there via a pedestrian street and realised that this area of the town at least is very wheelchair friendly.
The Malecón is very accessible, mainly smooth and with plenty of benches and cafés along its length. Apparently there is some sort of accessible wooden boardwalk – we didn’t manage to spot it, but there was plenty of promenade to explore anyway. We couldn’t resist having a pintxo of tortilla de patata and freshly squeezed orange juice at an outdoor café, looking at the sea and the ratón, the mouse-like promontory at Getaria.
That evening, Andrés and Maikar made a point of coming to say goodbye and explained that we were their first booking ever through Handiscover, a website of accessible properties that puts you in contact with the owner. It was useful for finding Mahastí, but if we were to go again, I’d book directly as it would be cheaper.
Saturday was check-out day. We hadn’t done very much on this holiday but that actually suited me fine! Last time we visited Spain, we stayed in five different places, but this time I didn’t fancy all the packing and unpacking and getting used to new places that that would involve as it is rather tiring.
I had investigated online an accessible nature reserve that wasn’t too far away which we might have done, but when it came to it, just exploring the local towns was quite enough. People often make the joke that you sometimes come back from holiday so tired you need another holiday, which was what I wanted to avoid and what with the airport hassles and getting lost it wasn’t quite as smooth as I had imagined, but of course you don’t remember those things afterwards. I’m mainly remembering the lovely view and the warm welcome from Andrés and Maikar.
Anyway, we packed up and drove to the airport with no problems. Dropped off the car and went to the Special Assistance desk where the code we had been given at Heathrow for the chair proved useful and we didn’t have too much of a wait to get checked in. On the way out, we had had to pay extra for one of the bags (we were so dismayed that we hadn’t realised you have to pay in advance – perhaps this was why they let us off paying for both bags!). This time, I had gone online and paid for the bags in advance which cost slightly less. It had somehow passed us by that this ruling had been brought in.
The return flight only required one wheelchair transfer, from mine to the in-flight chair and we were boarded first. Off last of course but this can’t really be helped. My brother picked us up from the airport and we all had a cuppa and cake at the hotel! Rather poor selection of cakes for a Hilton on a Saturday afternoon but you can’t have everything – the restaurant at this hotel seems to have gone upmarket since we last here and our evening meal was delicious.
When we checked out a week before we had mentioned that one of the folding grab rails in the bathroom didn’t stay upright when you wanted it to and of course they said they would get it seen to but when we were allocated the same room on our return, guess what? It hadn’t been fixed!
Drove home the next day: no problems, stopping just once at Donnington service station – very civilised indeed, much less crowded than a lot of service stations and it even has some outdoor seating at the back away from the carpark. On the way down we had stopped at Tibshelf and Northampton services, both of which were very good. I never used to remember which services were better or worse than any others but I do now. Whether that’s because I have an eye to reviewing things or simply because I notice things like easy entrances or user-friendliness more now that it is a bit more vital, I don’t know! Donnington had an M&S, so we even arrived home with milk for a cup of tea and something for dinner!
I suppose if you want to go somewhere on holiday that’s green you may get rain but on the whole I think it’s worth it. I would rather look at lush green countryside than parched, arid countryside which can be impressive but isn’t quite so pretty. Also, there’s something very relaxing about being at the seaside! I certainly recommend this area as a place to visit and definitely recommend Epotx Etxea for somewhere to stay and Mahastí if you need it to be accessible.
I’ve reviewed the Parador and Mahastí both on my blog and on Euan’sGuide if you would like more detail on its accessibility and more pictures.
Mahastí is a wonderful little single storey cottage at Epotx Etxea, home of Andrés and Maikar and their family, high above Getaria in the Pais Vasco or Spanish Basque Country.
Mahastí sleeps four in two bedrooms, and there is the bathroom and a kitchen-dining-sitting room combined, plus the terrace where you can sit in the shade of the wide eaves and gaze at the fabulous view of the sea and the coast and also eat meals as there is another dining table and chairs there.
It’s all very neat and clean and beautifully done with pretty tiles and curtains and very well-equipped for basic cooking, plus there was a bottle of home-produced txacolí (white wine) in the fridge! Unusually for Spain, it has an oven as well as a microwave, although no kettle – but who wants abroad to be just like home?!
The garden is lovely, with lots of birds, flowers and trees, including a lemon, an orange and a fig tree, plus more outdoor furniture on the lawn and a serious barbecue!
The adaptations for accessibility are discreet – the level entrance and wide doors you would barely notice, plus a few grabrails in the bathroom and a free-standing shower stool. You can park right alongside and the terrace is smoothly tiled. Obviously, everyone has different needs; for me, being quite short, the loo was rather high and the shower, even on its lowest setting, was out of my reach. I mentioned this to Andrés – he was happy to take suggestions, the family are clearly really keen that you have a good time and that the place is comfortable for you. I’ve also reviewed the place on Euan’sGuide, including more photos to illustrate access issues.
Although walkers passed up and down the road that leads to Epotx, it is quite a trek to Getaria and involves a few hairpin bends – you would probably want to go by car. Getaria itself is on quite a slope and although it has some beach (including beach wheelchairs) it is a working port. For more of a resort, pop along to Zarautz to the east, which has a great long promenade with cafés (and two different kinds of beach wheelchair!) and is a very accessible place all round, what with dropped kerbs and smooth surfaces.
It also has some sort of wooden beach walkway, although we didn’t actually seek it out, as there was plenty of prom to explore anyway.
Zumaia, to the west also has a prom, this time by the river and very pleasant.
I booked Mahastí through Handiscover, but if we were to go again or if you wanted to book either of the properties in the main house (above Andrés and Maikar’s flat) it’s cheaper to book directly. Andrés and Maikar are incredibly friendly and can provide lots of useful information but they do not intrude – the perfect hosts! It also meant I got to have lots of conversations in Spanish which is all good practice!
Mahastí is a lovely house and Epotx Exea a wonderful setting – I really can imagine going there again!
We loved our two night stay at Argómaniz! We arrived ridiculously late (long story) but the staff didn’t turn a hair. I knew we might not arrive before the restaurant closed so had e-mailed them well in advance and they suggested I rang if that was the case, and they would save us some food, so when I did they asked us what we would like! Finally arriving at 12.20, we were provided with omelette, bread, a huge cold meat platter and a very welcome drink – and relaxed!
The room, an accessible one on the first floor, was a decent size and comfortable. Breakfast was varied – eggs, cold meat, cereals, bread, fruit, yogurts. Meals were served in the top floor restaurant with its amazing wooden beamed ceiling. Dinner the next day was delicious too with plenty of choices of local food and wine.
We spent the next day mainly out on the terrace looking at the wonderful view. There are lawns and trees and even a discreet children’s play area. You can order drinks and snacks of various types whenever you want.
Specific accessibility issues: some of the disabled parking spaces were on a slope and would have been impossible to use in conjunction with a wheelchair but others were fine, plus they are happy for you to pull up by the door to drop off/pick up, which is what we did.
Our room was spacious, with wide doorways and there is lift access to all floors and step-free access throughout. There is the occasional uneven flagstone but they are easily avoided. The restaurant, bar and terrace all have ample room and good solid tables.
In the ensuite bathroom, there were grabrails by the loo and wet-room style shower, but only an ordinary stool to use in the shower, which wasn’t as supportive as a proper shower stool would be. Also, the hairdryer required the button to be pressed continuously while operating it, which I’ve always found irritating!
The blend of old buildings and modern comforts is something that Paradors do very well and this was no exception – despite the age of the main buidling, the whole place was accessible and comfortable and the food and the staff were great. After the slightly hassled journey there, it was a wonderful place to chill out before journeying on.
Other Paradors we’ve stayed at recently include Alcalá de Henares, Tordesillas, and La Granja, all of which were accessible. All Paradors are individual and not all are accessible, so it needs a bit of research before you book!
I generally like to support independent restaurants, so we were going to go to Mamma Mia’s but the slight step at the doorway looked like it might be a bit of an effort for my powerchair, plus, you have to pull up on the pavement outside, which isn’t ideal. We decided we’d give Bill’s a go instead as we’d had a couple of recommendations.
Pete did a reccy beforehand and the staff were very helpful, showed him the accessible loo, (very spacious, plenty of grabrails) and told him it would be no problem to pop the chair somewhere out the way while we ate – they even said they had recharged someone’s chair recently!
Pulling up outside is no problem then you could leave your car there if you have a blue badge as it’s OK to park on yellow lines if you aren’t blocking anything, otherwise, you could do what we did and park on Lendal.
There are some booths but most of the tables are movable (some are up a step but plenty are level access – and properly level it is too – no bumpy threshold!) with good solid tables and easily moved chairs. They suggested we left the chair by the main door, so we disconnected the power – it was races weekend, didn’t want to take any chances! The décor is funky, the piped music quite loud, and as I said, the staff are great – really helpful with chairs and so on. I don’t know if they have had training but they were very aware of accessibility issues.
The food is OK but not brilliant – we had a meze between us all as a starter then four different mains and some puds so a reasonable range and while there was nothing wrong with any of it, you would expect better for the price. We’ve paid those prices in many a gastropub, for example, and got a much better meal. They did a very good decaff to finish up with – actually they brought it before the desserts – perhaps we should have specified but you would kind of expect it to come after or at least at the same time!
I had seen a comment on tripadvisor saying that the optional 10% service charge did not go to the staff, so we thought we might leave it separately but when we asked the waitress who had looked after us, she said the tips were divided between the staff.
In all, I’m glad we tried Bill’s and may go again but will continue to check out other accessible restaurants. As ever, the overall impression you get is a mixture of various aspects – the food is just one of them – and the overall impression was good.
For a change, we explored the Fulford side of the Millenium Bridge. The grass is left long to encourage wildflowers, so it had really quite a rural look.
The mown paths would be passable on a really sturdy scooter, but we stuck to the tarmac cycle/footpaths.
I had always thought of the grassy area by the bridge as being Fulford Ings, but according to Google Maps, they are actually further along. The path becomes a bit rough by then, so, having passed the grassy area by way of the cycle/footpath, then Love Lane amongst the trees, we turned around at St Oswald’s church – it’s a private house, complete with gravestones in the garden! The Ings were the site of the Battle of Fulford, precursor to the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.
Everywhere smelled gorgeously woodsy, so it made for a pleasant saunter, then we headed on past the bridge once more and along New Walk.
We hadn’t been this way for ages and having once been very familiar with it from living nearby some years ago was an added interest plus there are a few things to look out for, like the railtracks, a relic from the area’s more industrial past and Pikeing Well, once a fresh water fountain – the history of it is on an information plaque nearby.
There are plenty of benches along both sides of the river and platforms built out into the river so you can get a good view. There is even an ice-cream boat!
You could carry on along the bank, over Blue Bridge and into town but we headed back over the Millenium Bridge to good old Rowntree Park and –yes! – there were some ducklings as well as goslings, not to mention plenty of people enjoying the sunshine and the roses!