Changing priorities

York Uni Christmas Day 2019

Looking back over my posts for the last couple of years, there was not as much of a change in our activities as I was expecting. Does that mean we’re still doing things or does it mean we’ve never done that much?

York Uni Christmas Day 2019
York Uni Christmas Day 2019

I think we probably do more in the way of gardens and outdoor spaces now and fewer restaurants as it’s tricky not to put on weight even when eating healthily if you can’t really exercise. Also, there are not that many local restaurants which are really easily accessible especially with the parking situation in central York.

Ambiente, Fossgate, York
Ambiente, Fossgate, York

Our last holiday was a lot less ambitious than previous ones where we would stay in three or four hotels on the way to and from a holiday cottage in France or Spain for example. I currently find staying in lots of different places on the same holiday too tiring.

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

I was pleased, though, to see that we are still managing to see live music fairly regularly. I think, also, that even if I was perfectly hale and hearty, we would be doing different things than, say, ten or fifteen years ago. More gardens than, for example, stately homes or museums as I really like looking at gardens these days, much more so than I used to. We’ve always liked visiting castles and we used to like city breaks in Europe but we have done plenty of that in the past and while of course I would like to do more it’s not breaking my heart. Except the thought of never again being able to just wander around Paris looking at things like the flower market on Ile de la Cité – that just gets to me every time.

When we did a few exotic holidays, such as going to India, I don’t remember at the time thinking that we had better do these now or we might not be able to later but that’s how it turned out and I am very glad that we did as it is lovely to look back on those holidays.

Our tastes have changed, partly, I suppose, to do with ageing, but also to do with accepting the inevitable. The important thing is to try not to make comparisons with what you used to do, which would change anyway, but to do what you can and what is enjoyable.

The Alnwick Garden
The Alnwick Garden

Reviews of accessible places to visit

Reviews of accessible places to stay

Reviews of accessible places to eat

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.

 

Stopover with history!

New Lanark Mills

We stayed one night at New Lanark Mills on our way back from Scotland to home but it’s worth spending more time here as it’s not just a hotel but a World Heritage site with a visitor centre and plenty to see.

New Lanark Mills
New Lanark Mills

The hotel is in one of the old mill buildings and the rooms incorporate original features which add a bit of character to the otherwise fairly bland bedrooms. They are comfy enough and have good views and gorgeous photos of the site, which is by the Clyde and its waterfalls. We had booked an accessible room, so the bathroom was wetroom style with shower seat and grabrails. After we checked in, someone appeared to explain the emergency evacuation procedure, which I have never experienced before, but it was good to know.

There was a wedding going on but that didn’t impinge on our stay other than some guests’ children bashing on the piano rather tediously during dinner!

Dinner was very good as was breakfast with plenty of choices – better on the cooked stuff than the continental, as ever.

New Lanark Mills
New Lanark Mills

Staff were really pleasant and helpful and the whole place is accessible, if a little uneven outside. There was a speed hump with a notice by it asking people not to park by it as it had a gap so wheelchair users could get by, but guess what? White van parked right in the gap! Managed to get over the hump anyway and the van had gone by the time we came back from seeing the falls, the millrace and other features. It doesn’t affect entry to the hotel. Inside there was a bar (rather loud radio) and lounge (sunny and pleasant) as well as the restaurant and it’s all very easy to get about – they’ve obviously put some thought into access issues and staff were happy to let you sit wherever suited you best.

Definitely recommended for somewhere a little different to stay. Other places we stayed on this holiday are Battlesteads, Cringletie House and Port Selma Lodges.

Castles can be accessible!

Cringletie House, near Peebles

They can when they are Cringletie House in the Scottish borders! It’s a luxurious country house near Peebles with a great restaurant and lovely staff. I can’t really comment on the grounds as the weather was a bit too drizzly to explore but they look very nice!

Cringletie House, near Peebles
Cringletie House, near Peebles

When you arrive there is a ramped entrance then a platform lift to get you up the three steps to the ground floor – not possible with my scooter because of how the lift is situated but it had a seat so I could get off the scooter then back on at the top.

We got a very warm welcome, in fact all the staff were great, and as our room wasn’t ready (we were quite early) we headed to the restaurant for some lunch.

After that we were shown our room which was actually a junior suite so had a couple of armchairs (the rise and recline sort which was fun to play with!) – the website talks of them having just one accessible room but it sounded like they had more than one – they were on the ground floor while there was lift access to the first floor restaurant which has fabulous views.

The room was spacious and comfortable with a large bathroom with roll-in shower, grabrails etc. In fact, they have made huge efforts to make the place disabled-friendly without that impinging on the style and comfort of the place for everyone.

As I said above, the weather wasn’t really appropriate for exploring outside and some of the paths don’t look very suitable but I can’t really comment!

Dinner was very good – several ‘amuse-bouches’ to start with; not terribly good fishcakes then a lovely fish main course and we even found room for dessert as none of the dishes were huge or stodgy.

Breakfast was good although my scrambled eggs very much resembled omelette!

On leaving, the platform lift once again came into play – I could scoot on to it but not off, so a chair was fetched so I could get off and have a seat while Pete manhandled my scooter into position!

It was quite pricey but I would love to go back to such a lovely place where they just take it in their stride that you use a scooter – no one stares or makes a big deal of it, which is just how it should be!

Have a look at my reviews of other accessible places to stay!

The Parsonage Hotel and Restaurant, Escrick, N. Yorks

The Parsonage, Escrick

We were invited here for Sunday lunch with family friends and overall the experience was great: private dining room, good company, relaxed atmosphere and pleasant staff. The setting is wonderful, especially on a sunny day with autumn colours everywhere and the gardens looked lovely. The food however was nothing special: I had a starter of prawns in a Marie Rose sauce straight out of a bottle, the roast pork main course was good without being great and the lemon tart dessert was somewhat stodgy; house wine was fine, coffee was good.

The Parsonage, Escrick
The Parsonage, Escrick

I couldn’t find anything on the website about access, so I rang to ask and was told that there is a side entrance which is accessible but we just needed to check with reception when we arrived that it was open. Getting round to the side entrance was no problem, and it felt like a proper garden entrance rather than just some random back door, but the threshold had rather a high lip to get over which gave quite a jolt. Inside had ramps and an accessible toilet and although getting into the bar was a little exact, it was manageable and the other rooms were perfectly spacious. Leaving at the end was problematic as the high threshold had a slight slope on the incoming side but none on the outgoing, so my scooter could not have coped with it and we had to lift it over. Presumably wheelchairs cope with it OK given that the place is geared for them generally.

On the whole, I like the way they have incorporated ramps without spoiling the character of the building and the staff were excellent at being welcoming and helpful but I would not rush back as the food was not something to go out of your way for.

http://www.parsonagehotel.co.uk/index.htm

Searching for accessible accommodation

Maybe I got it wrong or maybe they have improved, but you can now filter for various accessibility features on Trivago.websites

Looking at a few cottage website the other day I realised that if you have entered dates and there is nothing accessible at that time, then ‘wheelchair accessible’ doesn’t appear as a filter but it will if there are some available – this applies to various sites. Seems like an odd way to do it – other sites show it as greyed out or have a (0) to show there’s nothing available with a particular feature but you live and learn – something to watch out for in the future!

Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5

We stayed one night here before our holiday and left the car while we were away. We had stayed here a year before and been given a room with a bath, despite requesting an accessible one then found out later that they do have rooms with wet-room style bathrooms so we requested one of those. On reaching the room we realised it was one with a bath so we headed back to reception where they were most perplexed as their system said the room did not have a bath. We assured them it did so were allocated another room which did indeed have a wet-room, with seat, grab bars etc although the room still had a very low swivel armchair which looked difficult for anyone to use, never mind someone with restricted mobility!

We had eaten here before and were again joined by my brother who lives nearby, so sampled quite a few menu dishes between us but chose from the higher end of the menu as some of the more pubby items had disappointed last time. The food was great if pricey but the service was desperately slow even though the place was not that busy. Breakfast was fine with plenty of choice. Rubbish croissants but good sausages and bacon but apparently tinned mushrooms.

We ended up staying the night at the end of our holiday – the plan had been to retrieve the car then head off to a country pub which I had carefully checked out for accessibility and was looking forward to, but the car was making horrendous noises so it was a case of booking in at the Hilton again (we specified the room-number. Bet they don’t get that very often!) and calling the AA. This time we ate at Mr Todiwalah’s Kitchen and oh, boy, was that a good decision! Gorgeous food, excellent staff, good atmosphere and prompt service – the AA fortunately only rang back after we’d finished eating! Car was sorted before check-out time the next day. Their computer system was having problems which had meant not being able to open the min-bar the previous day and meant they couldn’t give us a receipt, but this was made up for by them e-mailing it to us at least three times!

The whole hotel is very accessible, as long as you get the right room and I like the way the staff took it in their stride that I was using a scooter. An airport must get all sorts of people all the time, and it should be the norm  anyway that people don’t make a difference, but it is still novel enough to be pleasant when it happens!

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-london-heathrow-airport-terminal-5-LHRATHI/index.html

Brauereigasthoff Hotel, Aying, Germany

Brauereigasthoff Hotel, Aying, Germany

We stayed two nights here before flying home from Munich airport which was only about 45 mins drive away but this place is right in the country and very beautiful. The main house was the home of the family who made Ayingerbrau beers and there is still a brewery you can tour and buy souvenirs of. We stayed in the separate but equally historic guesthouse in an accessible room, although the only difference that I could see was a stool to use in the shower – no grab bars, for example. Also, the toilet was in a separate cubicle which would be impossible to get a wheelchair into. It was a lovely room, on the first floor, (there was a lift) a suite in fact with a sitting room complete with porcelain stove for cold weather visits! I would not put chairs on casters on a wooden floor though as they move too readily!

Brauereigasthoff Hotel, Aying, Germany
Brauereigasthoff Hotel, Aying, Germany

Having arrived at lunch time, we went over to the pub, also run by the hotel and ate in the shade of the trees. The surface was gravel and it was good and spacious. The menu was entirely in German so we struggled a bit (we have Spanish and French but very little German!) and needed the help of the waitress to work things out. Watch out for freshly-grated horseradish – it’s hot! In the evening we ate in the formal restaurant. To get into the main building there was a slight step up – my scooter was fine going down it but not up. There was a set menu which we were happy to go along with although on the second night I asked for an alternative to the cheese plate on offer as dessert that day and was offered various choices. We never did figure out if we could have ordered from an à la carte menu or not but the food was delicious anyway! Breakfast had plenty of choice – hard boiled eggs, lots of ham and cheese, bread, yogurt and fruit. No need for lunch after that but we succumbed to the cake menu! As the weather was good, we sat outside the guesthouse during the day which was lovely – lots of geraniums and shady trees and as it was Sunday, the road was pretty quiet. To get in and out, there are slight jolts in the doorways but nothing too drastic and the cobbled path was a bit rough but again, my scooter, designed for indoor use, really, coped fine. There was a library/sitting room for if the weather was not so good. The staff were great and as a pre-airport stop off I highly recommend this place. It was almost entirely accessible: do ask if you would like further details. Scooters don’t seem very prevalent in the parts of Austria and Germany we were in so mine got plenty of curious looks and even an enquiry as to how it worked and where it was from!

http://www.brauereigasthof-aying.de/page/index.php/en/

Hotel Alpenrose, Kufstein, Austria

We stayed two nights here after flying into Munich airport on our way to the Achensee, the hotel being 130 kms from the airport. Although it is a Best Western, the atmosphere was entirely that of a family-run hotel, which it is and a very well-run one too, with pleasant, friendly, helpful staff. The restaurant claims to be award-winning and it certainly was very good with nicely-presented national and local specialities, delicious bread and nice wine. The breakfast was also good: you could order various egg dishes as well as helping yourself to lots of different buffet items: cold meat, cheese, croissants, fruit, yogurt etc.

We had booked the Alpenrose because it was accessible and it mostly was with a ramp to get into reception and from there you could access the restaurant and breakfast room but the lounge had a step up. To access the terrace where there were more restaurant tables, if you used the ‘outdoor’ route there was a small step which was too much for my scooter but a wheelchair would probably be OK with it. The ‘indoor’ route to the terrace involved two bigger steps. There was a lift (our room was on the first floor) and the room was very spacious with a walk-in shower, plenty of grab bars and a stool to sit on in the shower. There was also an alarm-cord in the bathroom.

Hotel Alpenrose, Kufstein
Hotel Alpenrose, Kufstein

Not very pre-possessing from the outside, it was a comfortable hotel and very clean, it just needs a little bit of updating: the graphic rose patterned carpet in the bedroom for example and the table-cloths on the terrace tables – lose them and the terrace was lovely! The surrounding mountains are impressive and there was a spectacular storm the second night which meant decamping indoors half-way through our meal! I can’t review Kufstein itself as we just used the hotel for a rest from driving and I would definitely recommend it as a good stopover as well as a base if you did want to explore Kufstein.

http://www.alpenrose-kufstein.at/en/home.html