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Can you boast as many means of transport in one day as we have?

Walk – from the hotel in Venice to the water bus station,

Water bus – from Venice Madonna dell’ Orto to Venice’s Marco Polo airport,

Walk – from the quayside to the airport departures,

Aeroplane – from Venice to Heathrow,

Automobile – from Heathrow terminal 5 to Uxbridge station,

Underground on Metropolitan line – Uxbridge to Wembley Park,

Underground on Jubilee line – Wembley Park to Waterloo,

Walk – from Waterloo underground to Waterloo East station,

Train – from Waterloo East to New Beckenham,

Dinner with the family,

Train – from New Beckenham to Waterloo East,

Walk – Waterloo East to Waterloo,

Underground on Northern line – Waterloo to High Barnet,

Walk – High Barnet station to Barnet,

CRASH into bed!!!

I would love to work out how far we have been in one day….

 

 

 

 

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It might have taken a while, but my wheelchair arrived safe AND in one piece at the plane.  What a relief – thank you so much BA.

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As we board our British Airways flight to Heathrow, I say a quick prayer for my wheelchairs safe arrival; it is a little ritual we go through every time we fly. This is the first time flying with BA and past experience with a number of other airlines does not instil me with confidence; especially when we look out the window and see how they handle the other baggage and pushchairs that get loaded from the door of the plane.
If they handle my chair the way they drive cars and boats you’ll know why I am concerned.

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Venice in the fog…..

We have experienced every type of weather in the few days we have been in Venice. Day 1 was gloriously sunny; day 2 was rainy and cold and today we awoke to dry weather but fog blanketing the city – a real mixed bag.
We chose to go to the airport for our return flight on the Alilaguna water bus which left a short walk from our hotel. It was to be our last look back at the city from the water boats we loved so much, but alas all we could see was a few meters ahead of us and NO city sights at all. Even the boats were navigated by radar which in itself was an interesting experience.
So we say our farewells to Venice; thank you for many fond memories.

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You can plan all you like and it all unravels when you have your main form of transport go on strike. Yesterday was such a day; we planned to visit Murano in the morning and then return to Venice and Rialto market and surrounds later in the day but without the water transport we were scuppered.
To make matters even worse it was cold and very wet following days of glorious sunshine. A little rain shouldn’t be a big issue but when you have to have a sleeping bag to cover your legs, crutches to negotiate bridges, a wheelchair in between bridges, umbrellas and cameras it becomes more of a chore as the day wears on.
As much as I loved our first day out, I disliked this one in equal, but opposite measure and by 2pm I called it a day and we made our way back to the hotel.
Hubby was incredible and on our return he had socks, shoes, blankets, jackets, gloves and umbrellas all drying out in our bathroom next to the radiator. We both only have one pair of shoes with us and it is no fun putting your feet into wet and cold shoes.
After a lovely takeaway dinner we relaxed over some drinks and games.

All in all a lovely end to an otherwise difficult day; but contrast is what makes us appreciate the good from the bad.

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Okay, this really rankles with me – buy a McDonald’s coffee in a country where coffee is perfection?? This really is going above and beyond, but a challenge is a challenge, so here it is…..

We did have a good laugh though when we got the smallest coffee in the dinkiest cup.  I wouldn’t drink it and went and had a proper coffee from a proper Italian instead.  Now how many has that been today?  I hope I can get to sleep tonight; oh well, it will be worth it!

McDonald's challenge - Venice

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The children challenged us to get a picture of a McDonald’s coffee in every city or county we visit.  Sometimes we are more studious than other times and this largely depends on how lousy the coffee is in said country.  In Zurich we did not have as much time so it wasn’t too much of a chore to fulfil the challenge because the McDonald’s was not far from the train station on our walk around the city.  On the plus side this was one of the few more upmarket Maccies coffee shops and it was not a bad beverage as well; we have been known to buy them, take the picture and promptly dispose of the contents of the cup in the nearest dustbin.

So here is proof positive; and another challenge complete!

McDonald's Zurich

 

 

 

McDonald's Zurich

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For anyone that has been to Venice without any advice or information about accessibility will know how frustrating it can be when you encounter bridges and other obstacles that make your experience annoying, frustrating or downright impossible.  After having spent a few days here myself I have found a few pieces of information that may assist disabled visitors.  Try this website where you can download maps and routes with no or few barriers – City of Venice.  Also, veniceforvisitors.com.

Also, please see my previous posts for some do’s and don’ts that may help you out but most important of all is to do your research beforehand.  Remember that you can plan all you like but surprises still happen – like the 24 hour water bus strike that really did cause problems for us and our plans to get from one area to another.

Ciao.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

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After our first visit to Venice in September 2007, our second visit at the end of January 2013 was in marked contrast in both weather and crowds.  Our first visit coincided with the Regatta Historica and the second the week before Carnival (thank goodness)!

As a wheelchair user I hope this post gives a little assistance to other adventurous visitors to the islands.

Don’t:

.. expect to find many modified bridges without steps.

.. make fast plans – everything can change.  We asked before going into any of the attractions – some were not worth paying entrance to because accessibility was poor or non existent and lifts were out of order.

.. buy tickets for both yourself and your companion on the water buses because you pay but they are free.

.. buy a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass for the water buses.  It is cheaper at €1.30 a single to buy 8 or ten tickets each day.

.. Venice is not very big so if you can get someone to walk your intended route beforehand then do – they then know where you can and can’t go.

.. don’t assume the closest bus stop is the easiest – it may have more bridges to cross so an alternate route may be longer but easier.

.. think you are mad when you find yourself faced with a canal you were not expecting.  You are either lost (again) or you’ve just discovered the hard way that not all canals and streets are listed on the map!

Do:

.. visit Venice during the quieter months.  Visitors are fewer otherwise you will spend a lot of time staring at other peoples behinds!

.. be very flexible and expect things to change.

.. find out where the toilets are beforehand, mark them on a map and ask attendants at the toilets to unlock the gates to the disabled toilets.  The ones we used were wonderfully clean.

.. travel around on the water buses (Vaparetto), hopping off and on and exploring in small areas rather than trying to get from one area to another on foot because you WILL be hampered by bridges and steps.

.. print off a water bus route planner and use it to view Venice from the water.  The experience is worthwhile and provides endless photo opportunities.

.. in cooler weather take a blanket for your legs; it gets cold when you aren’t marching around – especially on the water buses.

.. avoid the dog mess – not all dog owners are considerate and you don’t want to be travelling around with that on your wheels all day!

.. keep an open mind and prepare to change your plans; that way you won’t stress and spoil your holiday when things don’t work out quite the way you intended after spending weeks planning by pouring over books, holiday brochures and internet sites.

And most of all ENJOY it!

Ciao

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After a lovely continental breakfast at the hotel we headed out to find the Venice tourist office in San Marco because we have been assured by the station information office they have all the literature we need on getting around Venice in a wheelchair.

Good advice from the concierge gets us to the San Marcuola vaparetto stop with only 2 bridges to cross on foot; not bad for Venice in a wheelchair.  One good bit of advice the tourist information office at the station did give us was that I pay €1.30 and my lovely companion goes free; a bargain considering the distance to our destination.  We arrive at San Marco to some minor tidal flooding and being unable to find a way up onto the raised decks set out for just such conditions, traverse around it instead to find the information office which is of course up two steps.  They then inform hubby whilst I wait outside that the accessible Venice maps are now redundant and have been withdrawn because none of the lifts over the few bridges they were installed on are operational anymore AND there is no accessible map and they cannot even tell us which of the bridges have modified steps for wheelchairs and buggies – a very useful information office!

Okay, so our trip to gather information was as useful as a chocolate teapot but we are at least close to the water buses ticket office and head off to buy ten  single tickets which is much cheaper than the suggested 24 or 48 hour pass for €24 or €45.  A lovely lady serves us the tickets and the unwelcome news that today all services are reduced on the Grande Canal from 10.30 until 3.30pm because of festivities leading up to Carnival AND that tomorrow the water bus drivers are all on strike so there is no point in buying any more tickets for then.  Seriously! is it just me or does anyone else think that trouble follows me everywhere?

Not to be deterred, we set off on a lovely walk all along the Canale Di San Marco which as luck would have it, still has the ramps installed on several bridges following the Venice Marathon in October; no rush removing them then!  A lovely walk takes us to new ground and many more photo opportunities before we once again take the water bus around the northern part of the islands to Tre Archi which is where all the boats are stopping today.

Exhausted from hours of walking and traversing canals, we head off to buy some dinner before heading back to the hotel and a much deserved rest.

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Outside our little hotel is the Rio della Sensa canal.  One picture late at night and the other early in the morning before boats start to disturb the surface.

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You can just make out our hotel (by the flags); the Hotel Ai Mori D’Oriente which is a lovely Moorish themed hotel after the area we are staying in.

 

 

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… woodpile envy. Seriously, they have these amazingly neat and well stacked woodpiles wherever you go through the countryside. They would make really good garden partitions as well – something we are thinking about for home – it combines form and function which appeals to my controlling personality (no comments from the family peanut gallery!)

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Because even in the Italian Alps they grow vines for their own winemaking! Every tiny bit of garden clinging to the side of the mountains has a little vineyard – hubby is envious.

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We left Zurich on a beautiful, crisp, clear morning heading towards Milan. The area around Zurichsee is stunning all shrouded in snow.
We are travelling through many tunnels which pop out into incredibly beautiful scenery of lakes and mountains which inspire one to ski, climb and generally get outdoors – but I am tempted only for a moment because the minute it gets cold I want to head indoors for the fire and coffee. I am definitely more of a thinker than a doer so my ideal would be a large fire in a conservatory overlooking the lake in the mountains.

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Yodeleyhihoooo…..

If I hadn’t seen the signs or the Swiss police I would still know we had crossed the border because even the railway stations in Switzerland are spotless. What a pleasure after graffiti at all the stations between London and the Swiss border.

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I think we are about to leave France – the customs and police just climbed on board – I hope we look like we fit in – I’d hate to land up in a Swiss jail instead of Venice!

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We arrived safely in Paris at Gare du Nord and set off to find our next train which leaves from Gare Lyon. A bit of a trek, and many French signs later we figure out that we have to get to platform 44. Finding the only lift is a challenge and it takes us down only one level! On the hunt for another lift somewhere else in the station and down one more level. Seriously is there any reason you can’t use one lift that stops on different levels? Finally we walk miles down the platform and find lift number three which takes us to platform 44.
We wait in the designated area for wheelchairs, the train arrives, everyone piles on board and we’re still waiting because there are 3 steps onto the train and no ramp! The driver has no idea what to do with me and some of the male passengers are speaking loudly to him and each other – all in French which we don’t speak; but I quickly discover what they have been plotting when three of them hoist me, chair and all, onto the train! Oh boy! That was a surprise and terrifying; I don’t like being out of control and if I had known that was their plan I would still be sitting on platform 44!!

I had 3 stops to prepare myself and this time was ready when I was moved, like a sedan chair, off the train. Glad to be in one piece and having survived the cross Paris trip we head out to find our platform and train to Zurich.

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Does the fact that I am under the ocean make me a sub-mariner? As this is the ONLY way I am going to get below the ocean, I’ll accept it in the long seafaring tradition of our family.

It is amazing to think that in 20 minutes times we will pop out of the Channel tunnel and be in France – INVASION!!

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Paree here we come….

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Arrived safely in London St pancreas station and enjoying a quick Nero before our departure.
Next stop – Paris – mind the gap…

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Look what we are having for dinner tonight …..

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Gem squash with a lovely blob of butter – and to top it all off a proper SA mielie (maize) on the cob and a nice big piece of steak!

We are making sure our last meal before our flight tomorrow really counts.

Ahhh! Good food, good friends, amazingly good God!

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It is a rare day that comes along, captures your heart and burrows deep in your soul – well, today was such a day.

My wonderful, amazing friends arranged a day out to the projects run by Northfield Methodist church in the fairly new township of Etwatwa east of Benoni.
I was not sure what to expect but it was a truly inspiring and uplifting experience – proof positive of the amazing power of the love of Jesus working through people to improve the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.
The South African people have an incredible spirit and despite many hardships should be an inspiration to everyone because of their love of life – here you are greeted with a beaming smile and many different handshakes.
The people in the church and these projects work tirelessly and have created an environment where the young are nurtured, the lost find a place of refuge, the sick find comfort in their time of need and every single one of them is grateful for the little they have – a truly humbling experience.

We stopped at a real African shop and were bought freshly baked fatcakes (vetkoek in Afrikaans) which we ate with burning fingers because they were too delicious to leave to cool down. We met inspirational people that work and run the John Wesley Centre. We watched the littlest children in a marimba band. We observed teachers in lessons for all the little ones they care for while their parents work to give them a better future. We walked around the newly built pre-school donated by one kind individual and built by local labour. I gave rides to a couple of children on my much admired Trekinetic K2 wheelchair and we ended our tour with tea and more fatcakes with Thoko, a new hero in my life, who manages the centre.

I believe it should be each and every persons responsibility to spend even the shortest amount of time in a place like this – here you will really learn about the beautiful people of this world – and learn to truly appreciate how fortunate we are.

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We headed off to do a little shopping and much visiting with our wonderful friends today. They suggested we try out the new Gautrain that was built in time for the soccer world cup and we happily agreed after the glowing reports it has received, but this is a story for another time.

Heading into the mall from the station is quite an incline and still not being at full strength myself, the two Mark’s with us lent a hand by pushing, one on each handlebar – this is really the life because we moved along at a very hasty rate of knots which I suggested was like Mk1 and Mk2 – pretty handy actually because now when I want to ask one of the Mark’s a question, I can ask for Mark1 or Mark2 and they know who it is addressed to.

Now, how do I arrange to get Mk2 over to England more often to make use of both of their outboard motor skills on tricky outings?

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…..is anyone still out there – or have you all given me up as a lost cause?
Don’t worry we are here in a beautiful sunny Johannesburg but what they have in sunshine, they lack in quick easy Internet access!
We Brits are truly spoiled and can get onto a wifi access point just about anywhere; we have had a few challenges in South Africa with us moving around so much. I am concerned that my iPad and iPhone have had to remember so many friends and families wifi passwords that I am going to run out of memory as they switch constantly from one to the other.
I really am hopelessly behind and will need to make a concerted effort with my writing when we are in one place long enough to take a breath AND have access at the same time!

Cheerio for now and have a cuppa on me…..

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I saw this place while walking around the shopping mall in Cape Town – I’m sure I heard choirs singing as I got closer!

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I was challenged by my family to take a photo of a McDonalds coffee cup in every country we visit – so here it is folks – mission accomplished!

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And now we are topped up we are heading to the wine route and some wine tasting – for hubby anyway.
Any challenges?

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Don’t panic – I wasn’t up to no good and dragged off by the SAP (South African Police)! On our walk around Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterside docks yesterday, we were tempted by many different types of boating and flying trips. We had the choice of deep-sea fishing, pirate ship excursion, sailing, power boating, bi-plane, combat helicopter etc. etc. We however found the Robben Island tour and this met two of our requirements – a boat out to the island and a tour around what is today a world heritage site and in the past where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were kept from the 1960s.

We are both really pleased that we chose this because it turned out to be an amazing morning with the bus tour having one of the best tour guides anywhere in the world and ending off with an incredibly poignant tour, led by another ex inmate, of the cell blocks and seeing where our great hero was detained.

I cannot recommend this tour more highly as it is a glimpse of our country’s once hidden past and reminds us of how fortunate we all are to have people like this prepared to fight for our freedom.

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We have had an amazing few days travelling down to the Cape. The only drawback has been the lack of time to keep my blog updated – and it hasn’t helped that I have not had a ready supply of internet and wifi access.
I therefore apologise up front because at some point I will get stuck in and write dozens of entries and upload them when I get access – it is famine or feast.

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I think our grandson should be really impressed with this picture of the Great White sharks ancestor. This is a replica of a mastodon in the uShaka water park and aquarium in Durban. They also have the jaw of the real thing which was caught off Durban many years ago. A photograph taken at the time shows a few men standing in and next to it and the jaw is taller than they are – and you thought it was only the stuff of movies!

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