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Visiting the Mediterranean in a WC - what an experience!

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Greetings all! We just got back last night from our trip to the Med, and OMG it was an experience!


Background info: in early May, my DD (age 20) got sick with plain old strep. No big deal, right? Not so fast! She had an extended reaction and ended up with very, very swollen and painful legs. Did a round of meds to reduce the swelling, and hoped she would recover by trip time. Unfortunately, we were unlucky and the swelling and pain didn't completely go away. We had to decide if we were going or not the last few days before leaving. Now, keep in mind, I had been planning on this for more than 3 years, and spent $$$$$. While we had insurance, we were looking forward to seeing my sister for the first time in a couple of years, and meeting her BF as well as some old friends. We decided to go, but rather than watch her struggle on crutches and wince with each step, we ended up getting her a WC at the last minute. And I do mean last minute! We had a 7 hour drive to the airport (the price to fly out of Chicago was $600 per person cheaper than flying out of St Louis) and she was able to keep her feet elevated the whole way in my van. We arrived in Chicago the night before, late, and then had to figure out how to get a WC we could take along. So, at 9am, I was on the phone to medical supply companies near O'Hare. The nice people at Fitsimmons Surgical Supply were able to help us out. They were willing to rent one for a decent price, and then offered to discount the price to purchase one that no one seemed to want. They called it ugly, and lowered the price to meet the price of a new purchase on Amazon! As for ugly, it is a shiny red frame with a green plaid seat and back. All the little old ladies loved it! For less than $200 and to make my life easier since it meant I didn't need to worry about paying for damage or returning it, I bought it!


Off we went to check in at O'Hare! We flew Swiss Air, and things went well. At least mostly. The guy who checked us in didn't tag the chair correctly and while it was gate checked and they met us in Zurich with it, they didn't have a transporter to assist us in getting to our connection. Luckily we spoke up and asked how we met our connection, and one of the transport staff jumped in to make it right. We got to ride in the elevator to the small plane rather than her trying painfully to climb the 20 steps needed to board it out in its parking space. That was an experience! He also told us how it should have been tagged, so that we knew to look on the way home.


Then we arrived in Venice. Not a place that is WC friendly. We arrived at the apartment Wednesday morning and she spent the next few days resting. The cobble stone sidewalks were just too painful to bounce her over. The cruise started Saturday, and that was a pleasure! We arrived via water taxi and the cruise line showed how well they can handle things! They assisted us to check in, assisted us on board, etc. We did not have an accessible room, so we could not just wheel her into the room, but since she would take a few steps at a time, we could get her in and out. She didn't get to see much of the ports, they were just not WC friendly most of the time. We had booked a private tour in Dubrovnik, and they tried to make it WC friendly, but the place is mostly steps and cobblestone. Plus it was raining. We dropped her at the ship early, and half of us saw the old town while she rested. For any of you who watch the Game of Thrones from HBO, I'll post a review on the Europe board later.


At Corfu, we booked a beach break at a hotel, and she enjoyed that. We got to experience pushing the chair in the sand. The hotel was wonderful working with us and the chair, though. Meanwhile, my DS and sister went on a long bike ride tour.


The rest of the cruise, she pretty much enjoyed the ship while it was empty each day. It was a very port intensive cruise, with NO sea days. The staff handled her food allergies wonderfully, jumped in to give her a push when they saw her struggling on carpet or a slope, and just made it enjoyable! After a week of mostly resting and elevating her feet, the swelling started to go down! Then we arrived at Istanbul.


Istanbul is another not WC friendly place. The roads in Sultanumet area are again cobble stone. Lots of steps. Hagia Sophia was partly accessible. The ground floor is mostly so, with relatively smooth marble floors. Also, they did not charge the person in the WC to enter, nor the WC pusher. That was very nice of them. They had small ramps to go over the thresholds on the ground floor, although they were sometimes pushed away and we had to push them back in place. No big deal there. She missed the second story, where many of the previously plastered over tile murals are, but that is life.


Next we visited The Cistern. They had one of those chair lifts at the exit, so we went in the back way. It was a little scary, but they are doing their best. We appreciated it. We did not take her to Topkipa the next day because we asked a friend and were told about all the steps. After the previous day, she was glad to have a day to elevate her feet and rest.

The last day, we took her to the Grand Bazaar. Again, steps in interesting places, and lots of cobbles to get there, but she had rested during the morning while we visited the Museum of History of Science and Technology in Islam.


I have to commend many of the strangers we met while in Istanbul. As we would approach a step, and DS or DH would be pushing and the other and I would get on either side to lift. Often, a local would jump in from the front to help us lift as well. It often took all three of us to get her across those cobblestone streets, to prevent the chair from getting stuck in the ruts. While the average taxi or personally owned car did not stop to allow us to cross the street, and the stop signs and sometimes lights are merely a suggestion, the cable car drivers often stopped even when they had the right of way to allow us to cross in front. That was greatly appreciated! We also heard comments from many locals as cars sped by narrowly missing us, as they apologized for their countrymen.


We flew Lufthansa and Air Canada home. Lufthansa was great, tagged the WC correctly and had a transporter assist us at Istanbul airport as well as Frankfurt. The Air Canada flight out of Frankfurt then hit a delay after all the passengers were boarded. First it was just a few minutes. That turned into an hour. It was not a bad flight, although it was noisy and they never turned down the lights in coach for sleeping. No big deal, it isn't comfortable to sleep in coach anyway. Then we reached Toronto. The captain announces that there are 22 WC assists on board, and for those passengers to please wait until everyone else is off. The problem is that our 90 minute connection had meanwhile turned into a 25 minute connection. Since our experience had always been that the WC was waiting at the gate, and she could get off without the aisle chair, we went ahead and got up to disembark. No chair was waiting. They really were waiting to even bring the chairs down the ramp until everyone else was off the plane. Plus, DD is at her limit of walking. One of the flight attendants sees us standing there and has DD come sit down right inside, where she can out up her feet in business class.


Finally a WC appears. I jump in and ask if it is for us, since I only see the one, stating that we have a short connection to get to for Chicago. Sure! We get to the top of the ramp, and her chair appears. A little bit of discussion and she switches chairs, but then the transporter tells us to wait as he goes to assist another passenger in disembarking. Now what? We watch others come and go, and we are still waiting. I finally grab a woman in uniform, since we are getting worried about the connection. She helps us along, and we arrive at US Customs just after they close. Sigh. We are stuck in Toronto for the night.


The Air Canada rep looks over our boarding passes, looks up flights to Chicago, and says that he can't get us out until noon the next day. There are not seats for 5 on either of the earlier flights. I ask, how many flights before that are there? We don't mind not traveling together. I'd like to get going as early as possible since we still have a 7 hour drive once we get to our car. He asks where we have to go, and I comment a couple of hours south of St Louis. Then he says, "do you want to go to St Louis?" I say that the car is in Chicago, but if he can get four in our party to STL and me to Chicago early, I could collect the car and meet up with them closer to home. It worked!


The lesson we learned was that we really are spoiled in the US when working with a mobility issue. We are still glad we went!

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Sorry to hear that your daughter had mobility problems on her cruise. First of all, if you had booked special assistance via the airline then I don't think you would have encountered half the problems that you did.


I understand that it was a last minute thing that your daughter needed a wheelchair, but if you could have researched and planned your ports of call in advance she would have been able to see a lot more. Many places in Europe are disabled friendly and accessible. You have to remember that many of our buildings are very old and not all of them can be converted to make them disabled friendly.


I have limited mobility and try to ensure that everywhere I visit will have the appropriate facilities. I love our old buildings and cities and wouldn't change them for US ones.


I hope your daughter is now better and maybe she can return one day and see what she missed.

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I would never advise anyone to go anywhere at the last minute with a wheelchair.


With thorough research and advice from CC, I have been able to take my 90 year old father in a wheelchair to: London, Paris, Athens, Rome, Florence, Normandy, Barcelona, Ephesus,etc. Who wants to miss going on top of the Acropolis or into the Colleseum? A ballet at the Royal Opera House or the beauty in the Louvre and Vatican museums? But we avoided Venice and other places after research.


Private cars and thorough research is the key. And friends on CC.

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