What is a girl to do, when she falls in love and has to travel 4600 miles to see her new love??
Well, first time I laid my eyes on a handsome Oracing wheelchair, I shared it on my facebook page as if it was a girl’s favorite new designer shoes, hot actor, or some other highly coveted thing we love. For this "Push Girl," this chair has all the hot good looks and stable, strong build a girl can depend on! Plus there was that mysterious and exotic foreign birthplace, and I was looking for something uncommon, as I was tired of being limited by the same old chairs "next door." I craved some variety! So I set my sites on how to make my way to Spain and meet my new love in person!
Deborah with her handsome new love. Photo available from PhotoAbility.net
I began with trying to find a home swap. I didn’t want to have to pay for a hotel and airfare, so I started scouring all the sites I have in the past…homeexchange.com and Homeforexchange.com. (It is the lack of accessible properties or reliable information on accessibility on these sites that inspired TravabilityProperites.com, where one can swap, rent or buy accessible properties worldwide.) I had to figure out where my new love lived and try to find something close by, a hard task, made even more difficult as I needed a wheelchair accessible, or at least reasonably so property. I was out of luck for a swap in May, for while there are plenty of swaps available, not until July and August when it would appear the entire country went on holiday at once! Then my wise Australian business partner told me I should fly into Barcelona rather than Madrid (they were about equal distance away from Gandia where my love was waiting for me.) He said I should not miss the opportunity to tour Barcelona, as it was the home of the 1992 Paralympics and had made great strides in accessibility.
So I started a new search for swaps in Barcelona and got lucky! A young, hip couple wanted to come to south Florida in August and said I could have their apt in the city in May. No car, but close to public transit and an elevator to reach apt. A nice tub for a soak after a long day of sightseeing…I am in!
I quickly booked my tickets as the flight went up $300 in one day and only 2 seats left on a direct flight from Miami to Barcelona. I was flying alone for my first time internationally, and meeting a friend there, so I didn’t want to deal with a layover. 13 hours was bad enough! Whew!
American Airlines did a superb job at handling me and my wheelchair…even though my rigid frame Quickie Gti didn't fit in the cabin closet as it always does on most plane configurations…they took my Spinergy wheels off and stowed them and took the rest of my titanium chair and put it under the plane in baggage hold. It came back in perfect shape, and the staff were so nice and friendly and made me feel very comfortable on my first long flight solo. I was even given a bulkhead seat, and they now have a special check in desk for those who require special assistance …so I didn't have to wait in line to check in.
Miami International also has a policy now that allows those with disabilities to drop off their luggage curbside and self-park while they hold your bags for you. Clearly I couldn’t be expected to drag my 70 pound bag full of 11 days of shoes, wardrobe, makeup and toiletries from the parking garage ☺
So I dropped off bags, headed for short term parking where it is free for modified vehicles with hand controls, parked, put my backpack on the back of my chair, and my duffle bag on my lap with all my "must haves" that would stay with me in flight. In case my bags are lost or delayed, or in case of an “accident or illness—I keep necessities in my carry on. My carry on list includes all needed supplies and meds, change of clothes, patch kit for Roho, extra tire tubes in case of a flat, Roho air hawk cushion, blow up neck roll, file with FAA guidelines for wheelchair passengers, and all my documents/numbers and itinerary for the trip. If anyone wants a full checklist I have developed for use on trips over the years, write us at deborah.davis @pushliving.com, and I will email.
I then went and checked my bags, and had the nice wheelchair assistance folks do their job and escort me to my gate. They helped me through security with ease, and waited for me with my items that went through the scanner while I got my friendly TSA pat down. I have never had an unpleasant experience with those great folks whose job is to do this for wheelers, and I have done this many times. They are kind, and follow procedures with respect and dignity. That has been my experience. I also make a point to be exceptionally nice to them and thank them for a job well done.
So I arrived in Spain and met my friend at baggage claim, rented a car and headed right out to Port Olympia where we sat in the sun and ate fresh seafood tapas with a glass of wine. After, we took a much needed nap, woke up late, hungry and decided to take rented car out to the city and find some food. Note to first time visitors to Spain…they eat late...but not past 1am! And they have many surprise police road blocks that test you for drinking. AND they expect you to have an international driver's license. If you don’t, they will impound your car.
So be sure, to get this license before you go. And take a cab or public transit if you plan on drinking on a night out in Barcelona. Parking is difficult downtown in any case.
The next day, we set out for the Sagrada Familia. but ended up enjoying the sunny day, and the row of outdoor cafes lined up in the center of Gaudi Avenue. The outdoor market with cured meats and warm Spanish scarves were just the thing for this Florida Girl!
Later we asked a cabbie for a recommendation …and he took us to a great Restaurant known for its fresh seafood, and celebrity visits, right near the ocean called Salamanca. They serve Black Paella, the best wines and have a classic ambiance and excellent service. They have an accessible restroom located in the back. I went outside to find the easiest entrance into the door.
The next day we went back to the Olympic Park and had lunch at one of the best seafood restaurants…El Cangrjo Loco. You can sit downstairs or upstairs with a view…but no elevator inside…or bathroom upstairs. To access upper level with views of water, you need to go to upper level of the plaza and approach the restaurant from that level.
We then went for a long walk along the ocean boardwalk and were amazed at the ramps and wooden pathways across the sand for closer water access to the beach all throughout the length of the beach.
Later we went to La Rambla - Barcelona, a walkway that lead us to the most fabulous statues of Lions at the Christopher Columbus Monument at the South side near the Harbour.
You are highly encouraged to walk the Old Town or Barri Gotic - the Gothic quarter adjacent to the northeast side of the Ramblas.
We were seeking the famous Jazz club, Jamboree, but found the venue had steep steps leading downstairs. They offered to carry me, but I was not keen. We went on to ask for another one and were told of the Harlem Jazz Club, and after a wondering through the dimly lit alley ways, we finally found it, only to find it was closed that night. Note to self: Plan better ☺. So if you like Jazz, plan that ahead and be sure to go and tell me how it was!. We still had plenty to do, in this amazing area with smooth and easy paved streets and so many fascinating things to explore. The Barri Gotic is adjacent to the northeast side of the Ramblas, the famous street to stroll.
The next day we headed out to Barcelona Zoo. My admission was free as was the case for my companion. What a surprise!
I loved the elephants, and they have a ramp to a high platform where you can oversee them from above, and right below the elephant enclosure, is a pond of enormous hippos! They are such amazing creatures up close!
There is not much there in the way of food, so we walked across the street and found some outdoor cafes. We then made our way to another famous area-La Rambla Catalonia, where we were set to meet the most experienced accessible travel guru in Barcelona, Alan Broadbent of Disabled Accessible Travel (Facebook).
His company is the main provider of accessible travel services in Barcelona and what a world of knowledge and history is this man! We had a lovely dinner at an outdoor café with Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft, who was doing a sabbatical in Spain, learning Spanish while living as a single female in a $5000 per month accessible condo, wheeling distance from all the best shopping and restaurants. Alan taught us all about the Catalonia culture and its influence in Barcelona. One fact that made such an impression is he told us that Spain’s President had made a pledge that he wanted the country to be the most accessible country in the world. Let me tell you, so far, I am very impressed.
The next day we decided to take a hop on hop off Bus that was accessible and had taped guided tour info via provided ear buds. We started at Port Olympia…and had a drink at the famous and incredibly designed Hotel Arts Barcelona on the pool side patio overlooking the port.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
After leaving the hotel, you can cross the street and grab a bus. We stopped at the Maseu Blau Museum where we looked at the Poisonous things exhibit. It’s amazing we are all not dead yet with all those things crawling around!
Next stop was Tibidabo, where we attempted to get a cable car to the Tibidabo teleferic station. We got off and couldn’t find our way, so we just started pushing up a very steep hill up a toney neighborhood until we saw a bus stop and a young man who was searching for the same place. He asked the bus driver, and we found that we could take that bus, with an accessible ramp to the top of the hill, where we could then take the funicular to the top of Tibidabo. The funicular had closed at 4:00 but we found an adorable little cliffside bar with a lookout that was worth the trip! Note: we later found out from Alan Broadbent that the Blue cable car that was advertised on Bus Tour to take us to Tibidabo is not wheelchair accessible.
Cliffside bar at Tibidabo
Next, we walked from the last stop on the bus tour back to Old Town for a reserved Authentic Spanish Flamenco Show in an amazing old building with a candlelit courtyard and traditional old style furnishings and paintings. Espai Barroc is located on the opposite side from the Museu Picasso (which by the way—if you visit, you don’t need to wait in long lines if you are a wheelchair user, there is a separate ticket window).
Street scenes and Espai Barroc venue Photo available from PhotoAbility.net
The streets are very smooth in Gothic Town, as well as most everywhere we went throughout Barcelona. I didn’t bring my Freewheel for this trip and frankly didn’t miss it.
Now we are off for the main reason I came to Spain…to go to the seaside town of Gandia to pick up my new love. A love I have spent months developing and communicating with email and calls Bike-on.com. I selected the dimensions, the height, width and the perfect custom color. My new love...an Oracing ridged frame suspension wheelchair with custom side guards, tapered front end, ergo seat with carbon fiber base, leather frame protectors and even an original design push bar with padded handmade leather padded grips.
The finishing touches being applied to Deborah's new love: Oracing SX wheelchair with Rock Shox
We were greeted by Felipe Garcia, the owner and a brilliant c-5/6 quadriplegic who is a design and production genius. He has built this company and recruited a team of the best from all over the world to come to Gandia to make custom wheelchairs, bikes and sports chairs. Bike-on.com is a dealer and from whom I purchased my new chair, with the help of dedicated and patient representative Stephen Feldman.
We were able to book the 4 star RH Bayren Hotel & Spa for less than $100 per night with an accessible room that had a gorgeous roll in shower. Ramps from the Hotel Pool to the boardwalk lead us to a smooth surface stroll on the famed beachfront. I recommend the Barracuda restaurant, as they have great casual food, wifi, a ramp and an accessible bathroom. Do not forgo the Spa massage here, with its sophisticated décor, well trained masseuses, and reasonable prices. After a 5 hour trip from Barcelona, it was just what I needed. For a great dinner, head a few blocks North from the Hotel to La Pizzeria, which contrary to its name, is an excellent upscale Italian restaurant with a ramp!
RH Bayren Hotel & Spa on Gandia's famed boardwalk.
While in Gandia and during the time the most excellent team at Oracing where making some final changes to my chair, we were encouraged to drive south another 40 minutes to the port town of Denia, where we had a fabulous meal at The Port Restaurant. Now this restaurant did not have an accessible bathroom and the only one I found was not quite so…with scary boarded ramp steeply entering into a storage room where the fully accessible bathroom was located. Lol!
When we got back to Oracing, just after 5pm, my chair was ready to take home. We double kissed (the Spanish custom) our hosts Felipe Garcia, Owner and his fabulous production team goodbye and me, my driver, and my new love took our long 5 hour journey back to Barcelona. On the way, we stopped at the most scenic view on the southern side of the city where we stopped to take in the sun setting on a most successful trip.
We found an amazing little restaurant by using our rental car’s’ navigation system to select nearby restaurants. We just picked one in close proximity that we liked the name of and took a chance and followed our guide. We showed up at the La Cupula, and to our surprise we arrived at an accessible, cliff side, breathtaking, movie scene like location. We panicked a bit as we sat down until we saw that the prices were not going to break the bank!
The following day we decided to take the car out of Barcelona for the most scenic and amazing drive I have ever experienced. …but not one for the faint of heart! As you drive the windy two lane mountain side road up to the Monastery of Montserrat, you will want to go slow and take in the breathtaking views!
Once you get to the very top, you can park, but I did not see any reserved spaces for wheelchairs, so I would recommend you get dropped off close to the entrance, as the parking is located below a steep climb up a slope.
The sun came out, and we enjoyed the lookout, the architectural wonder of this landmark Benedictine abbey and basilica. Tip: A little trolly—no ramp but they carried me in, will take you up to the main entrance. A good thing as the wind was blowing, and I was freezing up there! They have a funicular- a steep Incline you can take to the top of the mountain from the station there, and if you are inclined, a mass, a black virgin statue (not accessible) and a boys’ choir.
Monastery of Montserrat. Photos available from PhotoAbility.net
The final day I was back at terminal 1 and was pleasantly surprised that the airport police said we could park our car at the entrance for as long as needed so I could be assisted with my luggage into the terminal for my flight back to Miami. Another special wheelchair assistance desk awaited me, and I was told I could take my old chair back free of charge as it was “medical equipment." YAY.
So, as you can see, there is much to fall in Love with about Spain. Barcelona and Oracing both did not disappoint, and I recommend both for the best of PushLiving!
To visit custom Wheelchair maker Oracing wheelchairs with special acknowledgment to Bike-On.com and Stephen Feldman Feldman
ORacing is based in Gandia, Valencia, Spain.
They have become a world leader with their range of quality chairs that cater for both everyday use use and sporting activities.
Oracing Wheelchairs ® stands by the quality of its materials, its own individual style, the thoroughness of its finishes and exclusivity of each of the components used in their products. Their range of products ranges from sports wheelchairs: Basketball, Tennis, Athletics, Rugby, Dance; Handbikes and sylyish and functional daily chairs.
See more at their web site http://www.oracing.es
Bike-on.com is an international dealer for Oracing.