How it all has started or a special trip to Paris
Part 1 – The preparation.
Everything started back in late 2016 I encountered a lovely women via social media.
She is living far away from Germany, where I am from, we texted a lot and skyped a couple of times, it was fun and as she told me that she is planning to come for a visit to Switzerland, where her sister was living at this time.
We agreed to meet each other in Bern and planed that I would stay there for a longer weekend.
During our talks we made some planes what we could do together and from a mood we decided to visit Paris for two days.
We both agreed that we share the cost and tasks.
She would be responsible for the booking of the accommodation and I would organize the transport.
We choose to go by train from Bern to Paris because there is an TGV highspeed connection between these cities. This was the point where it started to become special for me, because I not just had to buy the tickets and book the (accessible)seats but also had to organize that someone with a wheelchair hoist would be onsite at the right platform at the right time.
Oh, by the way do I mentioned that my foreign friend is a wheelchair user because of an incomplete SCI at C5/6, if not, you are up to date now.
Organising the trip from Bern to Paris and back.
I have started to organise my part by booking the train and the seats with the SNCF https://en.oui.sncf (France Train Service), which turned out that it was a little mistake because it made it a bit tricky to order the accessibility service later. The first thing I figured out was that we had to book a 1st class seat because in the TGV rolling stock (back in 2017 I am not sure if this is still the case) the wheelchair accessible toilet and seats are located there, which has made the voyage quite expensive with around 424€ return.
I guess a flight would have been less expensive or even to use the car.
Anyway, I am not that poor and to travel by train is a very European thing.
So what I have booked two seats but could not choose the accessible one online.
I had to call the service hotline of the SNCF to explain to them that I need the accessible seat for my friend.
When I asked them about the service at the train station to go on and off the train, they told me that they can organise it for the Gare de Lyon in Paris but not for Bern because the SBB/CFF/FFS (Swiss train service) would be responsible there and I should call them.
Very inconvenient, annoying and discriminatory I would say.
But I managed to get it organised and it had worked, almost – later more to this.
Booking the Hotel in Paris
My friend booked a room in hotel right in the centre (https://goo.gl/maps/k7UWYDLqdKWMHMsZ8) of Paris.
Like I was not able to book the accessible seat online.
She was not able to get confirmed that the booked room is accessible, so she wrote a comment to get sure to get a suitable room. The hotel looked very beautiful on the web page (https://www.hotelbelami-paris.com/) but it also wasn’t cheap at all, 535€ for two guests for two nights, but what would you expect at 5 star Hotel in the centre of Paris, and it’s Paris and how often in life do you do such crazy things.
That is not all, because the hotel answered my friend kindly and told her that they would like to welcome us a guest but to be able to provide us an accessible room we have to change our booking from a “standard” room to a “deluxe” room which, again, would cost a supplement of 100€ per night which brought the cost to 735€. Sorry but 200€ more because you are dependent on a lager room because you are impaired, really…?
Anyway, we booked the hotel which later turned out to become a point of argument.
What’s about public transport
During the preparation of our trip, I checked which options we would have to travel around the city during our visit.
My first choice would be the “METRO” but after a bit of research I came across the following sentence in the German WIKIPEDIA –
„Die Mehrheit der Métrostationen ist allerdings (in der Regel aufgrund historischer Gegebenheiten) nicht barrierefrei.“
[En.: “However, the majority of Métro stations are not barrier-free (usually due to historical conditions).”]
That’s it, nothing more but unfortunately it’s true, you just need to take a look at the following map and the related web article.
The following map is showing the few stations which are accessible.
Accessible Metro Map: https://justurbanism.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/accessible-transit-paris-metro/
And here how the “normal” map looks like.
So, the METRO is not an option.
UBER was not widely common in Europe at this time and isn’t it till today.
TAXIs are quite expensive.
The best option was obviously, in my opinion, the busses because all of them are equipped with automatic ramps.
All this was only theory and had to proven in reality, which turned out to be an adventure and time consuming.
Busses are the slowest option beside of foot/manual wheeling, I guess.
I will end the first part here and hope you will stay tuned for the continuation and how the reality has turned out.
All the best for you, stay save and healty, please.