My recent trip to Barcelona was my first holiday since I started using walking aids every day. In the run up to it I was equal parts thrilled (I’d been wanting to go to Barcelona for ten years!) and terrified. Would I manage to actually do any of the stuff I had been dreaming of? Would I be stuck in a hotel all day? Or would it, somehow, be the holiday of my dreams?
Well, it was somewhere in between, but much closer to awesome than awful.
I will be reviewing the experience from beginning to end for anyone else thinking of going to Barcelona and sharing some tips on how to have a successful, safe and sensational holiday.
There and Back Again: Planning Travel
One of my biggest fears leading up to the holiday was how difficult an experience flying would be. I have never been entirely comfortable flying as the best of times. Anything that relies on me correctly filling out forms and bringing in paperwork is always a massive source of stress and I’m not very good with heights. We flew with Ryan Air and I contacted them as soon as I’d booked the tickets to ask about making arrangements. One short conversation on the web-chat and they had booked mine and my flying companions seats (free of charge) and arranged for a wheelchair transport at both airports (Manchester and Barcelona). Easy peasy. Somehow the easy peasy-ness of it actually made me worry more, like I’d missed something. That’s anxiety for you. But I hadn’t. When I got to Manchester the airline directed me to the wheelchair pick up where I was given a chair and asked if my friend could push it (he was keen on doing this!) or we needed a member of staff. When boarding I was taken up on a little lift and shown to my seat which was close by the door. had I been a full wheelchair user this would have been difficult as it was a window seat however I did not ask for a seat next to the door, which was an option. In Barcelona it was the same and we were taken down to get our bags and dropped off by the exit nearest to the Metro, which was had decided to take into the city. My advice: make the airlines aware of your needs and all should be fine.
Difficulty rating (1 being very easy, 5 being very difficult): 1/5
Would I recommend? (1 being not at all, 5 being definitely): 5/5
Round, round, I get around: The Metro
Before going I read an article by someone raving about the accessibility of Barcelona’s metro system so I thought this would be a breeze. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. For one thing, when they boast about the disabled access to nearly all the stations it seems they forget to mention that often the access is only to one line within it and not to all the lines. Not cool. Many of the accessibility meant going up to the surface and finding another access point somewhere nearby which was often difficult to find. Some stations which were supposed to be accessible simply weren’t. My advice: try the buses.
Difficulty rating: 4/5
Would I recommend? 2/5
Gotta get that beauty sleep: Hotels
I choose our hotel based on two things: that it had lifts to all floors and that I could have a balcony with a view. Our room was basic but nice and our view was amazeballs. My advice: check that the lifts are a suitable size for wheelchairs (not all in Europe are) and if the reviews say the beds are hard then trust me, they are hard!
Difficulty rating: 1/5
Would I recommend? 4.5/5
Best foot forward: Walking (or rolling) around Barcelona
As I mentioned, I did this holiday on two crutches so my experience will be different than that of someone who uses a wheelchair. However, my mother is a wheelchair user so I am used to checking the environment out. Barcelona in a chair would be tricky but overall, not impossible. In fact I saw lots of people using chairs around (possibly spurred on by the same positive press I saw when planning my holiday). If you venture into the Barri Gotic (gothic quarter) you will find a few steep kerbs and narrow pavements which could be difficult to navigate even on foot but the bigger streets are fairly well set up for accessibility. Most the shops have level entrances except for a few smaller places and Las Ramblas, the bustling spine of the city, may be packed but if you take the central path it is smooth all the way down. There is also one thing blissfully missing from the city: cobbles. My advice: grab a map and explore, most of the city is your beautiful, accessible oyster.
Difficulty rating: 1/5 (not including navigating – go mapless at your own peril)
Would I recommend? 10/5!
Next post I will discuss some of the major tourist attractions and tell you my accessible must sees!