Wheelchair Friendly Paris

At the end we were all supposed to shake hands and claim something about Jesus. And so I heartily shook the hands of those around me and muttered Jesus a few times before donating 20 EUR to the basket going around.

Paris is a city which I have visited regularly the last couple of years – including the four months I stayed here while writing my thesis in 2012.

I’ve always found it slightly messy and smelly and, though romantic in parts, it is difficult to get through the streets thanks to the cars and scooters everywhere. Parisians have yet to know what the red of the traffic light indicates and the old buildings, narrow pavement and many outdoor serving areas makes it difficult to walk around comfortably. Add to this the more than 15 million tourists who visit the city each year, and Paris can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate.

But despite all this we decided to invite my mother in law to Paris, planning a trip which allowed the use of a wheelchair.

Raised water in the Seine
Raised water in the Seine
Accessible Paris

I must admit  that Paris has proven itself an amazing city to visit with a wheelchair user.

There are accessible public toilets all over the city and online it is possible to find a map of their locations.

Place de la Bastille
Place de la Bastille

While the metro system is well developed the stations are complex even for the hardy with loads of stairs and stains. But the bus system in Paris is even better and offers an amazing sightseeing option. No. 95 is my favourite bus as it travels from Montmartre through Louvre to Montparnasse.

While I always favoured the Parisian buses, I never appreciated them as much as doing this visit. All buses have easy wheelchair access apart from at a few stops clearly indicated by a yellow triangle.

And yes, even Monmartre is accessible now after the Montmartrobus, which crosses le butte on its way from Pigalle to Jules Joffrin, has been updated in late 2015.

Place du Tertre
Place du Tertre

We were rather concerned the first time we had to use the buses, but it was easy-peasy and now we are using it with great pleasure. An automatic ramp comes out from the centre door offering an almost straight entrance to the bus. And if the driver closes the door in front of you do not worry. The ramp can only come down with closed doors.

View from La Butte Montmartre
View from La Butte Montmartre
Access to Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame

While nearby Notre Dame draws the large crowds, the smaller and older Sainte-Chapelle is in my eye the true beauty of Île de Cité.

The Vault at Sainte-Chapelle
The Vault at Sainte-Chapelle

It is the chapel of the early royal residence of the French monarchs dating from 1248. Since handicap access was not really a priority in the middle ages, I did not think we would be able to get in with a wheelchair.

The stained glass windows of the Upper Level of Sainte-Capelle
The stained glass windows of the Upper Level of Sainte-Capelle

The narrow stone chairs to the beautiful upper floor do not seem fit for those with limited mobility. But as the upper floor used to be the main entrance from the medieval royal palace there remains a port which opens up to a landing connecting with Palais de Justice which has elevator access.

Palais de Justice
Palais de Justice

Not only did we get in to both floors, but out of the three of us only I had to pay the ticket. It is gratuit for handicapped and their assistant.

After our visit to Sainte-Chapelle we were treated a royal welcome at the corner bistro across from Palais de Justice called Les Deux Palais.

Les Deux Palais
Les Deux Palais

I’d feared that the general prejudice of arrogant French waiters would be a hindrance for us in Paris, but it seems that any arrogance I might have encountered on previous visits or heard tales about from others vanishes when a wheelchair is involved.

The Flower Market on Place Louis Lépine
The Flower Market on Place Louis Lépine

We had a lovely brunch before heading in the direction of Notre Dame, where we bypassed a 200 meter line by accessing the church through the exit. Moreover, neither of us paid the entrance fee this time around.

It was Sunday and inside the church tourists could enjoy the spectacle of a Catholic Sunday mass. While the faithful sat on the many rows of the huge cathedral, tourists walked up and down the long corridors to each side, photographing the mass. Off course if you are a believer, you can always take part no matter if you are local or foreign. But as an atheist, I’ve never felt comfortable pretending.

Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris

But this time around, a professional and sweet woman from the church offered us access to the church and saying yes, we ended up being guided to the front row of the mass, where I had to pretend I knew what was going on.

All the prayers and hymns were in French, and I had no idea when to get up or when to say amen and sit down. Fortunately, an extremely well-dressed middle-aged black man sat beside me. Not only could he sing along and say the prayers, but it also sounded fantastic. So for the next 45 minutes, I listened to him and made my lips sync so that it looked like I knew what I was doing.

Eucharist
Eucharist

At the end we were all supposed to shake hands and claim something about Jesus. And so I heartily shook the hands of those around me and muttered Jesus a few times before donating 20 EUR to the basket going around.

After mass
After mass

Leaving the mass, I had a great wish to re-watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It is surprising how well Disney copied the real mass of Notre Dame for their film.

La Taverna du Nil at Île Saint-Louis
La Taverna du Nil at Île Saint-Louis

We spent the rest of the day walking around Marais and shopping till we dropped before taking the bus home.

Jazz-band in Marais
Jazz-band in Marais

After our long weekend in Paris, I feel as if my relationship with this city of light has been renewed and I have come to appreciate a completely different side to the French capital.

Zofka

Hunchbacks in Paris

There are certain things, which any person will have to experience when visiting the capital of France for the first time: The Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysée, Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur… etc.

In Denmark, at least in some places, we refer to our family as the hunchbacks (pukkelryggede). For some reason comparing our loved ones to Quasimodo is a form of endearment. As such, you often hear someone say that they are going for dinner at the hunchbacks or for a wedding with the rest of the hunchbacked family. (I have to emphasise here that no one in my family is actually hunchbacked, and neither is kyphosis a common trait amongst Danes – at least not after we left behind our heavy Viking swords).

walking to Montmartre - flat
walking to Montmartre – flat

However, you will allow me to find it particularly funny that I in April visited Notre Dame de Paris with the hunchbacks – I imagine the intro music to the Disney Classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, to play in the background by now.

A fair warning should for this reason also be put out that this blog, unlike my usual ramblings, is dedicated to the ‘traditional’ tourist experience of Paris! It is a post dedicated to my two enthusiastic and travel-excited cousins.

Houseboats on the Seine
Houseboats on the Seine
Family

My stepfather decided a long time ago to celebrate his birthday in Paris once the apartment was ready for visitors. That is the apartment in which I lived last summer for 4 months. Since buying it, he has done an immense job in restoring the place – making it a small piece of heaven. Since my stay over the summer the combined kitchen and dining room has had a complete make-over. It is quite a charming place and for those unfortunate enough to have seen it when he took it over and it looked more like the front yard of hell, it is a miracle. It is perhaps for this reason that he and my mother were so excited to invite those closest to them for a celebration of their birthdays in Paris, including a tour of the new kitchen and stories of the locals.

While both were busy preparing for the events of the weekend, I spent a few days in the company of my aunt and uncle and their two very lively teenage daughters (here meant in the best possible use of the word). I have travelled a lot in recent years and so have my uncle and his family, but never previously have I had the pleasure of their company.

Being a single traveller, free from the whims of others, I feared a bit for losing my independence. But I must admit that seeing Paris through the eyes of my cousins made me realise what a compelling and awe-inspiring city it can be. It is perhaps for this reason that I have decided to write this entry with all the glory of a first timer.

Tour d'Eiffel
Tour d’Eiffel
The Classics

There are certain things, which any person will have to experience when visiting the capital of France for the first time: The Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysée, Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur… etc. While my mother has been so good to assure that I saw most of these things while I was still too young to find other tourists tedious, it was the first time for my uncle and his family to discover the treasures of Paris.

Nortre Dame
Nortre Dame

Thus, first on our list of things to do were Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Surprisingly, I discovered that Notre Dame unlike Sacré-Cœur, still maintains at least a shadow of authenticity. While Sacré-Cœur seems to compete with Disneyland in regards to commercial ideas, Notre Dame retains the atmosphere of a cathedral in use.

The windows of Nortre Dame
The windows of Nortre Dame

The Eiffel Tower, in contrast to the large churches in Paris, was created not as a place of worship but to attract the attention and interest of the visitor. Created for the 1889 Word Fair, it was supposed to only grace the skyline of Paris for a short period of 20 years. In fact, it is said that the Parisians of the time found it extremely unpleasant to look at and hated its dominance in the horizon. I might be mistaken, but I sense that the attitude has somewhat changed since then.

Tour d'Eiffel in the spring
Tour d’Eiffel in the spring

I have once previously been to the top of the 324 m high steel construction; however I seem to have been quite traumatised by the experience because I have no recollection of it and only a picture of the view as a reminder.

looking north at the top of the Eiffel Tower
looking north at the top of the Eiffel Tower

This time around my 19 year old cousin demanded that we all take the trip to the highest level and though a bit wary of the idea the rest of us conceded in the end. As we reached the 2nd level it started pouring down in spades and as we stood in the line for the 3rd level we and the rest of the tourists were in a constant calculation about avoiding the areas which were not shaded from the rainfall.

looking south at the top of the Eiffel Tower
looking south at the top of the Eiffel Tower

People in tees and shorts or small summer dresses were drenched in minutes. I trust that many from that line had the rest of their vacation destroyed by a sore throat. Fortunately, as we reached the highest level the weather changed and while the dramatic sky continued as a great panorama, we were spared being drenched.

Waiting for the boat
Waiting for the boat

The rest of the time was spent on one of my all-time favourite things to do in Paris – shopping at flea markets. With the hunchbacks I went for a fantastic flea market in the 14th which proved an absolute heaven for my cousins.

Flea market
Gramophone
Woman in the mirror
The male mannequin
The blue and golden man
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On the last day we all managed to find our way to Le Marais and the best falafel in the world, which seemed to be quite a hit with my uncle who for all of 15 minutes did not take any pictures. Otherwise he and I had had an on-going and unspoken competition about ‘who-can-take-the-most-pictures’ and ‘who-can-find-the-strangest-focus-point’.

Best falafel in the world
Best falafel in the world

I always knew I took way more pictures when travelling than the average, something which I have previously discussed on this blog, but it is comforting to know that it is a family trait and great to travel with my uncle who is found behind a lens and flash 75 % of the time. Normally, I have to explain myself and my obsession with taking pictures constantly, but the hunchbacks are so used to it from my uncle that I don’t stand out.

Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur
Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur
The Birthdays

And then came the day of my stepfathers birthday. He had decided to treat the entire group of family and friends with a guided tour around Montmartre. Here I can easily say that it was nothing new since I have already had several tours on Montmartre. For that reason, however, I had amble opportunity to take even more pictures.

The Mill of Montmartre
The Mill of Montmartre

The tour ended with a visit to the small and historically fascinating Montmartre vineyard where we were served a glass of the exclusive Montmartre vine, while several other tourists gazed enviously at us through the fence which surrounds the vineyard.

Tulips and vines in Montmartre
Tulips and vines in Montmartre

It is rare that I feel so v.i.p. And I admit that I enjoyed it enormously when I overheard one American tourist to another explaining that getting in there was not for the common man. I suppose that once in a while it is okay to feel a little above and beyond.

Le Consulat at Montmartre
Le Consulat at Montmartre

The day ended with a dinner at a local restaurant and while the food was amazing none of us could eat anything since my wonderful mother had treated us all to hundreds of canapés beforehand making us full long before intended.

Postcards from Paris
Postcards from Paris

The poor wonderful woman had been so worried about what kind of canapés she should make that she forgot about the fact that the better they were the more of them we would all consume.

Row row row your boat...
Row row row your boat…

I ended the day incapable of anything but rolling home.

Zofka

Gallery: Paris Street Art

While Paris is known for its beauty and romantic atmosphere, one of the things I love the most about the city is all the little pieces of street art hidden on the house facades and traffic signs not to mention the areas where stencils and graffiti dominate the area. Here are a few of the pieces I’ve come across.

Montmartre
Stealing the sign at Montmartre
Stealing the sign at Montmartre
Rue Lepic sign
Rue Lepic sign
Occupy
Occupy
Salle au 1er
Salle au 1er
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
General
General
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
Candy dispenser
Candy dispenser
The 19th arrondissement
Rebuilding
Rebuilding
Max Dormoy
The chief on the pavement
The chief on the pavement
Paris 2012
Paris 2012
Barbe is Beautiful
Barbe is Beautiful
TPK dog
TPK dog
Are you happy?
Are you happy?
Tough guy
Tough guy
Sorry Angel, Sorry
Sorry Angel, Sorry
The puppet master at Max Dormoy
The puppet master at Max Dormoy
Chateau Rouge and Montmartre
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
Old lady in Chateau Rouge
Old lady in Chateau Rouge
Resistance street art
L'Art de La Guerre
L’Art de La Guerre
Hannibal Lector
Hannibal Lector
Le Passe-Muraille
Le Passe-Muraille
Passage des Abbesses
Passage des Abbesses
Je t'aime
Je t’aime
Dalí
Dalí
Centre
Dalí and Mona Lisa
Dalí and Mona Lisa
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
Fred le Chevalier street art
La Simplicité
La Simplicité
Belleville
Street in Belleville
Street in Belleville
Shooting
Shooting
Picture frames
Picture frames
Face
Face
Breteau
Breteau
Graffiti
Graffiti
In Belleville
In Belleville
Yarps street art
Yarps street art
Vote Batman
Vote Batman
Japanese
Japanese
Man vs lion
Man vs lion
The grandfather clock
The grandfather clock

 

Arts and bikes
Arts and bikes
Greenery
Greenery
Somedays you're the pigeon, Somedays you're the statue
Somedays you’re the pigeon, Somedays you’re the statue
Cyborg
Cyborg
Postcards from Belleville 2012
Postcards from Belleville 2012

Zofka