Monday, September 1, 2014

Barcelona - Sep 2014




Barcelona is the most wheelchair accessible city I have visited so far in Europe, and thus is my favourite city in Europe. I chose this city specifically to party and hang out on the beach and I did just that.


ACCOMODATION

I wasn’t able to find a couchsurfing host in Barcelona. I did receive an offer from one guy, but his elevator was too small. I asked him to measure it and I determined it was standing room only! … for one person! Why bother even having an elevator if it’s only good for one person? I have encountered the problem of small elevators in every European city I’ve visited.


My Airbnb host and her roommate
I booked a room through Airbnb that was located about a 20min walk from the beach. The owner of the apartment was named Oria and she had two other roommates. It was a very spacious three bedroom apartment. I slept in Oria’s rather empty room while she slept on the living room couch or somewhere else altogether. My only issue was that the bathroom doorway was too narrow and the only way I could get in was by taking the door completely off the hinges for the duration of my stay. Oria hung up a curtain for privacy. Staying here was a lot like staying in a hostel. People were constantly coming and going – mostly friends of the roommates, but also other Airbnb renters. Everyone was very welcoming and nice. They even cooked a few meals for me and invited me to hang out with them. It was pretty much like staying with friends. The exchange of money was more like a token of appreciation and to help cover the cost of having me there. 

I stayed with Oria for 4 days and then moved to an entire apartment to myself which I gave a tour of in the VLOG. It was a bit further out from the waterfront and located on a busy street, but the apartment itself looked completely renovated and furnished entirely with IKEA! Honestly, my reasons for renting a place all to myself was so I could bring a party home which almost happened, but not quite. More on that later. I stayed here for three days and then moved back to Oria’s for the remainder of my time in Barcelona. I admit it was more fun having people around and being closer to the beach and La Ramblas.

ACCESSIBILTY
As I mentioned above, Barcelona is a paradise for wheelchair-users.

Sidewalks
Ramps down to the beach
I don’t know if it’s like this all over Spain, but Barcelona has very different sidewalks. They don’t have curb cuts per se, but very wide ramps from the sidewalk to the street. I think these were made for the motorcycles which are parked on the sidewalks, rather than wheelchairs, but they are extremely useful. While Barcelona is a flat city, most sidewalks are paved with some sort of stone. This requires more energy to push and can possibly slow you down.

Airport
Barcelona–El Prat Airport has the easiest transportation to the city centre of any airport I have visited… in the world! And I mean that! As soon as you leave the terminal, you will find the Aerobus stop. Every single bus is wheelchair accessible! It’s not one of those tall busses that have 5 steep steps to get in. It’s a low floor bus with pull-out ramp at the rear door – very similar to a city bus. You don’t have to book anything in advance. There’s a bus every 5 or 10min (24/7) and takes you right to Playa Catalunya in 35min. Cost is 6€ one way and there’s no disabled discounted. I wished every city had this.

Public Transit
I didn’t use public transit very often so I can’t give too much advice here. Everywhere I went was within walking distance. I didn’t even need to use the metro. I did use a tram a few times when I was staying in an apartment by myself. It’s completely accessible and very easy to use for wheelchair users. However, the lines are not useful for getting to tourist attractions.

Beaches
Smooth path down to the water
Barcelona beach is the most wheelchair friendly beach I have visited… in the world! I seem to be saying that a lot. It beats out Vancouver and anything I’ve seen here in North America.

There are two levels to the beach. The top level is street-level and completely flat. To get to the lower level, there are long, wide ramps everywhere. At beach level, the boardwalk is wide and flat. This design alone is enough to make me happy because it allows me to walk along the beach without difficulty. However, there are wooded pathways that go from the stoned boardwalk right over the sand and down to the water. And there’s not just one pathway, they’re located about every 50 metres or so. Oh yeah, and there are restaurants and wheelchair toilets at every station.  
Dedicated beach area for the disabled

And to top it all off, there is even a designated beach area specifically for the disabled! Here they have wooden floors over the sand (with a covered area, and open area), beach wheelchairs, private wheelchair toilets, and dedicated lifeguards! Sounds like a resort for the disabled.


There is an uncovered and covered area



I rolled up and down this beach many times, every day. It was my favourite thing to do in Barcelona.








ATTRACTIONS / SIGHTSEEING


Stained glass windows
Sagrada Familia is a Catholic church designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. This place is beautiful and unlike any church I have ever visited. Admission is free for the disabled and an attendant. Go to the front of the ticket office (don’t wait in line. If anyone asks, just say you were told go to the front) and obtain your free ticket. The towers are not accessible because there are stairs to the elevator – talk about a poor design! After getting your ticket, you will need to go around the block and enter through the group/school entrance. You may have to wait and get your bags checked by security before going inside.


Very steep ramps
Warning: Even though Sagrada Familia is wheelchair accessible, there are some very steep pathways. I am quite strong and can usually push myself up any hill, but even I had to ask for help here.






A mountain of fruit!
La Boqueria is a large public market right on the main drag of La Rambla, which goes from Playa Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus monument. You will find the most amazing food and drinks here and it’s not very expensive either. My favourites were the fresh fruit juices that were only 1€ each.

Warning:  This is a very busy area and apparently a hot spot for pickpockets. Fortunately, I didn’t run into any troubles, but I know people who have been victims of pickpockets in Barcelona.  Do a simple search on how to protect yourself.

The Arc de Triomf is cool to see and fully wheelchair accessible, unlike the one in Paris. Rambla del Mar provides a relaxing walk near the sea and yachts.


NIGHTLIFE

This was my main reason for coming to Barcelona – to party! And boy, I was not disappointed.

There is an area on the beach with a concentration of about 5 or 6 nightclubs. Some of these are restaurants during the day. Wander around this area any time of the day and you will find promoters handing out passes for free cover before 1:30am. You heard me right. It was no problem for me to get into a club before 1:30am, so this essentially meant free cover. Normally it was 15€. In most of North America, nightclubs close at 2 or 3am, but not in Barcelona where the party is just getting started by this time. I came to this area EVERY SINGLE NIGHT because they were open EVERY NIGHT and they were busy EVERY NIGHT. Not just Friday and Saturday, although they were the busiest on those nights. 

Opium Nightclub
My favourite spots were Opium, Pacha, and Shoku and you will find mostly tourists here.  All were open until 6am. Drinks are pricey at around 12€ each. The music is pretty main stream with the DJs spinning top 40, lounge, and hip hop. The bouncers let everyone in. It’s not like Berlin where they can turn you away for no apparent reason. Wheelchair access was surprisingly very good. All have some steps, but I found ramps built in. Opium and Pacha have one of those old school lifts to get down to the dance floor. It’s one of those lifts that follow a railing and requires a key and takes forever! It was quite a production whenever I used these. It was actually just faster to have the bouncers carry me. There were even single room wheelchair toilets. I usually only encounter these in hotels or nice restaurants, rarely have I seen one in a nightclub.


Pacha Nightclub
One night I met two girls – one was Brazilian and the other Argentinian. We were having fun dancing and drinking together. They literally had to beat other guys off with a stick so I thought ‘great’, she prefers hanging out with me. When the club closed, we left together. They were still in party mode, so I suggested going back to my place because I had a 3 bedroom apartment all to myself. As we were hailing a taxi, that’s when she dropped a bombshell on me – she said she was a ‘working girl’. My enthusiasm dropped to the floor at that point. Here I was, feeling like a king because I was leaving a club with two hot girls and going back to my rented apartment. Little did I know that they were actually hookers. She did say she was hanging out with me because she enjoyed my company and told me she couldn’t care less that I was in a wheelchair.  However, I couldn’t help but feel like the only reason they were hanging out with me was because they only thought of me as a potential customer. I was also slightly annoyed because I could have spent time with other girls who were not hookers. So, I politely declined their offer and put them in a taxi and I… went home… alone. It’s definitely a story for the books.

Making friends wherever I go





1 comment:

  1. This is great! I am a fellow wheelchair user and I have set up this site http://wheelchairworld.info/ so we can get every piece of information that is useful for wheelchair users in one place-it would be great if you could come and share your information and then link to your blog for people who want to read more information on the destination? Hope to see you there soon!

    ReplyDelete