Tag Archives: accessible

Cruisin’ Love!

1 Aug

Carrieanna recently returned from her very first cruise. It will not be her last!

The adventure begins!  Carrieanna and Vicki on deck.

The adventure begins!
Carrieanna and Vicki on deck.

She and her Aunt Vicki (a cruise veteran) took a seven-day trip to Alaska (the Alaska Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise) on the Celebrity Solstice. Along the way they stopped at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as spending one evening at the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC.

The cruise included MS educational programs, accessible shore excursions and, of course, some amazing experiences — not to mention many photo opportunities!

I asked Carrieanna a few questions about her experience. Continue reading

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Don’t know much about art …

20 Dec Louvre, Paris, France, art, accessible

… but I have visited a few incredible museums!

Here’s a short list:

In the Netherlands:

In Italy:

In Egypt:

  • Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (Cairo)
  • Valley of the Kings (Luxor)

And, of course, in California:

In Paris, I have visited l’Orangerie and Musee d’Orsay (my personal favorite!)

But perhaps the largest and most famous museum I have visited is the Louvre.

Louvre Museum, Paris, France, art, accessible

The Louvre, as seen from Tuileries Gardens

My first visit was in April of 2002. It was almost overwhelming. (I initially attempted to follow Rick Steves’ self-guided tour, but quickly realized that renting the audio tour was money well-spent.)

More recently, I visited the Louvre in April of 2009, accompanied by my sweetheart, his daughter Carrieanna, and his college friend, George.

Because Carrieanna was in a wheelchair, and I was her assistant, we were able to avoid the ticket line and enter immediately. (The guys were not so fortunate; they stood in line for 20 minutes. However, they were enjoying each other’s company and didn’t mind that Carrieanna and I were ready to start exploring. We would reconnect with them later.)

Quoting Wikipedia (to give you a little idea of the size of museum):

The Louvre—is one of the world’s largest museums, and a historic monument. … Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet). With more than 8 million visitors each year, the Louvre is the world’s most visited museum.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection,

As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

For the most part, the Louvre is very accessible. As noted on the website:

In keeping with France‘s 2005 disability law, the Louvre aims to ensure all visitors can access the museum safely and comfortably. Special attention is given to ensuring quality help and care are available throughout the museum.

Some areas were very crowded.

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

Crowded hall in the Louvre

Carrieanna had to be very aggressive in order to get close enough to see the Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa, Louvre, Paris, France, art, accessible

Carrieanna views the Mona Lisa

(I later learned that had she asked for assistance, we would have been escorted around the crowd and allowed easy access.)

Other areas were very easy to navigate

Louvre, Paris, France, art, accessible

Exhibit hallway without crowds, Louvre, Paris

Although there are often stairs between wings, there are also lifts and attendants – often quite handsome! – to allow access to wheelchair users.

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

The lift attendants were very helpful.

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

Motorized lifts made most wings accessible

Obviously, there are too many treasures to share in this blog. It would probably take a week – or more – to view every painting, sculpture and artifact housed in the Louvre.

If you love art, I’m sure the Louvre is on your bucket list. If not, here are just a few photos to inspire you ….

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

Carrieanna enjoyed the Egyptian Antiquities

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

Beautiful ceiling in the Louvre Palace

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

Beautiful 18th century panels, Louvre

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible, Egyptian, Roman

Up-close view of the sculptures; Louvre

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible

One of the many courtyards; Louvre

Louvre, Paris, France, art, sculptures, accessible, Jean Michelin, Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds (Jean Michelin); Louvre

The Kindness of Strangers

23 Oct

Paris, France 2009

Over the years I have heard that Parisians are rude.

I have never found that to be true — well, with the possible exception of *that one* taxi driver in 2002.

In fact, while visiting Paris in 2009, Carrieanna and I found the exact opposite to be true.

As noted in a previous blog post, we were in Paris to celebrate Carrieanna’s birthday.

I have viewed The City of Lights from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I wanted Carrieanna to have that same experience. It was my birthday gift to her. And we would go at night, to enjoy that spectacular view.

We had already determined that we would not attempt this on her actual birthday, which fell on a Saturday, since it was very crowded that night. Instead, we would go on Monday night and make this our last great adventure in Paris. (We would be returning to Amsterdam on Tuesday.)

There’s a miracle story here, but let me share another one first.

To understand why I call these “miracle stories,” let me quote Rick Steves, in his [mostly] very helpful book “Easy Access Europe.”

“Unfortunately, Paris … has a few sights that are best left to non-disabled travelers (or more adventurous slow walkers): … Sainte-Chapelle upstairs chapel … the top level of the Eiffel Tower ….”

We were happy to prove him wrong, with the help of kind strangers!

Earlier in the day, after visiting both the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay — yes, it was a VERY busy day! — Carrieanna and I took a taxi to the Ile de la Cité, to see the beautiful stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle.

“The interior of this 13th-century chapel is a triumph of Gothic church architecture. Built to house Jesus’ Crown of Thorns, Sainte-Chapelle is jam-packed with stained-glass windows, bathed in colorful light ….”

“… climb the stairs into the sanctuary, where more than 1,100 Bible scenes – from the Creation to the Passion to Judgment Day – are illustrated by light and glass.”

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France 2009

“Unfortunately, the upstairs chapel (with the stained-glass windows) can be reached only by climbing a narrow spiral staircase.”

Umm, maybe. Unless you encounter a kind ticket attendant, who was a charmed by Carrieanna’s smile and offered to take us the back way (which included a tiny construction elevator and a keyed door).

We were taken through the King’s Entrance (built to allow King Louis IX easy and private access the chapel) …

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France 2009

… and, voila!

We were inside the chapel, admiring the glorious stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle!

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France 2009

(Carrieanna in the chapel)

After spending an hour or more in the chapel, Carrieanna and I were escorted back downstairs and to the street, where we thanked our escorts for providing us with this amazing opportunity.

And then we enjoyed a little river-side respite and people watching …

Paris, France 2009

Paris, France 2009

… knowing that we had another grand adventure in store later in the day — ascending the Eiffel Tower!

Carrieanna’s father shared our story in his letter to Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky:

“…Jeri and Carrieanna head off by taxi to the Eiffel Tower. Our last night in town.

“They reach the second level. Carrieanna says the guards explained to her that people in wheelchairs are not allowed at the top level, although blind persons are allowed at the top.”  (We didn’t understand that logic either.)

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 2009

“She decides that despite ’17 very steep stairs’ up to the elevator to the top, she will do it. She finds a fellow American who says he was in a wheelchair for a while, who is willing to watch her chair for her while she goes up. His wife and daughter already are on their way up, and he is just waiting for them on the second level. (As it turns out, his wife and daughter came down much earlier, and he sends them home in a taxi while he waits for Carrieanna and Jeri!)

“After the 17 steps, they wait 45 minutes, with no place to sit, which is very demanding on Carrieanna’s legs. And then, the Top! And she loved it. She felt so proud of herself!”

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 2009

To quote Carrieanna, “Don’t say it can’t be done unless you try.”

Because … Anything is Possible!

Calaveras Big Trees

25 Sep

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 9-23-12

After spending a weekend at nearby Murphys, California, some friends and I decided to visit the Calaveras Big Trees before heading home to the Sacramento area.

It was a beautiful day; the first full day of autumn. Although the temperature suggested summer was lingering, some of the leaves were changing color and the light had the muted glow of early fall.

It was the perfect afternoon for a walk in the trees.

(Most of the following information was gleaned from Calaveras Big Trees State Park Activity Guide, brochure, and “A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail.”)

Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4, the colossal trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park stand in quiet testimony to prehistoric times. These massive relics, which can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet, care descended from trees that were standing when dinosaurs roamed Earth, and birds, mammals and flowering plants began to appear. Some of today’s trees are thought to be as old as 2,000 years.

Giant Sequoias – the world’s largest trees – are native only to the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Two groves of these magnificent trees are protected within the park. The easily accessible North Grove is historically significant as the Giant Sequoia discovery site. The more remote and pristine South Grove contains the largest trees in the park.

Accessible path, North Grove Trail

Accessible path, North Grove Trail

Wildlife

Opportunities for wildlife observation are abundant in the park. Bird species include pileated woodpeckers, northern flickers, Steller’s jays and dark-eyed juncos. Raccoons, foxes, porcupines, chipmunks, chickarees and flying squirrels are among the native animals. Black bears, bobcats and coyotes are sometimes seen.

Calaveras Bit Trees State Park

North Grove Trail

This gentle 1.7 mile loop will take you through the historic grove of Giant Sequoias discovered in 1852. The Big Stump, Mother and Father of the Forest, and the Pioneer Cabin Tree (at one time a “drive-through” tree) are all located along this trail, as well as about 100 very large Giant Sequoias. The trail begins and ends at the far end of the North Grove parking lot. This trail is “stroller-friendly” when dry. Allow 1 – 2 hours.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Numbered trail markers correspond to numbers in the booklet: A Guide to the Calaveras North Grove Trail

#13  The Father of the Forest – “This tree has always been a favorite setting for photographers.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

“Mother of the Forest” – so named for its beauty and size – was stripped of its bark in 1845 for the purpose of exhibition in New York City and in London.

“… A crew of men worked at the tree’s systematic destruction for ninety days. While some were eager to see evidence of the Sierra Nevada big tree, the act of the tree’s ruin also sparked outrage. Though nineteenth-century views defined nature as vast, unending, and forever renewable, people condemned the event as a botanical tragedy and an act of sheer vandalism. It was through the Mother of the Forest’s great sacrifice that a heightened awareness about the needs to protect these trees was born.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

#21 “… when the Wawona Tunnel Tree in Yosemite was carved out in the 1880s, the owners of the North Grove responded by doing the same to this tree.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

“The Pioneer Cabin Tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar. Because of the huge cut, this tree can no longer support the growth of a top… The opening also has reduced the ability of this tree to resist fire.”

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

#26 – Platform built near this group of sequoias so that people could have a close-up view of the trees.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

The thick protective bark often grows to be two feet thick, lacks flammable pitch, and contains high amounts of the chemical tannin, which makes it fireproof and also protects against diseases.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

 Accessible Features

The North Grove and Beaver Creek trails and the River Picnic Area are all accessible.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Campsites and restrooms with showers at the North Grove Campground – some visitors may need help with sloped terrain;

Wheelchair seating spaces, parking, assistive listening system at the Campfire Center;

Restroom and adjacent parking near warming hut off North Grove parking lot.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

Accessibility is continually improving. For current accessibility details, call the park (209-795-2334) or visit http://access.parks.ca.gov

Fun Facts

Located 3 miles east of Arnold (California) on Highway 4

Open daily from sunrise to sunset

No cell phone service in the park

Latitude / Longitude: 38.2719 / 120.2867

Elevation at North Grove: 4,750 feet

Calaveras Big Trees Association: www.bigtrees.org

Calaveras Big Trees State Park 9-23-12

A Day in Paris!

10 Aug

I believe I first became infatuated with Paris as a seventh grader, when I chose to take French as my foreign language class instead of Spanish, which would have been far more useful, but not nearly as romantic!

However, it wasn’t until 2002 that I actually visited the City of Light, and that’s when I fell in love with Paris. And realized that a 12-day visit was not enough. I wanted to go back someday.

That “someday” occurred in late fall of 2008.

Rich, my sweetheart, wanted to take his daughter (and me, of course) to Paris in April of 2009 to celebrate her 27th birthday.

Because Carrieanna uses a wheelchair, Rich wanted to make sure that she would be able to get around well enough to enjoy the city.

So he and I planned an 8-day trip to Amsterdam – a favorite destination – in November of 2008, during which I was to take the train to Paris for a day to check accessibility.

Prior to our trip we studied the Paris chapter of Rick Steves’ “Easy Access Europe – A Guide for Travelers with Limited Mobility.” (A very useful book; I highly recommend it.)

We also made a fairly detailed itinerary for me to follow, so that I could get as much information as possible in the few hours I would be in Paris.

And finally the day arrived. Rich and I had been in Amsterdam for three days, and on Friday, Nov. 14, 2008, I spent A Day in Paris!

As I wrote in my journal:

“The Adventure begins!

“I rise with the 5 a.m. wake-up call (although I’ve been awake off-and-on since 2 a.m.), and dress carefully for cold weather, and an all-day excursion to Paris.

“Our taxi gets us to Central Station in plenty of time. We go to the Thayles information desk (at Central Station), and get information* about taking a wheelchair to Den Haag and Paris next year. …

“Finally the train arrives, and I’m off to Paris! By 8 a.m. it’s light, though overcast and gray. …

“I found a taxi across the street [from Gard du Nord – the train station], and went to the Hotel Brighton.”

We had already made reservations for a three-night stay in April of 2009. We chose  Hotel Brighton, a four-star hotel, because it had handicap-accessible rooms.  We were also delighted with the location!

Advertised as being “in the heart of Paris,” Hotel Brighton is located on rue de Rivoli, directly across from the Tuileries Garden. During our stay in April we had a view of the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffle Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe from our upstairs suite.

(Here’s a sneak peak of our view in April)

“The gentleman at the Brighton’s front desk was fairly flustered by all my questions,** but was helpful – and grateful for the €10 tip.”

(The elevator at Hotel Brighton. Large enough for the wheelchair – barely!)

“Upon leaving the hotel, I cross rue de Rivoli …

… and head toward the Louvre (parallel to Tuileries Gardens).

“I wandered a little in the area between the Louvre and Arc de Carousel, enjoying being there! I gleaned the information and pictures about accessibility to the Louvre and to the Gardens. …”

[“Easy Access Europe” gives accurate and detailed tips on how to find the accessible entrance, which I visually confirmed.]

“A walk over a bridge across the Seine …

… to the Musee d’Orsay entrance …

(Note the slanted curb cuts.

Wheelchair users will need to be careful to maintain their balance.)

” … where I bought some roasted chestnuts (nothing special) and then crossed the footbridge over the very busy street (Quai Des Tuileres).”

(View of Musee d’Orsay from across the Seine.)

“Back into the garden area …

(Tuileries Garden, with Hotel Brighton in background)

” … where I walk towards the Place de la Concorde and, more importantly, the Musee l’Orangerie.”

(Because this museum was closed for renovation at the time Rick Steves published “Easy Access Europe,” he does not rate its accessibility. I was delighted to find that it was fully wheelchair accessible!)

Here I enjoyed two large oval-shaped rooms, each with four large murals of  ‘water lilies’ painted by Monet.

“Two full rooms, wrapped by the water lilies murals. Incredible!”

“Other notables include Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, Cezanne, and other impressionists.”

(Renoir)

“And the garden area contained some Rodin statues. Well worth the visit.”

(Rodin’s “The Kiss”)

“I walked extensively in the rue de Rivoli area, in search of a market, without success. So I caught a taxi which took me to Montmartre and the tourist shops I wanted.”

(Sacre-Coeur)

(While the grounds of Sacre-Coeur are lovely and offer a panoramic view of Paris, the interior is not wheelchair accessible. )

“I found gifts, and a market for bread and wine and chocolate. … and  after buying a baguette with tomatoes and cheese for a late lunch, I walked and walked and walked and walked, in search of a taxi.

“I found myself in Quartier Pigalle — not a great area — and finally located a taxi to take me back to the train station.”

(Gard du Nord)

“Right on time, and a full train, we left Paris at 6:25. I napped and reflected on the journey back, grateful for the fun opportunity – Paris for a day! – and aware of the challenges.”

[Future posts will describe our April 2009 adventures in Paris — including our miracle story of getting to the top of the Eiffle Tower!]

 

*Additional questions we asked at the Thayles information desk:

  • How early should wheelchair users arrive at the train station (both in Amsterdam and in Paris), in order to board Thayles? Is there an access ramp available at each station?
  • How soon can we make the train reservation? (We eventually chose to have the staff at the Ambassade Hotel in Amsterdam get our train tickets for us.)
  • Where is Comfort 1 (First Class; the accessible section of the train), and how does it compare to general seating?

**Questions asked of the desk clerk at Hotel Brighton (with some responses):

  • Location of taxi stands nearby (Just around the corner)
  • Can the hotel get museum passes for us? What is surcharge?
  • Best way to cross rue de Rivoli to get to Tuileries Garden (There are crosswalks at both ends of the block.)
  • Are there curb cuts? (Yes)
  • Can Carrieanna access our room? How? Are there any steps into either room? (She could easily wheel from her room to ours; there were no steps.)
  • Approximate cost for taxi to Eiffle Tower.
  • Location of the Statue of Joan D’Arc (a favorite historical figure for Rich; we found this about two blocks away from the hotel entrance)
  • Do they have maps of any of the museums? (The hotel did not.)
  • Any information about access to boat tours? (Pamphlet available in hotel lobby)
  • Where are the grocery markets in the area? (Three blocks or four blocks away; somewhat hard to find unless you have directions — which the hotel was happy to provide)
  • Who do they recommend for wheelchair rental in Paris? Can the Brighton arrange for that rental? (We rented a wheelchair in Amsterdam and brought it with us to Paris.)
  • Do they have any other suggestions for wheelchair users?

Lands End, and the Labyrinth thereon …

15 May

On a warm and sunny day in late April, Sherry and I took a short road trip. Our destination was Lands End Coastal Trail on the northwestern edge of Golden Gate Park, and a hike to the labyrinth at Lands End Point.

We began planning this trip nearly three years ago, when the Sacramento Bee newspaper printed an article by Chad Jones on Sunday, August 30, 2009. I was excited about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from the south side, and walking along this part of the headlands.

But life events – and bridge repair – caused us to postpone … indefinitely.

So when my dear friend, Sherry, told me that she and her family had visited it recently, and what an awe-inspiring walk it had been, I knew it was time for me to go. We found a Friday that, miraculously, was clear on both of our calendars, and with lunch and cameras packed, we headed west.

Traffic was as reasonable as possible for Westbound 80 at 9:00 a.m. However, we crossed the Bay Bridge at 9:45, and shortly after 10:00 a.m. we pulled into one of the many open parking spaces. [Note to weekday travelers: Bridge toll is $6 between 7 and 10 a.m.; $4 thereafter.]

The paved trail was wheelchair-accessible for the first portion of our walk. Not to the labyrinth, though; sadly.

The afore-mentioned Sacramento Bee article provided some historical information about the area. I’ve included it below because, for me, it helped set the tone and encouraged me to be mindful during our walk.

  “Originally the home of the Yelamu people, part of the Ohlone tribe, this windswept and desolate area was later held by the Spanish (mid-1700’s), followed by the Gold Rush of the mid-1800’s.

 “In the 1880’s visitors boarded Adolph Sutro’s steam train to ride – for 5¢ apiece – from downtown San Francisco to his elaborate Cliff House restaurant and Sutro Baths. “Opened in 1896, the baths could house 10,000 people, some enjoying the water, others exploring Sutro’s collection of tropical plants” … or the amphitheater shows, galleries and museum exhibits (including an Egyptian mummy).

 “The restaurant, of course, remains. The baths are mostly gone; a four-alarm fire in 1966 destroyed the structure; the ocean has helped reduce the Sutro Baths to ruins.”

Sherry and I started our walk from the Lands End Parking area.

I wanted to check accessibility of the trail, and found that the path was paved until we got to Mile Rock Overlook. The pavement ended, and at first the dirt path seemed to be level and smooth enough for wheelchair access. However, we soon came to steps that would not accommodate a chair, nor would much of the path thereafter.

Edge of the Path – Overlook

Sherry is a kindred spirit. Especially when it comes to photography!

We chose not to ascend these steep steps, which would have taken us to a eucalyptus grove and another view.

Instead, we backtracked a little and went down the many, many steps to the “Y” in the path.

Had we gone left, we would have reached Mile Rock Beach.

We veered to the right instead, and walked out to Lands End Point, where we picnicked and enjoyed the view and the beautiful weather.

Top of Lands End Point

And then … the labyrinth.

Sherry walking the labyrinth

  Situated – literally – on the point of Lands End, the labyrinth was created in 2004 by Eduardo Aguilera. Made of small stones, Aguilera described the walkable maze as a “shrine to peace, love and enlightenment.”

I was moved.

By the view – Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge – and by this sacred space. Walking a labyrinth is, for me, a spiritual experience.

 We took our time, and mindfully walked our path.

 

Finished with our labyrinth walk, we headed back up the umpteen stairs

  [I’ll count them, the next time I’m there!]

Retracing our steps, we headed to Point Lobos and the Sutro Baths. They, too, were inaccessible.

As was mentioned above, the baths were destroyed by a fire in 1966.

There’s a newly-opened Visitor’s Center – fully accessible – at the end of Point Lobos Avenue, with clean bathrooms, a small gift shop, and helpful staff.

We had a lovely day, and because we wanted to maintain our happy mood by avoiding the Friday afternoon westbound traffic, Sherry and I left at 2:30 p.m. However, there are more trails for me to explore, and I plan to return to Lands End in the very near future!

Birthday lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant, Big Sur, CA

9 Apr

Nepenthe Restaurant, in Big Sur, was opened by Lolly and Bill Fassett in 1949. The restaurant, with its magnificent view, was built using native materials – redwood and adobe — honoring the owners’ vision that it “become one with the landscape and the earth it stands on.”

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Nepenthe has long been a favorite place for Hess family celebrations. So it was no surprise that Carrieanna Hess chose to celebrate her 30th birthday at Nepenthe’s, accompanied by her sweetheart, Greg, her good friend, Tammy, and me, her stepmom and friend.

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(Because Carrieanna gets around via wheelchair – due to her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis – I have attempted to pay particular attention to accessibility. Tammy also has MS, and uses a cane to steady herself when walking.)

“Nepenthe” refers to a medicine that “chases away sorrow,” and the restaurant symbol is the phoenix (“reborn / rising from the ashes”). Both name and symbol are well-chosen.; as usual our experience was both delightful and refreshing!

The restaurant is located on Highway One in Big Sur, approximately an hour’s drive south from Monterey. We entered the parking area and veered to the right, following the “handicap parking” sign which directed us up a slight hill and behind the restaurant. Two handicap parking spots are located adjacent to the easily-navigated ramp that led to the courtyard.

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It was a warm and clear day, and we chose to sit at the bar on the patio (under brightly-colored umbrellas) where we enjoyed the ocean view — and bird-watching!

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The patio bar is easily accessible via wheelchair, by going around the phoenix statue …

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… although Tammy took the shortcut, stepping down one step from courtyard to the patio deck.)

We started with an order of fries and a bottle of 2008 Adelaida Syrah.

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We toasted Carrieanna, and after placing our order we snacked on fries – occasionally leaving a few on the edge of the bar to feed the birds.

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A visit to the restroom – found by rolling around the curve and to the right of the inside bar – taught us that while there is a “handicap” stall, it’s not large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Fortunately, that wasn’t an issue for us – although it would certainly be a problem for any handicapped woman unable to walk even a few steps.

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Lunch was delicious, and portions were abundant. Carrieanna and Greg had The Famous Ambrosiaburger, Tammy enjoyed her French Dip sandwich (although her soup was tepid and she had to send it back to be heated); I had the yummy Vegetarian Burger.

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Ha ha! This sample menu reflects long-ago prices!

The local birds (blue jay, scrub jay and black bird, to name a few) are brave and brazen, and will snatch food from an unwatched plate. Naturally, we were initially protective of our lunches. However, we eventually laid out bits of bread and pieces of French fries to entice the birds – and they entertained us in appreciation of our generosity.

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Our waiter was aware that we were celebrating Carrieanna’s birthday, and at the end of our meal he presented her with a gift – a “Happy Birthday” mug with Nepenthe’s logo.

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After lunch we strolled and rolled down the path to the edge of the deck, and enjoyed another wonderful vista. Patio dining, and the view therefrom, is four steps up from the deck (or one step down, if you’re coming from the inside bar area).

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There is also a brunch café and small wedding venue (Café Kevah) as well as a gift shop (The Phoenix) next to the lower level of parking. Although Greg slipped away to do a little shopping at the Phoenix — and came back with a pretty-little-something for Carrieanna – we ladies chose not to venture down.

One deterrent to shopping: The entrance to The Phoenix Shop has four steps (and a handrail) but we did not see a ramp for wheelchair access. Carrieanna determined she did not have the energy to walk down the steps that day.

So we headed north, back to Monterey.

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Happy Birthday, Carrieanna!

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