Tag Archives: Paris

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!

April in Paris – A First Visit

1 Sep

Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky speaks French and loves Paris – she has been there many times.

In April of 2009, we three — Rich, Carrieanna and I — spent three days in Paris.

This was Rich’s first visit; he wrote the following letter to Becky:

“Dear Becky,

“Thought you might enjoy a Paris report from a first-timer.

“Our trip to Paris began aboard Thalys from Amsterdam Central Station to Gare du Nord. Rental wheelchair folded next to one seat – first class, yet! From Amsterdam to Brussels train runs regular speed;

“Brussels to Paris … warp speed!

“Was it Antwerp where we changed crew … new conductors, stewards, stewardesses?

“And there he was, our new steward … Ashken, tall, slender, young, devilishly handsome, charming, with a smile to light up any lady’s heart. When he learned that Carrieanna was traveling to Paris on her birthday … free extra small bottles of French wine … even sang Happy Birthday to her. Whoa! What an introduction to Paris!

 

     

   (Vegan meal; a little birthday dessert and wine!)

“My first impression of Paris was how LARGE it was, in terms of space, population, and most of all – architecture. Everything is huge … Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, d’Orsay, even the hotels.”

“I loved the colonnades along rue de Rivoli. Easy wheelchair entrance into Hotel Brighton, and very cordial, welcoming staff … fellow even remembered Jeri from her stop there last November gathering information for this trip.

“Carrieanna’s room is designated “Disabled Accessible” and overlooks (4 stories down) a small courtyard. The room is spacious and well-appointed; good light from tall windows. And, I go no further before mentioning that our entire time in Paris (save for the last late night) we had warm weather and bright sunshine!

“The room Jeri and I had, down the hall and around a corner, just a short walk from Carrieanna, was larger and overlooked rue de Rivoli. The tall windows opened inward and allowed access to a narrow balcony, where the three of us could comfortably stand.

”The view, as I remember it, from left to right: Towers of Notre Dame, Louvre, including pyramid, Tuileries Gardens, d’Orsay, the obelisk [in Place de la Concorde], the Invalides, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, [Pont Alexandre III], and the Eiffel Tower. Magnificent. That will be my most lasting image of Paris!

“The trip was Carrieanna’s 27th birthday gift. We dreamed of it for a long time and discussed it for an even longer time … what to see, what to do … We left each day fairly open in terms of scheduling, although we knew that in our three days and nights there we would want to visit our “Top Ten” places.

“So, we pretty much followed Carrieanna’s lead. And, no sooner did we get over “ooohing and aaahing” at the view, then she had us in a taxi on our way to Eiffel Tower … about 3:00 p.m. The taxi stand closest to Hotel Brighton, which we used often, was almost in front of the Westin. Well, out of the taxi and into the masses … “No, I don’t speak English … No, I don’t want any trinkets ….”

“We three were amazed at the size and the beauty of the tower.

“We spent a couple of hours there, taking photos and being amazed. Then we roll to the nearby Seine River boats.

“Wheelchairs on first, Thank You Very Much (rendered, of course, in French).

“Great seats, clear views, warm weather … and we cruise past the gorgeous monuments, buildings and bridges.

(Seine River Cruise, via Bateaux Parisiens)

“Taxi back to Tuileries Garden for our final meal of the day (about 7:00 p.m.). Surprisingly good food. Jeri finds baguettes, fruits, juice and French wine nearby.

“Back to the view until about 9 p.m. …

“The tower is sparkling like a Christmas tree, on the hour, and we “just have to” go back to the tower. She is drawn as if by magnetism.

“A couple of hours again, before finally getting back to Hotel Brighton about midnight.

“Jeri had earlier worked out with Carrieanna that her birthday present to her would be to take her up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. They were clear, from every source, that wheelchairs were not allowed beyond the second level. They decided this day, Saturday, was too crowded, so they would wait for another night.

[And that’s a story to be told in another post!]

“Trees budding and blooming everywhere. All sorts of flowers blooming. And military personnel with automatic weapons at the Eiffel Tower. What a great first day.”

(To be continued ….)

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?
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