Travel Bucket List: Top 5 Longer Trips I Want To Take

Again, it seems odd to be writing about travel with half the world currently on lockdown from COVID – 19, but alongside my Top 5 Bucket Cities I Want to Visit post, I wanted to share 5 longer trips I’d also like to take (road trips or whole country visits rather than specific cities) So, here they are!

  1. Interrailing

Those of you who know me personally or have been long time readers will know I spend a good amount of time on a train and love a good train ride, so interrailing seems like a nice extension of that and way to combine it with seeing the world (I could more than likely tick off a few of the bucket list cities this way). It would also be a good way to compare the accessibility of European railways to the variable experience I’ve had here in the UK. Plus falling asleep on a train out of one city and (intentionally) waking up in an entirely city (or country) sounds like magic to me.  I’d probably go to Paris first as it’s the easiest trip from London, then onto Madrid before finding a way to double back through various countries and get to Prague, or maybe I’d just interrail through Scandinavia specifically (Norway, Sweden and Denmark and maybe more) and make sure to visit Copenhagen, I’ve never imagined a set route so who knows!

  1. Greek Islands Tour

Island tours just have a sense of something special about them for me, which is why this is next on the list. I guess that love for islands properly started on our Sicilian road trip, and since I’ve already been to Kos and Rhodes somewhat, a Greek Island hopping trip sounds like a good next plan. I always figured I’d just grab a plane to Athens and then spend a month or so (maybe less) hopping between different islands.

  1. Ireland Road Trip

Next up is a road trip around Ireland (yes there’s a road trip/island hopping theme to these). Aoife and Ellie, 2/3 of the Invincible Women from whom this blog is named, did a road trip around Ireland not too long before we went to Sicily and I was slightly gutted not to get to go. So I’d like to get to see what the country has to offer, starting in Dublin of course, my #2 bucket list city

  1. Balearics Road Trip

I spent many a childhood summer holiday in Mallorca, one of the Balearic islands, and found it to be wonderfully accessible, so it would be nice to explore the rest of the Balearic islands, both to see how they are as islands in their own right and to see how they compare in accessibility to Mallorca (and other places of course). Now of course I know there are many islands in the Balearics and it’s quite impossible to see them all in one whole trip, so I’d probably start by going to Mallorca, or maybe I’d start with one of the other islands I’m not too sure. Let me know if you have any specific recommendations!

  1. Sri Lanka

Right, I’ll be honest here, this one’s on the list to prove a very specific point. There was a school expedition to Sri Lanka when I was in sixth form (so like 17/18 for those international readers who don’t know the UK school system) which I would have been interested to go on. However, the itinerary amongst other things made it seem like it wouldn’t be possible to adapt things to involve me in most activities, which has always irked me slightly. So, I’d like to go and explore Sri Lanka just to see how much of what I thought and was told was not accessible could become accessible with a little ingenuity and #InvincibleWoman thinking! I would probably most like to see Adam’s Peak and Sigiriya which I’m pretty sure were part of the original expedition itinerary, just to prove I may have been able to access them.

I hope this gives another little insight into where I plan to go when this is all over!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Travel Bucket List: Top 5 Cities I Want To Visit

Now it may seem odd to be writing about travel with half the world currently on lockdown from COVID – 19, but this lockdown just has me thinking about all the places I’ll go when it’s all over. So, with that in mind, Here’s my Travel Bucket List of the top 5 cities I want to visit when this ends.

  1. Prague

This idea came from my Dad who visited Prague a few years back, I believe he spent the Christmas/New Year period there. All I remember hearing about before he left and after he returned was him imploring me to go and repeatedly telling me how much it was something I NEEDED to see, and I knew it HAD to be good if he was suggesting it. His suggestion took on a different level of importance after he passed away. I remember him discussing the Old Town and Charles Bridge and how, even if I might struggle with the cobblestones in my wheelchair, it was an absolute must see! From all that, seeing sunset or sunrise at the Charles Bridge has become this moment of magic in my head and an absolute bucket list must do.

  1. Dublin

Next up is Dublin. It definitely seems like a very vibrant place with plenty to visit and see, which is certainly my kind of “exploring” holiday vibe. Plus, given that Aoife herself is Irish, I may end up travelling with a “local guide” of sorts, which could lead to finding and exploring some hidden gems not found in travel guides. The only thing that could make any trip better would be being able to pair it with seeing an MMA show if I could coincide the two? OH what’s that I hear? UFC Dublin in August if COVID 19 eases by then?! I guess we have a potential date for a Dublin trip then.

  1. Copenhagen

Now Copenhagen’s one of the places I should have already been. I was supposed to visit a friend who was studying there at the time a couple of years ago, but that trip was cancelled when my dad fell ill. So I kind of feel like I have unfinished business with Copenhagen even though my friend is no longer studying there, like I HAVE to go there to do the trip I had planned.

  1. Madrid

Again, Madrid is one of those places I was supposed to have been already. I was booked to go with my dad, but we were supposed to fly right around the time he got ill so obviously that trip was cancelled. When he passed away, I promised him I’d do our trip someday, the visit to the Santiago Bernabéu (dad was a Real Madrid fan), eating so much tapas (including from the famous San Miguel market) and seeing what the place had to offer. So again it’s a sense of unfinished business with Madrid, completing a trip that was already planned and honouring my promise to my dad.

  1. Paris

I know I know, what a cliché bucket list trip, but this is yet another instance of “I said I’d do it so now I’m going to”. All throughout my time living in London I talked to friends about how I’d love to be spontaneous, jump on an early morning Eurostar to Paris with a mate for a girly day, explore the French capital, and be home in time for supper. So that’s what I intend to do when this is all over.

I hope this gives a little insight into where I plan to go when this is all over!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

TFL Accessibility Interview: Transcript and Further Thoughts

A little while back, I did an interview with Colette Little from Colfessions about the accessibility of the TFL underground system in London! In today’s post I thought I’d run you through what we discussed, what I said then, and anything else I’d add, with what I know now.

In what ways do you think London transport needs to become more accessible?

What I said then:

The major problem is step free-ness, particularly with the tube, because 23%, around a quarter is step free, and that’s just not good enough. They advertise that as well – like that’s not something to advertise. If you think that’s good enough, that’s not. I think the other major issue is communication, because a lot of the times where I have issues with the tube, is that someone has put me on the train, and then not told whoever they’re supposed to tell, and there’s no one to get me off the train at the other end. Or the train terminates, and they don’t know I’m on it. Basically, they’re supposed to tell the line controller, who’s supposed to know, and they’re supposed to tell the station that I’m getting off. And either the station that I’m getting off at doesn’t get told so if I need a ramp to get off the train at the other end I don’t get it, or if the train terminates, and they haven’t told the line controller, if they know I’m on the train they’re supposed to stop it so I can get off and they can terminate it properly, and a few times they’ve stopped it at a station that isn’t accessible so I can’t get off, so I’ve been sat there at the door screaming or someone to get me off. Obviously in my manual chair, which is the other chair I use, I can’t get off the train myself I can’t wheel myself or anything, and in this, trying to get off a gap that’s say 4/5 inches, this would break (My electric chair that I’m currently sat in.) So, I would be sat at the door screaming and screaming and screaming for someone to get me off the train and it would take a good 10/15 minutes for them to figure it out, figure out that I’m on the train, and sort it out. Obviously in terms of my mental-ness it’s terrifying – the fact I go on the tube every single time and think will I be able to get off the train, will I be able to use the lift, will the lift work, will I have to go some weird way around to get to a lift that works. You always constantly think about that and you can’t just get on a train and think ‘its fine’. Unless I’m going to Kings Cross which is a station which I regularly use so I can roll on and off, and mentally, it’s draining frankly.

What’s changed:

I don’t think that much has changed since that interview, in regard to this question. I know there’s been a raft of new lifts put in and stations redesigned, so that quarter of stations wheelchair accessible figure is likely to be much higher, but the TFL website still says a quarter so I can’t be sure on the new figure. Those constant questions I mentioned about whether I’d be able to use lifts (or if they’d work) still exist, but I have to answer them less frequently now as I no longer live in London so only have to tackle the tube infrequently when I visit from Birmingham now.

Do you have any positive or negative specific instances, like stories, that you can tell me about?

What I said then:

The longest and most detailed story I can give you is we were coming home from a trip to Birmingham on the train. Got home to Euston, we were like ‘yeah we’ll get on at Euston Square and then Euston Square goes straight back to Uxbridge. Metropolitan line, the easiest trip you could make.’ No. We got the Euston Square and the lift was out, and my friend was with me, and I had to get my friend to go down the stairs to find someone to get them to call me a taxi because the policy that they put out is that if the lift is broken, or it’s not accessible somehow, TfL policy is that they’ll whether call you a taxi to take you home, or to the nearest accessible station – whichever is closest really. So, I was told they were calling me a taxi to Kings Cross, and I know it’s like a 10-minute walk, but we’ve walked all the way from Euston Square and if they owe me a taxi, they owe me a taxi. And the guy was like “that’s not the policy” so I had to screenshot the policy from the website and show it to him, and he was like “I’m going to get my manager because you’re lying.” And I was like “I’m showing you the website but okay.” So, his manager came up and was like “why have you dragged me here, she obviously is right, you know the rules, phone her a taxi.” We sat there and waited like half an hour for this taxi, and at that moment I was waiting on principle. Got in the taxi, we were told it has been paid for by TfL, so they prepaid it so we could just get out and wander off. Got to Kings Cross, got out the taxi, went to wander off, and he was like “no you need to pay me.” I was like “No, TfL have paid you, we’ve been told TfL have paid you” and he literally held us to ransom basically and wouldn’t let us leave until we had paid for the taxi and I was like “fine, just have your money.” Got to Kings Cross, and the Piccadilly line was broken from Kings Cross to we couldn’t use it and they’d already closed the Metropolitan line because it was a Wednesday and they close it at a certain time from Wembley onwards. So, then they had to put me on a Piccadilly line that went somewhere else. Stuck me on the Piccadilly line, so my friend had to change her plans and go to a different station to where she was going to go to because obviously a different lines, and then I was like “it’s fine, I’m getting a friend to pick me up from Uxbridge station anyway, so you can get off where you need to get off and I’ll just sit on the train that goes to Uxbridge and I can sit on a train by myself fine.” And this is when they terminated it at a station which I couldn’t get off at. So, I was by myself in my manual chair and there was no one else in the carriage and everyone just got off and I was there screaming for them to get off the train. And I had to keep texting and calling the friend who was picking me up and just say “this is how it is, this is how it is”, to the point where the guy at Uxbridge station was calling the line operator yelling at him about this whole situation, and ended up letting my friend through when I got to Uxbridge, letting her go on the platform without a pass or a ticket or anything because they knew I’d be in bits about this whole situation. It took, I think, four hours to get back from Euston with all that faff. It’s mad. There were very many different things, if one thing had happened it would be fine but there were about ten different things that went wrong. It was an interesting evening.

What’s changed:

Not much has changed here either, this is probably still the worst access experience I’ve had on TFL. However, what has changed is that I’ve FINALLY written that Euston/Euston Square ordeal up as its own blog post!

By 2024, TfL aim for 38% of underground stations to be step free. Do you think this is enough stations, and is it soon enough?

What I said then:

I think it’s sooner than I expected it to be. It’s still not enough stations, we’re always aiming for 100%, but it’s movement and that’s good. I’m trying to be as positive as I can here. I think there’s movement in the right direction, and it’s at a speed quicker than I thought it would be, and there’s definitely stations in the past four years or so that I can access that I couldn’t when I moved to London. There is movement, and it’s at a decent pace, but it’s not quick enough. I’m still glad that there is movement and they are working towards something, but they could just be like “no that’s it, 27% is enough.” It’s fast, it will never be fast enough frankly until it’s 100% step free, but there is movement and I’m appreciative of that.

What’s changed:

I think I was way more delicate with this answer than what I was probably actually thinking. While I’m appreciative of the fact that accessibility and redesigning stations isn’t instant. There’s no way the redesign is happening fast enough or at enough stations. NO. WAY. AT. ALL. I’d also be interested to see if that 8% figure and timeline is still going to be hit. Given that the website still says a quarter and we’re in 2020, I’m not holding out hope for the timeline to still happen.

How do you find out that a station has newly become step free, or there’s been a new lift installed?

What I said then:

Basically, I follow al the TFL lines on twitter because that’s the easiest way to find out if the lifts are broken. They tend to announce on there “the new plan is this” and they’ll announce a whole press release of this station by this year, this station by this year, or it just happens that I check the TfL journey planner and it gives me a new route which gives me a new station that I wouldn’t normally use. And I’m like “oh – they have step free access.” Also, the TfL access for all group I follow them quite a lot, so they seem to announce new places first because they have connections with TfL so it’s mostly social media.

What’s changed:

I see and know less about the new lifts and step free access at tube stations because I don’t live there anymore so I’m way less likely to just randomly wander into a newly step free station these days, my routes tend to focus on places I’ve already previously been. One way I find out about new station access that I forget to mention was Geoff Marshall’s YouTube channel, that was specifically how I found about the Bond Street lifts and new entrance, back when those were new.

Finally, with the definition of accessibility encompassing blind people, deaf people, people with autism, people with dementia etc., do you think a 100% accessible London is foreseeable in the future?

What I said then:

No, I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be 100% accessible in terms of step free, I think that’s a possibility, but I think in terms of accessible in terms of all disability I don’t think that’s going to happen, just because I think that for people with autism and stuff like that it’s a lot about crowds, and obviously with it being London, in particular the central stations, it’s always going to be busy. So that’s going to have to be the way that it works. I’m not saying they have to put up with that, but I think that’s a fact that you can’t really get away from, the fact that particularly central London – I’ve been through Westminster in rush hour, and it’s too busy. I don’t think you can ever get away from that and I’m not sure how they would work to make that accessible. I think step free accessibility, 100%, it’s a possibility. I’m not going to say it’s going to happen because you know – TfL. But I don’t think full accessibility for everyone it going to happen. I would like to see it happen, but I don’t know.

What’s changed:

I think this is the answer I wanted to change most since the interview. I feel like maybe it could be read like I was creating a pedestal for step free access and saying, “step free access has to happen and well nothing else is possible” and if that IS how it comes across, I want to make it clear that’s totally NOT what I meant. I just meant more in the fact of access for all is obviously the goal but, having watched TFL make an absolute farce of improving step free access, I’m not holding my breath on them being able to achieve access for all without making a mess of it.

I hope this is an insight into my views of accessibility on the London underground as a wheelchair user, thanks to Colette for interviewing me. If you want to read more of her blog you can check out the link I put right at the start of this post.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

THAT Euston/Euston Square ordeal

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while will remember my post about my first train trip up to Birmingham for Cage Warriors 98. Now what I didn’t tell you is what happened AFTER we got off the train, between Euston and Uxbridge. Well here’s that story, strap in and prepare because it’s a whole roller coaster ride!

On Train

It all started while we were still on the train back to Euston. I saw on the Metropolitan line twitter that the Euston Square tube station (the station I intended to use to get home) lift was broken. That was fine, as I’d just roll on to Kings Cross, which wasn’t that much further. I then saw on a different twitter account that the Euston Square lift was fixed so I reverted back to the Euston Square plan as I originally wanted to. On arrival at Euston, after my incredibly sarcastic answer to “do you need a ramp?” (I mentioned that in the other post but it’s the sassiest I’ve ever been so I shall forever mention it), we made our way out of Euston. In hindsight, we should have probably waited for clear concrete confirmation that the Euston Square lift was working before heading off, but they say hindsight’s 20/20.

At Euston Square

On arrival at Euston Square, we found out that the lift was actually still broken. So, with that knowledge, I told the staff I needed a taxi to the next accessible station as is the rule in these situations. I was then told this was not protocol, something that I continued to be told even after I’d shown the staff member a screenshot from the TFL website, and so that staff member disappeared to locate their manager, convinced I still wasn’t telling the truth. Granted, at this point, I probably should have just walked on to Kings Cross about 10 minutes away but I was quite annoyed about being told I was incorrect and essentially lying about being entitled to a taxi to the next accessible station, so I decided to stand my ground. Eventually, the manager returned and said yes I was entitled to a taxi (I knew THAT) and we waited like an hour for said taxi.

In taxi and at Kings Cross

Before I hopped in the taxi, I confirmed that TFL were paying for it, and this was confirmed for me, because the taxi company had a contract with TFL for these kind of trips from an inaccessible station to an accessible one. However, when we got to Kings Cross, the driver requested payment from us, despite already being paid by TFL as far as we knew, and wouldn’t let us move away until we gave him money. So I had to pay £10 I knew I didn’t owe him personally, to be able to go get the train.

At Kings Cross – Metropolitan and Piccadilly line

Once we were actually inside Kings Cross, we first tried to use the Metropolitan line, but that was out of service between Kings Cross and Uxbridge, so we had to use the Piccadilly line for the same route. This meant my friends phone died and she wouldn’t be able to tap out on exit despite having tapped in on her phone.

On Piccadilly line

When we finally get on the Piccadilly line, I was aware my friend and I were exiting at 2 different destinations, However, that was fine, even though I was in my manual wheelchair, because I knew I was going straight to my destination on a single train and had someone to meet me there. EXCEPT, it didn’t happen like that, the train terminated early at an inaccessible station, even though TFL are not supposed to terminate trains early at inaccessible stations when they KNOW they have a wheelchair user onboard! Luckily, I was able to contact my friend Nikki who was waiting for me at Uxbridge so she could let them know and have them coordinate the situation with the station I was at on my behalf (shout out Uxbridge station for always being super helpful with access in my 4 years living there, and particularly in this situation). I was then then taken off the terminated train and put back on a different train going all the way to Uxbridge, and EVENTUALLY made it back to Uxbridge about 4 HOURS after I left Euston

Hopefully, this gives some insight into what is probably the worst inaccessibility debacle of my time in London

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham New Street to Darlington and back with Cross Country Trains

Photo Credit: Nikki Barker

Another train travel blog, this time Birmingham New Street to Darlington and back with Cross Country Trains for a visit with my friend and editor extraordinaire Nikki!

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

I bought my tickets on SplitYourTicket.com which as the name suggests is a train ticket splitting website where you can split a long train journey into multiple shorter journey tickets. This meant that while I only took 2 trains (one each way) I had 8 tickets in total. However, it was way cheaper than a single direct ticket, so definitely worth a look if you want to save money on travel. I then booked my assistance via the Cross Country travel assistance phone line. On the day, I arrived at the Birmingham New Street assistance lounge 20 minutes before departure and was taken from there to the train by a staff member.

On Train

I had the usual issues that I have on Cross Country trains: A steep ramp onto the train, a tight corridor to navigate and a small wheelchair space even for my standard electric wheelchair. It must be said though, the accessible toilet had many more transfer bars (i.e. bars I could use to help me transfer between my chair and the toilet) than West Midlands Railway, so that’s a slightly odd sounding plus point.

Disembarking & Leaving at Darlington

On arrival at Darlington, the assistance and ramp to get me off the train was already there when we arrived (we’ll forget that I mentioned needing a ramp and assistance off at Darlington to every single staff member that would listen several times throughout the 3 hour trip). A quick little praise point for the accessible toilet at Darlington station; it’s a radar key toilet which is self-opening (put the key in and wave your hand in front of a sensor and it’ll open without having to touch a handle). The inside was huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge, I’d dare say there was more than enough space in there for equipment to make a Changing Places toilet (more on those here) and still have a separate accessible toilet. I’m very aware I’ve spent half this blog post talking about toilets but hopefully that shows how important these kinds of things are to accessibility!

Return

Getting On at Darlington

When it came time to leave Darlington, Nikki was allowed  through the barrier to wait with me while I waited to get on my train. We  were directed to a waiting room directly next to  the platform my train would arrive on. About 5 or so minutes before the train arrived I was collected from that waiting room by a staff member and put on the train using a much larger, wider, more suitable ramp than the one I was used to at Birmingham New Street.

On Train

The problems on the train were the Cross Country usual. Although the ramp wasn’t so steep this time, I still had to navigate a tight corridor and small wheelchair space. There was also luggage in the wheelchair space which was thankfully cleared by staff before I got on. It was also quite a packed train so I thought it may be difficult to get out of the carriage and off at my stop.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

Thankfully, my fears about problems getting off the train were unfounded and I was able to disembark the train at Birmingham New Street and leave the station with no issues.

I hope this gives insight into what it’s like to travel between these 2 stations as a wheelchair user

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

 

Birmingham New Street to Southampton Central

ANOTHER train travel blog! This time Birmingham New Street to Southampton Central and back with Cross Country Trains for an interview.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

Tickets were booked through Trainline as usual and the assistance was booked over the phone with Cross Country Trains assistance team. I then arrived at the New Street mobility assistance desk 20 minutes before train departure to be taken to the platform by a staff member.

On Train

There were the usual onboard issues on the Cross Country train: small, tight doors and corridor, a steep ramp onto the train and a small wheelchair space even for my standard sized chair.

Disembarking & Leaving at Southampton Central

On arrival at Southampton, assistance was prompt and it was a case of a lift off the platform, a walkway and then a lift back down to ground level to get to the exit/entrance.

Return

Getting On at Southampton Central

The return journey is where it gets Interesting, there was initially a delay with the train arriving into the station. There was then also a delay in assisting me to the train as all staff members were dealing with some kind of passenger incident.

On Train

There were the same issues as usual on the Cross Country train with small tight doors and a small corridor and wheelchair space, along with a particularly steep ramp. Flooding the whole way home also severely delayed the train. That severe delay did allow me to start discussing MMA with a fellow passenger (because apparently MMA gets into every part of my life now!) so I guess every cloud has a silver lining. The severe delay did mean I was worried about whether the assistance would turn up on arrival at New Street.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

Sure enough, my worries were at least partially correct as there was a delay with assistance on arrival at New Street. Once I’d made my way through the crowd of people surrounding the train (who obviously all wanted to get on a train ASAP given the severe delays) I was able to leave the statin and make my way back to university accommodation.

I hope this post provides an insight into travel between these 2 stations as a wheelchair user.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham New Street to Chippenham (27/10/2019)

Another train travel blog, this time Birmingham New Street to Chippenham and back (via Swindon) with Cross Country and Great Western Railway for a day trip home.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

Tickets were booked on Trainline as per usual. All assistance was booked assistance over the phone with Cross Country and I arrived at the New Street assistance reception 20 minutes before the train and was taken to the platform by a staff member.

On Train

As usual on Cross Country trains, the train doors and corridor were tight even for my standard sized chair. The ramp was overly steep and the wheelchair space was really small.

Getting On at Swindon

That train took me to Swindon, on these journeys I’d expect to switch trains at Bristol Temple Meads but rail works led to the train being rerouted via Swindon instead. I can’t fault the accessibility and service at Swindon, particularly as those trains don’t pass through Swindon often. I then switched trains for a Great Western Railway train to Chippenham.

On Train

The next leg of the journey was on Great Western Railway, which meant automatic first class train travel and THAT meant free coffee and plenty of space in the wheelchair space. I’ll call that a win win!

Disembarking & Leaving at Chippenham

On arrival at Chippenham, train staff (as opposed to station staff) disembarked me and I was able to wheel out of the station and home.

Return

Getting On at Chippenham

For the return journey I made myself known at Chippenham station 20 mins before train departure. I then made my own way over to platform using the lift and was put the train on with the ramp.

On Train

As this train was Great Western Railway , that again meant first class travel and lots of space on the wheelchair space. However, I didn’t have coffee this time as it was late.

Getting On at Swindon

When I got off my Great Western Railway train I was told that the train I’d booked assistance on to Birmingham was cancelled. This meant deciding whether to get the next train, which could get me to Birmingham but would involve an extra change at Didcot Parkway, or wait for the next direct train. In the end I decided I’d wait for the next direct train as I didn’t want to add the stress of an extra change in a new station into the mix. It was just my luck that the next direct train was also delayed by 20 minutes! I also learned that there’s no ramp at Swindon station for that particular train type, so I had to wait until a member of train staff was found to get the ramp from inside the train to get me on the train

On Train

Onboard there were the same issue as usual , tight doors and corridors, a steep ramp and a small wheelchair space. There was also luggage in the wheelchair space when I boarded but this was soon cleared when I asked who the luggage belonged to and declared that it would need moving, As I was not on my booked train I was also wary about assistance issues with regard to getting off the train.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

My wariness about assistance issues was well founded as there was a bit of a delay in assistance arriving to get me off the train. Once I’d disembarked I was able to leave the station and wheel back to university accommodation.

I hope that this post shows what a train trip home from university in a day looks like for me as a wheelchair user.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham New Street to London Euston (18/10/19)

Another train travel blog! This time Birmingham New Street to London Euston (with West Midlands Railway) for an interview!

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

Tickets were booked through Red Spotted Hanky which meant I had to physically print them at the station. On the day of travel, I arrived at the Birmingham New Street assistance desk 20 minutes before departure, having prebooked my assistance, and was put straight on the train when it arrived with no hassle.

On Train

On the train, the wheelchair space gave me a large amount of space and was situated directly opposite the accessible toilet. Speaking of toilets, wheelchair – toilet transfers on moving trains are bloody difficult with just one grab rail!

Disembarking & Leaving at London Euston

On arrival at Euston, there was a delay with getting the assistance for me to disembark. I must say thank you to the fellow passenger who found and unlocked/ moved the ramp and attempted to put it down for me himself, I appreciate that you understood I had places to be and couldn’t wait forever for assistance and I’m sorry you were yelled at. It was also quite difficult to find and get out to the buses from the station to continue my journey.

Return

Getting On at London Euston

On arrive back at the station, I had to get all the way across the main area of the station from the entrance to the assistance area. That’s quite a long and difficult way through people when it’s busy, e.g. Friday afternoon (can ANYONE guess when I travelled?!) . I must thank the assistance staff at Euston for working to put me on an earlier train than my assistance was booked on.

On Train

It was VERY busy on the train. I managed to getting into the wheelchair space but the train then very quickly became standing room only with people crowded into every space on the train.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

When it came to disembarking, working out how to move safely to the doors of the busy train from the wheelchair space was a worry. However, I’d like to say thank you to my fellow passengers for helping me get through to the doors and to staff at Birmingham New Street staff for being there at the train door on our arrival and not making me wait for assistance.

I hope this post gives insight into travelling between Birmingham and London as a wheelchair user!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

 

Rhodes Travel Blog

Photo Credit: Col Lymburn

Another travel blog time! This time: My family holiday to Rhodes in Greece!

Flying

First up, Flights! I need to preface this by saying that I used my manual wheelchair for this trip so any wheelchair mentions are talking about my manual wheelchair. On arrival at Birmingham airport, we made our way to bag check in where we were also able to pick up a luggage tag for my wheelchair which I saw as an unexpected bonus and a way to streamline the process. From there I thought everything was ok and there would be no need to go to the assistance desk (because all I figured they needed to do was tag my chair since assistance was prebooked, how wrong I was) and no one at the airport told us to go to assistance. On arrival at the gate, we learned that no ambulift had arrived to take me to the plane, apparently BECAUSE we hadn’t headed to the assistance desk, so there was a delay in waiting for that to arrive. For the flight home from Rhodes airport, we were one of the last called forward for boarding which meant having to wheel down the ramp onto the tarmac through all those who were already waiting to board. One unexpected bonus though was a fully wheelchair accessible private transfer from the airport to the hotel and back.

Hotel (Amathus Beach Hotel Rhodes)

Next up, the hotel!

Firstly, it must be said that the customer service here absolutely CANNOT be faulted. Particular shout out to the staff in the main restaurant for always making sure to seat us specifically at the most accessible tables every mealtime. Now onto the access. The accessible route to the main pool was through the car park/ drop off section, which is not the kind of trip I would have liked to do on my own. There was however a very doable accessible route from our room to the top level bar (the pool And the bar are the only important parts of a holiday right?!). In terms of the room itself, there was a bath and grab rails in the bathroom, I do prefer a wet room for ease of access but I’m used to baths and grab rails in hotel rooms now. The layout and size of the bathroom also made it easier to leave my chair outside and transfer into the bathroom. One of the bonuses here was adjoining rooms which made it easier to get assistance from my mum when struggling with some things like transferring in and out of the bath using the grab rails. This room was also a two level room with steps down to the balcony area which meant I had to be lifted down to the balcony which was an unexpected accessibility issue. I must also say that there are fully accessible rooms elsewhere in the hotel but I wasn’t in one of those so I can’t comment on what they are like.

Rhodes Town

Now, on to Rhodes town itself. In terms of public transport, the buses do have ramps which are manual so you have to ask the driver to lower the ramp out, which is situated in the middle of bus. We had a mixed experience with this, with no problem sorting it out on the way into town but what I think was a language barrier issue on the way out of town meaning we couldn’t get the driver to put the ramp down and I ended up having to be lifted on.

In terms of the town itself, the old town is so historic and beautiful and entirely worth going to, particularly if you like wandering through quaint little side streets, but it is quite cobbled so beware of that and be prepared. The modern side of the city has much better ground with just standard asphalt paths, I think it does have quite a confusing layout though so if you struggle with directions I’d probably prepare to get lost.

Waterpark

And finally, to the waterpark. We took a taxi to the waterpark from our hotel after seeing how full the free transfer bus from town to the waterpark gets. This was simply a case of folding my chair and transferring into the back of the taxi. Overall, I’d say the physical access at the park was ok with smooth asphalt paths most places although there were a couple of large hills. The actual ride access was less so, I was only allowed on about 2 of the rides (according to a list on display upon entry) due to safety, which made sense when I saw some of the rides available here, and I was glad to be made aware of ride access upon entry rather than trying to get on a ride and being turned away. I did get free entry though which I think balanced out the lack of ride access. The rides I could access were the lazy river and the wave pool, which was perfectly fine by me as those are my favourite rides.

I hope this gives everyone an insight into this accessibility of this trip!

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

Chippenham to Birmingham New Street for Aston Postgraduate Open Day (GWR & Cross-Country Trains)

Here’s another train travel blog. This time, my long overdue review of my trip from Chippenham to Birmingham New Street (via Bristol Temple Meads) for the Aston University (where I’ll be a student by the time you read this!) Postgraduate Open Day back in June.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Chippenham

Tickets were bought on Trainline as per my usual ticket buying method. On the day of travel, I made myself known to staff at the station 20 minutes before train departure and then made my way across to the platform. It seemed that on this day there were fewer staff than usual, but the assistance was still well provided in a timely fashion.

On Train

On the train, there was nothing of note to report as it was only 30 minutes so a short journey. Free coffee was a massive bonus as usual though!

Disembarking & Leaving at Bristol Temple Meads

On arrival at Bristol Temple Meads, the on board staff waited with me until assistance staff arrived with the ramp which was more reassuring than being left on the train obviously. I then made my way through the large station and waited for my next train at the assisted travel desk.

Getting On at Bristol Temple Meads

For boarding my Cross Country train to Birmingham , the assistance on to the train arrived well in time for said train. However, it must be said that the ramp onto the train way steeper and that if there’s some ramp gradient guideline for trains it probably doesn’t meet those guidelines. So, I would be extra careful when boarding these trains.

On Train

The wheelchair space on the Birmingham train was quite small and my wheelchair barely fit. This confused me because it’s a small Motability standard electric wheelchair so surely it should be big enough to fit anywhere?! I was also surrounded by luggage which made for quite a claustrophobic train ride. 

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

I found the corridor really tight to navigate when trying to exit the train. Remember that ramp that I said was steep getting on the train? Yeeeaaaaah, turns out it’s even worse going down, particularly if you add in spatial awareness issues like I have. I have to say that the staff at Birmingham New Street were excellent and really helpful in guiding me down the aforementioned steep ramp.

Return

Getting On at Birmingham New Street

When it came to starting the return journey from Birmingham New Street, I arrived well in time before my train, even more than the requested 20 minutes prior to train departure. I then found that they’d repositioned the assistance desk from where it was last time I visited, so I asked where it was and was guided there by station staff. Being so early allowed me to get food etc. before my train which was a bonus. The ramp was again quite steep, maybe this is a specific problem for Cross Country trains?

On Train

On the train, the wheelchair space was again small and cramped, and yet again I was surrounded by luggage. Is this sounding déjà vu from the outbound journey? It felt like déjà vu.

Getting On at Bristol Temple Meads

Getting off the Birmingham, there was steep ramp down again, which station staff said should be longer (and therefore less steep) when I asked them about it. This made me wonder: why isn’t it a longer ramp then? I’m not saying that’s the station staff’s fault, but if there’s a problem known by someone, maybe we could try and fix said problem?! I must say though that what I thought would be a tight 20 minute connection was in fact not that tight a connection as I was straight off one train and taken straight to the other one.

On Train

On the train from Bristol Temple Meads to Chippenham there was really nothing to report. There were some concerns from on train staff that Chippenham was unmanned due to my late travel time but these worries turned out to be unfounded as Chippenham WAS manned. I must say that I was glad for the ample space in GWR train wheelchair spaces after the cramped Cross Country.

Disembarking & Leaving at Chippenham

When it came to disembarking at Chippenham, station staff got me off the train with the ramp and I was able to make my own way home.

I hope this gives an insight into my journey from Chippenham to Birmingham and particularly insight into what it’s like getting connecting trains as a solo wheelchair user!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)