Paris Overview

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Paris-

Want to spend two weeks in Paris? Who wouldn’t, right? Well add to the mix a two year old, five year old, and a guy that needs a wheelchair and you might have second thoughts. But this was the situation my family and I undertook in March. We had a great time and got to see much of the City of Lights. We didn’t get to see everything, but we knew that going in and it was more than we would’ve seen staying at home.

There were seven of us in all. Me, my mom, two little girls, my sister Liz, her husband Kevin, and the girl’s nanny, Lindsay. We had two strollers, a wheelchair, seven checked pieces of luggage and probably ten or so carry on items. Catherine, my two-year-old niece, is constantly in motion. She has two speeds, run and dance. Even if she’s in the stroller and regardless of whether or not music is playing she is bobbing her head or moving her shoulders. When on the ground, she walks nowhere. It is always a full on sprint.

The time change was, of course, difficult for everybody to adjust to, but especially difficult for Catherine. The first two days were not much fun for her parents and nanny. Let’s just say I was happy to be sleeping two blocks away. The apartment I stayed in with my mom was in the Marais district, as was the apartment where my sister’s family stayed. Ours was actually in a building of historical significance. Jim Morrison of The Doors died on the fourth floor years ago.

After a couple days for recovery and familiarizing ourselves with our neighborhood and immediate surroundings, we had a guided tour of the Louvre. My mom and I decided Lindsay needed a small reprieve from the little girls so we invited her to come along while Kevin and Liz took the girls to the park. Our guide, Polina, was phenomenal. She had studied art all over the world and provided engaging and informative commentary on everything we saw. Plus it’s always helpful to have a guide when navigating with a chair. Afterwards, we met Liz and Kevin for drinks while the girls ate dinner. Then we found a French café and had dinner ourselves. It made for one of my favorite days on the whole trip.

My mom and I went to Musee d’Orsay and Notre Dame Cathedral on our own over the next few days. Both were vey accessible, more so even than the Louvre. I was especially impressed with Notre Dame, which had collapsible marble stairs to form a lift.

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Our next outing as a big group was to Versailles. We reserved a van with a guide who doubled as a driver for the seven of us to drive the 20-30 minutes to the town of Versailles. After a brief tour around the town and the grounds of the palace we were dropped off at the nearest possible point. The push was entirely over cobblestones and not particularly easy. We were disappointed to learn that strollers are not permitted inside the palace. Our guide was again very knowledgeable and the tour was interesting and informative.

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Another one of my favorite days came near the end of the trip, when we spent the afternoon at Montemartre. The Sacre Coeur is a church built on top of a hill in the middle of Paris. It has an incredible panoramic view of the city. But the real reason for going is the square just off the church plaza. It is filled with local artists displaying and selling their work. Local art is one of my favorite purchases in a foreign city, especially one as culturally diverse as Paris. I bought two small paintings and the girls had charcoal portraits done, which turned out to be adorable. That evening Liz and Kevin met up with Liz’s friend Emily and her husband. Emily was an exchange student with our family probably twenty years ago and through the miracle of Facebook they reconnected.

Overall I would give Paris’ accessibility a C+. The metro, as far as I could tell, was completely inaccessible. Taxi drivers varied from very helpful to ridiculously unhelpful. We had better luck with Uber than taxi stands as far as helpfulness goes, but at times the stands were just more convenient. Sidewalks were marginally maintained, especially on side roads, and there were areas of cobblestones. But that is to be expected.

A BIG Idea!

Travel has aided in my recovery in incalculable ways. It has tested my boundaries in capacities I would have never been able to otherwise. It has challenged my independence and forced me to adapt to fluid situations. It has taught me to rely on others when necessary and given me faith in the kindness of strangers. It has broadened my culinary and cultural horizons as well as taught me that most people are proud of where they come from; for panoply of varying reasons that are all justifiable. Travel has helped me to appreciate the nuance in culture and that experience is determined not by where you are or even what happens, but rather by the people you share your memories with.

 

And so when I think about all of these wonderful things that I have learned from my travels, I of course want to help others see the world and hopefully gain something that they didn’t even know they had lost or were in need of. Because that’s the beautiful thing about every trip I take, I always come away with an appreciation for something that I didn’t even know existed. Even if I knew it existed I experience a different level of realization to see it or touch it or just breathe in the same atmosphere.

 

This is when I had an epiphany. Surely there are more people who have a hard time getting around that would like to see the world. Their reasons for difficulty could be completely dissimilar, but the common denominator is that they are apprehensive about slowing down their travel companions or being a burden or simply fear of the unknown. I want to help these people check off their bucket lists. Go anywhere they want and experience things they never thought possible.

 

I want to know what you think about this idea and whether or not you could utilize such a service. Will you please do me a big favor and take just a few seconds to respond to the very short poll I have included

 

Grand CAYMAN

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  I recently took cruise of the Western Caribbean on a Royal Caribbean ship. It left from Ft. Lauderdale and lasted 6 nights. There were two full days at sea and three ports of call. I always enjoy Caribbean cruises for several reasons. First the weather is always nice no matter the time of year, and that can be a good change of pace during the cold winter months. Also, it’s a good way to experience international travel without too much hassle. And lastly the culture is generally laid back and friendly.   My favorite stop was our first one, and that was Grand Cayman. It is still part of the British Commonwealth, so besides driving on the wrong side of the street it is also relatively prosperous with a bustling economy. The Cayman Islands are known for good scuba diving, so naturally I wanted to experience some of the coral reefs. We figured the best way to do this was a semi-submersible viewing boat. The boat had an undercarriage with viewing windows so we were able to get an up close view of the fish. It did require a walk down some stairs, but there were handrails on both sides and the crew was helpful getting on board. After looking at fish we went by the Tortuga Rum factory where I bought some pineapple rum cake and should have bought a bottle of pineapple rum but did not. I also got some Jerk pork from a stand just outside. It was delicious.

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Our last stop before heading back to the ship was the Cayman turtle farm. In an effort to bolster sea turtle population there are many such turtle farms worldwide. It consists of one large breeding pool with an artificial beach for the turtles to lay their eggs. There are also several holding pools for turtles that are not breeding and smaller turtles that I’m guessing are much younger. You can pick up the smaller turtles as long as you hold them over the water. They tend to kind of freak out when lifted and flap their fins in a distressed manner. We were taught the simplest way to put them at ease is to gently stroke their chin. It was amazing how well this worked.

Wild Dunes

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Back in September I went to Wild Dunes, a beach resort community near Charleston, SC, with my family. We go there nearly every near and have rented the same house for the past couple of years. It’s conveniently located near the beach club, sleeps 8-10 people, and has a small dipping pool on the deck. The only downfall of this amazing house was it requires me to ascend about twenty stairs. This is actually less of an issue now than in years past (due to hours upon hours of stairclimbing practice with my Catherine, my PT) but still a minor inconvenience.

We like the Charleston area this time of year because it’s still very warm and usually pleasant weather, but school is back in so it’s not quite as crowded as usual. You can still dine oiutdide or wande the streets of scenic Charleston in comfort. Wild Dunes is about a 30 minute drive from the center of town on Isle of Palms.It’s tucked away in a cozy corneer of the island.

Although I love spending time at the beach with my family, the truth is I rarely ever make it out onto the sand. This year we decided to try something new. I came across a great website that lists places across the country that rent beach- and water-friendly wheelchairs: http://www.beachwheelchair.com/rentals.htm. This is something that I knew had to exist, but had never really taken the initiative to look into. It turned out that there was one such location in Mt. Pleasant, SC: http://www.oncallhospitality.com. Rentals aren’t particularly cheap ($60/day or $80/2 days or $300/ week) but still we decided to give it a try for a couple of days. it was totally worth it!<!

The chair—called the Debug® Beach Wheelchair—was interesting to say the least. It had giant marshmallow-ish tires that glided effortlessly over the sand but not so much on pavement. It was also a little tricky to get into – I actually needed some minor assistance, which is unusual for me. Save these minor flaws the chair worked like a dream. It did exactly what it was supposed to, allowing me to take long strolls (or rolls rather) down the beach and even to get my feet wet in the ocean. It felt amazing to put my feet in the warm ocean water after twelve years.

Now onto the food: we mostly ate in, but did venture out to Sullivan’s Island for tacos at Taco Mamacita one evening. It was a pretty good taco joint. They had a nice selection of beer on tap and the food was reasonably authentic. Accessibility was acceptable, but parking is always an issue around there. If you’re not careful you could end up in a gravel or unpaved lot, and that’s no fun in a chair. Overall it was a very enjoyable night out.

On our last day my dad and I ventured into Charleston to Glazed, a gourmet local donut shop. We had every intention of bringing some donuts back to Charlotte to share with our friends who had recommended Glazed to us. In fact we practically bought the store out. But of course they were so delicious that only two made it to the car the next morning. My dad and I promptly took care of those on the drive home. [

Overall the trip was awesome. We got in some family bonding time and I made it out onto the beach for the first time in years. We ate some good tacos and some even better doughnuts. What else can you ask for?

School Day

So the other day I went to a third grade class with my physical therapist. The third graders at St. Gabe’s elementary were just finishing their unit on human anatomy and Catherine (my PT), wanted to do a presentation for her daughter’s class. When she asked if I would mind going with her to demonstrate some of the assistive technology that helps me to walk I. of course, agreed. I have two little nieces that are younger than Catherine’s children, but I adore children and find their questions about me to be rather amusing.

So when we got there I mostly sat quietly and listened to Catherine give her spiel about me and the work she does. I smiled and waved back at the little girl who was grinning and waving ferociously at me, and I chuckled at the little boys who stared open mouthed in my direction. The best part was their “questions”. Almost every child in the room had their hand eagerly raised, straining to be called upon. Most of the time when called upon the question was really a statement that started with “this one time…” or” I knew someone…” Sometimes they were surprisingly relevant and perceptive, like the one little girl who asked if I could feel things on my left side. By far the funniest comment came from a little boy who asked me, and he was very careful to phrase it in a question, if I knew what it was like to have a T-Rex arm. I tried not to laugh because I didn’t want him to think he was asking a dumb question. But it was pretty funny. When I replied, “Yeah, sort of.” He just gaped and said, “Lucky…”

Carowinds

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It’s been over twelve years since I’ve ridden a rollercoaster. I went on vacation to Disney World with my family in spring of 2013 but unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to ask my neurologist if rollercoasters are safe given that I have an electrode implanted in my brain. When I had the chance to ask him later that summer, I was surprised to find out that it’s actually no big deal. Since that moment I had been waiting patiently for the opportunity to arise again.

In August 2014 I decided to spend the day at Paramount’s Carowinds amusement park, about a half hour from Charlotte just over the SC border. Despite my neurologist’s approval I was still a little nervous, mainly about getting on and off the rides. While Disney leads the charge in accessibility, I wasn’t sure what this local amusement park would be like. But I figured there’s no sense in staying home just because something makes you apprehensive, so we decided to give it a try.

Parking was surprisingly easy. There was ample handicap parking and we found a spot near the front. After buying our tickets and entering the park, we rented an electric scooter. They run about fifty bucks for the entire day. The one they gave us was almost out of batteries and petered out before we even made it to our first ride, but a replacement was provided at no charge and that one worked fine. If you don’t bring your power chair with you, I would definitely recommend renting one of these scooters for the day. The park grounds are expansive and using a push chair would be a challenge.

We selected a rollercoaster called “Ricochet” for our first ride, based on its bright colors and relatively tame appearance (no loops or big hills). We thought Richochet looked like a good ‘warm-up’. However, if we expected a stress-free, leisurely ride then we were sorely mistaken. The shenanigans started when my feet wouldn’t fit into the car. The seat was evidently not designed for someone who is 6’3’’ with a size 14 shoe. After struggling to wedge my feet in for a solid ten minutes and holding up a long line of eager kids, I finally got situated. So we sat back, ready to relax and enjoy the ride.

The ride starts off flat and pretty tame…until you reach the first turn. Then you experienced the full ricochet effect of being flung through a series of hairpin turns that make you feel as though you are going to fly right off the track. There are also a few strategically placed, death-defying drops thrown in. We were screaming for the entirety of the journey and at the end I jokingly said “I thought we were going to die.” The difficulty helping me get on the ride combined with the worry of something happening to me was a little more than she anticipated. Nonetheless, it was a memorable experience and one that we are still laughing about. We even bought the picture.

After that we needed a breather so we stopped for a slushee and played a few carnival games. I won a Duke basketball in a shooting game and I was amused to see a little boy’s jaw drop as I swished three free throws in row from my wheelchair.

Next we tried a couple of the tamer rides, the Carolina Gold Rusher and the Woodstock. Getting onto and off of the rides was the biggest challenge, especially because I barely fit on most of the rides we went on. In contrast, getting to and from the rides was no problem at all. There were elevators where necessary, and the staff was mostly friendly and helpful. I ran into the most trouble getting off of the Whitewater Rapids ride because the seat was wet and slippery. Fortunately a guy in line generously volunteered to help me get back into my chair. The colossal splash that doused us at the end of that ride was probably worth the trouble, especially on that sizzling hot summer day. We ended our adventure by riding Thunder Road, a tall coaster with lots of steep drops. It took some convincing to get Jeannie to agree to it but it ended up being our favorite ride of the afternoon.

Overall, the accessibility of Carowinds was pretty good. Getting to the rides in a wheelchair is super easy. I wish that boarding/disembarking from the rollercoasters could be made easier, perhaps with better trained personnel and special cars designated for disabled guests such as they have at Disney. Nevertheless, I faired pretty well and had an unforgettable day. Looking forward to going back next year and maybe I’ll be able to talk Jeannie into riding the Dale Earnhardt Intimidator!

Mystic, CT

 

If you are looking for a relaxing, wheelchair-friendly weekend on the Connecticut shoreline then look no further than Mystic Seaport. Mystic is a classic family vacation spot, but it also makes a wonderful weekend getaway.. Just a short drive from both Boston and New York City, it is conveniently located and much more economical than some of the other waterfront destinations in the area.

It’s tough to beat the ADA accommodations at national chains such as the Holiday Inn Express. This is where we opted to stay, having experienced some questionably “accessible” rooms at bed and breakfasts in the past. However, if you are set on having a true New England inn or B&B experience, there are plenty of wheelchair-accessible options in the area, such as the Steamboat Inn and the Inn at Mystic. Be sure to book well in advance and be prepared for a steeper price.

One of the area’s main attractions is the Mystic Aquarium, widely considered to be the best Aquarium in New England. Tickets cost $21 to $30 and are good for several days, great for young children with short attention spans. The aquarium is very easily navigable by wheelchair. Mystic Aquarium is especially known for its sea lions and there is sea lion show three times per day that is very corny but a big hit with kids.

A drive or stroll along “Captain’s Row” lends unique perspective into the life of a ship captain in the days when Mystic was a bustling seaport. You can even experience the thrill of setting sail aboard an Argia Cruises harbor tour. The tour lasts about two and a half hours as the sailboat travels down Mystic River, into the Long Island Sound and back. Included is some commentary on the colorful local history and gorgeous panoramas of the Connecticut coastline. The crew was more than accommodating helping me aboard and clearly had experience handling wheelchairs.

We had some fantastic meals on our trip – trying local seafood and pizza is a must while in Mystic. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to experience the iconic Mystic Pizza, of 1980s Julia Roberts fame, but locals overwhelmingly prefer the pizza down the street at Pizzetta. We ordered an Italian sausage, spinach and roasted pepper pizza that came on a thin, chewy and slightly charred crust in perfect New Haven style. Eating indoors requires climbing a steep set of stairs, so wheelchair-usiersshould definitely opt for patio seating.

The S+P Oyster Company was by far our favorite restaurant we tried. Situated in the heart of Old Mystic, it offers a stunning vista of the harbor and Captain’s Row. Often restaurants with such pleasant views offer overpriced menus that leave you wanting more. While this restaurant was by no means a cheap date, the food and drink was deserving of its cost. We started with a grilled apple and goat cheese salad and white wine sangria with mango and apricot. The sangria was crisp, refreshing, and definitely worth the $30 for a pitcher. For my main course, I had a seafood mac and cheese filled with huge, luscious chunks of lobster, swordfish and salmon bathed in a delicate poblano cheese sauce. The meal was outstanding and I’m already fantasizing about going back next summer and ordering that mac-and-cheese again. S&P has a wheelchair ramp leading into the restaurant.

One evening we ventured to the neighboring hamlet of Stonington to eat dinner at a quirky little Mexican café called Milagro. Located in an old house, only the outdoor patio was wheelchair accessible. After sunset, it got pretty dark and tacos are a little messy to eat by candlelight. However, the food was authentic and delicious. I ordered tuna and avocado ceviche, carne asada tacos and a margarita on the rocks, all prepared to perfection. Reservations are highly recommended, as the wait for a table was nearly an hour. Staff was friendly and accommodating, though somewhat frazzled and overworked. However, the Mexican food at Milagro’s was worth the hassle.

In another neighboring old port town called Noank we happened upon a legendary lobster shack named Abbot’s. This picnic-style seafood joint was packed and for good reason. Like most customers in line, we opted to try the Connecticut-style lobster roll, consisting of huge chunks of lobster drenched in butter and piled onto a griddled hamburger bun with a side of coleslaw and potato chips. Every bite was buttery, salty and heavenly. Eating a lobster roll at Abbot’s is a must while on vacation in Mystic. Additionally, wandering through the quaint old town centers of Noank and Stonington are worth the five-minute drive from Mystic, especially if you are in the market for antiques or local crafts.

Accessibility as a whole was definitely acceptable. There were a few spots (especially the stone sidewalks in Stonington and the old buildings in Mystic) that were a little tricky. Also, finding handicap parking was not always easy in the height of tourist season. However the areas of interests are fairly self-contained and small enough, so pushing around really wasn’t much of a problem. Our hotel offered a lift into the pool that was a welcome sight. Overall I give accessibility in Mystic a solid B, and the seaport’s quant New England charm outweighs any minor inconveniences I experienced.

Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro is a fascinating place for many reasons, not the least of which is its unusual topography. The city is full of steep coastal cliffs that are unlike any formation I’ve ever seen. On most days you can witness hang gliders leaping off of these rock walls and coasting to a gentle landing on the beach below. They make it look so effortless and graceful that you may be tempted to give it a whirl yourself. This is not advisable. The cliffs also serve to effectively partition the city into very distinct neighborhoods and provide a sense of isolation within individual neighborhoods.

 

Atop the highest peak sits a massive monument in Brazil’s Catholic tradition called Cristo al Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This massive statue watches over the city from the heavens. Its arms open as if ready to accept warm embrace. I’m sure that it serves as a daily reminder and meditation for the city’s inhabitants.

 

I was only in Rio for three days, so I didn’t get to experience all of the things I would’ve liked, but visiting this monument was at the top of the list. Bob, my friend and travel agent, booked us with a guide and arranged everything in advance so there was no stress about purchasing tickets or figuring out directions.

 

In order to get to the monument there were two gondola rides. The first was to a smaller peak called Sugarloaf, which itself is a beautiful destination. Monkeys were visible in the trees and there was a helipad available for helicopter tours. Next time I’m taking a heli-tour for sure. The gondola car was very spacious with a doorway large enough to pass my chair. I didn’t even have to transfer in this instance.

 

Upon arriving to the monument’s platform I was disappointed to discover that the only way up to the main viewing platform was an escalator. But it was astonishing how easily the attendant maneuvered my wheelchair onto the moving steps and rode up to the top with me.

 

Words don’t seem adequate to describe the awe I felt sitting high above Rio knowing that half of the city was probably looking back in my direction.. I was surprised by the height of the statue, which I’m guessing is at least 100 feet. From the ground it is barely discernable with the naked eye. The slums in Rio are easily forgotten by tourists who see them only on their way to and from the airport. But from this place of prominence, I found it fitting that this statue of Christ seemed to be watching over the destitute and well-to-do alike. Not to be overly sentimental, because in reality it is just a nice view from a tall hill, but I was somewhat touched by the experience.

 

Getting up there required, like many of my experiences, a little blind trust and a desire to experience. I could not have been more pleased that I was able to take in this stunning sight.

Santorini

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Santorini from atop the hill

As a disabled traveler I have had to accept that wheelchair accessibility is not as advanced as it could (or perhaps even should) be in all of the places I want to see and experience. Sometimes this means that I am simply not able to go certain places. Many of the world’s most famous tourist attractions have been thoughtfully adapted to be fully accommodating. However, some of the best places I’ve visited were extremely difficult to get to. Difficult but not impossible. I’ve been surprised by the places I can go with nothing more than a little trust in people and a willingness to step beyond my comfort zone.

One such occasion was on the Greek island of Santorini. This gorgeous island town is built on the steep slopes of a dormant volcano. Only the ring of the volcano protrudes from the water, forming a natural harbor that is stunning to behold. The most breathtaking view of Santorini is from atop a tall hill. Climbing it poses a challenge even for totally able bodied tourists, but I knew that I would be missing out on one of the highlights of Greek Isles if I didn’t at least make every effort to ascend. So when our cruise ship dropped anchor I headed down to wait in line for a tender.

Tenders are small boats used to shuttle people ashore when the ship is too large to dock. When the Spanish deck hands saw me coming they started muttering to each other. I am far from fluent in Spanish but knew enough to realize that “puta madre” has nothing to do with my mother. The seas were choppy and everyone was being careful stepping onto the tender. There was a hydraulic lift down to the floating dock but it was decided that the simplest way to get me aboard the vessel was for the deckhands to actually pick up my chair with me in it and pass me to their counterparts waiting onboard the smaller boat. Choppy seas meant that the boat and dock were bobbing unpredictably and not in unison. I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable with this arrangement. However, all I could do was just close my eyes and hope for safe passage. Disembarking the tender required the same maneuver, though it was made easier by the stability of dry land.

Once ashore the real fun began.

There were two options for ascending to the top of the hill, where an historic village square and a scenic panorama of the entire island awaited. First was the old fashioned way which meant a donkey ride up a perilously steep and narrow path to the top. This was not really an option. Fortunately there was also something called an ‘elevator’. It was not an elevator. Maybe there’s no word in Greek for ‘gondola’, but that’s exactly what it was. Wewaited for a half hour in line expecting a simple elevator ride, but were disappointed to learn that it wouldn’t be so simple. After convincing the operator to stop the gondola for just a minute to allow me to step on, it still wasn’t all that easy to get in the swaying vestibule. But I was able to without incident. The narrow doorway required that we break down my wheelchair and carefully wedge it in.

The ride to the top was unforgettable and the view once we arrived was worth every moment of the journey. The Aegean’s brilliant turquoise was unlike any water I had ever seen. Set against the rocky slopes of the island and the whitewash homes and churches it was truly a sight to behold.

 

A ‘Nice’ Story

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“Why aren’t any of them stopping?” John asked when the third cab he attempted to flag rolled past without stopping.

            We were in a pickle. Dr. Rhodes, the somewhat absent-minded leader of our study tour, had departed with the rest of the group. John, Drew and I had been left with a few Euros and instructed to catch a cab. It seemed simple enough, or so we thought.

I saw the vein in John’s forehead pound, and the redness of his face increased in direct variation to the growing number of cabs that sped past. The answer to his question escaped me. Maybe there was some different way to hail a cab in France? But that seemed unlikely. For an instant I suspected that it was because of the wheelchair. But I instantly dismissed that as a possibility. Nobody could be that stuck up, not even the French. Right?

Whatever the reason, it was becoming apparent that we were not going to find a taxi. Our group had departed almost an hour prior. Drew was on crutches with a broken foot and I was being pushed by John in my manual wheelchair.

We had been walking three or four blocks in the blistering summertime heat of Southern France. Drew was pouring with sweat and I knew he had to be hurting. He hadn’t uttered a word of complaint, but there was no way we could ask him to hoof it all the way back.

Just as I was losing all faith in humanity and beginning to curse the French, with their inability to spell anything phonetically, a Mini Cooper pulled up beside us. I’m not sure what I expected to happen next. But after ten days of hearing locals speak only French and Italian, I certainly didn’t expect the cheery British accent that came from the driver.

“You mates look like you could do for a ride.”

John and I looked at the diminutive car, exchanged glances, and surely had the same thought. How the hell were we going to all fit in there? Four grown men (including the driver), a wheelchair, a bulky cast, and two crutches.

“Uhh…,” I felt like I could see the gears of John’s mind working double time to untie this Gordian Knot. “Yeah, we can make it work. We have to.”

Just getting us all into the car required not only intense planning of everyone’s position but, as we discovered on our first attempt, the correct sequence of events. It only took us two tries to get all four people in the car, but then we realized my chair was still sitting outside on the curb. Damn it. We spent another ten minutes looking for something with which to tie it to the roof, until it was decided that John and I could each secure it with an arm out of the window

Here’s how we did it. Just in case you’re ever in a similar predicament, I guess. First, Drew got into the back passenger-side seat. His crutches and walking cast could only fit by sticking them out of the front window, which required some impressive flexibility on Drew’s part. John then helped me cram into the front seat, which had been cranked all the way forward. Next, John contorted himself into the backseat on the driver’s side. Each of us grabbed hold of the wheelchair, which our wonderful saint of a driver had placed on the roof. Lastly, the driver got in and put his seat dangerously far forward for John’s benefit. And we were off.

This, however, is where the fun really began. Our journey back into the city of Nice, though only about 10-15 minutes, included a steep hill with winding switchback curves. I only have one good arm and John was in a grotesquely unnatural position just to get one of his arms out of the front window.

Even driving slowly, I felt with absolute certainty that we were going to lose our grip and my chair would go plummeting over the guardrail. And that would have been the case on more than one occasion if our driver hadn’t somehow managed to steer, brake, and reach up and save the chair all in one deft maneuver. When we finally reached the bottom of the hill a collective sigh of relief was issued.

Then he turned to us and said, “Alright mates, where’s your hotel?”

It was only at this point in the journey that we realized we had no idea where we were going.