The Big Apple of My Eye – NYC – Part 1

 

Day 8

After a fairly pleasant 5 hour flight we experienced disorganised chaos at Newark Airport New Jersey….. took 2 hrs to get my chair out at baggage! I was worried my chair had been broken or left in San Francisco…..but thankfully it was just slow to come out. Then we were told it would be a 3 hour wait for accessible taxis so we hopped on a public bus which had a hoist so we could load the scooter, powerchair and all our luggage!!! The view of the NYC lights from the freeway was magical. I felt like Dorothy entering the Emerald City. Annette the bus driver was super helpful and although she could only drop us on the corner of 42nd and 8th Streets, she hailed us wheelchair accessible taxis to make sure we were safe and could get to our hotel. Midnight pizza while Tony from Brooklyn sorted out the base of my bed as it was a metal bed frame no hoist access!!!! Even though specifics had been emailed and confirmed! I guess that’s the advantage of staying at a hotel with 24 hr reception and an Engineering Department!

Day 9

We have arrived in the Big Apple and it is organised chaos but truly incredible!!! Today we spent the afternoon meandering through the classy streets of the Upper West Side and our first visit to the iconic Central Park, just taking it all in. What we noticed: squirrels are so cute; unusual birds; filming and photo shoots; frisbee game on steroids; delightful pond and row boats; street entertainment with lots of audience participation. Met people from Latvia, Italy, Brazil, Australia and the US. A lone lady standing amongst the trees playing the saxophone. It is so green and although there are people everywhere somehow it feels serene. Ate tiny hotdogs and a refreshing icecream. On the way back to the hotel we talked to chatty NYFD officers. Dinner at Gold White Butchers for a delicious Rib Eye and free drinks!! Concrete jungle where dreams are made NYC we can’t wait to see more of you. Despite their reputation we found that New Yorkers are so friendly!

Day 10

We dashed through Central Park to 5th Ave, ducking under the awnings of the apartments and hotels on our first showery day. So many poodles and labradoodles! NYPD Officer Walsh helped me put on my poncho as the showers got heavier. Local guy Jeff kindly gave us directions to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, affectionately known as the MET.  A friend had lent us her members pass so we saved 50 dollars and went straight in. So many galleries of art and artifacts it was like the history of the world in one monumental building!! Galleries we viewed included Samurai armour, Heavenly Bodies, Ancient East Persia and Roman sculptures. Felt smarter as went left the MET, but needed a few more days to view the collection entirely. Very good access and helpful staff. Dinner at Bellini’s Italian pizza and the tattletale lamb ragout was delicious!

Day 11

Today we wheeled along the Hudson River bikeway for another perspective of this awesome city. Ventured downtown to see the Lincoln Centre, Time Warner Centre, Broadway, Radio City Music Hall and the impressive Rockefeller Centre. The Top of the Rock is the perfect place to see just how incredibly huge this place is!!! 5th Avenue and Central Park led us back to our Upper West Side base. Locals, vendors and tourists alike have been extraordinarily friendly and helpful. Crazy awesome, organised chaos – Manhattan you Rock!! Arrived at our hotel with only 2 battery bars left – the sign of a wonderful day with my beautiful man. Dinner ‘to-go’ from the Beacon Bar right next door to our hotel.

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Incredible views from the Top of the Rock and a fun experience.

Day 12

Another day in this electric city and we visited The American Museum of Natural History, seriously, what a place! You could spend days exploring all collections in the many halls; we enjoyed an Amazon film about the evolution of species based on butterflies; huge dinosaur collections and bought my nephew a dino; Margaret Mead famous anthropologist I studied at university; found Dum Dum (for those of you who have seen Robin Williams and Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum); loved taking photos of all the old mammals and birds; found the Tigers (so special); and the main entrance foyer was epic!! Quick bite to eat and terrible coffee before heading home to get dolled up for the American Ballet!!!

Note: Wheelchair access is via the side entrance

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The epic entrance hall at the Museum of Natural History
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The Tigers

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Dinner with a friend at a French restaurant and we made it to the Lincoln Centre on time to see the American Ballet Theatre performance of Romeo and Juliet – stunning!! I’d booked a wheelchair accessible spot ticket a few days earlier over the phone, however they hadn’t removed the chair in my spot, but let me sit in aisle until first intermission when they removed the chair. Great view and a night to remember.

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The excellent staff at the Hotel Beacon – nothing was a problem!
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The American Ballet Theatre at the Lincoln Centre
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Alfresco dining at a French Restaurant in New York!

Day 13

Take me out to the ball game!! New York Yankees V Tampa Bay Rays at the historic Yankee Stadium. I booked accessible spots via email in advance as the games all sellout (see details at the end of this post). We needed two cabs and Steve didn’t fit his scooter in one so had to wait for a third! The Hotel bellhops are great at hailing accessible cabs for you! Party atmosphere, great game, yummy chicken – the Yankee fans are so passionate!

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What a fun atmosphere at Yankee Stadium – and awesome accessible seating!

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I wanted to buy a balloon from a young boy who I thought was selling them. Turns out he wasn’t, but he insisted I take some of his balloons!

Subway adventures on the way home from Yankee Stadium – The NYC subway has no guards and very few staff to assist but we found the public to be more than helpful and courteous. We hopped out at 81st St to find no elevator access so we waited 40 minutes for the next train. The ballerinas we befriended looked on their phone app and said 59th is listed as accessible but when we got out we found the elevator out of service! Getting on and off trains with no ramps and some small step and gap was a bit of an adrenaline rush (and really quite dangerous). On this ride a friendly group of 3 New Yorkers recommended places for us to visit while a flash-mob entertained us…

….we got out at 42nd St to find the exit of the station was via a series of obstacles – ramps, platform lifts and double doors. We were kindly assisted by a lovely African American woman with a 7 month old baby in a pram. It took her 3 trips and over 15 minutes to get all of us up to street level – and I had to look after the baby on the street while she went back for Steve and the pram! I gave the woman ten dollars for her time (I was feeling tip happy) before we found out they were homeless. I was humbled that she was helping us. The woman said was grateful to have money for dinner that night. It was like an episode of Humans of New York. A genuine and unexpected moment of gratitude in the subway.

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The NYC subway is a bit ‘hit and miss’ for wheelchair access

Part 2 of our adventures around New York City coming in the next blog!

Transport options

 

Loads of accessible taxis

The Subway is NOT a good option for reliable accessible transport but was a fun experience – but be careful as there are no guards to assist like in Sydney.

Buses are accessible but may not fit large scooters.

We found wheeling places was the best way and allowed us to get a real feel of the place by being part of the street crowd.

Accommodation details

 

Hotel Beacon NYC

2130 Broadway at 75th Street New York, NY 10023

T: 1 646 277 3203

Dawn Matthews – dmatthews@beaconhotel.com

1 Bedroom suite with 2 Queens and a fold out Queen sofa in lounge. Good roll in shower. Kitchen to cook own meals was a bonus. Space was tight but do-able. (All accommodation in NYC is pricey so had to make do with smaller than ideal space). Quieter location but still handy to Central Park and museums. Deli and grocery store across the road.  Coin operated laundry and bar/theatre next door. Excellent service.

Length of stay 6 nights on the Upper West Side at Hotel Beacon – good amount of time and good base but still so much more to see in NYC!
Attractions

 

Yankees Stadium

Paul Ward, Coordinator, Disabled Services & Guest Relations

27-Time World Champions

New York Yankees

One East 161st Street, Bronx, NY 10451

pward@yankees.com

T: 1 646 977 8822

 

Accessible tips

 

Take your charger with you each day to top up your batteries.

Try to do a few things in one area each day to save back tracking – NYC is really really big!

Most footpaths and curb cuts are accessible although some are a bit rough. Only once did we find a path that had no curb cut and we needed to turn around. Pedestrian traffic moves fast around NYC but we kept up with the pace.

Most buildings have accessible entrances marked with the wheelchair symbol and double doors that open by pushing a large button.

Ask hotel staff to remove unnecessary furniture to create more space.

Ask hotel staff to add or remove mattresses to adjust height of bed. Portable bed raisers can also be useful.

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Bedroom at Hotel Beacon – had to get bed frame removed to accommodate hoist but that solved the issue.

San Francisco Days, San Francisco nights

For so long I had told myself ‘International travel is just not for me’ and ‘I’ll focus on my career, my relationships and my home’….. all the while, deep inside I was yearning to travel over the seas. I just wasn’t confident I could do it. Something came over me during a bout of ill health in 2016 and I said to myself ‘find the courage within’. Somehow I did. Here is my travel journal of the American Dream 2018.

High_Caz and Steve American DreamTrip stats:
1 powerchair
1 mobility scooter
10 pillows
1 portable hoist – Molift 150 with hard travel case
1 folding shower chair – Chameleon
1 year planning
16 pieces of luggage
5 week adventure
6 in our entourage
7 cities

Adds up to the Experience of a Lifetime = Priceless

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Day 1

The day had finally arrived. Our American Dream 2018 was actually happening. We arrived at the airport with exactly 3 hrs til boarding our 14 hr QANTAS flight to San Francisco. Check-in went well but took time with so much luggage and equipment. I had packed extra pillows and bed raisers into the hoist case (affectionately nicknamed the ‘coffin’) which meant the weight I gave at check in was wrong – whoops first lesson learned! The QANTAS team were so professional and used the Eagle Lifter to transfer me as planned. (More on how we managed the flights in a future post). We scored a bottle of champagne and a bottle of red from Qantas cabin crew – they were super helpful and calmed my nerves!!

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The SFO airline assistance people didn’t really seem to know what they were doing but we managed without any damage to the chairs or us! It was a bit of chaos but we got through customs and immigration no problems (stern customs officers, fingerprints taken and all). Then I got a selfie with a cop who rides a segway just before a sniffer dog came to do a sweep on an unattended bag!!

We were met by Jim from Access Options with our accessible Gold Dodge Caravan rental, with the front seat removed so I could park my chair up next to the driver. And make sure Allana sticks to the right!

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Thankful for early check in at the Residence Inn South San Francisco not far from the airport so we could recover from jet lag. 2 days in one was a shock to the system for us first time out of Oz travellers.

Day 2

After a good rest we set out in our Dodge rental, such a novelty to sit up the front in the passenger seat – except I had to navigate the double-decker freeways!  Lombard steepest and crooked street – lucky we didn’t attempt it in our wheelchairs! On to the iconic Painted Ladies, friendly locals, tourists and all sorts of dogs. Access to Alamo Square Park was quite steep but no problem for my Permobile C350. The architecture in San Francisco is absolutely stunning.

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In-van afternoon refreshment of a maple bacon scroll and my first real coke! (then we realised we had parked next to a homeless persons’ tent). The homeless flock to San Francisco because they have free healthcare and we were told that other state authorities pay one way fares to send their homeless people to this progressive city. The irony.

Our hotel does free dinner and drinks Mon – Wed so the make your own burgers were a hit and saved us so much of our travel dollar. We are already in love with sunny windy chilly San Francisco!!

Day 3

SF we ticked two of our bucket list experiences. Driving across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. What an amazing piece of engineering. We sang and laughed our way up the steep winding road (and yes I got the front seat view). Sunny chilly 17 degrees but no fog! With the accessible car park pre-booked, Muir Woods was a special place with some of the oldest Redwoods and the freshest of air thanks to the precious, oxygen generating trees. They grow in family circles, so they can rely on their community if they get sick or injured. I thought that was a beautiful analogy for humankind to reflect on. We spotted a majestic eagle soaring above us. Along the accessible trail we crossed brooks, smelt the raw timber, felt the gentle breeze, saw squirrels. You really felt such deep respect for nature. Awesome life moments…..and so accessible!

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Late lunch in Mill Valley and our first look at a US grocery store (strangely fascinating – and I thought the access sign was great) before heading home for free beer on tap and Nacho night. Fun fact: SF tap water tastes just as good as bottled water!

Day 4

Assistant Manager Charles at our hotel has so much time for us and says I’m his number 1 guest LOL. Allana drove us downtown to Union Square where we parked in a valet parking garage – a brand new experience for us as non-car owners! We explored the streets and soaked in the friendly vibe. Iconic sights such as Macy’s Department Store, 5 star hotels, art deco buildings, the streetcars, UPS, Fed Ex and postal service vans. Everything looked so surreal. We stopped to take it all in and listen to a great Latin youth band in the Yerba Buena Gardens.

That afternoon we drove the Dodge down to the picturesque Presidio promenade, a former military base with spectacular views across the Bay. We wheeled in our chairs along the pathway with terrific views out to Alcatraz before crossing the Golden Gate in our chairs!! So windy and cold but worth it to glimpse a whale swimming under the bridge!!! Met tourists from Illinois, Texas, Belfast and Melbourne. I navigated home without Google maps and used an old fashioned paper map instead. Much more satisfying. Chinese takeaway at the hotel. What a perfect day!

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Day 5

Took a drive in the Dodge past AT &T Park – the home of the Giants baseball team. A very impressive and classy stadium; the Americans love their sport and have a real sense of pride and unity. We passed the Fisherman’s Market along the Embarcadero towards our new weekend hotel, the Argonaut. Found free street parking outside and explored the chaos of Fisherman’s Wharf (think Manly on steroids). Steel drummers played my favourite musician Jason Mraz so I enjoyed tipping them. Steve met Frank a lovely homeless man.

Dinner and drinks at Jacks Bar. So many beers on tap and $1 oysters. Gripped by the NBL play off San Francisco Golden State Warriors trumping the Cleveland Cavaliers!! Stafford the bellhop was super excited…. Chasing the sunset and we found the seal colony….. so freezing cold and this wind never stops. The Argonaut Hotel was very nice indeed – thanks to Julie from Have Wheelchair Will Travel for the recommendation…. It used to be an old cannery warehouse, now decked out in the nautical theme. We met lots of Aussies as well as people from France, Finland and a delightful couple from California’s capital, Sacramento.

Day 6

It was so nice to have a full day to ourselves to just wheel along the flat area of the Embarcadero, exploring the sights at our own pace. The seals were highly entertaining pushing each other off the pontoons and showing off to the crowds. It got rather hectic in the Pier 39 area where there was a carnival atmosphere and a few too many tourists. So we kept wheeling along the Embarcadero towards the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Along the way we stopped for many photo shoots, passed assistance dogs in training, naked cyclists and environmental protestors! It was all happening!

The old ferry building is where they hold produce markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I love a good market, and I wasn’t disappointed with delicious empanadas and ice cream sandwiches for our lunch as we looked out across the bay. We continued on to explore the baseball stadium and had a look at the two story Bay Bridge. I then realised my batteries were going flat so we headed back to the hotel – and I only just made it!

Romantic dinner for two at the Blue Mermaid restaurant where we both devoured the local specialty Clam Chowder – and I don’t even like seafood!

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Day 7

Steve and I had a delicious hotel breakfast of sausages and soft eggs with oven baked potatoes and then we checked out of the Argonaut hotel with Sammy the Seal in tow. Then we headed across the city toward Haight-Ashbury, the birth place of the hippy movement. Lots of colour, music and a strong aroma of the hippy weed. After we found parking, we explored the expansive Golden Gate Park which was full of happy locals and visitors alike. We saw some impressive things such as the Conservatory of Flowers, the De Young gallery and a mote around the island with paddle boats. Met some lovely people in the rose garden such as the Marist Sisters of San Francisco and the German lady that took our photo. Sunday swing dances in the park was uplifting and joyful. Such a diverse array of ages and cultures.

The highlight of the day was outdoor disco roller bladders dancing to choreographed moves to music such as Thriller and Daft Punk’s Lucky. People dressed in outlandish costumes such as Japanese ninja, Xanadu 80’s inspired and cowboy getup. This weekly gathering is known as the Church of 8 Wheels – love it! On way out of the park we had our first soft pretzel and heard the beats of the impromptu reggae band. They really know how to have fun in San Francisco! What an incredible, fun, accessible and progressive city – a fabulous start to our trip!

Accommodation details

 

Residence Inn San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront

1350 Veterans Boulevard South San Francisco California

+1 650-837-9000

2 bedroom unit plus sofa bed in lounge

Kitchenette

Free parking

Roll in shower

Mon – Wed complimentary dinner and drinks

Location is on outskirts of city near airport

Accessible shuttle to/from SFO airport available

 

Argonaut Argonaut Hotel, Fishermen’s Wharf

495 Jefferson Street At Hyde Street San Francisco, California

+1 415-563-0800

bookargonaut@noblehousehotels.com

Deluxe King with Roll in Shower

Roomy hotel room. Added second mattress to raise the bed height. Roll-away option. Accessible bathroom. Pricey valet parking

 

Length of stay 7 nights total – could have stayed another week

5 nights in Resident Inn South San Francisco 20 minutes from city – free parking and close to airport

2 nights in Argonaut Fisherman’s Wharf to be close to action and nightlife

 

Transport Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Rental

Access Options Inc

www.accessoptions.com

Welcome to my blog!

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Thanks for checking out my new website and following my blog!

I plan to share a range of articles and information related to my work with the community, disability sector and training consultancy. I might even talk about music, inclusion or flavour of the month, and fellow ginger, Harry!

First up, I have written a series of blogs chronicling my recent travels to the USA.  My posts will travelogue our adventures, how we managed the planning, accessible features and services we used, and my tips for other powerchair users. I’d love to hear your comments, start conversations and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have about travelling as a powerchair user.

It would be great if you could let others know about my blog so I can share my tales and tips with more peeps! There’s a follow button just up to the right and make sure you confirm you want to follow me via the email link (and check your junk if it doesn’t arrive!)

Thanks so much for following my journey – and happy reading!

Carolyn (Caz) 🙂

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