Saturday, 14 June 2014

In Paris?

There is something to be said about Paris. Unfortunately not all of it is good. Being in a wheelchair anywhere is difficult; arriving in Paris took it to a whole new level. You would expect a major city like Paris to be reasonably configured for wheelchairs. Alas, in the main it is not. This is not a real surprise; after all, Paris is filled with Parisians, a people known for their general attitude about anything or anyone not quite up to their view of who should be what.

Paris began with our arrival in the Gare du Nord after a terrific trip via the Eurostar from London through the Channel Tunnel, aka the Chunnel. The trip across takes about two hours plus a time zone change. England is on England time; France is on European time. So leaving at noon gets you into Paris at 3:15 local time. The crew in St. Pancras station in London got me and my wheelchair on board efficiently and we had great seats for the ride. There was even a light lunch and some wine, rather like the airline flights of old; not a one of the airlines would deign to serve food to coach class passengers on a two hour trip these days.

When we got to Paris, there appeared to be nobody to unload those of us in wheelchairs; there were three of us in three consecutive cars. The station agent tried to operate the lift that gets wheelchairs on and off in Paris; it was clearly not something he did often. Nonetheless, he tried until about 20 minutes after arrival the person who normally did the job finally showed up. We managed to get off and out to the taxi line.

When I got to the taxi line they put my right in the front of the line and called up a taxi, a standard taxi. I looked at the taxi drive and he looked at my wheelchair, asking me to get up an sit in the car. I said I could not, so this rather nice fellow went down the line of taxis to see if he could find a wheelchair taxi. I asked the taxi stand agent if there was a handicapped taxi to which he replied that there were none like that in Paris.

Of course I knew this to be untrue. The reality was that the taxi stand operator couldn't be bothered to get me a wheelchair taxi; he had a line up full of "normal" people demanding whatever cab they could get. We finally gave up and got out my transfer board from my suitcase; it was a good thing to have with me at this point. I set up the chair and board and, not without some risk and a lot of difficulty, transferred to the back seat of the car. Then, after loading the luggage, it was off to our hotel.

I asked the front desk clerk at the hotel about wheelchair transportation in Paris. She tells me there are wheelchair cabs, but not many. The buses are mostly wheelchair adapted however the Metro has absolutely no wheelchair access. We knew this would happen on the trip, but in Paris?


  1. Parisians think their city is so wonderful they do not need to accommodate any one's special needs, they are totally inconsiderate. Good luck there . Love Mom

  2. The Metro #14 line from Olympiads to Gare St Lazare is 100% wheelchair friendly. However, elevators do sometimes go out of order and you may find yourself having to go to the next stop.

    I found the best way to get around Paris is to use the buses and like in London. Hotel location is important. Where did you end up staying?

    I stayed near Olympiads which had the accessible metro line as well as a good selection of bus routes to all the major locations. The area wasn't quite as "quaint" but it was easy and economical.

    I did London - Paris - Frankfurt (and the Rhine) - Amsterdam about 5 years ago. London was the best for accessibility; Paris probably was the worst.

    1. We are at the Mercure next to the Gare de Lyon. It is an excellent hotel with great wheelchair access. The staff has been terrific.