I went to Italy on the 11th July 2018 with the Branks family from Scotland. They were flying from Aberdeen to Heathrow airport and I was meeting them at Heathrow airport, so I got on the 8.15am train to London alone as my flight was at 3.45pm, the trains always break down when I am on them, but not this time so I arrived in king cross at 11.05AM and my Uber Taxi was coming at 11.30AM. So I was waiting outside King cross for the taxi but 10 minutes to go and I looked on the Map to see where my taxi is going to pick me up as the Uber app shows you the pickup point. The pick up point was near water, I thought where is the lake near King Cross?
I asked a woman in the train station with my talker, she looked at my phone and said I don’t know, so she asked another taxi driver he said bugger off as taxi drivers don’t like Uber taxis, so she had an argument with him. Oh dear I have been in London for 10 minutes and I am already causing chaos. Finally she found out where to go, it was right around the back of King Cross about 10 minutes walk so she took me as I was alone but when we got there we couldn’t see him and then a black cab was passing by so she flagged him down and I jumped in it. I arrived at the airport and the fare was £94 .... ouch. And bloody Uber charged me £5 for missing my taxi, but I complained and they refunded it back to me.
I went into Heathrow airport, I have never checked in an airport alone before so I thought it might cause more chaos but no as I found the disability desk, and they helped me to check in, it was pretty easy really as I predicted what questions they will ask me so I pre-programmed the answers in my talker. I had an assistant helping me at the check in and going through security, they couldn’t scan my talker so the manager came over, and told them to scan it with a mobile device. The assistant put the bag on the wheelchair and took me into a waiting room but it was really hot and full of grumpy old people. I texted Karen but no reply, I wasn’t staying in this room for another 2 hours, so I went to the desk and I told them I am leaving the room and I will come back 30 minutes before my flight. He wasn’t impressed and told me to come back in 10 minutes. Oh my god, a time limit now, I am a 45 year old man, sod the 10 minutes! I went shopping in the duty free and got a few bottles for the room in Rome. The man in the shop was really nice to me and helpful. Then Karen texted me back to say they are in the bar. I asked him where the bar is and he gave me directions and I finally found the bar and met up with them.
We got to the apartment in Rome, but I couldn’t get in because of 2 big steps outside the building, apparently there was a ramp and a lift .. On the inside of the building ... and the lift was too small for my chair anyway, also the area looked really awful and rough. Karen and our taxi driver (Enzo) spoke to the owner, on the phone as he didn’t even come to meet us, he basically blamed us for not telling him the severity of my condition... which is nothing to do with trying to get into an apartment that is advertised as wheelchair friendly, when I spoke to the owner before booking, he said it was wheelchair friendly, anyway I have reported him to trip advisor. After 2 weeks arguing with Trip Advisor I got a full refund but I can’t say anymore about trip advisor as this was one of the agreements. Anyway, we still needed somewhere to stay. The taxi driver (Enzo) found us somewhere near the sea, it was about an hour drive away from Rome. We got there at 1am, they lay on some food for us too, very kind of them.
In the morning, I think everyone knew what happened to us as they was coming up to us and saying sorry about the bad start we had. Everything happens for a reason as we wouldn’t found this holiday resort.
The holiday resort is amazing, really nice and more important it was wheelchair friendly with really nice people from around the world.
I went in to the sea everyday, really warm water and relaxing. The beach helpers lifted me up and put me on the beach wheelchair and pushed me into the sea. Karen had bought a blow up ring for me so we could go in deeper, and when we looked back at the shore, there was an amazing view of the town and mountains behind it, and only one problem was bloody mosquitoes! I had 41 bites.
The resort also organises its own tours , so we saw the old town , and looked round a few shops , and then we saw a little town , where , at the end of the square it ended with lots of little ally’s and steps , again amazing views there.
We went around Rome one day; we got up at 5am to get there early before it got busy. We saw Trevi fountain, colosseum, ST Peter's square, Vatican, and I was going to meet my old mate but the pope didn’t come. So he isn’t on my Christmas list anymore.
At the Vatican, I thought it was a good idea to take a photo of Karen and her mam but I had to go along way back to get in the background and I was taking ages to take a photo. These 2 women came up to me to see what I was doing, well you don’t get many people using their noses to operate a phone. They realized what I was trying to do but at this point a lot of people was walking pass me so the woman went into the middle and stopped everyone while I took a photo! OMG I do cause a scene without saying anything. The two women were really nice and helpful, and they said I am amazing guy! Obviously, I am. Lol
On the way back, my plane was delayed, my talker wasn’t working, and Karen’s family couldn’t come with me as they were flying to Scotland but I had a helper at Heathrow. I went through passport security, they have separate queue for disabled people but a lot of people was on those airport buggies who are too lazy to walk.. I could hear them shouting before I got there about waiting for along time. The helper told me to go pass them; I was getting dirty looks as I was jumping the queue. Oops. The officer said can I get your passport out of your pocket, yes please! Finally, the helper picked up my bag, but she couldn’t do it as it was too heavy, so she got a strong man to put it on my wheelchair. Then I got pulled back at customs, and asked a few questions and searched my bag. Probably you don’t get many severely disabled men going through airports alone or is it because I look dodgy?
My taxi driver was waiting for me and took me to king cross for £113 Oh My God, and gave me a big kiss on my cheek, Oh My God. And I missed my train Oh My God, so they put me on the next train. The end of another adventure.
If you asked me one year ago about going on a train or checking into an airport alone, I would have said don’t be silly I can’t do that. Now I am confident to do anything.
I had to laugh at the way you explained some of the difficulties you dealt with, at least you seem to take it all in stride! Thank you for sharing your story and pictures, it sounds like overall you had a good trip. It's a shame the Pope isn't going to get a Christmas card from you, hahaha
I read the bit about mosquitoes and felt the need to shake my fist angrily at the nefarious lil' punks... then I felt the need to itch