Andalucía: Great scenery, fantastic weather and improving accessibility for those with disabilities

andalucia name

andalucia scenery andalucia beach

There can be absolutely no doubt that the area of Andalucía in the south of Spain is a lovely place to visit on holiday. There are many places to visit, fantastic and varying landscapes plus gorgeous Mediterranean beaches.

   And all this while enjoying the very best of Europe’s weather. Of course, it is a wonderful place to live, too. My wife Lisa and I moved here last November but that is another story.

   Getting around most places in Andalucía, and elsewhere in Spain for that matter, is not a problem for the majority of people. Similarly, access to buildings is largely pretty easy and not worth a second thought.

   Not worth a second thought, that is, as long as you are able-bodied. For those who have physical disabilities, however, it is not always so easy but tourist sites and hotels are fine and generally the situation is getting better. Accessibility is something that matters to me as my mobility problems, caused by multiple sclerosis (esclerosis múltiple in Spanish), mean that I’m in a wheelchair when out and about.

   Now, in more modern towns and cities, or in developments that have taken place relatively recently, there are few problems. In Andalucía, you can see real differences.

   In many towns the pedestrian crossings regularly alternate between those at road level and those at pavement height; the latter also serving as traffic calming ramps. But, for a wheelchair-user, both are easy to cross because the road-level ones have proper dropped pavements each side while the pavement-level ones are just that, flat and level.

   However, not all dropped pavements are as good. In older towns, originally built well before the invention of motor vehicles, some facilities for the disabled have been added but not always with sufficient thought.

   To see this, we need look no further than the road right behind the medical centre in Cuevas del Almanzora, in Andalucía’s Almería province.. There, someone has felt the need to install a dropped pavement, which is a good idea for wheelchairs – so close to the medical centre. But why on earth has the bottom of it been left well above the road level? Dropped from the pavement height it may be but there is still a significant step to overcome. Words fail me.

   Then there is one pedestrian crossing with a dropped pavement on one side of the road but a full height kerb on the other. Of course, tourists and my fellow British expats may be tempted to laugh at such a situation but I could show everyone an example of something similar in the UK. There, a crossing has a dropped pavement on each side but, having crossed the roadway, you are then left on an island with a kerb to negotiate to enter the car park.

   Actually, talking about car parking, that reminds me about people from other countries using disabled parking facilities.  Disabled parking cards issued by any EU country are recognised throughout Europe but how they may be used depends on the rules of the country in which you are parking.

   So, a holder of the disabled blue badge from Britain must remember that here in Spain it does NOT give you the right to park in a ‘no parking’ zone like it does on yellow lines in the UK; it simply gives the authority to park in a bay designated for that purpose.

   Finally, a word about access to buildings. Fair’s fair, this is improving throughout Spain but we have to realise that what may be desirable may not always be possible. What can we do, for example, about an old town post office with its door at the top of five steps and with no room for a ramp or a lift? Not a lot.

   However, in the same town, the branch of one bank, Banco Popular, with a step up to its door has recently been completely refurbished, including moving the door to eliminate the step and provide a flat and level entrance. Good planning for those with disabilities and parents with children in strollers.



Love the idea of cruising – or simply hate it?

royal princess

There are those who are hooked on cruising and others willing to give it a try but, at the other end of the scale, there are those who would not dream of setting foot on a cruise ship even if you paid them.

The reasons they give for not giving cruising a chance include fears for their safety at sea, heightened by some problems such as running aground and incidents such as engine failure or fires on board; health worries over norovirus or other infections in a closed space; rough seas in bad weather; and “being at sea for days on end”.

There is no need to dwell on the negatives except to say that, despite media ‘horror stories’, serious incidents with a ship are so rare as to be almost negligible. There is no need to be at sea for days on end, just choose a cruise where the ship is in a different port almost every day.

Yes, rough seas do happen but generally the ship will avoid the worst, even if it means changing the planned itinerary. Infections, also, can happen from time to time through lack of proper hygiene procedures being followed by other passengers. Cruise ship crews do their best to prevent outbreaks but no system is 100% idiot-proof.

club 6On the positive side, to many there is no better way to relax than by enjoying a great holiday where everything you need is provided without the detailed planning or stress of organising it all yourself. The major decisions you really need to make for a cruise are the destinations you’d like to visit, the price you are willing to pay and the timing that suits you best.

Committed cruisers know that cruises offer real value for money, a complete all-in-one package, excellent dining in a number of different restaurants, both family deals and ones restricted to adults-only, a wide variety of entertainments plus luxuries such as hot-tubs, sunbathing, even massages and other ‘pampering’.

There really can be no easier or relaxing way to visit a number of different places with the luxury of just unpacking and repacking your suitcases just once. You don’t need to traipse from hotel to hotel, unpacking at each one; on a cruise, your ‘hotel bedroom’ comes with you in the form of your stateroom.

Of course, the style and quality of what is on offer can vary not only between cruise lines but also between ships of the same line. I suspect that many experienced cruisers have their own favourites but others like to choose their cruises based on factors such as destination ports rather than a particular cruise line or ship. That really is all down to individual choice.

The fact that cruising is becoming an ever more popular holiday is clearly shown by new ship after new ship, often larger than ever before, being brought into service by one cruise line or another. But, don’t despair, if these huge ships seem too big for your taste; there are much smaller ones that carry fewer passengers and which might better suit your own desires and needs.


A tail of two cats!

Pooka in the sun on her 'day bed', our bed.

Pooka in the sun on her ‘day bed’, our bed.  

Prissy comes indoors for added comfort.

Prissy comes indoors for added comfort.

Our two cats have settled as well into Spain as they did into the UK when they arrived from Florida, America’s ‘Sunshine State’ where both of them were born.

Having originally lived with Lisa and her family in the USA, they flew across the Atlantic with British Airways in 2012 to join Lisa and I in our first home in Wales. At that time, we were amazed that, after such a long journey, they simply had a good sniff around and then curled up contentedly on our bed.

Then, we moved to another apartment in the same town and they followed the same procedure.

Ok, this time their journey was shorter in miles but, because they travelled overland, it took longer than their previous expedition. In 2012, they left Lisa on Tuesday morning (afternoon, UK time) and arrived in North Wales on Thursday afternoon; total travel time about 48 hours. This time, we said goodbye on Saturday morning and welcomed them in Spain in the early hours of Tuesday morning; total travel time about 64 hours.

From North Wales they travelled by van to Kent, where they stayed on Saturday night. The next day they were driven, via the Channel Tunnel, deep into France, where they stayed Sunday night. On Monday, they crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, finally arriving at about 1.30am on Tuesday. At that time we were in temporary accommodation because work on our proper home was still not completed. It was another week before we moved in.

However, despite the upheaval that they both had to go through, once we were able to move into

our new home it was delightful to see that both Pooka, now an ‘old lady’ at the age of 17½, and Prissy, a comparative youngster at 9½, acted in exactly the same way.

Assured that we are both with them, they explored their new surroundings as they investigated each room before curling up to go to sleep. They felt comfortable in their new surroundings – and so they should as our new property is more than twice the size of our old place in Wales.

Two days later, we unlocked the cat flap and introduced Prissy to it. Having used one back in Florida, she took to it straight away. She loves her new found freedom that she did not have in the UK, she goes out and comes in whenever she wants to do so. She enjoys the sunshine outdoors but is happy to come indoors for the extra comfort of an armchair or bed.

Pooka has also been shown the cat flap but prefers to use a door on the rare occasion that she ventures outside. Lisa and I both agree, though, that Pooka will go out more once spring comes and we get some furniture for the decking. Once, we are outside, we are absolutely sure that Pooka will want to join us and will renew her acquaintance with the cat flap that is just lie the one she used to use in Florida.