An Accessible Whirlwind in Madrid

In my last post I talked you through the Accessible Tourism conference I spoke at in Spain. Now I want to share with you how I got on in Madrid outside of my professional responsibilities.

Kasia and I were fortunate to have our flights, hotel, hoist hire, and conference entrance covered by Once foundation, because I was a key speaker. Upon landing (and after fumbling through my Spanish for an accessible taxi), we spoke of how we’d love to see Madrid outside of the conference, if there was time. But how?

The conferences travel company Viajes2001 kindly organised a trip to the Madrid archeologic museum. We had an accessible bus arranged and a personal tour of the amazing history witnessed by this significant city. Thanks to Sonia and Carmen and their team for all their help 🙂

Of course, Kasia and I were already happy to be at such an event; meeting great people, and seeing such a fine museum. But all of our dreamy conversation (from the airport to the hotel) was answered multipled by 10 – Thanks to Accessible Madrid travel agency!

An Accessible Whirlwind in Madrid - 2Arturo, Oscar and Alfonso are the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet. Arturo recognised me on the first morning of the conference having seen my blog and social media antics. We’d spoken before on twitter but in no great detail. He kindly invited us out with him and Oscar after the museum visit finished.

They met us outside with their adapted minibus. We managed to drive around Madrid in the last moments of daylight. We saw the sights and heard the stories. After 30 minutes or so we parked up outside the Royal Palace, wandering around its exterior as the sky went from pink to black. It was beautiful.

Swiftly we headed to the main centre of Madrid; Puerta del sol. This is where the clock tower guides the New Year party goers every 31st December. It’s the most central point of Spain too.

Afterwards we ate tapas and drank red wine in a beautiful market. Followed by more tapas and red wine nearer the older part of the city. With a final cheeky mojito in a tranquil, warm and historic square; we were so content. Then we hit our first barrier at a club. Luckily, in my opinion, as we needed some sleep before the next day at the conference. We headed home feeling merry and fulfilled. The club promised they’d have a ramp by the next day!

I was so surprised by how much of the city was accessible. Of course Arturo and Oscar knew where to take us – something so valuable on a short trip. But the dropped curbs, general pavements, bars and so forth seemed very accessible.

You can read more from the guys here.

On the Thursday night we met the third director, Alfonso, who took us to the Bernabeu stadium. The home of Real Madrid football club. For a football fan like me – an absolutely vital thing to see 🙂

An Accessible Whirlwind in Madrid - 1Firstly concessions were available for disabled people. Secondly they had a ramp built to assist people like myself and Pietro (an Italian wheelchair user who joined us with his girlfriend) into the ground. Thirdly lifts took us throughout the museum and to the dugouts on pitch level. They were super organised.

Being a Tottenham fan, it was great to see Gareth Bale (ex Spurs now Madrid player) all over the place. We had some good banter about whether he secretly misses Tottenham or not. Unfortunately he probably doesn’t.

On the final night (the Friday) Kasia and I took in the sights of Retiro park, more beautiful food, and reminisced of another great and accessible trip to Spain.

Martyn

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  • James Plummer

    Hi Martyn, Unfortunately my experiences in Spain are not as positive as yours. My wife and I have stayed at a place called Ballanero de Archena for the past 3 years. It’s a health spa based on an ancient medicinal hot spring. From many points of view, it’s excellent: beautiful surroundings, very well appointed, great treatments and therapies provided by very professional and expert staff. The problem is that they haven’t embraced our contemporary expectations from many points of view. Problems of accesibility do not seem to have occurred to them. On the other hand, if you ask for something- like grab rails in the bathroom-they responded immediately. When my wife ( who eats a macrobiotic diet) asked for some simple changes to their very traditional menu, they did the best they could, albeit, language was a barrier. My conclusion is that in some ways we are spoilt by being in London, where most things are available, at a price, the Spanish tend to be more empathetic, but are far behind us in catering for the disabled.