A couple of weeks ago, I went to Geneva to be part of the UK CEDAW NGO delegation. As usual with any trip as a disabled person there were all the preliminary research to do - far more than a non disabled traveler.
I decided against flying ( fear of damage to my wheelchair en flight) in favour of taking the Eurostar and then the train to Geneva which necessited a bus trip (bus 65) across Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon.We missed our connection because signage is terrible, we couldnt figure out the station and they wouldnt let us get on the train because although there were still 10 minutes before the train was due to set off, we were not there half an hour before as required (oh yes, we did prebook assistance). We had to wait 3 hours for the next train.
But I had also got to find an accessible hotel room for the 5 days we were to be there. My fellow NGO colleagues were staying in a non accessible hostel so that was ruled out. A search on the internet did not result in any useful leads. A trawl through the NGO website for accessible rooms gave me a few to call with no positive answers but a suggestion from the
International Network of Women with Disabilities connected me to my first break - Hotel Silva, wonderful place, simple but accessible and central. I should add that many NGOs seem to use this hotel and my fellow disabled CEDAW sisters (from Cape Verde and Serbia) were also staying here and I met the wonderful Shivani Gupta from India there too - a fabulous bit of serendipity.
There are a few niggles - the entrance is at the back, the beds are so close to the wardrobe you can't really use it and the lift is tiddley small. But there is a fridge and a microwave in each room ( we brought our own kettle). Something that I did not realise is that Swiss plugs are not the same as standardised European plugs - so we were very lucky that we had one socket which we could use with our adaptor and I had the presence of mind to bring an extension lead - for all the charging we needed for our electrical appliances - wheelchair, laptops, ipad, mobile phones etc. I forgot to tell them that their shower chair was wobbley and the locking system did not work properly. Other wise we were very happy with the room. Eleanor who shared the room with me was pleased by the balcony (for smoking). There is an Ibis nearby on Rue de Grand Pre but it was more expensive - I didnt manage to check out the accessible rooms but they told me they had roll in showers. We also had dinner out round the corner at a Vietnamese Restaurant La Maison d'Asie which was pleasant - there were quite a few accessible restaurants at rue de la Servette (also tram stop Poterie to the train station).
We didnt really go sight seeing but walking on the lakeside was quite pleasant, we did eat out with the whole group. And being me, my first photo was not of the scenic lake but an accessible portaloo! Geneva had some really steep ramps too - surely they cannot be for wheelchair users?
I was also glad I brought my new trabasack max with me with all the documents etc I had to carry around. I could also use it as a mini desk at times. The transport system seems to be fairly accessible - both buses and trams. The bus drivers were the most polite and helpful I have encountered ever in my life. AND you can fit 2 wheelchairs in the same bus!
I wish I could say the same for the trains - the staff were also polite but they were adamant that we could not go except on our designated booked time ( to be sure our assistance would be there). Also that there were two parts to the train station - one for France/Europe and the other for within Switzerland.It was s little confusing.
Our journey back was considerably more stressful than I had anticipated - the bus number 65 was diverted to Place Republic and did not go to Gare de Lyon anymore. I didnt know this but using guesswork - we got to Bastille and walking along some of the way managed to catch up with the bus 65 and caught our Eurostar connection back to London in time. Parisian taxis are not usually accessible.