holiday

Disability and Travel

Me and travel have a complicated relationship; I’ve even go so far as describing it as a love/hate relationship.

You see, I’ve always loved to travel. When I was a kid, we drove to Cornwall for two weeks every summer. As I got older, we went further afield after my long suffering Mum forced my Dad to go on a ‘proper holiday’ and during my GCSEs we flew to Greece for the first time. I was hooked. My mum and I will often just jump in the car and drive and see where it takes us. We love freedom and finding new, beautiful places.

Like most families, we had our favourite holiday destinations; Portmellon in Cornwall, near Mevagissey – where I spent every year of my childhood from nappies to GCSEs. Once my Dad had gotten over his fear of trying something new (we think he is also on the Autism spectrum, but denies there is anything wrong with him!) he threw himself into every Greek holiday we had after that – he learned basic Greek very quickly and we made friends with the locals in Petra on the island of Lesvos – it became a regular occurrence.

I haven’t been back to Lesvos since I was in my early twenties, but I definitely have the travel bug now. In recent years I’ve been to France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We came back from Morocco (my first foray into out-of-Europe travel) on Saturday and we are now looking at our next adventure  even further afield – south east Asia.

This all sounds rather wonderful, until you consider that I am unlike most people and travelling is not easy when you have several invisible disabilities. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III (Now called Hypermobile EDS) when I was 19 so for years now I’ve had to make certain concessions as a keen traveller. Now, with my most recent diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, do I have to consider MANY things before we even book our flights.

How much walking is involved?

This is the question that rules my life. Because of my EDS, I cannot walk very far at all without being in pain. I have painful feet, ankles, legs and back. I also tire very very quickly and if I push myself too far on the first day of my travels, the rest of the holiday can easily be ruined. I wish I could just ‘book it, pack it and fuck off’ as Peter Kay so eloquently put it during one of his stand up routines, but sadly, I cannot – we have to research the fuck out of where we’re going, we have to make sure there are either taxis, horse drawn carriages or tuk-tuks – hell, I’d ride a donkey if I had to, just to see some of the world.

How hot/cold/wet does it get?

Another irritatingly complex issue I have, is with the weather. Again, we have a love hate relationship due to a condition I have called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – this is basically my body failing to cope with certain movements like going from sitting to standing and my blood pressure drops so much I feel dizzy, faint and I lose my vision for a few seconds. Heat is my biggest enemy.

So, not only do I have to consider how hot it gets, but also how wet – because if you’ve ever had the misfortune to have arthritis or any other type of joint injury or pain, you’ll know that wet, damp weather is torture on the body. I absolutely love travelling around Europe, but the dampness is often a problem, so I have to go armed with heat packs a plenty.

Do I have enough earplugs?

I have struggled to sleep when there is background noise for many years now and it seems to be getting tougher and tougher. I cannot sleep in noisy environments so booking a cheap stay at a hostel and sharing a room with other travellers is a no-go. I can’t even sleep with my Fiance unless I have at least one earplug in – just someone breathing next to me is enough to bring on an autistic meltdown.

Where shall we prioritise?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is degenerative. That means, it’s getting worse as I age. That also means that we have now had to start planning which destinations we want to put on the top of the list and which destinations we can afford to hold off on. We really REALLY want to travel to Peru to see Machu Picchu but the sheer size of it and the fact that it is an incredibly physically demanding place means that we’re going to have to do it sooner rather than later. The older I get, the harder it is going to get to travel around the places like this. I’ve looked into holidays for disabled travellers and there is a company out there that will literally carry you up the mountain to Machu Picchu in your wheelchair. Sadly, we’re a couple on one salary (of a Primary teacher!) so we cannot afford to book a package holiday like that – we have to do it ourselves somehow. And we will, we just have to figure out the logistics.

We spend so much time and energy planning our travels. We have to. I am limited physically and mentally. I find ordinary life incredibly tough, so add the complexity of foreign travel and you can imagine how hard it can be.

Which airport/airline is best for Special Assistance?

We have only recently realised that there is something called Special Assistance. Basically, the airport or the airline have people on hand to help disabled travellers get around the airport and on and off the planes. I booked my first airport assistance when we were flying from Gatwick to Germany and after quite a wait, I was transported via Wheelchair from Departures to the gate. As you probably know, it can be quite some distance to whichever boarding gate your flight is leaving from, so being able to save some energy was a real help.

I have to say,  we flew to Morocco from London Luton and the special assistance service was absolutely fantastic. We somehow managed to arrive rather short on time so the guy rushed us through security via the Priority Boarding lanes and I was also escorted onto the plane via a lift that meant I didn’t have to tackle any stairs at all. I couldn’t fault the service at London Luton aiport. Thank you!

Marrakech Airport also, took me by surprise. As soon as we got off the plane, there was a gentleman and a wheelchair waiting for me. He transported me through the airport, through security (there was apparently a 45 minute wait for able bodied passengers) and he even took us to the Bureau De Change (you can’t take currency into Marrakech, you have to exchange it when you’re there) and then out to the taxi rank. The service when flying back from Marrakech airport was also fantastic – I was transported straight to departures, through security and the only waiting we had to do was for the gate to open! I was so so surprised by the hands on attitude to disabled travellers at Marrakech airport. It is strange to say this, but we had a far far better experience being disabled in Morocco than we have visiting some places in England! Thank you Marrakech ❤

Can we afford it?

I can imagine a lot of our friends/acquaintances wonder how we manage to travel abroad at least once a year and have a mortgage on just one salary – the answer is; living frugally!
Honestly, it’s as simple as that. We don’t smoke, we buy a bottle of wine maybe twice a month and we eat a mainly vegetarian diet (I eat meat when we eat out – usually using Tesco vouchers – thank you Mum!) and we are big savers. We don’t live a hugely expensive life – we don’t have Sky (we’ve only just bought a telly with money given to us for Christmas) and we are lucky enough to be on a friend’s Netflix account (massive massive thank you to Andreas, you beaut!) so we can afford to pay our mortgage, bills AND save for our holidays abroad. We rarely go out socially and we also brew our own beer – or rather, my other half does (I’m wheat intolerant, of course – not to mention lactose intolerant too but that’s another blog!)

So you can see, if you make the necessary sacrifices, you can do more. You can choose to attend the same festival year in year out (not my thing, but if that’s what you like, I couldn’t care less!) or you could travel further and see more of the world.

We have travelled by car, ferry, bus, train, airplane and horse and carriage – we will see the world by any means necessary. That is how important travelling is to us as a couple, and how important it is to me, as someone with disabilities. I will not let my illnesses define me, or stop me from living my life. If I can do it, you can too!

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Paris, Prague and Budapest

As I’ve posted before, my partner and I are keen travellers. We’re both extremely inquisitive people and we both share a love of seeing what the world has to offer.

In March this year, we went on a 6 day jaunt across Europe. We decided to visit three countries and spend 2 days in each country. 

First, we got the Eurostar from London to Paris. We stayed right by the Gare Du Nord as I needed to walk as little as possible. We visited the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral on Easter Sunday and queued for HOURS to see the Paris Catacombs…


Here are the Paris Catacombs


Notre Dame Cathedral


We then flew from Charles de Gaulle airport to Prague airport. We stayed at the 4 star Hotel Yasmin in Prague. It was beautiful and the best breakfast I have ever had! We booked a taxi into the old town and had a mooch around. I found this amazing little bric-a-brac shop and if I had more space in our suitcase I would’ve easily spent a small fortune in there! It absolutely threw it out with rain while we were in the old town so we jumped into a doorway to find it was the entrance to a museum of medieval tortue, so of course we had to go in!


Prague was sensationally beautiful. We most definitely want to go back and stay nearer the old town as there was so much to look at and so little time to do so. I watched a documentary years ago about an ossuary in Prague and ever since then, it has been on my bucket list. Knowing this, my partner took us on the train out of Prague and towards a town called Kostnice to visit Sedlec Ossuary.

After 2 days in Prague we packed up and flew to Budapest. We stayed in a rather grand looking Novotel Centrum. 

We found the most amazingly hipster restaurant in the Jewish quarter in Budapest. It had a library! And served the most beautiful Hungarian wine called Bull’s Blood. Divine. 

I feel I need to describe how difficult it was for me, physically. I’ve written before about having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome so I hope by now you’re not surprised when I say this holiday really took it out of me! We stayed two days I each country so I could sleep and rest on the second day. The pain rehab would call this ‘boom and bust’ but I call this ‘real life’. 

There is no real way you can pace yourself on holiday like this. We made sure I had a box full of painkillers and heat pads and I travelled with all my splints and walking stick. I sat down on anything and everything I could put my butt on and went to bed early every night. I took a nearly an entire week of rest to recover from the travelling (well, as much as I recover anyway!). 

This is the only way I’ve found works. Others may pace themselves or go on beach holidays but I refuse to. Firstly, I hate the sun (don’t like being tanned) and it makes my POTS worse. European breaks are ideal in terms of short flights and semi-decent weather. 

Our next trip is in December when we fly to Basel in Switzerland then two days later we fly to Freiburg in Germany. It will be snowy, wintry and Christmas markets galore! I cannot wait! 

Winter Break; Iceland. Part Two

It’s been 4 weeks since we came back to Earth with a bump from our winter break to Iceland and I can say hand on heart, I really do miss being there – so does my partner who said only the other day that we will be going back, for sure.

In part one, I talked about the Blue Lagoon and how to pack for a winter trip if you have a chronic illness. In this part I’m going to be describing Reykjavik, The Golden Circle Tour and the Northern Lights.

Firstly, Reykjavik.

The bus journey from the airport took us around 45 minutes. Our hotel was in the centre of Reykjavik (on Laugavegur which is the main shopping street in the town) so we got to see a lot of the outskirts on the way and it wasn’t too pretty. But once we got into town, we saw how pretty it was! The hotel was placed in the middle of Laugavegur so we were within walking distance of the Harpa (the concert hall) and the world famous Phallological Museum. Of course, we had to go to the Penis museum – it was hilarious.

Our first night’s meal was stunning at Laekjarbrekka – one of the oldest buildings in downtown Reykjavik. I had a traditional Icelandic lamb meal and my partner had a vegetarian Barley based meal. We both loved this little romantic restaurant.

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Image borrowed from whereintheworldisceleste.blogspot.co.uk

Before we went to Iceland, people warned us that it was expensive and yes, it is! We didn’t buy anything other than food and excursions and I came home with £20 worth of Krona left. My partner had a little bit more because all his meals were vegetarian and therefore slightly cheaper than my meaty meals! We both took around £300 worth of Krona with us for the 5 days we were there and it was enough. If you wanted to buy a (very itchy) wooly Icelandic jumper, you’d need around another £100 worth of Krona.

Here’s Hallgrimskirkja – the Church we went to for New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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Another thing we decided before we went to Iceland was that we wanted to TRY and see the Northern Lights. My partner was adamant that we’d see them, but I tried to keep an open mind so I didn’t get too disappointed if luck wasn’t on our side.

We booked our Northern Lights tour with Grayline (we did all our excursions through them) and I have to say a huge thank you to the guys running this excursion. Normally, the tour runs for around 3-5 hours depending on the weather and how far they take us to find the lights but for us, they went above and beyond because they realised that this was the only night during this week anyone was likely to see the Northern Lights and I am so thankful they did, because WOW. You cannot describe the feeling you get when you see the cloud suddenly part, and the light show dances before you like you were the only people worthy of seeing this natural phenomenon.

Sadly, my blasted iphone wasn’t good enough to take any images (and we both decided beforehand that we wanted to experience the phenomenon of the Northern Lights without seeing it through a camera) so you have to take my word for it, but holy murphy, it was sensational. It felt spiritual. It felt mystical. Other worldly.

If there’s one thing you should do in your life, it is see the Northern Lights in person.

Because the weather didn’t look great for the rest of the week, the guys running the tour decided to take us further north than they normally do on the Northern Lights mystery tour. We didn’t get back to our hotel until 3am, but it was so worth the tiredness!

As we were only in Iceland for 5 days we booked as many excursions as possible so the next day (after 5 hours sleep) we were up and out for the Golden Circle tour.

On the Golden Circle Classic Tour we first visited Þingvellir National Park. Breathtaking.

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Gullfoss Waterfall: The first waterfall I’ve ever seen and wow, it was stupendous!

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Then onto an erupting hot spring at Geysir geothermal area

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Thank you Iceland. We will be back ❤

The 10 year old taxidermy lover

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My family have been holidaying in Cornwall every year since I was around 6 months old. We’d stay in Port Mellon and then when me and my sister got older, as a family we would walk into Mevagissey (Meva) for a look round the shops, for some chips on the harbour or a carvery at The Ship Inn on a Sunday.

As a young girl, I was obsessed with the idea of having a Victorian dolls house and there was a shop in Meva called Curio Corner that had a whole back room dedicated to dolls houses. It had miniature everything and several pre-built houses all decorated in the Victorian style. The hobby of creating a doll’s house was and still is, an expensive one, and we weren’t very well off at all back then, so owning a doll’s house just wasn’t an option, sadly.

As I got older, I grew out of the Doll’s House ‘phase’ and I took a fancy to staring at the animals on the wall. There was a tiger head (or it may have been a leopard), a crocodile (which is still there today), several types of deer and in a little case was a tiny little pet dog. I think there were others too, but it’s been years so I can’t remember exactly what was hanging up there.

At the time, I had no idea what taxidermy was, but I was fascinated with it. Every year I’d go in there just to visit the big wall of taxidermy at the back of the shop and stare in awe at these dusty old creatures that looked like they needed a loving home. It was incredible to a young girl of 9 or 10 – if a little macabre! But clearly I’ve always been into strangely macabre things, even as a young girl.

Thankfully, as an adult, it doesn’t seem quite so strange to enjoy collecting taxidermy. In fact, it’s having something of a resurgence in popularity, which means fewer people seem quite so surprised when I tell them I collect it. I can’t quite put my finger on why I like taxidermy, though I do think that the Victorian’s obsession with death is part of it. I too think these animals look beautiful, even in death – somehow suspended in life and death at the same time.

I still get the ‘marmite’ reaction when I talk to people about my growing collection of taxidermy; they either love it or hate it.  I rarely come across anyone who doesn’t have an opinion about taxidermy either way!

I’ll be writing another blog post about my growing taxidermy collection and I’ll be talking about Crystal Curios – My favourite shop in Milton Keynes.

If anyone is still interested, Curio Corner in Mevagissey is still there 20 something years later, but sadly there isn’t quite the same display of taxidermy and they no longer sell dolls houses, but I still have to walk round it when I go back, just for nostalgia’s sake.