Words by Kenny Burr, a Wright State University alum who is studying abroad in London this semester with CAPA International Education.
Below, Kenny talks about discovering Paris on a CAPA trip, the occasional perks his wheelchair brings him and accessibility of the city generally.
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One benefit of studying abroad in London is that it is pretty easy to visit other parts of Europe. I went to Paris with a tour sponsored by CAPA. We took the Eurostar, a train that goes under the English Channel and arrives in Paris in two and a half hours. At first, I was upset that I couldn’t sit with my friends because the carriage (they call the train cars carriages in Europe) didn’t have a space for a wheelchair. However, soon I was ecstatic because I was upgraded to a higher class and got to have meals both ways, including a glass of champagne with dinner on the return trip.
I got special treatment in Versailles as well. I had to go through a different entrance than the others because of my wheelchair, and the guards let me see the private rooms of Louis XIV and his wife, which were not open to the public. Also, even though I wasn’t able to get to the gardens until after closing time, they allowed me to go and explore them anyway.
Usually being in a wheelchair is a drag but sometimes there are perks, which I totally appreciate!
Photo: Versaille, Paris by le-champignon
Another place I received special treatment was the Louvre. Instead of waiting in line to see the Mona Lisa, I was told to go right up to the painting. And I went inside the roped off area, so that I could get close to the painting. Awesome!
The Eiffel Tower is accessible and has elevators. However, for “fire and safety reasons”, the guards wouldn’t allow me to use the elevator that goes to the very top. An alternative way I could have reached the top viewing area would have been to have someone carry me up a very narrow flight of stairs. I was game for that and a friend volunteered to do it, but the guards wouldn’t allow him.
The Paris Metro (subway) system is not very accessible, so I took a lot of cabs. On the good side, the accessible cabs had more room in them than those in London. On the bad side, I blew through way too many euros on taxis. Bummer.
Overall, Paris is nowhere near as accessible as London. I could not have seen as much if I had taken my heavier wheelchair, which weighs over 150 pounds and cannot be taken apart. Luckily, I took my light weight chair, which is collapsible and can also be tilted back by others to get me over steps if there aren’t too many of them.
I really had fun in Paris and the city is beautiful, even in the rain!