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Open Features: Nancy, France - Part 2

Linda McLean and Shand find their holiday journey to France is not easy.

Look out for the continuation of this story in next Monday’s Open Writing.

London was hot – too hot even for the Londoners.. Personal fans sold out. Even the show we took in was almost unbearable. At eight in the evening the debate was still raging – should the doors be open or closed? Were they letting in more heat, or would people suffocate if they shut them?

Transport in London does not exist for the disabled tourist, only for residents. And taxis were very expensive, so they walked.

Between London to Folkestone they had to travel in the guard’s van. The ferry crossing was simple but on arrival at the station in Boulogne, they started to worry. The ramps were different over there. They were half moon shape because the trains were that much higher than in this country, but worse than that, there was only one of them!

“You definitely informed them a wheelchair was coming?” I asked.

“Couldn’t,” he replied “There is no communication between British rail and SNCF. It was impossible to book all the way through.”

“But we are in the European Union!” I remonstrated.

“Not where trains are concerned,” he told me, correctly. I checked on my return.

The train arrived. The guard did not have time to look for the missing ramp, so various passengers were enlisted to hoist the wheelchair aboard with its terrified occupant.

“How are they going to get me off at Paris?” he wailed. “I couldn’t stand going off frontwards!”

A degree of hysteria had crept in, with no idea how we were going to exit the train. However, with a disability the travel is First Class, and it was pleasurable. It was quiet and relaxing, preventing him from worrying too much about his exit strategy.

We need not have worried. A platform lift was there to assist in exiting the train. The operator was very friendly, and realised Shand’s degree of concern. He made soothing noises in French. Reassurance was given.

With the operation over, I asked him the distance to the hotel Shand had booked. He looked astonished. “That is at least a mile away. I will take you,” he offered.

“How are you going to take us?” I asked, again, wondering if he understood the complexity of the situation.

“Nous marchons au pied.” “We will go on foot,” he announced happily in French, and loading all our bags effortlessly into a station trolley, he set off at a canter.

We rushed along behind. He delivered us, wished us a good holiday, and said he would expect to see us at the Gare du Nord on their return journey.

These little touches, these people who took time to go the extra mile, literally, they really had no comprehension how much difference it made to our holiday and our feeling of well being.


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