To London and back
Thursday March 20th Jean and I headed for Cork Airport on the 1st leg of our trip to London to Mairead’s inlaws to be.
Let’s start with the airport and flight. It was seriously wet and windy as we headed towards the airport. I had never travelled with Ryanair before and was a bit apprehensive as a result of the stories that have permeated the media over the years. www.ryanair.com The ground crew were friendly and accommodating as were the cabin crew. The aircraft seemed a little less roomy than a competitor airline and the bright yellow seat-backs caused me to regret not having brought my shades. On the matter of ‘less roomy’ I fail to understand why anyone would stick a wheelchair emblem or baby changing sign on the toilet door of an aircraft as neither would be possible in such a confined space, but there you go. The return flight was as uneventful as the outward leg and the staff every bit as good. I would not have any reservations about flying with Ryanair again. This section would not be complete without a mention of the disabled toilet facilities in Gatwick Airport. The one I visited should be benchmarked as the standard to which all others aspire; mirrors and hand dryer at the correct level, motion detector soap dispenser, tap and flush. No emergency cable hanging from the ceiling but a push button on one side and strip on the opposite side both only inches from the floor and an amazing amount of circulation space. Well done Gatwick Airport.
The disabled assistance staff in the airport and train station cannot go without an honourable mention either. Cork Airport disabled toilet facilities are fine and absolutely nothing wrong with them just that Gatwick facilities are better.
Mairead met us at the station in Croydon. Jean had booked us into Jury’s Inn, Wellesley Rd, Croydon who advertise wheelchair accessible rooms. www.jurysinns.com We were allocated a room on the 4th floor and it was accessible with a spacious and almost correctly furnished bathroom. The sink and mirrors were at the correct level and the requisite grab rails were in place but the shower was in the bath and therefore inaccessible without major effort and a modicum of peril. I returned to reception to bring it to the attention of the staff and was promptly offered a room on the 3rd floor which had a complete ‘wet room’ but sadly was also the designated smoking floor. We couldn’t accept the change as the smell was truly vile to us non-smokers. Claire Delaney, Deputy General Manager, informed me that baths are being removed from a number of rooms to make ‘wet rooms’ available. I might even be invited back to inspect the work on completion. NCIS Claire. I did make it into the shower/bath with huge difficulty and with assistance managed to get back out but I resolved to purchase some Lynx or Sure should the situation ever arise again. The rest of the hotel is accessible but I cannot in all honesty award a star rating. Suffice it to say that if you are going to stay at a Jury’s Inn check that it is truly accessible before you book. I will be delighted to change my non-rating on completion of the work. While we waited for our room to be readied we had a snack at the bar and we were quite pleased with it.
Jury’s Inn is adjacent to 2 shopping centres The Whitgift and Centrale, and the main shopping street which is pedestrianised. That area is accessed from the Jury’s side by an underpass which is quite steep and assistance is required for the ascent. Both centres are very accessible and have accessible toilets. Later that evenining we travelled out to New Addington to see where Mairead and Rowan lived and to meet Rowan’s family. The tram stops are accessible unaccompanied but as warnings go ‘Mind the Gap’. We met Rupert and Blossom, Aaron and Brendan and the following evening we met Stella. The tram journey back to Jury’s was as uneventful as the outward journey but the weather was as bad as we had left in Cork. Day 1 over.
Friday morning arrived after a very good nights sleep and with a very hearty breakfast on board Mairead, Jean and I headed for Wimbledon to meet the Wombles. It was crisp and dry and a wonderful day for a roll around. The center of Wimbledon is accessible but a small bit hilly and after a look around we adjourned to Center Court Shopping Centre for a cuppa. All very accessible. I discovered that disabled bears are well taken care of. Later on we had a better look at the centres in Croydon before heading out to Bagatti’s in South End for a most enjoyable meal with Rowan and all the family. www.bagattis.com This is a beautiful Italian Restaurant served beautiful food. Circulation space was a bit tight. The wheelchair accessible toilet, located in the lady’s section, was also a bit tight but manageable. Because of the slightly cramped conditions I would give Bagatti’s 4 from 5 on my disability scale but the food was well worth the slight inconvenience.
Saturday morning arrived bright and dry and after another great breakfast we met up with Mairead, Rowan, Blossom and Brendon and headed over to Starbucks for a chat and a cuppa before heading back to Gatwick for our return home. Overall a most enjoyable stay.