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Our accessible honeymoon in the City of Lights (Part 4 of 4)

December 31, 2017

On Sunday, we took a driving tour of Paris with the tour guide who took us to Versailles in his accessible cab. He drove past the Louvre and down the Champs-Élysées. As we watched nervously from the back seat, he maneuvered effortlessly through the crowded multi-lane traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe.

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TH at Sacred Coeur Basilica

He showed us historic palaces, churches and other buildings, including Napoleon’s Tomb and the Sacred Coeur Basilica, a Catholic church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. Located at the summit of Montmartre — the highest point in Paris, this church was built in the 19th Century and is open to the public for prayer 24 hours a day.

Things got a little tense when our driver stopped the cab in a handicapped parking place near Notre Dame Cathedral. Members of the national police (holding automatic weapons) approached the cab and asked the driver to move on. He argued loudly with them – in true Parisian style — for 10 minutes, and they yelled back at him, until he finally agreed to leave. He later explained that the police wouldn’t allow him to park there because they were taking special precautions; on June 7, a terrorist had attacked a police officer with a hammer outside Notre Dame Cathedral.

Before we returned to the hotel, we asked our driver to make a special stop so we could hang a padlock on a bridge over the Seine. I had read about a tradition in some cities – including San Francisco and Paris, by which sweethearts symbolize their everlasting love by engraving their names on a padlock, or “love-lock,” hanging that lock on a bridge and throwing the key into the river below.

I had planned to leave a lock on a bridge in San Francisco last year but forgot to pack the padlock. But as I packed for Paris, I remembered the lock. I didn’t have access to engraving tools, so I wrote our initials on the lock with a Sharpie permanent marker before I packed it. (While writing our initials with a Sharpie  — instead of engraving them — might not guarantee everlasting love, it was worth a shot.)

We had hoped to hang our lock on Pont des Arts Bridge, as was the tradition in Paris, and add our lock to the hundreds of locks that hung there. But when we asked our driver about it, he explained that the locks on that bridge had been removed because of concerns that their weight would bring down the historic bridge. He did, however, know of one other bridge on the Seine where we could hang our lock, and he took us there. He pulled to the side of the road, and I sat in the car and watched as TH hung the lock on the bridge’s chain link fence and threw the key in the river.

On Monday, our last full day in Paris, we met our knowledgeable tour guide, Marie, who had studied art history and conducted tours in the area for two years. She took us on an extensive walking tour of the Left Bank. (Well, TH walked, and I rode my scooter.) She led us on an accessible route through the area; she knew where all the curb cuts were – and where they weren’t.

She showed us some of the buildings that make up Sorbonne University, as well as the oldest tree in Paris, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and other sights in that part of the city.

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Intricate carvings on the western wall of Notre Dame Cathedral

The highlight of the walking tour was a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral. As we approached this famous example of French Gothic architecture, Marie pointed out its flying buttresses, gargoyles and detailed carvings on the western wall.

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Rose window in Notre Dame Cathedral

Although lines of tourists filled the courtyard, Marie escorted us through an accessible entrance with no line. Inside, we were awed by the cathedral’s beauty, including its three rose windows that retain much of their 13th Century glass.

Looking back on our trip, I realize its success was due in great part to our using Sage Traveling to plan it. The accessible transportation and tours we located using www.sagetraveling.com made the trip pleasurable as well as successful. I highly recommend this company to anyone who needs help with mobility issues on a European vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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