Our trip to the Netherlands coincided with my recovery from a very bad sciatica attack. I was still having trouble walking even a short distance when we got on the plane.
Fortunately I have become adept at traveling with my Travelscoot, so once I was out of the worst pain we quit talking about canceling. (Whew!) The flights were long and uncomfortable, but then, they are long and uncomfortable for everyone. I can use the Travelscoot in the airport and gate-check it, so the airports themselves were not bad at all. Once we arrived in Amsterdam, I was curious to see how well I could actually get around the city on the ‘scoot.
I am not completely clear on the laws around access in the EU, but I had done enough homework online to be certain that our hotel was accessible and the museums I most wanted to visit were accessible. Beyond that, we were going to have to improvise. The first big test was the tram.
The Internet offered varied tales on the tram. One site said that it was wheelchair accessible but that scooters weren’t welcome. Another said that half of the trams were accessible, half not. On our first day, we went down the street to the Centraal Station to check out the situation at the big Metro stop. To my delight, there were uniformed information people available around the plaza and they were happy to answer our questions. “This is like a wheelchair, yes?” the fellow said to me, waggling his eyebrows. “Yes!” I said, and he said, “OK. You can use it. Just get on the end car with the conductor.” So we did.
That was our ticket to go all over the city. It was fun riding the tram; it is above ground, so we could see the sights and people-watch, too.
I had learned from European users on the Travelscoot forum on facebook that the Rijksmuseum did not allow motorized scooters or wheelchairs. Linda and I went to talk to them, just in case the policy had changed (they just finished a major remodel, so perhaps?) but no. And it was even worse than we feared. Their plan for me was that I should leave my scooter outside the museum and hop on a wheelchair that Linda could push all over the museum. Plus, there was nowhere secure to leave my scooter! No, thanks. Linda went to the Rijks by herself, and I went off on my own adventures.
The sites in the Jewish Cultural Quarter were mostly quite accessible: The Jewish Museum (more on that soon) and the Portuguese Synagogue (ditto) were mostly quite accessible. The Hollandsche Schouwburg, the National Holocaust Memorial, was completely accessible to me. I was impressed that all three were also well equipped for visual and auditory disabilities.
I enjoyed visiting a number of other places as well: the Van Gogh Museum, the Allard Pierson Archaeological Museum, the Public Library, and others. The main difficulty for us was access to restaurants and shops. Part of the issue is that Amsterdam is below sea level, and many of the older buildings are therefore up a few steps from the street. It was important to phone ahead and ask about access. Google street view was also helpful. I understand that Blue Boat Company offers a wheelchair accessible canal cruise, but I didn’t take one.
The Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal, our hotel, was an absolute delight. The room was very comfortable, the staff were extremely helpful, and all areas of the hotel were available to me on the scooter. There was a time when the last thing I wanted to do on a trip was stay in an American chain hotel, but it made it easy for us to check out the disability options and the location was perfect, just a couple of blocks from Centraal Station.
If any readers find this blog by searching the Web and have additional questions, I hope you will ask via the Comments.