The sun is streaming in on this subdued Sunday morning. I am listening to some interview of Lord Hurd by BBC 2. I decided to start my Strasbourg blog. However, I am going to write only once a week -on Sundays, like the Sunday review!
Yin, my friend from London, is still asleep. I am waiting for her to get up so that we can have a stroll down the Citadelle Park and the canal. There is no baguette to be had on a Sunday morning and I made us scrambled eggs. It was fairly quiet and the travaux made some of the paths difficult to negotiate even with my power wheelchair. I told Yin how I used to come everyday after school with the kids.
The Citadelle Park is very much a part of the family memory to me – it gives me the sense of home as much as any other place in my home town. This was brought back to me in the last couple of months since I came back to live in Strasbourg in June, and at once I was invited to various things – it was the fete of l’ARES (Association des Résidents de l’Esplanade) – were celebrating their 40th anniversary. It was good to see old friends and neighbours and being welcomed back. I realised how much I missed the multi cultural environment – I went to the celebratory events with my Chilean Turkish and Mexican friends. We watched Iberian dancing, Laotian dancers, ate Alsatian merguez and drank Turkish tea etc. On the final night I went with Sarah, a black English teacher here from Houston and her friend who now lives in Italy. We had a kebab and missed out on the enormous cake specially made for the quartier.
We went to the Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain in the afternoon. We ended up in the lovely restaurant terrace overlooking the Pont Couvert in the Petite France where we had a coffee and a long chat. We couldn’t possibly miss the Petite France after that. I am glad I had my new Invacare Storm wheelchair to try out on the cobbled streets. It is four years old and second hand but was still a good bargain. I was going on happily along a pavement when it suddenly narrowed and when I got to the corner found it impossible to negotiate and had to backtrack. It was most frustrating but we got there and it is always great , to gape at the tourists. We wanted to stay for the Illumination de la Cathédrale and started over to the Cathedral Square but we were not ready for a meal and the lights were not going to come on until after 10 pm. We decided on a tarte flambé at the Square instead. We didnt make it to 10pm. as it was quite impossible to find an accessible toilet. We decided to go home and have an early night. Yin had an early plane to catch the next day.
Getting ready for Berlin
Has another week gone already? Gosh! I spent this week preparing for the ICHIM conference. It is good to be in the editing team but there are many last minute details to work on. And since I have been to Malaysia ( will write about that later) there are so many things I have to sort out that I was not able to do before. I needed to get copyright for my own poster demo publication – I was really too late to do much. Poor Amaia – I could not fax her the copyright permission she needed till now. The copyright is also needed for putting a picture together with the abstract on Disability Culture: Quest for a Collective Identity. Tom Olin is travelling and I just got the email with the permission.
Yesterday, I went to the train station to buy my train ticket to Berlin and find out details about changing at Stuttgart. Took the tram downtown because it looked like rain. It was a long wait. However, the girl at the till look at all the possibilities and told me that there was no special tariff in Germany as there is in France. I had a discount until the border and that was it. And since we were only 5 mins away from the border, there wasn’t much point. The man who was to fix the transfer for disabled travellers told me that they can only do it once I have left because they couldn’t communicate in German so that the driver has to do it once we are on the way. This is a bit disconcerting, I’ll have to see if I can get a better response in Stuttgart.
I stopped off at Surcouf in Les Halles to check out adaptors and routers. The trouble with having different bits of computer from separate parts of the world is that they don’t all work together with different electricity output. Tim unthinkingly plugged in my cpu into the mains and there was immediately a sound that means a broken fuse at least. I really cannot afford to have to get another computer.
It is the same for my Quickie power wheelchair from the States. I needed a transformer (which Bill and Mary kindly brought me one over from Canada) and the thanks to Air France, the connections on the chair were loose. (I was a bit spooked out when the chair stopped dead next to the tram track on the ways home). It is a big heavy thing and charging with it was sometimes a challenge. I did not relish the few times when I found out that my chair was not charged up when I was dependent on it to get arond. When I saw an ad for a second hand Invacare motorized wheelchair, I decided to get it as a back up. Of course it has a different charger again – all these take up more and more room.
It is raining in Berlin! according to the guide book, it rains a lot here. I wished I had packed my rain hat. The Art Otel that we are staying, supposedly 4 stars, is what I called minimal. There is no coffee maker in the room, no English language cable (lots of porn if you are willing to pay for it) and no swimming pool in the hotel. I did get an accessible room and the room is comfortable enough – there is a roll in roll out shower. However, the wardrobe is almost impossible to get open with a chair (not enough room) and even more of a serious problem, the door to the room depends on the ability to operate a swift turning of the knob. For a room supposedly accessible to a disabled person, I find this to be a serious design fault. I have not been able to negotiate opening the room door yet. And I am a wheelchair user not purportedly someone with a manually challenged. Luckily, my daughter, Naomi was with me.
The train journey from Strasbourg to Berlin went without too many hitches. I have never travelled much in Germany and was relieved to find that the train lifts were there as requested. All the personnel addressed Naomi instead of asking me – however, it could be because she spoke German whereas I did not. My daughter is quite stunning and I am not surprised to be overshadowed.
We were on the main street (Ku’ damm Strasse) yesterday and it was very pleasant. It was wide and gave a sense of being comfortable and spacious. Obviously the rich side of Berlin. We had coffee and strudel in a cafe/restaurant full of 1920’s pictures and ambience. We wandered about taking in the sights and ended up in a little sushi restaurant that was run by Vietnamese staff in a side street. All the items had the calorific content written on the menu. We were quite amused by that. It started raining and we caught a cab at the taxi stand. Taxis seem plentiful in Berlin. So far so good. Berlin seems like a place I can negotiate on my own. We are going to try the bus system to check out the Tiergarten Park today and maybe go to the Bauhaus Archives. Apparently the buses are accessible.
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