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Touring the Chateau de Fontainebleau on Crutches

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 5/21/2015 - www.Littleviews.com ]

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May 21: Hobbling Around Chateau de Fontainebleau

>>  Today we experimented with getting out of bed early (difficult), hoping to find a place for breakfast around 8:30AM (impossible). Hungrily, we drove to the Chateau de Fontainebleau in hopes that we'd find food (we didn't) and a fairly empty tourist attraction (the long line of tour busses were all empty by our arrival).

As I am officially handicapped (I cannot put weight on my right leg), we planned on taking advantage of the Chateau's handicapped provisions, which include my caregiver (Phil) dropping me at the admissions door and receiving free tickets for an accessible exhibit (the Chateau's chambers).

The first problem we encountered was not being able to identify the special gate. According to the description of it on the Internet, I "thought" I identified it, but was unsure. From that point, we spent a half hour in the car wandering around, repeatedly passing the same area. After giving up, we ventured forth via GPS instructions to the local French Travel Information Office, which was (get this) a half-block from the spot I initially identified.

The entrance to the special gate was marked "employees only" (not a good clue), and more unfortunately, the employees exclusively spoke French. I tried to explain the situation by saying "handicapped" in increasingly loud tones, to which they responded in a way that sounded confused.

Apparently, these employees were telling us to drive under an arch to the entrance, BUT between us and that arch was a post. Finally, an English-speaking associate came to the rescue. The reason for the misunderstanding was because once permission was given, the employees would lower the barrier. Ah!

The ticketing area caters to French people, with English as an afterthought. Honestly, even after experiencing it, the entire ticketing process remains a mystery to me, so much so that I cannot describe it (tip: buy your tickets online).

To take advantage of the museum's handicapped perk, I told an agent that I was handicapped, waving a crutch in support of my words. She had never heard of the program and besides, she didn't speak English, so she waved me into the next room.

In the next room, I flagged a number of people who collectively figured out what I wanted. Note that the definition of "handicapped" in France requires an official "certification" from your country. In my case, I applied for and received a handicapped parking sticker from New Jersey via prescription from my doctor. Without that type of certification, your physical difficulties will not be recognized in Europe.

By the time Phil returned from parking our car, the number of people lumbering through the Chambers exhibit were gliding along at a pace more suitable for cryonic preservation. Upon giving up and telling Phil to go on without me, an attendant stepped forward to say that free wheelchairs were available from the ticketing office, but by then, I was so tired that I didn't have the energy to round up a team of translators. Instead, I just wanted to leave the interior of the Chateau and step into the bright sunshine as fast as my crutches would bear me.

Unfortunately, the fastest route out was barred due to construction, so in order to exit, I hobbled at least two interior blocks before reaching a crutch-menacing cobblestoned plaza. From the door, I slowly hobbled out to a magnificent, twisty staircase, next to which was a bench where another person with a knee injury was lounging. It was from this bench I sketched my very first "urban art" project. It is not perfect (OK, it is a tad garish), but it kept me enjoyably occupied until Phil was done with his tour.

Lessons Learned:

  • I forgot to check on the condition of the off-line French translation program installed on my iPad Air and at the worst possible time, discovered it was missing components. Oy! It now runs and I will report on it tomorrow.

  • Our GPS lists every French Tourist Information Office in France and we now plan on taking more advantage of them. By the way, in case you don't know, French cities do not have street signs at intersections. Instead, street names are stenciled in tiny letters on the side of the nearest building on your right-hand side defining the street perpendicular to the intersection.

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Karen Little - Karen@Littleviews.com

Article series by Karen Little for www.Littleviews.com. Photos by Karen and Phil Little. Series began on May 13, 2015. All rights reserved.

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