Last December I spoke at an accessible tourism conference in Barcelona. After being on stage, many significant people approached me - including Javier from Barcelona Special Traveller, Cristian Rodriguez who now runs Disability Horizons in Spain, Isabel Godoy from Costa Brava tourism, and Ruben Gonzalez from Bask For All. It's amazing how powerful these events can be.
When Ruben approached me, he explained how he and his business partner, Asier, had been working hard on creating an accessible itinerary. They were doing this in and around the San Sebastian area of the Basque country (the Guipuzcoa region). He hoped to collaborate together on arranging a 'famtrip' (where influencers are invited to become more 'familiar' with a region before sharing it to their networks).
Following a few months of planning, the guys invited Kasia and I, Kathanna from Disabled Access Holidays, and Annie from Enable Holidays for a 3 day visit. Bask For All also collaborated with Julian from Barcelona Zero Limits. And what a great itinerary it was too!
Having sailed from Plymouth to Santander with our car, we were a little later arriving. Of course, you can fly to San Sebastian directly, but we needed the car for our summer of projects across Europe. While we were parking and checking into the hotel (there's a lot more on the Astoria 7 hotel to come soon!), the group walked around the city centre and gazed upon the beautiful historic monuments of San Sebastian. I know of their beauty because I saw them later that evening too.
The group then all met at the Hegalak Sportive Center, right by the beach, and were taken on a tour. We saw how they'd made sports and exercise inclusive to all people. There were medical professionals, physiotherapists, adapted gym equipment, an accessible swimming pool and much more. The centre was part of a larger organisation who support disabled people into general inclusion. They work for more accessible infrastructures, training organisations on disability awareness, and advising on inclusive processes.
Shortly after this we were whisked off to the city centre to meet Eli, our pintxo tour guide from San Sebastian Food. We were told all about the San Sebastian old town, and the gastronomy of the proud Basque people. I was also asked to deliver two Periscopes for Lonely Planet during this part of the trip. So I'll now let my live broadcasts inform you of the history and food in the below videos.
After lots of food, wine and the sadness of my beloved Tottenham losing their fight for the premier league title; we headed home for a much needed sleep.
At 8.30 the next morning our bus departed, along with Esther from San Sebastian Guides, to the French area of the Guipuzcoa region for an adapted surfing demonstration. This activity was not possible for someone with my impairment, but I'm glad to report that people with stronger upper body strength can ride the crest of the waves. Julian was the lucky guy to try this out, and despite being tired his smile said it all. I really enjoyed watching him, accessing the beach walkway myself and seeing the stunning scenery. You can find out more information on adapted surfing here.
Afterwards we were back on the bus for an adapted golf demonstration. Again, my limited upper body strength meant I couldn't do the activity. However I'm liking the fact I can report on news beyond my own needs these days. Like a journalist of accessible tourism. The golf was very fascinating too - the technology was part wheelchair and part golf buggy. It strapped the person in securely and stood them upright. Once vertical, they had the correct position to swing the club, and hopefully hit the ball far. The guys at the golf club were very helpful and there's more information available about them here. Here's Kathanna from Disabled Access Holidays demonstrating her skills!
By this stage we were getting hungry. I always struggle to adapt to the later Spanish lunch times in the first days. However the wait was worthwhile. We were to visit the Txakoli vineyard. It's situated along part of the famous Camino de Santiago, and has stunning views of undulating greenland with the sea in the distance. Before eating and trying the wine, we learned all about the family business and the way the delicious wine is made. Kasia even bought some for her parents as a gift. You can read more about visiting the beautiful hotel and vineyard here (link).
I felt that sharing all of our activities in one post was too much. So at this halfway stage, take a look at the above links and digest everything. In part two I'll share information on our visit to Getaria, about our Michelin Star dinner, the extremely insightful round table meeting, a description of our cooking class, and about the most accessible hotel room I've ever stayed in!