Nuevo Vallarta–Que Bela!

Nuevo Vallarta–Que Bela!

 

My friend has sung praises of Nuevo Vallarta for years. I decided it was time for me to check it out for myself. I was thrilled to find that Puerto Vallarta and nearby Nuevo Vallarta are situated in tropical rainforest along the Pacific coast with the Sierra Madre mountains as a backdrop. It is spectacular!

 

We stayed at the Vidanta Resort in the Grand Luxxe. We used a free certificate for our stay, but it can also be rented through VRBO. I was absolutely impressed with the wheelchair accessibility of this 300-acre resort complex. Most everything that I experienced was up to American ADA standards – the trails and boardwalks that meander beneath the rainforest canopy, the ramps leading to the restaurants, of which there are 28, and the walkways along the beach— it was well-designed and absolutely fabulous! Our apartment (unit #7141)  had a roll in shower, short-length grab bars by the toilet and sinks that I could pull under to use.

 

It was hard to miss the floral fragrance of fresh-cut lilies as we entered the lobby and our room. And we were eased into sleep each night by live music that drifted up from the floor below us. It was a beautiful experience for all of the senses.

 

Accessibility was further enhanced by the resort providing golf cart-type shuttles, including wheelchair accessible ones, that could be requested from the bellboy and would arrive within five or 10 minutes. The ramp for the shuttle was steeper than ADA standard, but many helping hands were always willing and available. Hospitality staff took us wherever we wanted to go within the expansive resort. We could also opt to wheel along the vast network of boardwalks and paths. Whichever method we chose, there was plenty of staff that was very warm, hospitable and willing to help in any way we needed. This was a real plus since my husband is aging and I seem to have a larger appetite for distance than I can push on my own—especially in beachfront tropical rainforest. The grounds were replete with wildlife. We saw snowy egrets, a crocodile, iguanas and I could hear calls of tropical parrots—a paradise!

 

I used only one of the eight swimming pools on the property, the enormous pool nearest the Grand Luxxe. It did not have a water chair/lift. I am able to cling to a sturdy railing and walk down a few steps so this worked for me. I enjoyed refreshing daily swims and basked in the warm sun, poolside, to dry.

 

Future plans at this Vidanta Resort include construction of a gondola that will take guests across the complex, providing yet another mode of transportation. It is supposed to open December 2020.

 

On one of our five days in Nuevo Vallarta, we ventured out on a tour called “Amazing Vallarta” with TB tours. Our guide, Gabino, provided wonderful service and it was a fun time with two other couples. We visited the Malecon, or seawall, and our Lady of Guadalupe church.  We had a delicious lunch at the edge of a rainforest reserve where I could see zip-liners whizzing by above the forest canopy, whooping in delight. Around the corner, we stopped at a family owned tequila factory where we had a blast doing little mini shots of eight kinds of tequila, reminiscent of crazy college days.

 

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the Amazing Vallarta tour, I found it to be exhausting to transfer in and out of the van. I even considered staying put on the last stop. For those who have difficulty transferring and cannot take a few steps while holding onto something sturdy, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible. The stops were sometimes challenging too, with cobblestone and very steep ramps, but worthwhile. I did see an option to book a wheelchair accessible van through Viator.com, but for 3.5 times the cost.

 

When I think back on my visit, I have no doubt that I will come back to this Vidanta Resort. It had excellent wheelchair accessibility and was one of the easiest and most enjoyable places I have vacationed!

Hood River, Oregon Fruitloop

Hood River, Oregon Fruitloop

A beautiful drive about an hour and a half east of Portland Oregon brings me to the 30+ farmstands, lavender farms, wineries, orchards and the like that compose the Fruit Loop of Hood River.  This is a place for families, couples and whoever enjoys beautiful scenery and seeing and learning about places where  good things grow and are produced in this wonderful nation of ours.  Kids can take a ride on a trolley pulled by a tractor through an orchard at the Fruit Company, pet llamas, pick berries or apples and so much more. It’s a favorite place for me to visit on a sunny afternoon and many of the stops on the loop,  like Mountain View Orchards and grateful winery, Kiyokawa Family orchards, are wheelchair friendly.

Sweden: At the Edge of the Baltic Sea

Sweden: At the Edge of the Baltic Sea

Birka Island

We are so far north here in Stockholm that it stays light until midnight and then starts getting light again by 3:30 AM. I think it’s pretty cool. I was surprised that Sweden is hillier and harder to wheel than the Netherlands and Belgium. I was also surprised that it is harder to find accessible restrooms around town, mostly old town, unless you are at a museum or airport where accessible restrooms are great.. Stockholm’s Old town has a lumpy-style of  cobblestones and hills so it’s not easy.

On day 1 in Stockholm, we did a 3day Hop on Hop off with Stromma City Sightseeing. They advertised as wheelchair accessible but truly was not. No ramp on bus and I had to back my manual chair out and drop several inches to get out. The driver wouldn’t let me out at my requested stop either since he didn’t want to reposition the bus to be closer to the curb to help rampless wheelchair exit.  He told us to circle around and get the requested stop the second time around but before we could do that, he stopped at stop number one and told us we had to leave because he was on break. It was terrible service and a wasted vacation day, unfortunately.

Day 2 was better with Stromma HOHO. This bus had a ramp and we went to the Vasa museum which was fascinating. Vasa is an enormous Swedish ship that sank in the 1600’s and then was recovered in 2000’s. It was amazingly preserved in the brackish water. It was an amazing effort to build and very ornate with carved  figures that had been painted. I didn’t realize they built such massive ships back then. It was about seven stories high. We also visited the Nordic museum, really  about life in Sweden from the 1600s to now, It was less than impressive but wheelchair accessible.  That was all the time we had for museums since we lost the first day. 

Day 3 was a boat ride to Birka island. It is an old Viking site and is now a UNESCO heritage site. I could not go on the walking tour or see the archeological dig. I was informed of that prior to buying my ticket from Stromma, though, and figured I would like the 2-hr boat ride and spend time in the museum, shop, cafe and re-constructed village. I did this and it was good and my able-bodied husband really enjoyed the walking tour.

Hotel: We stayed at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen hotel which was nicely wheelchair accessible and provided a wonderful breakfast. There was a lot of construction around Stockholm when we were there and this complicated things for us. I wish I could’ve had that extra day to see some other museums in the  very nicely accessible area near the Vasa museum.

General observations: Europeans seem to understand the term “disabled  toilet” Instead of “wheelchair accessible restroom”.  No matter what country I was in, people always offered to help if we were in an obviously difficult situation with steep ramps, etc. In my opinion, the Netherlands and then Belgium were more wheelchair accessible just because of the flat terrain (“nether” means “low”) compared to Stockholm, Sweden.  Some areas of Stockholm were pretty good, too, though.  Everywhere we went, many people spoke English.

It was a great trip and now it is great to be home!