As usual we could have stayed much longer in Brittany, even if the weather is not always as lovely as it was this time. In this case it was only a long detour to our other holiday destination. So after four days I pack everything in the car again and we continue our way southwards. It is a lovely drive along the Atlantic coast to the Ile d’Oléron, a fairly big island in the bay of Biscay just south of La Rochelle. Past Nantes we are on a toll road again, so plenty of rest areas with disabled toilets. And now we don’t need them!
On the island we are staying in a holiday cottage in the holiday park l’Accolade. This holiday park is well catered for disabled people with 8 cottages, two big tents and about 10 camping places with wheelchair accessible wash rooms. All necessary aids like hoists, shower chairs etc. are available or can be provided for. Even in the big tents there are adjustable beds. Scattered over the park there are a lot of playing equipments like swings for wheelchairs and other things to make it an ideal place
for disabled children on holiday. There is also an accessible pool. There is not only room for holidaymakers on the park, there are also a lot of volunteers helping with maintenance, care and activities. As the park is under Dutch management, the volunteers are also Dutch. Due to all the facilities the park is usually fully booked a long time in advance by families with disabled children during the school holidays in July and August. Before and after that (in May, June and September) it is a lot quieter and then you find more adults with special needs. Not a lot of people from other nationalities have found the park yet, but they are also welcome when there is enough room.
We are staying in one of the smaller cottages, which has two bedrooms, one of which has adjustable beds. The bathroom is nice and large, with a roll in shower. In the livingroom there is a kitchenette with basic facilities, but it is adjustable in height and has other facilities especially for wheelchairusers like special taps. There are sliding doors to the terrace, which is dug into the hillside to give you more privacy from the people in the other cottages. There is a parking spot right in front of the cottage, and the front door can be opened by a remote-control button. To get from the cottages to the rest of the park areas there is a lift to take you to the lower level. To make it more of a holiday experience there is no tv in the cottages, but since this year there is free Wifi on the park.
We stayed here for the first time last autumn and loved it so much that we wanted to come back for some peace and quiet. Rather than having to do all the care myself I can buy in care from the people available on the park. We pay that out of J’s personal care budget, just like we do at home. The difference is that at home the care moments are planned. Here we get a mobile phone, and when J is awake and wants to get up I call them and ask them to come. Usually they are present
within a few minutes. That makes it more of a holiday for me too. Like we do at home we buy in the care in the mornings, to get J out of bed, washed and ready to go. Because the care is so good, I can have some time to myself, either walking to the bakery in the village for fresh bread, or just sitting in the sun with a book.
Even though this holiday was really meant for some peace and quiet J felt enough at home here to join in with some of
the activities. There was a ‘Jeu de Boule’- tournament, with 4 contestants in wheelchairs, a tombola, a wine-tasting event and loads more. Of course we go swimming on a sunny day. Even there the volunteers assist me. Some evenings we just have drinks with the volunteers, some evenings we join them for dinner. As a guest you can eat in your cottage, go out for dinner or put your name on the list for the communal dinner.
With all the activities we hardly have time left to leave the park to drive around the island. When we finally go for a drive, the car breaks down! I manage somehow to get the car back to the park before I really had to call the garage and the insurance. Fortunately we have a Peugeot, and in France it sometimes seems as if there is a Peugeot garage on every streetcorner! One of the park managers is on standby to help me if I would have language problems dealing with the garage, which makes it less of an ordeal. Then of course the car can’t be ready when we are supposed to return home. Because it is so late in the season it is no problem to stay in the cottage a few days longer, and the garage supplied us with a replacement car. And to be fair, there are worse places to be forced to stay longer! So once everything is organised and everyone has been informed about our prolonged stay (fortunately I had my laptop with me so I could email everyone) we settle down and try to enjoy it once more That would have been even easier if the weather had not deteriorated.
When our car is returned to us I can start packing and the next day we set off once again. Yet again, we don’t return home in one day because of the distance, but we have booked a room in a hotel about half way, between Le Mans and Rouen. The room is not the largest, there is only just enough room for the wheelchair on one side of the bed, and just enough room to get the wheelchair in the bathroom. There is so little room on the other side of the bed that I have to be careful not to injure myself on the walls when trying to get into bed. Oh well, it is only for one night! There is a nice restaurant right next to the hotel, so we don’t have to get back into the car, and there is a nice pool (which can be both indoors or outdoors) so I can have a nice swim after the day’s driving. Unfortunately the pool is not accessible.
To make the last day feel more like part of the holiday we decide not to take the motorway for the first stage of the drive, and enjoy the nice countryside of Normandy. After that we take the coastal motorway to Dunkirk and into Belgium. We are meeting some friends that live near Bruges and have tea with them. Such a nice way to end your holiday, even if the disabled toilet in the restaurant is not big enough for the wheelchair.