As we don’t like to have to wait too long for our next break, we started 2018 with a short holiday in March to Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium. Unfortunately this break coincided with ‘the beast from the east’, so the weather wasn’t ideal.
We found the accommodation through the then new website Access-I. The Ferme de l’Abbaye de Moulins is in a lovely spot, just outside the village of Anhée on the Meuse river. Some of the outbuildings of this working farm have been converted to holiday homes, some for groups, and a small one on the ground floor has been adapted for disabled use.
There is reserved parking just in front of the outside door around the back of the barn. The wide door brings you into a hallway. Unfortunately, the door opens the wrong way, so it is difficult to get through and then around the door with a wheelchair. From the hallway there is another door to the gite. On the inside of the door a little ramp into the living area, with ample seating facilities for just two, a nice dining table and a very nicely appointed kitchen area. From the kitchen there is another door outside to the farmyard, so you can sit outside when the weather is nicer. However there are cobbles in front of the door. To one side of the living room are the accessible bathroom and the bedroom. There are two sliding doors to the bedroom, one on either side of the bed, which makes access to the bedroom possible, as there is no room between the bed and the wall to get past. There is also a connecting door between the bedroom and the bathroom, which is useful for a carer to get around the wheelchair. Both bedroom and bathroom are accessible but tight. The bed is fairly high and massive. No possibility to move the bed or to get a hoist underneath. There are grabbars on either side of the toilet and there is a roll-in shower with a fold-up seat on the wall and grabbars. A nice enough place for a short break, though, as long as you have a car to get around.
On the way down we stopped to visit Namur. First we stopped at a restaurant by the Citadel, hoping to have a nice view over the old city centre. The restaurant was accessible, although they had to open the side door for us especially, and there was an accessible toilet, but the view was over the river Meuse and not the city centre. After lunch we drove down to the city centre and went for a walk around. As it was cold and wet the walk was not very long. The centre is fairly flat, but there are a lot of cobbled streets if you want to see the historic buildings. Restaurants and bars seemed not very accessible, so we had a cup of coffee outside at the end of our walk.
The rest of the week we spent mainly driving around the lovely countryside, exploring the area in every direction, sometimes making a short stop in one of the towns or villages. This was the best thing to do in the circumstances: cold and often wet, although we saw quite a bit of sun too. But we also found that Wallonia is not very accessibility-aware (yet), especially if you compare it to Flanders. So I will not tell you in detail about all the drives we made, but will make some short remarks about what we found out about accessibility.
It is very often difficult to find disabled parking spots, and when they are there, they are not always available as at the archeological museum in Arlon, where the disabled parking area was behind a locked gate and nobody in the museum knew where to find the key. So I parked in front of the gate and we visited the museum, which was accessible. It had a lift so you could move to other floors, but some of the exhibits were difficult to view from a wheelchair. However, it was better than the Celtic museum in Libramont-Chevigny, which wasn’t accessible at all. Sometimes accessibility is advertised, as in case of the Citadel of Dinant, but when we arrived there we found the path to the entrance so steep that we decided against visiting it. Sidewalks are very often narrow, dropped curbs a rarity, and streets often cobbled so walking around in towns or villages is not easy. The only positive exception we found was in the town of Bouillon, where we had a nice walk along the river and visited the museum of Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the leaders of the first Crusade. However, we didn’t visited the castle which is on top of a hill. And of course, with accessibility not being a big issue, disabled toilets are nowhere to be found.
So, although we really had a nice break, that was mainly due to the lovely countryside and learning new things about an area that we usually drive through on the motorway on our way to France.