March: Crazy, Hectic, Wonderful
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
My latest blog post all about the month of March. A converted chapel, two hotels, a travel trade fair and a mobility show!
March 2017 was a month that I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I had a milestone birthday to celebrate (30, eek!) and two major work events to attend. I wasn’t quite sure where ‘real life’ would fit in amongst all of this, but I’m happy to say I can now reflect on a pretty awesome month!
The Old Country Chapel
March started with a weekend trip to a favourite destination. I discovered The Old Country Chapel back in 2012, when searching for a venue for my hen weekend. My friends and I had such a fantastic time that it’s become an annual tradition to return with an almost unlimited supply of food, booze and pyjamas, and this early birthday celebration was no different. Though the Chapel isn’t what I’d call traditionally accessible, if you can manage stairs it’s a wonderful place to stay. There’s a log fire, Chesterfield sofas, beamed ceilings, a huge Aga and two Jacuzzi baths, as well as stunning views out to the 2.5 acres of land.
Quality time with your best friends is so important, and as the Chapel is just up the road from us on the border of Northumbria we’re lucky enough to enjoy it every year.
The next couple of weeks were spent beavering away in the Tourism for All (TFA) office, preparing for the British Tourism and Travel Show; more on that later.
The Grange Hotel
Saturday 18th March brought my big 3-0, and another lovely trip. After present opening, a walk with the dog and brunch, Darren and I packed up the car and headed over to Grange Over Sands. Almost five years ago we got married at the stunning Grange Hotel, and Darren’s treat was to take me back there to celebrate my birthday. The hotel was built in 1866 in an elegant Italianate style, yet still manages to be wonderfully accessible. All areas are accessible by lift and wheelchair ramp, and they have bedrooms specifically tailored for guests with limited mobility, which offer spacious wet rooms.
After checking in we decided to make the most of the facilities, and spend the afternoon in the pool and spa. There’s no hoist available for the pool or Jacuzzi, but I found it easy enough to transfer from my chair. We had such a relaxing couple of hours, and it was a great way to work up an appetite for our 5 course meal that evening. We dined in the hotel’s Carriage’s restaurant, and had a gorgeous meal including a main course of fillet steak.
After a couple of night caps in the lounge bar, all that was left to do was enjoy a lovely sleep in our four poster bed! I think this is the first one I’ve seen in an accessible room – a real treat.
I love the Grange so much, it’s a place that means a lot to me and holds special memories. Our stay was up to their usual fantastic standard, and I can’t wait to return.
British Tourism and Travel Show
The next week brought another long-anticipated event – The British Tourism and Travel Show (BTTS). It’s the travel trade’s event of the year, and one that I’ve always attended in my 11 years with TFA. This year was extra special because, as well as the TFA stand, we hosted an accessibility clinic with my friend and colleague Brian Seaman. Brian’s knowledge of accessible tourism is so vast and varied that whenever I have a query, he’s my first port of call!
For the last few years BTTS has been held at the NEC (Birmingham) and the TFA team have stayed at the nearby Birmingham Airport Travelodge. The beauty of a Travelodge, especially if you’ve stayed in one before, is that you know what to expect. My room was very basic but had everything I needed – a comfortable bed, plenty of space for my wheelchair and a wet room shower.
The show was a great success for TFA, connecting with contacts old and new and promoting TFA Partnership and the Tourism is for Everybody campaign.
After a few days at home to rest, recover and catch up on life, I travelled back to the NEC, this time for Naidex. Naidex is a huge independent living exhibition full of amazing equipment, seminars and people generally rocking the disability thing.
This would be the first time I’d travelled by train, alone, with the power pack on my wheelchair. I was a little anxious about it, but also excited. I had so many people to catch up with at the exhibition and it was lovely not to worry about pushing myself long distances.
I was wheeled onto the train to discover that all of the wheelchair spaces, including the one I was supposed to be sat in, had been double booked. Oh. Dear. Thankfully the guys at Oxenholme (my local station) are super helpful, and I was whisked down to first class. What could have been a stressful journey ended up a happy one, with complimentary coffee and breakfast and a random first meeting with who I now know as Ryan, my colleague from Euan’s Guide :-)
I was so grateful for my power pack on the journey from the train station to the NEC. It’s all in the same building and takes about 15 minutes, and feels like miles! It really made a difference to my day, as I worked my way around the hall catching up with so many lovely colleagues who are really flying the flag for disability, accessibility, travel and adventure.
So… that was March, phew! Thanks to everyone who made it pretty bloody amazing. Crazy, hectic, wonderful could be my life mantra I think – more adventures coming up very soon.