I made my first trip to London where I stayed at the Palmers’ Lodge Hillspring, which is located in Willesden, England. I stayed in London for 6 days and was just going to backpack around the city to see what it had to offer. No set plans for specific attractions.
But first things first: Having read that London was quite accessible I trusted this assessment and had to realize on the location that there are more than just a few problems. If you are in a wheelchair, you will not be able to use the tube which leaves you with the options of bus or taxi. The accessibility of the buses was a pleasant surprise – you can get on the bus easier than in Germany or even the US. Taxis are a bit small but there seem to be enough accessible taxis. However, when my vacation was over and I wanted to get to the airport by bus, I was told by the bus driver that it would have been obligatory that I registered as a person with a wheelchair beforehand and that he could not let me get on the bus. So I had to wait another hour to convince the next bus driver that I had to catch my plane.
London’s infrastructure was pretty good though, especially in the tourist areas. To get there from Palmers Lodge you have to go by bus which takes at least 30 minutes. I cannot remember any shops in the commercial areas that were not accessible. However, regarding pubs, it was the contrary. Almost every pub I have been to has stairs. I am mentioning this because I always like to see what a city’s nightlife has to offer. Fortunately, most locals were helpful which I also found out by talking to people on different occasions. Being interested in seeing the city and mingling with the people in the evenings, I spend a lot of time in Camden which is a nice place to be.
As far as the hostel is concerned, it was quite an adventure and I would not recommend it. Although the staff was nice and helpful and even offered to use the bathroom which is only for staff, the building just is not accessible. They had a ramp to get into the building but it was really difficult to get up there. Doors were not automatic but staff would always help open them. While the rooms are not carpeted, the corridors are, which makes it pretty difficult to navigate with your chair. This is especially true when you are carrying your bags or are trying to open the doors. The restaurant was very spacious but plain. The same can be said about the rooms. Most visitors were from school classes and I stayed in a plain 4-bed room without tv or other accommodations. Also, the showers were pretty plain and it was nearly impossible to use them.
Although the food in the restaurant was really good and oftentimes I got my lunch there, I would usually visit one of the cafès that are located around the Willesden Green tube station to get breakfast or grab something to eat on the markets during the day. Usually, breakfast consisted of different sandwiches and coffee. The few times that I went to a restaurant, I usually was Mediterranean food which was always good.
Summing up, I would say that if I had not been very adventurous and strong in my trunk and arms, I would have had a really hard time. But since I have never visited London before and I went sightseeing most of the time I did not mind that the hostel was hardly accessible. And in all fairness, it must be said that Palmers’ Lodge does not advertise as being wheelchair accessible either.