Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Legless At Festivals

Front row scrounger. 

Festivals are tricky when it comes to wheelin' or crutchin' around so these are my tips for making it as easy as possible.

  • The disabled camping areas tend to be the furthest camp site away from the venue which is bizarre and completely inconvenient if you're on crutches or in a rush to get to the main stage. I usually camp in whatever site is nearest to the main arena. I place my tent on the very edge of the camping area with my door facing out so that pegs and lines and bodies don't block my way in and out.

  • When it rains, the mud starts to pop up like Emeli Sandé at an awards show (i.e. everywhere). I have a very run-of-the-mill wheelchair so this is a big hassle for me. I have seen a few chairs that attach a 'third wheel' to their chair which makes mud and uneven ground much easier to go through. It's called the Go Free Wheel and even though it's a bit late to get one for the Picnic, if you save up your sheckles, your festival summer of 2014 could be easy sailing.

  • If you're heading on crutches, the main problem with festivals is that there's not enough seating areas. It's a pain in the ass to get up off the ground when you're using sticks so keep a lookout for potential perching spots and own them like you're the Queen of Sheba.

  • I'm not a fan of the wheelchair platform areas because you're kept far away from the crowd, the view isn't amazing and you feel removed from the festival. My main trick is to get to the very front of the barrier and watch from there. The key thing with this is to be sound to those around you and to the security guards and you shouldn't have any problems. Of course, this is probably against security regulations but you have paid for a ticket and you shouldn't have to be booted to the very back to watch everyone else have fun.

  • Wheelchairs are great hiding spots for booze. I've given myself away here but it's all for the greater good.

  • The ground is rough. Wheelchair users know how to navigate the ground because we're a metre away from it and can see when a dip or rock is in the way. Those pushing may not see what's ahead and you could end up flying out of the chair. So if you're wheeling yourself and getting a heave here and there, keep that in mind and hold on.

  • If you're on crutches, avail of the piggy back. There's probably grounds for a romcom in someone giving you a piggy back at a festival because you broke your foot. If you get married, include me in the speech.

  • Even though there are wheelchair toilets, there aren't very many. If there is a queue at the wheelchair portaloo, ask if you can skip it. There are hundreds and hundreds of regular-sized poratloos and very few wheelchair-friendly ones. Common decency and common sense should hopefully mean that you won't have to queue for too long at a wheelchair portaloo.

  • A lot of the First Aid tents have a wheelchair portaloo behind them. Again, this probably isn't meant to be public knowledge but if you're miles from one (like in the regular campsites), this could be your best bet. 

Wheel responsibly and don't see a good weekend off-roaded. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Legless In The Country: Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Ballyvaughan is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest parts of Ireland. I spent most of my summers there as a child and I still try to go as often as possible. Between rolling mountains, landscapes that are a shade of lavender due to all the rock (so much rock), very good food, live music and tourist attractions like the Ailwee Caves and the Dolmen, there is a lot on offer here.

As a small village, it fares very well in terms of accessibility. I have done up a handful of reviews of restaurants, bars, cafés and tourist attractions and the majority of them have made a huge effort to cater to everyone. Unfortunately, one thing I did notice that not a lot of the accommodation is wheelchair friendly and this is a big problem. It's an issue because while these places have scored highly, if you have nowhere to stay, then what's the point?

The main hotel, Hylands, has no lift and all of their rooms are upstairs. The newly built Burren Coast Hotel had all of the facilities but it has been on sale for the last couple of years. Ballyvaughan is the quintessential tourist spot in Ireland and for it to thrive properly, it needs more people to visit. There is so much on offer here and if there was a steady flow of tourists, even Irish tourists, the hotels, pubs and tourist attractions could adapt to cater for everyone.

However, I have been informed that Meadowfield B&B, Drumcreehy House, Burren View B&B and O'Connor's in Doolin can cater for guests with disabilities. I have linked all of their sites so ring and check before you book anything.

In Ballyvaughan, the footpaths are in semi-decent condition. There are a few broken pavements down at the harbour, there are very few dips in the kerb for a wheelchair to get up from the road. There isn't a lot of traffic and you can walk from one end of the village to the other in less than 15 minutes. If you are staying outside of the village, you will definitely need a car as the roads are narrow and winding.

I have reviewed a selection of things that are going on in the 'vaughan and the areas surrounding. If you can find a way down there, make it your duty to visit.

Reviewed (so far):

An Fulacht Fia
Ballyvaughan Farmers Market
Ballyvaughan Tea Rooms
The Burren Perfumery
Caherconnell Stone Fort
Greenes Bar
Linn Fashion and Gifts
Logues Lodge
Poulnabrone Dolmen
Village Stores

Legless In The Country: The Burren Perfumery, Carron, Co. Clare

The Burren Perfumery
Carron, Co. Clare

Tucked away in Carron, you'll find The Burren Perfumery where they make all of their own soaps, shampoos, lip balms, face cleaners and tea from their own herb garden. I adore their rose facial serum and their lavender and marigold facial cleanser. You'll get swept away with the amount of things that you don't necessarily need but you'll definitely want.

What has it got?

Seating: In their tea rooms, they have moveable chairs at their tables. There is outdoor and indoor seating and most of it is easy to get to. Around the perfumery, there are stone walls that double up as a place to rest. 

Doors: The doors are wide enough to fit a wheelchair. 

Ground: Outside, there are limestone slabs and gravel. It's a little uneven but manageable. Inside, I think it's more limestone flooring but it is all flat. Sadly, their herb garden is a little tricky to get around because the paths are uneven and rough. I made it halfway through and had to give up. 

Stairs: If there are any steps here, there is a sloped surface right beside it. 

Bathrooms: There is no wheelchair bathroom here but I did fit my wheelchair into one of the larger cubicles. Not all wheelchairs will fit in here. If there was a foot of extra space, it would have been easier. 

Spaciousness: Other than the bathroom and the herb garden, there is enough room in the perfumery and the tea rooms.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are absolutely lovely here. They will help you pick out what's right for you and if you need any assistance, it should be no problem. 

Parking: There is no specific wheelchair spot and none of the parking spots are lined out so if you pick your spot carefully, you will have enough room to get a chair in and out. 

Rating: 7/10

Why did it lose points? Sadly, the Perfumery lost three points because their bigger bathroom would not be able to accommodate most wheelchairs and it's a pity to miss out on the herb garden because it is beautiful. Please don't let these two things put you off your visit because the it's a lovely place to visit and you'll leave smelling like a garden or roses. 

Legless In The Country: Linn Fashion and Gifts, Visitor Centre, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Linn Fashion and Gifts
Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare (behind Spar)

As well as a tourist information point, Linn Fashion and Gifts has a surprisingly varied collection of, you've guessed it, fashion and gifts.

What has it got?

Seating: No seats in here but if you want a bit of a lean or a perch, there's a grand wall out front.

Doors: The door is normally kept open here but it fits a wheelchair.

Ground: A fine display of wooden panelling going on in here. 

Stairs: There are a couple of steps in but there is a ramp beside it too. 

Bathrooms: There is no bathroom here but it's just across the way from Spar's bathrooms which are big enough for a wheelchair. 

Spaciousness: It can be a little bit tight between all of the display units but with some parallel parking and three-point turning, you will get to see everything. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Geraldine Linnane runs this shop and she is the woman to talk to for tourist information. She is very helpful and if you need anything else, simply ask. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking available at the entrance of the shop. 

Rating: 9.5

Why did it lose points? Linn Fashion and Gifts lost half a point because it can be a little bit tight between all the display units and shelves. All in all, it has everything else in place in terms of access. 

Legless In The Country: Village Stores (Spar), Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Village Stores (Spar)
Main Street, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Other than the petrol station, this is Ballyvaughan's only food shop. It closes at 8.30 most evenings so don't forget to pick up your báinne. This Spar is a bit of a social spot and you might get to spot the local celebrity here, the fat cat (above).

What has it got?

Seating: There are picnic tables outside Spar and this is where the fat cat can normally be found. 

Doors: The doors are wide and easy to open. 

Ground: The ground is tiled in here so take heed when it's wet. 

Stairs: Not a step nor stair to be seen. 

Bathrooms: They actually have a large bathroom around the back of this Spar which is nifty for everyone really. 

Spaciousness: There is plenty of room between the aisles but some of the shelves are high. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Staff are great here and if you need a hand, don't be too shy to ask. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair spot behind this Spar and there are plenty of other parking spots beside it.  

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? No points were lost. It's a very easy shop to navigate. 

Legless In The Country: Caherconnell Stone Fort, Carron, Co. Clare

Caherconnell Stone Fort
Carron, Co. Clare

Caherconnell Fort is an ancient ring fort that is found on the farmland of the Davoren family. Once you've visited the fort, you can check out the sheepdog trials demonstrated by John and his furry pals, Sally and Lee, or try some Caherconnell Cheese in their café. The fort itself is very impressive as its shape is fully preserved and there are archaeologists working on the site for most of the year and just last week, they discovered the remains of a woman and two children which are believed to be from the 10th or 11th Century.

What has it got?

Seating: The tables all have moveable chairs here. 

Doors: The front doors are kept open and all the rest of the doors are very easy to manage. 

Ground: Inside the centre, the floors are a mix of limestone and wooden panelling. Outside, the path is a mix of light and heavy gravel. Out to the fort, the ground is rough but because it is a preserved site, very little can be done about it. However, it is possible to get a wheelchair up to the fort. All you need is a bit of a heave here and there. Out to the sheepdog viewing area, it is up a slight hill so a push will be needed but once you get there, it is a flat and sheltered area. 

Stairs: There are no stairs but keep in mind that the ground will be uneven and rocky around the fort. 

Bathrooms: They have a large wheelchair bathroom in the café area which is beside the ladies and gents. 

Spaciousness: There is plenty of room to maneuver here. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are very helpful and if you ring in advance, they can help you plan your visit. 

Parking: There is a car park at the bottom of the hill which has a graveled path leading up to the centre. But if you ring in advance and say that you need easier access to the building, you can park beside the centre which has a tarred car park with a flat surface. 

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? The fort is a preserved site so it is difficult to get everything perfect in terms of access but what they have in place is very good for an outdoor and rocky site. The staff are very helpful here and will do their best so you can enjoy your time at the fort. Make sure you don't miss the sheepdog trials. 

Legless In The Country: Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone Dolmen
No specific address but Google maps is nifty here
No website either. That's how old it is.

Poulnabrone Dolmen is probably the defining image of The Burren and Young Harry is a point of perspective in the photo above.  I have very early memories of sitting on top of it as a young one but due to its historic importance, it's now cordoned off by a rope. It's worth visiting at least once to highlight how The Burren has remained untouched since 2500 BC (approx.). If you get there on a sunny day, you'll find a multilingual druid at the gate who will carve your name in ogham onto silver.

What has it got?

Seating: There are no actual seats here as you are in the open wilderness of The Burren. The limestone can be your seat. Get in touch with nature. 

Doors: No doors either. 

Ground: The car park has stony gravel and the slope down to the site has a lighter gravel. When you get to the path leading to the Dolmen, it gets a little bit rough. It is manageable but you may need a hand. 

Stairs: There are some steps from the car park down to the site but they have a slope running beside it. 

Bathrooms: No toilets here unfortunately. But then again, you are in the outdoors. Please, no urinating on the megalithic tomb.

Spaciousness: You could scream and shout here but there will be no echo. That is how spacious it is here. 

Helpfulness of Staff: No staff here. The Dolmen is a public site and free in so you can come in and out at your own leisure. 

Parking: There is no specific wheelchair spot in the car park but if you choose your spot carefully, you will have enough room to get the chair in and out. 

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? The Dolmen lost one point because the terrain is a tad rough but you are in The Burren and rocks and stones are to be expected. Otherwise, you can get very close to the tomb and they did a great job at making a protected and stony heritage site as easy to get to as possible. 

Legless In The Country: Ballyvaughan Farmers Market

Ballyvaughan Farmers Market
Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Every Saturday from May to October, the Farmers Market happens in the old national school in Ballyvaughan. You can get fresh vegetables, delicious cakes, seafood, flowers, actual authentic Thai food and all the local gossip in one go. The picture above looks a little depressing but it's a very lively affair, I promise.

What has it got?

Seating: There is a table with moveable chairs in the middle of it all where you can devour all your purchases. 

Doors: The doors are kept open into the old school and they are wide enough to fit a wheelchair. 

Ground: The yard, where most of the stalls are, is tarred and inside the hall is all wooden flooring. 

Stairs: There are no steps in or out of the yard or hall and there is a slope inside the hall to bring you out to the library and toilets. 

Bathrooms: They have one bathroom here and it's for everyone. Men, women, kids and wheelchair users. 

Spaciousness: Plenty of room. And then some.

Helpfulness of Staff: There are no staff here per se but they're all very friendly at the stalls and if you needed a hand at any stage, I am sure they'd oblige. 

Parking: Parking gets a bit manic in the 'vaughan during market hours so...Godspeed. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? Markets are not something that normally cater for access but, in this case, the Famers Market is on solid ground, there is room between the stalls, we have a wheelchair bathroom and slopes as opposed to steps. Even though parking is an issue, it is an issue for everyone because of the specific opening hours but get down early and you should be grand. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Legless In The Country: Logues Lodge, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Logues Lodge
Main Street, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

I was only in the pub/restaurant part of Logues, not the hotel part, but the part of Logues which I did sample is a good pub to bring the kids for dinner. They have a decent selection of pub grub and there's live music here at the weekends.

What has it got? 

Seating: Most of the tables here have moveable chairs and the tables are a nice height for a wheelchair.

Doors: The doors are easy to get through but you might run into a table as soon as you get through. 

Ground: We have a nice mixture of tiles and wooden panelling going on in Logues. 

Stairs: There is one slight raise at one of the doors into Logues pub/restaurant but there is a flat entrance too. 

Bathrooms: There is a large wheelchair cubicle available in the ladies toilet and I have been informed that the same is on offer in the gents. 

Spaciousness: When I was coming in and leaving Logues, I had to ask quite a few people if they could pull in their chairs so I could get through. While there is space for a chair, you will have to use your manners here to make your way to your table/bathroom/bar.

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are super attentive here. Ask for help and I'm sure you'll be tended to. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking available at the Spar across the road and there is plenty of street parking available. 

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? Logues lost one point because as soon as you get in the door, you meet a table and you have to get people to move. 

Legless In The Country: Tea Rooms, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Tea Rooms
Coast Road, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Fun fact: Steven Spielberg stopped off in Shannon Airport when he was en route to Prince Albert of Monaco's wedding just so he could go up to the Tea Rooms in Ballyvaughan and have their baked cherry cheesecake. I would personally stop for their lemon meringue pie but different strokes for different folks.

What has it got?

Seating: The tables all have moveable chairs here and the majority of them are tall enough to fit a wheelchair. Some of the tables are lower. 

Doors: I had no problems with the front door here. 

Ground: That beautiful Burren limestone flooring lyeth here. 

Stairs: There is a ramp at the front door which is at the perfect angle. There is one step out to the conservatory area and there is another step out to the garden area. However, you can get to a seated area outside if you go around the side of the Tea Rooms. 

Bathrooms: Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair bathroom here. 

Spaciousness: There is plenty of room in the main area of the Tea Rooms. The conservatory could be a little tight though. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are very chatty and helpful here. 

Parking: There is no specific wheelchair parking spot for here but there is a lot of parking available along the harbour. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Why did it lose points? The Tea Rooms unfortunately lost two and a half points because they have no wheelchair bathroom and when it comes to drinking tea, you will definitely need the bathroom. Please don't let you put that off visiting because the Tea Rooms (and their gardens) are so beautiful

Legless In The Country: Greenes Bar, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Greenes Bar
Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Greenes Bar is a really lovely pub that was recently refurbished and somehow managed to retain its small village feel. They have a great smoking area and you'll find live music there on most nights.

What has it got?

Seating: A lot of the tables have moveable chairs and stools. 

Doors: I needed a bit of a hand with the front doors here as they're on a slope but there were no problems with the other doors. 

Ground: The floor is tiled in here and when a few pints spill, it could be a bit risky. 

Stairs: Not a step in sight. 

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom here and you'll have to ask for the key at the bar. This bathroom is honestly the cleanest and nicest smelling bathroom I've ever been in. Kudos. 

Spaciousness: Things will get a little bit cosy as the places fills up and the night wears on. That's not always a bad thing. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are wonderful here. Again, when things get busy, you could be waiting a bit for the key but simply ask if you can keep it unlocked for the night. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking behind the Spar and there is plenty of on street parking. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? No points were lost here because everything is on the ground level (smoking area as well) and they have a wheelchair bathroom. Even though it is kept locked, all you have to do is ask for it to be kept unlocked for the night and you will have no problems. 

Legless In The Country: L'Arco, Ballyvaughan, Co, Clare

Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

As shocking as it may seem, the best Italian food I've ever had in Ireland was in Ballyvaughan's prizewinning L'Arco. Every time I have been there, there has been a queue of people waiting to get a table. If you're going yourself, I'm a big fan of their crepes which are stuffed with spinach and risotto and then baked in a tomato sauce.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the tables have moveable chairs. There are a number of tables that are closer to the bathroom which would be handier for those less nimble on their toes. 

Doors: The doors are big and are easy to open. 

Ground: Limestone flooring as far as the eye can see. 

Stairs: There are no steps in or out of L'Arco and everything you need is on the ground level. 

Bathrooms: They have a large wheelchair bathroom downstairs and the ladies and gents are upstairs. 

Spaciousness: Loads of room here and no obstacles whatsoever. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff here are very helpful when it comes to getting you the right table or helping you pick out the right prosecco. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot located behind the Spar, which is across the road from L'Arco. There is a lot of street parking available outside too. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? It didn't lose any here. L'Arco is a huge asset to the village. 

Legless In The Country: An Fulacht Fia, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

An Fulacht Fia
Coast Road, Ballyvaughan. Co. Clare

Sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, An Fulacht Fia offers some of the finest Irish cuisine in the most stunning surroundings. All of the food is locally grown or produced and it is ridiculously tasty. I am literally drooling at the memory of the lamb I had there. The owners, John and Mairin Connole, are so welcoming that you'd almost return for their hospitality alone.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the tables have moveable chairs. 

Doors: The doors are easy to open and they fit a wheelchair nicely. 

Ground: The entrance has wooden flooring, which could be a little bit slippy when it's wet out, and the restaurant area is carpeted. The bathrooms are tiled. From the car park, there is gravel but it's not too difficult to move through.

Stairs: There are no steps in or out of An Fulacht Fia.

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom here and I had no problem getting in or out of it. 

Spaciousness: There is plenty of room to move around here but if it is busy, you will have to ask people to move their chairs in if you're going to the bathroom. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Extremely helpful and they will assist you in whatever way you can. 

Parking: There is no specific wheelchair parking spot but the car park is large so there will be enough room to get a chair in and out without scratching your, or anybody else's, car. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? No points were lost here. Everything is flat, the wheelchair bathroom is in check and there are no obstacles to get in the way of you enjoying your meal here. In fact, it should get extra points because the food here is that good. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tribeca, Ranelagh

65 Ranelagh Road, Dublin 6

There are plenty of nice things on the menu of Tribeca but you need not look any further than their chicken wings. One wing in and you'll be thinking about them for days.

What has it got?

Seating: The tables have moveable chairs and then around the edges, they have fixed benches. 

Doors: The doors are wide and are easy to open. 

Ground: Wooden floors. Oaky in colour. A real treat to the eye. 

Stairs: There are no steps in and out of the restaurant but there is another seating level and a wine bar up a flight of stairs. There is no lift. 

Bathrooms: There is one wheelchair bathroom here. I managed to get stuck in there today so some precise parallel turning is required. 

Spaciousness: If you're going through the restaurant when it's busy, you will have to ask people to pull their chairs in so you can get by. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Staff are very helpful and with the point mentioned above, they'll help you with clearing the way. 

Parking: There is plenty of street parking in Ranelagh but it can be very busy. There are wheelchair parking spots down a few of the side roads and, don't quote me on this, but I believe there is definitely wheelchair parking on Elmpark Avenue (map here). 

Rating: 8.5/10

Why did it lose points? It lost a point and a half because it can be a bit of hassle getting through the restaurant to get to the wheelchair bathroom and, then when you get there, the bathroom is a little bit tight. Otherwise, great spot. 

Legless Gets The Train

Over the weekend, I went to Galway for one night - Oranmore to be precise - and I took the train from Heuston Station.

For those of you that don't know what's involved with getting a train in a wheelchair, I shall fill you in.

I have to buy my ticket in the station as opposed to online but, apparently, you can reserve spots for a wheelchair on some Dublin/Cork services.

So, once I buy my ticket, I have to alert a member of staff of which train I'm getting so they can get the ramp out in time. The staff members will also ask what station you are heading to so that they can phone ahead and organise it so that someone is waiting with a ramp at the end destination.

The ramp is a little bit steep so I always need an extra hoosh up. On the Irish Rail trains, there is one carriage that can facilitate a wheelchair user. There are two tables that have chairs removed so two people in wheelchairs can go on that train. There is also a bathroom that fits a wheelchair and it has bars on the walls.

I very rarely use the train as I prefer to drive whenever I'm going across the country. I prefer this simply because I treat my car like a giant iPod and I am a fiend for stopping at the magic roundabout in Athlone for a McDonald's. That being said, for the handful of times that I have used Irish Rail since I started using a wheelchair, I feel that they run a good service. However, on every journey, there is a mild panic that they will forget to get the ramp out and I'll have to stay on the train FOREVER.

I will, in future, attempt to cover more public transport options. I regularly use Dublin Bus and since January of 2013, 100% of their fleet are accessible. This means that all buses have working ramps that allow a wheelchair user to get on and off with little to no assistance.

I rarely need to use the Luas but when I do, there are very few problems in doing so. You can get on and off the Luas easily, there is room for a wheelchair and there are lifts at any stations that are above ground level. Because of where I live, I don't need to use the DART but I will make a couple of day trips soon so I can review what they have on offer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Twisted Pepper/Vice Coffee Inc./Elastic Witch/Boxcutter Barbershop

Twisted Pepper/Vice Coffee/Elastic Witch/Boxcutter Barbershop
54 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1

By day, Twisted Pepper houses Vice Coffee Inc., Elastic Witch and Boxcutter Barbershop. By night, you can gorge on cocktails and watch a wide array of DJs from all genres. If you want some of the best coffee in Dublin, want to peruse a decent collection of records collected by a man with a thorough knowledge of music, get a cleancut shave or want to get your groove on, stop by here. I mean, you'd never have to leave this place with the amount of things going on.

What has it got?

Seating: There are booths a-plenty here with moveable chairs and stools. 

Doors: The doors are easy enough to push open and a wheelchair fits through all of them without any problems. 

Ground: They have wooden flooring and tiling here and there's a sort of black lino thing going on in the music venue. 

Stairs: There are no steps in and out of the ground level but to get to the music venue and barbers downstairs, you have about 15-20 steps. The smoking area is upstairs and there's around 15 steps to get up there. There is no lift. 

Bathrooms: There is a wheelchair bathroom on the ground level, just past the stage area. You will need to ask at the bar for the key. The other bathrooms are located upstairs and downstairs and these are all regular sized cubicles. 

Spaciousness: There is plenty of room here as the chairs and tables are to the side and there's a clear walkway. There will be a bit of human traffic to deal with as it gets busier at night. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Super helpful here. The Vice staff can bring your coffee right over to your table and in at Elastic Witch, you'll be blushing by how helpful there are. At night, it can get very packed so if you need a hand at any stage, ask the bouncers or bar staff and you should be ok. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking on Great Stand Street (map here). 

Rating: 8/10

Why did it lose points? Twisted Pepper lost two points simply because if there is a DJ on downstairs or if you want to go to the barbers, it would be very difficult to get down those stairs. On the ground level, you have a lot of space and the wheelchair bathroom is located there too. So if all you need is on that floor, you should have no problems. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Among The Trees, Tea Rooms at Phoenix Park

Among The Trees, Tea Rooms at Phoenix Park
Beside Dublin Zoo, Dublin 8

Today was a typical summer's day in Ireland. It bucketed down rain and then the sun beamed gloriously which will no doubt give us all chronic back pain and confused bitterness to last a lifetime. On a day like this, why not venture to Phoenix Park and avail of all that open space and when the thirst for a cup of tea gets you, head to Among The Trees. It's a gorgeous little gazebo with a decent range of cakes and coffees. The marshmallow and Rice Krispie slice I had today was ridiculously tasty. In my ecstasy of eating it, I declared "every bite is an adventure".

What has it got?

Seating: Outside, there are picnic benches with fixed seats but there is also a table with moveable chairs. All of the tables inside have moveable chairs. 

Doors: You may need a hand with the front door here as it is split in the middle but it will fit a wheelchair. 

Ground: Tiled floor inside and tarred patio outside. 

Stairs: There is one step inside at the front door but one heft from a friend should get you in. 

Bathrooms: The ladies bathroom fits a wheelchair nicely. I didn't check the gents but the toilets are outside and when toilets are outside, there are no rules, right?

Spaciousness: There is plenty of walking space here. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff are very helpful and attentive here. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking available beside Dublin Zoo and there is plenty of parking about the park but be prepared to compete with space wagons full of children and tag rugby teams for these spots. 

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? It just lost one point because of the step in, otherwise, it is great and a fantastic addition to the park. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Forever 21

Forever 21
Ground Floor and First Floor, Jervis Shopping Centre, Dublin 1

Forever 21 is responsible for draining my finances every few months with its mahoosive selection of lovely clothes at a reasonable price. I have often gotten lost there as it is a bit like a maze between the rails.

What has it got?

Seating: The only seating here is at the shoe rails and there was also a chair in my dressing room, which would be handy for someone on crutches or less nimble on their toes. Also worth noting, at the cash registers, they had a lower till with a wheelchair sign on it which is very good indeed. 

Doors: I didn't have to open any doors here.

Ground: White marble tiles adorn this haven which are a bit of a hazard when it rains. Which it did today. A lot. 

Stairs: There is a lift to bring you to all floors here and there is a sloped entrance. 

Bathrooms: --

Spaciousness: Plenty of room to get around here and I didn't have any problems browsing the rails. 

Helpfulness of Staff: I didn't require much help here but any interactions I had with the staff were positive. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking available in the Jervis car park and there is more onstreet wheelchair parking available beside it on Jervis Street and Wolfe Tone Street (map here). 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? It lost nothing. It has it all. And foolishly, I lose it all when I go there. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Wexford Street, Dublin 2

This is one of Dublin's finest music landmarks. Most bands are gagging for their first gig here and as a drinking joint, you can enjoy its faux old man pub vibe. The tunes are decent (sometimes a bit overkill on the Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes - 2007 wants its groove back) and the crowd can be a laugh.

What has it got?

Seating: We have stools at the bar and moveable chairs and stools at the tables as well as some benches. 

Doors: You will possibly need a hand with these doors. They're wide enough for a wheelchair but they're split in the middle and there are two at the front entrance. However, there is a door beside the Whelan's off license which has a flat entrance but you will need someone to open it from the inside. 

Ground: Textured wooden floor. 

Stairs: On the ground level of the front bar, there are no steps, just a slight raise at the front door,  and you can gain access to the music venue from this entrance. If you are going to a gig here, use the front door as there are a number of steps to get down to the stage area from the music venue entrance. 
There is another music venue upstairs and that is also where the smoking area is. There is no lift. 

Bathrooms: There is one wheelchair bathroom on the ground floor and you will have to ask the bar staff for a key. There is no mirror in this bathroom so you will never know if your smoky-eyed look has gone a bit Courtney Love. 

Spaciousness: This is a busy spot and other than bodies, there is plenty of room to get around. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Again, the fact that Whelan's can get really busy means that the bar staff will be on their toes with serving drinks so if you're looking for the key for the bathroom, you could be waiting a while. However, they are very friendly and if you ask the bouncers, they will look after you. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking about 5/6 doors down from the front entrance of Whelan's.

Rating: I shall split up the rating here.
As a bar: 9/10
Main music venue: 8.5/10
Upstairs music venue: 0/10

Why did it lose points? As a bar, it lost one point. Even though you can get in and out with no problems, the fact that you need to go all the way to the bar for a key for the bathroom is very annoying and makes an accessible bathroom fairly inaccessible. 

The main music venue lost a point and a half because you have to use a separate entrance to get in and unless you make your way up to the front of the crowd, it is very difficult to see the band. On the plus side, the bouncers will often help you up to the front. 

The upstairs music venue got no points because there is a flight of stairs that you first need to conquer and there are more steps from the smoking area down into the venue. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Grand Social

The Grand Social
35 Lower Liffey Street, Dublin 1

The Grand Social is a very laid back and easy-going bar and they have bands playing very regularly in their upstairs venue. It's one of my staple bars.

What has it got?

Seating: The majority of the chairs here are moveable and will fit a wheelchair. They also have couches. 

Doors: The doors are easy enough to open. The front doors are manned by bouncers almost all of the time and they will grab them for you. 

Ground: The floor here is lino, I believe, so when drinks are spilled, you won't go sliding too far. 

Stairs: There are no steps at the entrance and on the ground level you have a bar and a wheelchair bathroom. There are about three steps down to the second bar and, unfortunately, their music venue and lovely smoking area are up a flight of stairs. 

Bathrooms: They have a decent sized wheelchair bathroom here and it has a mirror. You'd be surprised how many wheelchair bathrooms don't have mirrors. You need a code to open the door for the bathroom but ask at the bar and you'll be looked after. I would put the code here but I don't want to be the reason behind any bathroom babies. 

Spaciousness: This place can get pretty busy. The front bar is a bit of a bottle neck with people coming and going. I normally sit at the far end of the bar and I have enough room to get to and from the bathroom but I send my mates up to get my drinks. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff here are very helpful and have often leant an arm and some muscle when I want to go upstairs. 

Parking: There's wheelchair parking on Bachelors Walk and on Great Strand Street (map here). 

Rating: The rating will be funny here.
As a bar: 9/10
As a music venue: 1/10

Why did it lose points? As a bar, it only loses one point because it is quite tight to move around but you have everything you need on the ground level. 

As a music venue, it lost 9 points because you can only get up there via piggyback. I personally have no problem being lifted up but it is not ideal, probably not very safe and basically a pain in the ass. It got one point because the upstairs is totally flat, so if you make it up there, you can go between the venue and smoking area with ease. However, the bathrooms up there are small cubicles. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movies at Dundrum

Movies at Dundrum
Dundrum Town Centre, Dundrum, Dublin 14

Here lyeth the cinema that services the leafy suburbs of South Dublin.

What has it got?

Seating: Every screen has room for a number of wheelchair users with seats in the front row. 

Doors: The doors aren't too heavy but you might need a hand getting into the screens. 

Ground: The ground here is carpeted and there are tiles in the foyer.

Stairs: There is a ramp at the front entrance (a couple of steps if you're that way inclined) and there's a lift located beside the food counters which will bring you down to the screens. 

Bathrooms: I had no problems with the size of the wheelchair bathrooms here and they are located near the screens. 

Spaciousness: Plenty of room here. So much room, it's almost as if you can hear the faint roar of a tiger of Celtic origin. 

Helpfulness of Staff: I didn't need that much assistance here but there are plenty of staff about the place and seem as if they're ready to help out whenever. 

Parking: There is plenty of wheelchair parking in the shopping centre's car park but there are  4/5 wheelchair parking spots located off the Sandyford Road (map here). 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? I had very few problems here but because this cinema was built in 2005, it has all the proper bells and whistles in terms of access. 

I will get around to reviewing Dundrum Town Centre shortly...

The Gin Palace

The Gin Palace
42 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1

This bar. I love this bar. I love gin so, of course, a palace erected in its name is going to be special. Other than their amazing selection of gin (they have sloe gin!), they always play great music. Last time I was there for a liquid lunch, we had The National and Divine Comedy playing.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the tables have moveable chairs. 

Doors: The doors are a little tight here but they do fit a wheelchair. I needed someone to keep the door open for me so I could get in. 

Ground: Tiled flooring. 

Stairs: There are no steps in and out of The Gin Palace on the Abbey St. side but there is one step in the Lower Liffey St. side. Everything you need is on the ground floor but there is a flight of stairs up to the other toilets. 

Bathrooms: We have one wheelchair bathroom here tucked away under the stairs and I had no problems with getting in and out of it. 

Spaciousness: The busier this place gets (it gets pretty busy), the harder it is to get around as bodies, stools, chairs and tables take up a lot of the walking room. I find if you sit at the back, you will have decent access to the bar and the bathroom. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Really helpful, super sound and table service is frequent here. 

Parking: There is wheelchair parking on Strand Street and on Bachelors Walk (map here).

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? This is a really great bar and due to its greatness, it gets packed which makes it difficult to get around because the walking space is pretty tight even when it's empty.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cineworld, Parnell Street

Parnell Centre, Parnell Street, Dublin 1

This is my cinema in that it is always the cinema that I make people go to. Mostly because of my Unlimited Cinema card but it's also a nifty city centre location.

What has it got?

Seating: There are plenty of spots for wheelchair users in all screens, mostly in the front row, but there are a couple of screens where you can have a back row seat. 

Doors: The doors aren't too heavy here. 

Ground: In the foyer, it's marble tiles so it is slippy when it's wet but elsewhere, it's carpet galore. 

Stairs: There is a lift here that brings you to all floors and where there are a few steps, there is a specific wheelchair lift that will bring you up and down. 

Bathrooms: Wherever there are toilets here, there is a wheelchair toilet right beside them. I have had no problems sizewise with these bathrooms. 

Spaciousness: There are very few obstacles that will get in your way here.

Helpfulness of Staff: You will need a member of staff to operate the wheelchair lift with a key. They will normally see you coming and will be there waiting before and after your film but you may need to ask for assistance. 

Parking: There is one wheelchair parking spot on King's Inn Street and there is a car park on Jervis Lane. There is also loads of street parking on Jervis Lane and I have very easily gotten my wheelchair in and out of those spots. (Map here)

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? I have never had any issues going here and the staff are very on the ball with the wheelchair lift. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013


36 Wexford Street, Dublin 2

Sweet mother of divine, these burgers are amazing. Slightly on the pricey side but it's burgers the way burgers should be. Believe me, I love my meat.

What has it got?

Seating: A lot of the tables have moveable chairs so you can fit a wheelchair in nicely. 

Doors: The door was open when I got there but it's not a heavy door. 

Ground: It has a painted floor and I don't think it would become a danger zone when it's wet. 

Stairs: There's one step into the building and my friend had to hoy me up. 

Bathrooms: Ok. The bathroom  (regular, run-of-the-mill toilet) does not fit a wheelchair at all. I tried it from many angles but it's a non goer. HOWEVER, I did mention to a member of staff that they should contact the Irish Wheelchair Association about sorting that out and they were very receptive so we shall see... 

Spaciousness: Plenty of room here but if it gets busy, like at lunchtime or dinnertime, it may be a different story. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Extremely helpful and they were super apologetic when they realised my chair didn't fit in the bathroom. 

Parking: There's a wheelchair parking spot right at the front door. 

Rating: 6/10

Why did it lose points? It lost points because you can't get in there independently and it's impossible to use the bathroom. But don't let that deter you from eating their delicious burgers. Go with a mate who doesn't mind giving you a hand in and empty your bladder before you get there. Simples. 

The Garage Bar

The Garage Bar
Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

This bar has managed to gauge some charm that the majority of the Temple Bar area has missed out on. With pitchers going for €12 and decent tunes from the 50s, 60s and 70s, you could drink in worse places.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the chairs are moveable and they're not too close together so it's a perfect fit for a wheelchair. 

Doors: The doors are usually left open but they're not too heavy to push. 

Ground: The lino floor is covered in sawdust which is a topic of conversation for another time. Another huge downfall is, because of its location in Temple Bar, you have to battle your way through cobblestones which are the bane of mine and every wheelchair user's existence. 

Stairs: Not a step in sight. 

Bathrooms: They have three unisex cubicles here and, unfortunately, they don't fit a wheelchair. I did hop from chair to... chair but, obviously, not everyone can do that. 

Spaciousness: When it's not packed, there is loads of room. 

Helpfulness of Staff: I didn't need much help here at all but the staff are sound. 

Parking: You're drinking. You shouldn't be driving. But if you insist, there's wheelchair parking on Fishamble Street and Essex Quay (map here). 

Rating: 6/10

Why did it lose points? It lost points because they do not have a wheelchair bathroom and if you want to use a wheelchair bathroom in a location nearby, you have to travel over cobblestones. It's a pity because this is a really nice bar. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lemon, Dawson Street

60 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

If you're in the market for some crepes, saunter up here and tickle your tastebuds with thin, battery deliciousness.

What has it got?

Seating: Unfortunately, communal benches are the rage here which makes it difficult to find a decent spot to park your wheelchair. There are a number of tables with moveable chairs but if you want to grab one of them, avoid the lunchtime rush. 

Doors: The front door is normally left open but the toilet doors are a little heavy to push. 

Ground: It's some sort of lino tile that doesn't become much of a hazard when it's wet. 

Stairs: Not a step in sight. 

Bathrooms: They have one wheelchair bathroom and one regular run of the mill bathroom. 

Spaciousness: Space is a little bit tight here as the tables are very close together and there's generally a big queue to battle with too. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Very helpful and very friendly. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot on Dawson Street beside Fixx Coffee and there are two more wheelchair parking spots on Molesworth Street (map here).

Rating: 8/10

Why did it lose points? Lemon loses two points because it is very tight to move around and you may not always get a suitable table. Otherwise, great spot and hot staff. Yes. Hot staff. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Festival Review: Castlepalooza

Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

As I said many, many times over the course of the weekend, Castlepalooza is my new favourite festival and, no promo, but I did a wee review of it for the Irish Times (the first half is the work of Una Mulally and the second half is all me). And now, down to the Legless stuff.

What has it got?

Seating: There were plenty of picnic tables and benches about the place but they were high in demand so you'd have to fight tooth and nail for them. 

Doors: The only doors you'd have to tackle here are in your tent, the toilet or the doors you metaphorically constructed yourself.

Ground: The castle grounds were very easy to get around. There was very little mud, even after it rained, which was great for wheelchairs but tough if you were trying to pitch a tent. Wood chippings were scattered around potential danger zones. But all in all, easiest festival site I've ever had the pleasure of rolling through. 

Stairs: If you wanted to get into the castle, you had two steps into the front entrance and there was a big staircase that brought you up to the other rooms. I just loitered in the entrance playing with kittens. 

Bathrooms: Big props to the ladies in charge of the toilets at 'palooza. There was one wheelchair toilet that actually flushed (and it had a sink! VERY exciting) and the two wonderful women were there at all times to make sure that no one used the wheelchair toilet if they didn't need it. 

Spaciousness: Castlepalooza is a small festival so you were rarely overcrowded. 

Helpfulness of Staff: Ridiculously helpful. 

Parking: I got to park right beside the site entrance which meant I only had a 5-minute walk between my car and the stages and camp site. 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? I literally have no complaints. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Live reviews: Blur, IMMA, Kilmainham

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8

You've heard of Blur. They've managed to space out their live shows enough that you have to admire their stance on reunions. They're not milking it and, from Damon Albarn literally bouncing off the walls, you can see that they actually enjoy what they're doing.

What has it got?

Seating: The wheelchair area was mixed together with the VIPs so, near the end, there was a scramble for chairs. I also had to sit up there on my own as wheelchair users were only allowed one person with them and unfortunately, I had more than one friend there.  

Doors: No doors. You're outside. A land without doors. 

Ground: There was a light gravel on the path in and then the wheelchair area was up on a platform with white, plastic tiling leading up to it. Elsewhere it was grassy. Thankfully it didn't rain which would have made it a very messy affair. There was a few speed bumps along the way which would have toppled my chair over if I didn't have someone with me. 

Stairs: Slopes and mild hills as far as the eye could see. 

Bathrooms: As far as I was aware, there was one wheelchair portaloo right beside the wheelchair area. The VIPs got to use it too so maybe they should have added another one because you know what those VIPs and portaloos are like when they get together.

Spaciousness: It was a sold out gig so you claimed your space and hung on to it for dear life.

Helpfulness of Staff: One security guy in particular was very helpful. He made sure I had a good spot. Without him, it would have been a crap night. 

Parking: There was wheelchair parking about 20 metres away from the concert venue which was nifty. UPDATE: A friend of mine who broke her foot was not allowed to get dropped closer to the venue. She had to walk up a hill with no help from anyone. 

Rating: 5/10

Why did it lose points? I had to watch a gig on my own because of the silly plus one restrictions a lot of gigs use. When you could see the VIPs swanning in and out at their leisure, you'd wonder why I couldn't have two mates up there.  And the queues for the bar were woeful. 

I deducted another two points from this because my friend with a broken foot (cast and crutches in tow) had a lot of difficulty getting into the venue with very little assistance from the Gardaí or onsite security.