Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gallaher & Co. Bistro

Gallaher & Co. Bistro
16a D'Olier Street, Dublin 2

In the city centre, it's very difficult to find a restaurant that has all the bells and whistles in terms of accessibility. So it was a very happy surprise when I learned that Gallaher & Co. was not only a good place to drop in for a quick pre-theatre early bird meal but it was also properly wheelchair friendly. Huzzah.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the chairs are moveable. There are tall stools with even taller tables in the centre but there are lower tables and chairs suitable for a wheelchair. 

Doors: You might need a hand with the front door here as there is a slight raise at the doorstep but they fit a wheelchair grand. 

Ground: The ground was tiled and wooden (I think... Let me double check)

Stairs: There was a slope up to the wheelchair bathroom and a flight of stairs down to the ladies and gents. 

Bathrooms: Their wheelchair bathroom is large and has all of the railings in place. 

Spaciousness: There are a couple of tables en route to the wheelchair bathroom so I had to ask people to move their chairs in. Other than that, plenty of room. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff made sure I was at a table that suited me and they helped with the door. Top marks for them. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot on Foster Place beside the Wax Museum and there is on street parking on D'Olier Street too (map here). 

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? None were lost. It has everything you would need for a quick meal. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bad Bobs

Bad Bobs 
East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Last time I was in Bad Bobs, I was months away from my Leaving Cert and Pussycat Dolls' 'Don't Cha' was bloody huge. For a brief period, it was Purty Kitchen where €2 Tuesdays were a big draw for the students and those who liked students. But now, Bob is back in town and he's not a bad lad.

What has it got?

Seating: There is a range of seating opportunities here. Low stools, high stools, bar seat, standard table and chair format. All of the chairs are moveable and you'll find the right fit. 

Doors: The doors are all wide enough for a wheelchair but the door of the wheelchair bathroom is a tad heavy. 

Ground: We have every floor surface in action here. Wooden, tiled, lino. 

Stairs: There are five floors in Bad Bobs and they have a lift that will bring you to each and every one. 

Bathrooms: Their wheelchair bathroom is big and, as I said, the door is a bit heavy. The lift brings you right to the bathroom too. 

Spaciousness: It can get a bit tight to move around here when it fills up but other than that, no issues with space.

Helpfulness of Staff: Before I even got in the front door, the bouncers told me where the lift was and what floor the wheelchair bathroom was on. Very helpful bunch of lads. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot on Wellington Quay (map here).

Rating: 10/10

Why did it lose points? Other than some rafty song choices, there are no complaints to be made about Mr. Bob. 

Mother Dublin

Mother Dublin
Copper Alley, Exchange Street, Dublin 2

Mother is the mother of all club nights for electronic music and that of a pop inclination and some of Dublin's prettiest people can be found in its dark corners. Whether or not you're there because it's part of the rainbow community, it doesn't matter, serious dancing and decent music is the be all and end all.

What has it got?

Seating: Moveable chairs and the like but you'd be a fool to be anywhere other than the dance floor here.

Doors: The doors are all kept open here and they fit a wheelchair properly. 

Ground: The bathroom area is tiled, which could get a bit slippy, and in the at the bar, it's a lino-type surface. 

Stairs: There are stairs in and out but there is wheelchair access through the Arlington Hotel (Temple Bar) which has a lift. You will need a key to operate the lift but staff will be on hand to help out. 

Bathrooms: They have a wheelchair bathroom here which is big. It felt like it was sort of tucked away so I don't think you'd have a big problem with people using it. 

Spaciousness: Other than bodies, there is plenty of space here. 

Helpfulness of Staff: The bouncers at Mother and the staff in the Arlington Hotel are all very helpful. They guided me in through the hotel and were quick to get the key for the lift whenever I needed it. 

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot right outside Mother and there are two parking spaces available on Cork Hill (map here).

Rating: 9/10

Why did it lose points? The only reason that Mother lost any points was because it isn't obvious that they have proper wheelchair facilities available. I arrived at the door expecting to be carried down into the basement and it was such a pleasant surprise to find that they had everything. 
One of the DJs came up to me to tell me that I was the first wheelchair user he's seen there and he was delighted. Having wheelchair facilities are hugely important but what use are they if no one knows that they're there? Delighted I made this discovery so I can return again and get that DJ to play me the Cut Copy song he promised me. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Legless on Holidays: Syracuse, Sicily

I went on a family holiday to Syracuse in Sicily last week for 7 seven days. We flew into Catania and we stayed in the four star Mercure Hotel, which I have reviewed below. As a holiday destination, its main attractions are sun (34 degrees most days), sea (not necessarily beaches but there was a grand marina to perv on expensive boats) and food. We spent the majority of the time on the island of Ortigia which has plenty of duomos, piazzas, cathedrals, museums, restaurants and quirky shops located throughout its winding streets.

Expensive boats

For a wheelchair user, Ortigia and Syracuse are difficult to get around. The streets are uphill, have rough pavements and the pathways tend to end abruptly. I couldn't get too far without asking for a heave or a hup to get moving. Almost every shop or restaurant we went into had a step into it but some, luckily, had a moveable ramp so I could go in without assistance.  One very funny and unusual trait the restaurants and cafés had was that if they had a wheelchair bathroom, it could be up four or five steps or in a very tight space. Nonetheless, the staff were always incredibly helpful and if there were steps to climb, they'd be the first to help out.

Ortigia and Syrcause are lovely places to visit for a couple of days - you might find yourself struggling to find activities to fill a week - and if you don't mind its hills, steps and cobbles, then don't rule it out as a holiday destination.


Hotel Mercure
Viale Teracati, 20, 96100, Syracuse

The location of the hotel wasn't ideal but due to the hilly nature of Ortigia and Syracuse, this hotel was one of a few that was able to offer facilities for disabled guests. The decor was very modern and it has its own car park. My room was very big and there were handrails in the bathroom and there was walk-in shower with a seat. There was a phone with 24-hour assistance. There was a lift to all floors but one major fault with its facilities was that there were five steps up to the swimming pool and solarium area. Otherwise, the rooms for disabled guests were perfect for wheelchair users.


Lungomare Alfeo, Syracuse, Sicily
This place was a hit for my dad as he's an avid seafood fan. The views here are spectacular as it's overlooking the sea and all of those expensive yachts. They had a wheelchair bathroom here but it was bizarrely up five steps. Two of the waiters had to lift me up. They have outdoor and indoor seating.

Caffé la Piazza
Piazza Duomo 16, 96100 Syracuse, Sicily
This place is grand for a quick lunch (pasta, ravioli, sandwiches, pizza) but its main attraction is its view of the cathedral and the newly wed couples doing their lap of victory for photographers. They had a wheelchair bathroom and there are two low steps in at the front door. They have outdoor and indoor seating.

Taverna Sveva
Piazza Federico di Svevia, 1, 96100 Syracuse, Sicily
There's a bit of character to this family-run restaurant beside the castle. I had delicious lamb chops here but there's a big range of sea food and pastas here. They have outdoor and indoor seating. They had a ramp in the front door and an incredibly tight wheelchair bathroom. Very little budge room in there so if you're claustrophobic, it's not the place for you.

Osteria da Mariano
Vicola Zuccolá, 9, 96100 Syracuse, Sicily
They boast a selection of rustic food in this restaurant down a crowded side street and their penne pasta with mint, parsley, fennel, pesto and basil was a hearty feed. The street it's on is very narrow so you will have to ask people to move their chairs if you want to get through. There is one step up into the restaurant (there is outdoor seating) and even though it's not a wheelchair bathroom, per se, it is very big and will fit a chair. You will, however, have to ask staff to move a few chairs to get through.

Le Vin de l'Assassin Bistrot
Via Roma, 115, 96100 Syracuse, Sicily
This was hands down the best restaurant we ate in. I had a breast of duck in honey sauce and I will never look at duck in the same way again. Again, it's up a sloped side alley so you will need a hoosh up. They have a wheelchair bathroom too, which is a little tight, and you will have to ask the staff to move a table or two as you make your way in. Absolutely delicious food though.

La Foglia

Trattoria La Foglia
Via Capodica 29, Syracuse
This family-run joint is just so damn quaint and twee. With menus possibly designed by the 10-year-old running about the place and what looks like old school desks, they'd put any Dublin quirky joint to shame. All of their pasta is homemade and it's a very decent portion. There is outdoor seating on a very slanted street but with one step inside, there is more level seating. They don't officially have a wheelchair bathroom but they let me use their staff bathroom which fit my chair perfectly.

Vite & Vitello
Piazza Francesco Corpaci, 1-2 Angolo via Maestranza, 96100 Syracuse, Sicily
This place was a tad expensive but the food was good, not amazing, but good. Their meat and cheese platter definitely hit the spot though. They have a moveable ramp at the front the door, which is easy to use, and a wheelchair bathroom too.


The majority of shops had at least one step into them - those damn hills - but here are two ceramic shops that you must visit.

Circo Fortuna
Via dei Tolomei, 20, 96100, Syracuse, Sicily
Caroline Van Riet designs the cutest pottery - not too different from Le Petit Prince illustrations. You can see her at work in the shop and pick out cups, plates, lamps or whatever you'd like for her to paint. She also runs a B&B, which I'm sure is the nicest place to stay. There was one large step into the shop but she is very helpful and this place is definitely worth a visit.

Fish House Art
Via Cavour, 29-31, 96100, Syracuse, Sicily
Big fish, little fish, fish made out of an old rake. Never in your life would you think a shop made out of ceramic fish would be so interesting. Cod, salmon, sharks all there to hang on your wall. There's even some sea monsters made out of leftover garden tools. They have one giant step into a shop and a ramp to connect the two levels.

Things to do:

Greek Theatre
We spent one afternoon in the ancient grounds of the Greek Theatre. The ground was very rough here but there was paved path through most of the site so that you could see the remains of the amphitheatre and the sacrificial altar.

River boatride

Boat Rides
We took two boat rides; one through the sea caves and one riverside lemon farms. You will see many stands for various boat rides around the island and even though their boats aren't officially adapted for wheelchairs to get on and off, the staff have no problem with some heavy lifting. If you consider yourself a salty sea dog, don't miss out on these trips.

Mount Etna
Other than eating and sunning oneself. there wasn't a lot to do. However, we did visit Mount Etna which was amazing. You could see all of the lava tracks that the explosions have left over the years and you could hear the rumble of the volcano every now and again. It's a long drive but definitely worth it. There are wheelchair bathrooms in a number of the restaurants there. It's a very steep climb and it's not for everyone but it's worth it just to look at.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Bakehouse

The Bakehouse
6 Bachelor's Walk, Dublin 1/CHQ Building, IFSC, Dublin 1

Here's a bold statement: The Bakehouse make the best sandwiches in Dublin. That's all I have on the matter.

What has it got?

Seating: All of the tables - out on the pavement and inside - have moveable chairs

Doors: The doors are wide and not too heavy.

Ground: Inside, the floors are tiled. 

Stairs: In the Bachelor's Walk shop, there is one large step in the front door but with one hoosh from a friend, you should be ok. There's also a bar at the door which is good to hold onto. In the CHQ, it is all flat. 

Bathrooms: In Bachelor's Walk, their wheelchair bathroom is not only large, but it has a mirror and it's not a storage cupboard. Hurrah. Over at the CHQ, the wheelchair bathroom is found in the mall area. 

Spaciousness: It can be a little tight between the tables in the Bachelor's Walk shop when it's packed but if people move their chairs in slightly, you'll be ok. In the CHQ, it's very roomy. 

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

Parking: There is a wheelchair parking spot right at the door on the Quays. Because I drive, if I park there, I'll be unloading on the road so I normally park on Great Strand Street to avoid any clashes with buses or bikes. There is a car park beside the CHQ that has wheelchair parking and there is also street parking on Commons Street

Rating: 9.5/10

Why did it lose points? The Bakehouse only lost half a point because of the step in at Bachelor's Walk. However, they did their best with this by placing a bar beside it so if you are getting a hand in, you can hold onto it. The CHQ venue is perfect but it is full of suits so stick to Bachelor's Walk if you want to leave the office vibes behind. 

Legless Goes To The Picnic

Electric Picnic
Stradbally, Co. Laois

Can you believe it's been 10 years since we have had more options than just Oxegen and Slane for a music festival? This year's Electric Picnic was everything you could want for in a festival. There was very little rain, zero mud and, of course, the music was delectable. This was my sixth EP and in comparison to other years, I didn't spend a lot of time fussing over the timetable, I just went with the flow and took a leisurely approach to stage hopping.

My musical highlights were:

This woman is the cutest little button and her Biophilia show was manic and extravagant. After she thundered out a massive track, she showed her gratitude by quipping 'Thank you' in her wonderful Icelandic way. It was a joy to watch and I'd like to invite her, and her giant crystal hat, to live with me.

Disclosure's Settle has been my main album of the summer. It has been firmly on repeat since its release so when their live set matched up to my pounding grá for the record, I was delighted. I hope that they're an act we'll see headlining again over the next 10 years.

David Byrne and St. Vincent
Not only was this the greatest set I saw all weekend long but it is the most fantastic set I have seen in a very long time. In 2012, the god that is David Byrne teamed up with St. Vincent for a brass-orientated album, Love This Giant, and the moment the horns kicked into action on the Sunday night, magic was made. St. Vincent rolled out some of her solo songs, including 'Cheerleader', but Byrne stole all of her thunder when he conducted the biggest sing song of the entire weekend with Talking Heads' 'This Must Be The Place', 'Road To Nowhere' and 'Burning Down the House'. He even threw in 2002's 'Lazy' for good measure. I will be talking about this show for years to come.

What has it got?

Seating: The Electric Picnic site is massive but, luckily, they have so many areas where people can rest their weary legs. If there's one thing that the Picnic does well, it's throwing together an assorted range of shit for people to sit on. 

Viewing platform: A lot of the time, the viewing platforms in the smaller tents felt like a creche. Children at a festival is a debate for another day but when I'm restricted to having one friend with me on the platform, it's a bit unfair that the kids can run riot. I avoided the platform at the main stage because it was so far away and my eyesight is useless. 

Ground: There was no mud at all this year which made getting around so easy. However, with an outdoor festival, you have uneven ground pretty much everywhere and if you're not paying attention, you could definitely tip out of your chair. Every now and again, you'd come across a tiled pathway but these would end abruptly or lead to the staff area. They should place more of these about the festival site just to make life a little easier for everyone. 

Campsite: There was a disabled campsite available at EP but it was the furthest campsite away from the main area. I camped in Oscar Wilde, which was just beside the Salty Dog stage. I camped on the very edge of the site so other tents weren't in my way and it worked out perfectly. If I had used the disabled campsite, I would had a huge trek ahead of me every day which is incredibly inconvenient especially with the rough ground. 

Bathrooms: At most toilet areas, there was a large portaloo for wheelchair users. The campsites didn't have this luxury. To find a clean portaloo at a festival is like a gift from the gods but when it came to hygiene levels in the wheelchair portaloos, things could have been better as many wheelchair users don't have the privilege of hovering. If they could increase the amount of wheelchair portaloos about the place, it would be much better.

Spaciousness: I didn't have any problems with space and didn't feel overcrowded at any point (other than the viewing platforms that doubled as childcare).

Helpfulness of Staff: The staff at EP is made up of paid staff and volunteers so the helpfulness depended on who you came across first. A number of the security guards went above and beyond to help out, especially around the main stage area.

Parking: I parked in the disabled parking area which was in the disabled camping area. It was monitored closely so it never got too packed. 

Rating: 7/10

Why did it lose points? Electric Picnic is Ireland's greatest music festival and because it is so large, it's hard to cater for everybody. They have all of the facilities for disabled guests in place but they feel a little bit like token gestures. The disabled camp site is so far away and the path to and from it is rough. The viewing platforms are far away from the stage and you are restricted to bringing one friend up with you. There aren't enough wheelchair portaloos about and more pathways could have been placed to combat the uneven ground. 
If I had used all of the facilities available, I would not have had as much fun as I did. I came up with my own system for camping and for watching bands. If EP focused a bit more on their facilities for disabled users, they could come up something that would enhance the festival experience for whoever used them. 
That being said, my voice is gone and I had a fantastic time but I wish that the organisers would be as creative and inventive with their accessibility as they are with everything else on offer.