Last month, Accomable CEO and co-founder, Srin Madipalli went on a well-earned break to Belgium to check out how accessible it was. Srin reports back on his experiences and shares a wealth of useful travel advice.
Prior to travelling, I have to admit I was feeling a little apprehensive with the idea of travelling to Belgium. As a country with lots of historical towns and cities I was worried how accessible they would be. However, many friends has recommended visiting Belgium and I was equally excited at the prospect of exploring this beautiful country.
I set out to Belgium last month to take part in one of Europe's major technology conferences and to take a much needed holiday! Given my love of travel, I wanted to really see what could be done.
My trip started off in the capital of Belgium - Brussels! We stayed at the lovely Dominican Hotel, a picturesque and delightful boutique hotel in the heart of Brussels that had an accessible room with a roll-in shower.
From our base at the Dominican we were able to explore all the main sites of Brussels. Our lovely walk took us from the Grand Place (the central square in Brussels) to the magnificent Cathedral of St Michael; to European Quarter. As a former lawyer, seeing the heart of the European Union was a really fascinating and enjoyable experience. Along our walking route, we stopped at several bars to try out a sample of Belgium's famous beers. Something I really recommend doing, especially if you're a beer lover like me!
Prior to my trip I was worried about access, but found that it was easy to wheel around Brussels. I carried portable ramps in my bag which made things easier when kerbs on pavements weren't smooth enough. However, do watch out for some of the hilly parts of Brussels. If you're a powered wheelchair user, this is much easier to navigate.
For our next stop, we took a 1 hour drive to Mechelen, a really picturesque city located by the River Dijle. In Mechelen, we stayed at the Novotel Mechelen Centrum, which had a nice large and accessible room with a roll-in shower.
After lunch in the city's Grote Markt (the central square) we visited the impressive St Rumbold's Cathedral, which towers across the city.
In the afternoon, we had an incredibly moving experience when we visited the Kazerne Dossin Memorial and Museum, which was established on the site where during World War II, the Nazis based their deportation centre. Visiting Kazerne Dossin was a humbling experience and we were thankful to our guide Anne for sharing her knowledge and insights in a very respectful manner.
Changing the theme slightly, the next morning we visited was one of Mechelen's top whisky distilleries - De Molenberg. We had a fantastic tour around the distillery and got to try out some of the amazing whisky that was produced there; and check out the museum which charted the company's long and illustrious history of whisky production.
3. Antwerp and Ghent
After a short Sunday stop in Antwerp where we stayed at the Lindner Hotel (again, perfectly accessible with a large room with a roll-in shower); and had a tour of the Antwerp Cathedral - we headed to the city of Ghent.
Ghent was a great place to just wander around and take in the city's beautiful architecture and enjoy a couple of beers by the river. We also visited the stadium of the local football club for a tour of the ground - the Ghelamco Arena (I'm a big football fan!). Again, we also easily found accessible accommodation at the Marriott Ghent, which had a nice and big adapted bathroom.
4. Concluding thoughts
Getting around Belgium was surprisingly easy and we thoroughly enjoyed our short break. Visit Brussels and Visit Flanders both had very helpful websites and dedicated resources with plenty of recommendations for disabled travellers. Both tourism boards had gone to great efforts to provide accommodation providers with an accessibility rating, which made it much easier to find suitable options.
Having our own van made things easier undoubtedly as it meant not having to look for accessible transport, but again, were the need to arise, we had the resources to find accessible taxis. My other recommendation is to take a portable travel ramp that allows you to navigate kerbs and other small thresholds.
As always, just get in touch if you have any queries.