Tag Archives: accessible travel

VICTA / Seable Thailand Adventure Blog

For this week’s blog we are honoured to post an article written by the talented Matthew Clark, Parlaimentary Assistant at the Scottish Parliament, Trustee for Victa Children and keen traveller.

 

VICTA / Seable Thailand Adventure Blog

 

 

I consider myself lucky to be well internationally travelled. But this is only with family. Destinations and attractions have been numerous, but I have always craved something else; to travel with friends, peers, and experience richer, local cultural experiences than that family planned holidays deliver. Though I have many sighted friends though university, beyond hiking across the UK with friends from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Group, opportunity to enjoy any travel like this and with my own friends has been allusive.

Finally in 2017 I graduated from university – an extremely testing, and sometimes very dark time in my life – and decided it was time to seize more of the life I wanted. This includes travel. But, how, when I have tried, failed, or been too uncertain before?

 

 

Just at this time, VICTA advertised their latest international trip facilitated by Seable. On looking into the itinerary, I realised Thailand is nothing like the seedy image all too often portrayed by television. It is a large, tropical, majority Buddhist nation, with the unique history in Asia of having never been colonised. Our itinerary was to include temple ruin tours, visits to temples in rural hills and town centres, meeting (splashing with and being kissed by) elephants, visiting flower markets and bamboo gardens, voyaging on an overnight sleeper train, lake tour and rice barge, with the final days spent on an island beach resort. This simply is everything bundled into one trip that I could have wanted.

 

I couldn’t imagine better company to spend this trip in than we have enjoyed. VICTA staff and volunteers joined with Damiano from Seable, and two extraordinary Thai tour guides, to provide us all with expertise, assistance where required, but the facility all importantly to enjoy this itinerary to the fullest. When travel has so many times been dampened by planning around disability, or been concerned by the ability of friends to support me, this is such a relief; one I realise now in hindsight, looking back on all we did, and how wonderfully simple it felt to enjoy and accomplish.

 

 

For our Thailand adventure, I am happier today, having experienced and learned how I can travel and discover in the world what I wish to. I could do so with VICTA again, with Seable, and am closer to being able to do it of my own initiative too. But everyday, whether at home or away, I have strengthened, rebound and discovered new friendships, that this adventure can be remembered with, and new ones be made side by side with. .

Thailand here and now, writing this as I fly home, has come at a time in life where I needed refreshment, enlightenment, and purest pleasure. There are so many moments (and friends) to treasure.

 

Thank you one and all who have made this possible. Here is to all our future adventures, at home, away, maybe again in Thailand.

 

Article written by Matthew Clark

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

What the Thai say about Seable

This February Seable took a group of blind and partially sighted travellers from VICTA to Thailand, for many it was the first time outside Europe. What was impressive was the resonance this trip had on the Thai press. Along with being greeted by the Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat, we were also interviewed by several newspapers that highlighted the importance of our trip for the booming Thai tourism. Below the transcription of a beautiful article titled “Bringing sights to the blind” from the Bangkok Post, written by Suchat Sritama.

 

Bringing sights to the blind

 

Last group picture in Phayao

Group picture in Phayao

 

 

A group of visually impaired and blind tourists from Britain have visited and explored attractions in Thailand for the first time, marking the host’s readiness for more niche markets from Europe.

Seable Holidays, a travel company based in London that specialises in tour arrangements for disable people, worked with Ayutthaya travel agency Nutty’s Adventures to bring the group of 12 to attractions in seven provinces during a Feb 11-21 trip.

The group visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Ayutthaya, Phuket, Trang and Phatthalung.

This was the first time the two companies have jointly hosted a special-needs group from Britain in Thailand. It was also the first time these visually impaired travellers ventured outside Europe.

 

Niche market

Damiano La Rocca, founder of Seable Holidays, began working with Nutty’s Adventures two years ago after meeting at the World Travel Mart in London.

Nutty’s Adventures has participated in the annual tourism trade fair and placed Thailand on the global map with special offers for disabled tourists.

“We came to survey tourism products in Thailand before hosting an 11-day trip for our clients,” Mr La Rocca says.

His company had been looking for destinations outside European markets for blind and visually impaired customers after years of touring Britain and Europe.

“Generally we don’t want to bring our customers to packed or crowded cities, but we focus on taking them to explore traditional culture and local attractions,” Mr La Rocca says.

He says Thailand has high potential to serve niche markets not only from Britain, but also from other countries in Europe and the rest of the world because the country has a variety of unique tourism offerings.

“Seable Holidays is planning on catering to disabled tourists from other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Italy to come to Thailand in the near future,” Mr La Rocca says.

According to Mr La Rocca, 600,000 blind and visually impaired people live in Britain. He estimates the total number of blind and visually impaired in Europe at 3 million, and they are all potential travellers.

 

Damiano La Rocca and the Thai Minister of Tourism & Sports Weerasak Kowsurat

 

 

To cope with the expected influx of demand, Seable Holidays plans to introduce new routes in Southeast Asia, probably starting with Bali in Indonesia.

Expenses may fluctuate, however, due to the various services and additional facilities needed.

The average cost for the 11-day trip is 3,000 baht per person per day, or 33,000 per person per trip. This cost excludes the subsidy given by Britain’s Population and Community Development Association.

Nithi Subhongsang, chief executive of Nutty’s Adventures, says Thailand is ready to extend to niche markets, including for disabled and blind tourists.

“Having a group of 12 blind and visually impaired people might not generate huge income for the business, but this can uplift the country’s image as a friendly destination for all,” Mr Nithi says.

He says Thailand can promote many other local activities and attractions to these niche markets.

Mr La Rocca and Mr Nithi have urged the Thai government to invest in tourism facilities and accessibility to accommodate disabled tourists.

They also asked the government to educate officials and those involved in the tourism industry to better understand disable tourists and the concept of tourism for all.

 

Love for Thai culture

Matthew Clark, one of the visually impaired tourists on the trip to Thailand, says he’s impressed with Thai culture and the local food, as well as Thai hospitality. He suggests that suppliers such as attraction and travel operators consider tailoring special programmes for disabled people.

“If Thailand can offer [special-needs facilities], the country will be able to become a popular destination for all,” Mr Clark says.

The tour group explored the village of Baan Dok Bua in Phayao province, walking along the natural trails and meeting face-to-face with locals.

“We have tried and learned many things, such as how to make chicken coops while learning the history of cockfighting and how to farm rice organically,” Mr Clark says.

In the South, the group learned how to make phon, a local drum, and practised playing it, and got hands-on experience in wickerwork made from krajood, a local variety of sedge.

The group also visited a bamboo garden where there was a performance of Manohra, an ancient southern dance and musical performance, and later visited the community shadow-puppet centre, where they had the opportunity to try making shadow puppets themselves.

Prachyakorn Chaiyakot, vice-president of the Thai Responsible Tourism Association, says the TRTA was formed in 2017 by a group of travel agents interested in responsible tourism. The association has 15 members across the country.

“Our association is set to run business with true responsibility,” Mr Prachyakorn says. “Our aim is to bring tourists into local communities and generate income for local people, preserve the environment and drive community sustainability.”

The association says it will continue to work with tour operators in domestic and overseas markets to boost responsible tourism.

In the long term, the association hopes to promote tourist attractions in hundreds of districts across the country and aims to have at least one member per province.

 

Market research needed

 

 

Supawadee Photiyarach, director of the targeted research division at the Thailand Research Fund, says the fund will help provide market research, especially for product development in secondary provinces to serve niche markets, including blind and visually impaired people.

“In order to ensure that locals earn a greater share of the profit from tourism and tourists can experience rare products, market research is necessary,” Ms Supawadee says.

She says many local products and activities can be developed and promoted to be new attractions not only for disabled or blind people, but for everyone.

“Thailand is one of the most-visited countries in the world,” she says. “This is our opportunity to offer a wide range of products to serve different tourist groups.”

Tourism is a key engine for the Thai economy. The industry has expanded substantially over the past five years and makes up 13% of Thailand’s GDP in 2017, according to research published by the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Thailand ranks third in revenue from tourism globally, and the country is in ninth place for foreign tourist arrivals, according to the SET.

Among SET-listed companies in the hospitality sector, it was found that Airports of Thailand Plc had the highest market capitalisation among globally listed companies operating airports, while Minor International Plc’s market capitalisation ranked 28th for companies operating hotel and restaurant businesses worldwide.

SET-listed companies classified in the tourism-linked sector had a market capitalisation of 16% of the bourse’s total market capitalisation at the end of 2017.

 

Article written by Suchat Sritama

https://m.bangkokpost.com/business/news/1418386/bringing-sights-to-the-blind

Photos by Nutty’s Adventures

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze – Italy

The last article of the year has been written by Eeshma Qazi and it’s a resume of her experience on one of Seable holidays.

 

 

How do you feel about skiing? Are you a champion skier, gliding gracefully down those slopes every December. Or maybe you like me, are a complete novice, whose idea of a good winter holiday is more a mountain of food by a warm fire than flinging yourself unceremoniously down a mountain of snow. And so, it was to my very great surprise and to my family’s complete shock, that I found myself along with a dozen 18-29 year olds on this VICTA/Seable trip. All of us were destined for the ski slopes of Sauze d’Oulx, a charming village nestled in the Italian alps. Our only commonalities being our visual impairment and our appetite for adventure.

 

 

At the Thistle Heathrow terminal 5, amidst the thrum of newly minted conversation and warm chocolate brownies, we were introduced to our tour guides for the next week. For those of you new to the scene, VICTA is a charity which caters for the needs (both social and otherwise) of young visually impaired people) and which often works with Seable holidays (a social enterprise and travel operator) for disabled travellers. Between the two organisations, we had four dedicated sighted guides as well as a number of others in the group who could see enough to assist. Itineraries discussed, icebreakers exchanged and ground rules established, we all went to bed promptly in anticipation of our unseasonably early flight on Tuesday morning.

 

After a blissfully short flight to Geneva and a bus journey through rolling, snow dappled alpine vistas, we finally arrived at Villa Cary, our hotel. More B&B than sprawling resort, we found to our delight that we had almost free run of the place. After a filling but touristy meal of a full English brunch, we retired to our rooms for a spot of sleep before reconvening at the hotel bar for dinner. Food came in the shape of a typically Mediterranean 3 course meal which left us full to bursting and ready for bed once again.

 

The next 4 days followed more or less the same pattern minus the continual urge to snooze. After a breakfast of bread, cheeses, spreads and meats, we spent our mornings on the pistes skiing with the help of one-on-one instructorship from an amazingly friendly and competent team of ski instructors whom we all got to know on a first name basis.

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

Following an initial assessment, we were divided into groups according to our skiing expertise and took it in daily turns to do repeat rounds of the nursery, blue or red slopes with some serial skiers in the group choosing to return for some more skiing in the afternoons.

 

It is fair to say that sun burnt and windswept though we undoubtedly were, each one of us improved in our stamina and skill over the course of the trip, some by progressing to another slope, others by independently learning to stop, slow down and turn, and others still by simply conquering their fears of the piste enough to relax and enjoy the adrenaline that comes from controlled descent. For me, victory came in the entirely unflattering but completely honest observation of one of the instructors who informed me blithely that I must have improved, given that I was no longer so taut with nerves as to resemble a “penguin”!

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

 

A café located next to the slopes formed our daily lunch haunt, serving a hearty fair of local delicacies such as rich polenta with sausage and veg, grilled burgers with fontina and gorgo, rustic soups, gloriously cheesy gnocchi and beautifully gratinated crespelle (soft pancakes liberally submerged in béchamel and topped with crispy mozzarella. For those of us who chose not to ski in the afternoons, free time included going sledding or to a local spa for massages, gym, facials and an enticing array of other treatments including Turkish baths and the exotic sounding Lomi Lomi. Evening meals included in our hotel stay were all served in the hotel’s bar-restaurant area. We made friends with the waitress and chef who were always happy to take requests and recreate our favorites from a few days before. A surprisingly diverse group of individuals, we all bonded over the leisurely dinners peppered with self reflection and tired contentment as well as the card games and competitive team quizzes which followed.

 

Blind Skiing on the Slopes of Sauze - Italy

 

As is the way with all good things, we were sorry on Sunday morning to have to wave goodbye to the quaint cobbled streets of Sauze, it’s beautiful snowcapped slopes and even our high vis florescent orange tea shirts which declared to the world in no uncertain terms that we were “blind skiers”. Bundled up warmly against the chill,we took a transfer back to Geneva where the promise of a swanky hotel awaited us. Highlights in Geneva included chocolate shopping and in particular, a mammoth 4.5 kg Toblerone (the size of a small toddler), meltingly delicious gruvyère and Emmental fondue, crispy potato Rösti and the lightest of mascarpone pizzas. After a general meander around the strangely quiet and orderly streets festooned with a muted, civilised sort of Christmas cheer, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a sumptuous dinner,a Swiss pick and mix of the best of Italian and French cuisine, from tartars to risotto, steaks to pasta.

 

 

We returned to England on Monday exactly one week later, better friends and less floundering skiers than we had left it. Each of us glad of the opportunity and already planning our next potential VICTA/Seable experience. As for me, how do I feel about skiing now? Good enough to want to try it again, this time head held high, shoulders bent with intent, feet arched snow-plough like and stomach firmly concave.

Essential Tips and Tricks for a Family Friendly Accessible Holiday

If you or a family member is disabled, the idea of heading off on holiday probably seems a little daunting. While having a disability can make life a little more complex, it doesn’t mean you have to forgot the joys of an adventure altogether. You may even have lots of questions regarding a trip away – especially if it’s your first time.

 

Today, let’s provide some clarity on the subject, as we run through five ways in which you can plan ahead properly to really make the most of your disabled holiday.

 

1.Get travel insurance

Get insured for your trip. People sometimes overlook this crucial step – and that’s nothing short of criminal. If you head overseas and don’t get cover for your own personal wellbeing, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

 

There’s a good chance nothing untoward will happen on your adventures, but there’s always the outside shot that it might. Don’t take the risk, by sorting yourself some pre-travel insurance. You can find this regardless of whether you have a medical condition or not.

 

2.Think about your location

Not everywhere is accommodating to disabled travellers. While the world is definitely taking a step in the right direction in this regard, some locations have managed to adapt to disabled travellers better than others.

 

CTI provide holidaymakers with a decent range of exciting destinations worth visiting, with some of the top ones including:

 

  • Bali
  • London
  • Uluru
  • The Caribbean

 

These are far from the only places which take the needs of disabled travellers into account, but they’re definitely some of the more glamourous locations which do. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a picturesque cruise in the Caribbean?

 

 

3.Take it slow and know your limits

You may not like to hear it, but there are some holidays which just won’t be suitable for disabled travellers. It’s not that you “can’t” do it, more that for medical reasons it’s probably better if you avoid strenuous activity.

 

This is particularly true in the case of anyone who has an underlying heart condition. Doing something physical has the potential to trigger a reaction which could lead to bigger issues down the line. It’s very important to know exactly what you’re capable of, and put a cap on yourself.

 

4.Go on a specialist holiday

 Some holidays have been created with disabled travellers specifically in mind. These kinds of outings don’t patronise their guests, but rather challenge them to push themselves to a healthy extent. Companies like Disabled Access or Seable provide people with holidays which are specifically targeted at people who might struggle with more “mainstream” adventures.

Just some of the holidays they provide include:

  • Accessible tours
  • Cruises
  • City breaks

Feel more confident about a disabled holiday heading forwards? Make sure to keep these tips in mind when it comes to your next family adventure away.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

My Sicilian Trip – By Emma Meade

This week’s blog is an article written by Emma Meade for Camsight about her travelling experience with Seable

 

My Sicilian Trip – By Emma Meade

 

On Monday, 15 May 2017 – after months of emails, telephone calls and preparations – we were speeding in a taxi from various parts of Cambridge heading to Gatwick Airport and final holiday destination Sicily.

 

There were five excited passengers:  Yijing Zhang, Brian Wagg, Khalid and Juveria Momen and Emma Meade.

 

This holiday was one of several run by Seable Holidays, a company whose aim is to give visually impaired customers a holiday which is accessible for them. The special assistance which we had booked was excellent; and when we were on the Norwegian Air flight, we were given a Braille leaflet which not only contained the safety instructions, but also had diagrams of the aircraft showing the emergency exits.

 

We were met at Catania Airport by Francesco who was to be our tour guide and driver for the whole week.

 

Damiano and Francesco of SEABLE

 

 

We were staying in two private apartments outside the city centre and the daily breakfasts on the patio prepared by the owners of the apartments were memorable, always in the sunshine with the accompaniment of collared doves and wood pigeons.

 

Our first full day was spent on the beach with the opportunities of experiencing wind surfing or paddle boarding.  Tiziana and Marco, who ran a wind surfing school, communicated the instructions clearly and helped us all to feel safe.

 

Wednesday included a visit to a tactile museum in Catania.  When you entered the building there was a raised path to follow and if you went onto the smooth flooring, this meant that you were off course and needed to get back onto the raised path to find your way round.  A head and shoulders statue of Louis Braille was there to welcome us inside the door.  There were also models of The Dome of the Rock, The Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  There was also an elephant which is the animal associated with Catania and the model of a castle at Acicastello which we would be visiting later in the week.

 

We then experienced the smells of a fish market and Francesco treated us to two of the cold drinks which are associated with Sicily – mandarino e limone and a similar one which had salt in it.

 

After lunch and a shopping opportunity we went on the first of the food tastings which were to become a regular feature of our holiday.  Duci are a company who make desserts for restaurants and we went into the laboratory to taste some of the products.  We each had an individual cup with each dessert in them – mousses, cheesecakes, Keyline pie and granita which is a typical dessert of Sicily.  Delicious!

 

Thursday saw us travelling a little way up Mount Etna to an organic farm.  After smelling some of the herbs and looking at the chestnuts and hazelnuts, we were introduced to some of the farm animals, a goat with a wonderful beard and a donkey.  Apparently, if you touch a goat’s horns, it brings you good luck.

 

L’ Orto dei Semplici

 

 

We then went into the farmhouse to experience the typical Italian lunch cooked by the farmer’s wife.  We learned that lunch is the most important family meal and is taken very slowly.  I think there were about five courses – the most memorable being the dessert course which contained two desserts – a rum barber and cannolo, a pastry tube which contained ricotta cheese and almond.  Of course there was wine with the meal; and after coffee, we were treated to Grappa, a spirit which burns the back of the throat!  I got used to it after a while and decided that I enjoyed it.

 

Then followed a wine tasting at a vineyard which included a wine which contained apple from Mount Etna.  I actually bought a bottle to take home and it is now waiting for that special occasion!

 

Friday was the visit to the castle at Acicastello which I mentioned earlier.  A lot of climbing was involved, but we all managed it and it was lovely to be up high feeling the cool air with the sea below us.

 

After lunch in a fishing village, Acitrezza, which became a favourite of mine, we returned home and took advantage of the swimming pool which belonged to our apartments.  As was our routine every evening, we ate out in a local restaurant.

 

Acitrezza

 

A later start on Saturday, as this was the day to tackle Mount Etna.  After a stop on the way to get our lunch which we were to take with us, we started our ascent up the mountain in a cable car.  We had agreed unanimously to go right up to the main crater of the volcano, so we went up further in a bus, very bumpy like turbulence in an aeroplane.

 

Then followed a climb in the company of other tourists and a mountain guide.  Snow and ice could still be seen on the mountain and we were given pieces of lava which were still hot after an eruption on 25 April.  We were climbing on 20 May.

 

When we reached the top, we were 3,500 m high, which would be about 10,000 ft.  Coming down was more difficult, but we all managed successfully.  Nobody fell over and we were all glad that we had had the experience.  We were the first visually impaired group that Seable had taken right up to the main crater.

 

Heaven of a different sort was experienced in a honey factory.  Not only honey, but olive oils, olives, wines and liqueurs, plus products made from the honey, were there for us to sample.  This was a wonderful opportunity for buying presents and at a very reasonable price.

 

A meal at a porcini restaurant ended a wonderful day and Brian and I could not resist drinking a red wine from Etna with our meal.

 

Sunday was a second day on the beach, the choice of Juveria, who celebrated her birthday the previous day.  Another opportunity to brush up on our wind surfing and paddle boarding skills.

 

In the evening we went to the tapas bar where Francesco works.  A great sharing of Sicilian food.

 

UZETA Sicilian Bistrò

 

Monday, 22 May, was the final day.  After packing, we had our final lunch together in Acitrezza and then a walk along the seafront and a final shopping opportunity for the ladies.  I managed to speak to the shop assistant in Italian, which were a great success and a proud moment for me.

 

Then the sad part – travelling back to England, which went very well, with the Special Assistance at both Catania and Gatwick Airports doing us proud.

 

The final taxi journey home was a quiet one with us all being transported safely to our destinations.

 

Each of us will have our own stories.  For me, it was achieving my first real holiday abroad.  Fears of sharing a room, managing with carry-on luggage and handling foreign currency were soon swept away.  Our sighted companions, plus Francesco, our guide, were very helpful and we all got on well.  We did not feel like tourists, but were shown the real Sicily – rather like a friend showing us where he lived.  Speaking for myself, I would go on another holiday.

 

Special thanks should go to Yijing for organising the holiday as well as to Francesco of Seable Holidays.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

Victa’s Activity Report – Sicily Holiday

For this week’s blog we publishing the Activity report written by Victa’s John Smith about their amzing trip to Sicily with Seable.

 

Sicily

Catania, Mount Etna and Acicastello

24th June – 2nd July

 

 

Number of attendees: 10

Group age range: 18–29

 

Activity report

VICTA’s second International of 2017 saw us jetting off to the beautiful Italian island of Sicily, originally a Greek colony; Italians have made the island a wonderful mix of culture, food and history.

 

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

Meeting at Luton Airport, our group enjoyed a hearty meal before an early wake up to fly out to Sicily, where we met our guides from Seable. Beginning with a whistle-stop tour through the streets of Catania, including the location of the beach, and a short history of the island, before arriving at our accommodation, just north of Acicastello. Finishing up with some relaxation in the pool and dinner at one of Acicastello’s finest fish restaurants and taking in the sights of the celebration of the town’s patron saint.

 

Our second day saw us travel to the sandy beach in Catania to try windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. The afternoon was a relaxing one with fun and games in the pool before heading out to a nearby Italian steakhouse for dinner.

 

Day three saw us traveling back into Catania to visit the Tactile Museum, where we were able to feel some scale models of the worlds monuments including the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum, the Blue Mosque, The Wailing Wall and St. Peter’s Square and Basilica in the Vatican City.

 

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

 

 

After visiting some of the wonders of the world, we ventured out to the markets of Catania to get a view of modern Sicily, taking in the smells from the fish market and tastes of Sicilian cheeses and meats, and then going to a small but exquisite café to try the Sicilian dish of Pasta Norma. After venturing around Catania further, we found ourselves back in Acicastello dining in the fish restaurant, sampling what the ocean has to offer, with squid, octopus and swordfish being some of the delights.

 

On our fourth day, we travelled out towards Etna and ventured through an organic farm, exploring the farm and checking out the different varieties of trees that grow there, because of the fertile volcanic soil. We met a family of donkeys, and a family of goats, both producing milk for the farm’s cheeses, and a rather large brood of hens producing fresh organic eggs. After visiting the farm and sampling some more of Sicily’s olive oils, meats, cheeses and some small pasta dishes, we ventured further up the mountain to the small but award-winning vineyard belonging to Don Saro. We sampled some of the fine wines and were taught the correct way of tasting wine as well as receiving a tour of the factory where all 40 hectares of Don Saro’s grapes are pressed, fermented and bottled.

 

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

 

Day five began with us all having a relaxed morning before leaving to head to Mount Etna. Stopping off in the town of Zafferana, the last town before the Etna base camp, for lunch and a photo opportunity. Etna itself was exhilarating and maybe a little scary, and upon arrival at the base camp, we found ourselves getting a short lesson on the history of Etna, the variety of volcanic rocks and learning that the Mountain itself is Europe’s most active volcano! We pressed on and found ourselves soon at the highest point that anyone is allowed, just below 3000m, buffeted by the wind, but still happy with ourselves for making it up and exploring some of the craters around the South East face of the mountain. We returned to basecamp, rather windswept and dusty, jumped into our minibuses and ventured back down the mountain to Zafferana, where we had a table booked for dinner at an award-winning Porcini restaurant.

 

Our sixth day saw us back at our accommodation for the morning and having a go at some scuba diving. There were some nervous faces initially but everyone had a go, finding that a lot of us were actually rather good! Our afternoon was a split of food tasting in Catania, honeys, meats, cheeses and ice cream (including the Sicilian delicacy of Granita, an ice cream with no milk), the other half of the group went out on the ocean for a spot of swimming with the local scuba diving school.

Victa's Activity Report - Sicily Holiday

 

Day seven, our penultimate day. We travelled to Catania once more for a spot of souvenir shopping, the usual things were purchased; tea towels, t-shirts and mugs. All very quirky! And an afternoon visit to the Norman Castle which was built from the black volcanic rock next to the ocean in Acicasetllo. Our final afternoon in Sicily was one of relaxation. With fun and games, some swimming in the pool and some celebrations for some of the group who had got their university results!

 

Before setting off we enjoyed a hearty breakfast and ventured through a very sunny Catania, driving past the ocean waving us goodbye before boarding our plane at Catania airport and leaving to come back to an equally sunny but not as warm UK.

 

Huge thanks go out to our guides from Seable Holidays, who made the week informative, entertaining and full of Sicilian adventure. And to our volunteers who helped our participants whenever needed and went above and beyond to ensure everyone was entertained as well.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Cyprus with Seable and VICTA

For this week’s blog, we are sharing a blog by Elin, a young visually impaired blogger who had been on holiday with Seable to Cyprus. Below is Elin’s experience.

 

Cyprus with Seable and VICTA

 

I was recently lucky enough to spend the week in Cyprus on a trip organised by VICTA Children and Seable Holidays. Along with nine other visually impaired people and four sighted guides, I spent a week making the most of everything Cyprus has to offer; from sun bathing to pottery making we did it all!

 

The trip

 

Though it could appear daunting to go on holiday with a group of people you may never have even met before, I can say from personal experience that VICTA and Seable are so welcoming and friendly that the atmosphere of their trips are great from the get go. The ethos of VICTA trips is to encourage as much independence as possible, so while sighted volunteers are on hand to guide where needed, they also encourage us to help ourselves and each other as much as possible.

 

Upon arriving in sunny Cyprus after a stress free flight, we made our way to the hotel and spent the rest of that day orienting ourselves around the building, our rooms and most importantly the pool, before having dinner at a local restaurant.

 

Our first full day in Cyprus was our chance to try some arts and crafts. We visited a local centre where we learned from local artists all about glass making, tapestry, mosaics and much more. We also were able to try our hands at a bit of pottery and magnet making ourselves. Personally, the pottery instructor told me that he’d never met anybody as terrible at pottery as me, so I won’t be taking up that career any time soon but I’m glad to say that others in the group had better luck. We finished off the day with an afternoon on the beach and more wonderful food.

 

The next day was all about Paphos, as we explored the archaeological park in the morning and roamed the harbor in the afternoon. This was personally one of my favourite days of the trip as I was just blown away learning about the history of the ancient ruins and local mythology. The House of Dionysus, one of the ruins we visited, was extremely accessible having braille information and small scale tactile representations of the mosaics. That evening myself and a few others decided to sample the local delicacy of maze, which consists of lots of small dishes being brought out to share among the table. The food was stunning, though I think we were all more than full by the end. I believe we got up to ten courses all in all!

 

The following morning we waved goodbye to Paphos and made our way to Troodos where we’d spend the rest of the week,not forgetting to stop for a wine tasting on the way. The afternoon was spent hiking on Troodos mountain lead by a local guide. The weather was fantastic and the nature beautiful, the views weren’t half bad either so I’m told 😉

 

For our last full day in Cyprus we visited a local botanical garden, a sweets factory and rose factory. The botanical gardens were again beautiful, full of all sorts of fantastic wildlife. The sweets shop was a sweet-tooth heaven; jams, marmalade and sweets of all kind, all home made and made from local produce. And of course the rose factory was fascinating. Not only did it smell beautiful, but the owner who came to speak with us about her business was obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about her work and was extremely accommodating in letting us feel and sample all of the different products they produce. I just couldn’t resist spending my remaining euros in their gift shop and I got some lovely suveneers.

 

All in all it was a very relaxed trip, full of fun and laughter. I can definitely say that I’ve come away from the week with great memories and really good friends. I would absolutely recommend VICTA and Seable to anyone for their services, information about which I’ll post below.

 

Who are VICTA and Seable?

 

VICTA (Visually Impaired Children Taking Action) are a national charity serving visually impaired children and young adults and their families. They organise residential weekends and international trips throughout the year that are intended to raise the independence and confidence of young VI people. I’ve been attending VICTA events since I was around 15 and have made countless friends and made fantastic memories through the experiences I’ve had with them. They plan activities for a range of age-groups, from family weekends for young children and their families to international trips for 18 to 30 years old like the one I attended to Cyprus. Check out their website for more information: http://www.victa.org.uk

 

Seable is an award winning social enterprise organising accessible and active holidays for individuals, couples, families and small groups. They can arrange trips to a number of locations including Sicily, Slovenia and Roam and will tailor your holiday to your spesific access needs. They are an invaluable service for those of us who have disabilities but who also want to see the world by going on fun, interactive and relaxed trips where your disability won’t stop you from doing anything. So far I’ve attended two Seable trips including the recent one to Cyprus, but fully intend to go on many more and would recommend anyone who likes to travel and who has a disability to consider them before booking your next holiday because I promise you won’t regret it. Click on the link below to check out their website: http://www.seable.co.uk

By Elin

https://seemyway.org/

You can get in touch with Elin @ williamselin5@gmail.com. When emailing, please put ‘See My Way’ in the subject line which will help her respond to you sooner.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

For this week’s blog, we have asked VICTA to tell us about their latest trip with SEABLE, when we explored the REAL Cyprus. Here’s the account of their experience:

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

 

For VICTA’s first international trip of 2017 we travelled to the beautiful island of Cyprus.  This was a dual location trip, with the first half spent on the coast in Paphos and the second half in the Troodos mountain range.

 

After a very early morning and a long day travelling, our group were thrilled to spend a relaxing afternoon by the pool in the sun. This was a great chance for the group to carry on getting to know each other, and catch up with old friends. In the evening we went out for a traditional meze style dinner. We were able to sample all the classic Cypriot dishes, including halloumi, lamb stews and moussaka.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Trying our hands at traditional pottery making

 

 

For our first full day in Cyprus, we visited ‘The Place’, a traditional Cypriot art and craft workshop. Here, we are able to meet some local crafters and have a look at what they produce. One item of particular interest was a traditional weaving loom. Participants were able to feel the thread and the shape and size of the loom, to get an idea of how weaved items are created.

 

After exploring the workshop, we were able to have a go at making our own mosaic fridge magnets. This was a really fun activity and resulted in a very personal memento of the trip. Then it was time to meet the potter’s wheel! This was a first for most of the group, and resulted in a lot of laughter and some very nice looking pots. The afternoon provided more opportunities for leisurely Cypriot gastronomic delights, and soaking up the lovely Mediterranean sunshine.

 

For our last day in Paphos we visited the Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent several hours exploring the site, learning about the Roman Mosaics and remains of Roman Villas. One member of the group even did a short performance for us in the ancient Odeon! After a delicious lunch (seafood of course), we enjoyed a wonder around the old harbour and had a chance to do some souvenir shopping.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Paphos Archaeological Park

 

On Saturday we set off for Troodos, calling in at a winery, where it would have been rude to turn down the complimentary Commandaria tasting. After lunch, we went for an energetic hike through the beautiful Troodos mountain range, experiencing new sights, smells and sounds.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Hiking high in the Troodos Mountains

 

The following morning we set off to Troodos Botanical Gardens to learn more about the geographical significance of the area. There were plenty more plants to feel and smell, and it made for an interesting comparison to botanic gardens in the UK. In the afternoon we visited a rose factory, and discovered more uses for rose oil than we could have ever imagined! This of course led on to another retail therapy opportunity.

 

All too soon the trip was over and it was time to go home. For half of the group this was their first VICTA international, and for one of those it was his first time ever on an aeroplane! It was great to explore this fabulous country together, and to witness old connections being strengthened, and new friendships being created. Not long until we get to do it all over again in Sicily!

 

By Felicity Poulton
Lead Activities Coordinator VICTA

 

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 3

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

So here is the third and final part of our trip to Thailand:

 

Day 8

 

After making eggs for breakfast we said our goodbyes to the owners who had made us feel so welcome and started the 3-half hour journey back to Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped for food at a village restaurant and had local Thai dishes and watched the storm that was happening outside.  It was a great day for ravelling as it rained all day. We eventually arrived at our destination and had the afternoon free to explore the city of Chiang Mai.  It was a massive city with lots to explore including a blind Thai massage place.  This of course was something that we had to go to and it was brilliant.

 

 

Day 9

 

Picked up at 6.30am we went in a mini bus with the company Dumbo and we drove for 1 hour up into the mountains of Chiang Mai to see elephants.  It was my most favourite part of the trip, they were free and happy and it was an absolute privilege to get to be near such fantastic creatures.  It is something that we would absolutely love for our clients to experience. We did half a day trip, which we felt was more than enough time to get to see the elephants and they also provided a yummy lunch before they drove us back to our accommodation.

 

After packing up and freshening up we made our way to Chiang Mai train station and said bye to Jimi who was a brilliant tour guide.  He was so knowledgeable and attentive during the whole trip. We then boarded the overnight train back to Bangkok.

 

 

Day 10

 

Arriving early in the morning we were met by a member of Nutty adventures team who took us to the Hotel De’Moc which was a lovely surprise.  We had a free day to rest and then get ready to meet everybody to start the Southern part of the trip.

 

So, we spent the day resting by the beautiful hotel pool, getting excited to meet the group later that evening. We met them all at 6pm and they took us for a lovely local meal that evening and it was a great way for us all to get to know each other.  We all went to bed very excited knowing that the next day we get to explore southern Thailand.

 

 

Overall I think that Northern Thailand was fantastic with so much to offer to everybody.  It is very accessible in many ways and I can’t wait to bring clients to Thailand.  It was a trip of a lifetime and one that I believe many would find it hard to beat.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 2

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

So here is the second part of our trip to Thailand:

Day 4

 

We woke at 6am to go a see a celebration with the monks in the local temple.  This was a very spiritual experience and something that I felt very lucky to be part of. We then went back to the home stay to have breakfast. After breakfast, we got picked up outside the house by a longtail boat and went on a boat cruise to the Island City of Ayutthaya.  The boat was great to feel the breeze and splashes of water on such a hot day and to also get to see the different houses all along the riverside.  After 30-minute boat trip we arrive at our day room, dropped our bags off and headed out on a cycling tour of the Historical Park.  Trust me when I say I was slightly anxious about cycling in 35 degrees but I am so glad that I did it.  It was such a great way to get to visit all the sights around the city.

 

 

After freshening up back in the day room and picked up our bags we headed to the train station-picking up food from the street stalls on the way-we waited for our overnight train to Chiang Mai.  This is where Nun said her goodbyes and saw us off on the train for our 13-hour journey.  She was a fantastic tour guide with great knowledge of the city and we thoroughly enjoyed having her as our tour guide.

 

I have never been on an overnight train before and was unsure as to what to expect but it over exceeded my expectations.  It was new and very clean, with surprisingly comfy beds. I had a great night’s sleep.

 

 

Day 5

 

Arriving in Chiang Mai at half 7 in the morning we were greeted by our next tour guide Jimi.  He then drove us for 3 and half hours to Chiang Khum, stopping on the way to visit local sites.  We went to Amphoe Wang Nuea waterfall and the local hot springs, Mae Kahjan Geyser.  When we arrived at Chiang Khum, went to the local guesthouse where we would be staying that evening, dropped our bags off and headed out to go and visit the local temple and experience the ‘Tai Lue’ culture and way of life.

 

That evening we went to a local’s home and had a traditional ‘kantok’ dinner which is a traditional northern dinner at Baan Tha Sop Van.

 

 

Day 6

 

We woke at 6am and walked into the local village to go and see how the villages work in the morning.  We got to help a woman make her local rice crackers, which I thoroughly enjoyed-albeit I was not very good at it but she was so friendly and smiled through the whole experience. We then walked through the rest of the little village and visited a small local market where we tried sticky rice that had been cooked in bamboo and was Damiano’s favourite from then on.

 

Back at the local guesthouse we had a ‘American breakfast’ and then went back to the house where we had the meal the evening before.  She had invited us back as she asked if she could dress us up in traditional clothing for the ‘Tai Lue’ culture.  This will be something that I will never forget-we were dresses up in the beautiful clothing and I also got some fantastic jewellery place d on me, which was very exciting.  Many locals were there and it then felt like a photo shoot, with us standing, sitting to then us sitting on the bed to being in the kitchen pretending to cook dinner.  Not only was it something that was a once in a life time experience but it was funny.  I felt incredibly lucky to be stood there and with the opportunity we were given.

 

Once we were changed we went downstairs of this wonderful home and they did weaving to make clothing and bags plus much more.  So we got the chance to see how they made the clothes that we had the opportunity to try on.

 

 

Saying good bye to the wonderful people we got in the car and drove up into the mountains to go and visit the Buddha images carved into the cliffs at a cave temple.  This was fantastic and would be brilliant for our clients as it was all touchable and very tactile.

 

We drove to our next home for the evening in Baan Dok Bua, which was a very modern homestay owned by a doctor and a nurse from the local hospital.  They were wonderful friendly people who made us feel right at home.  We quickly got freshened up and changed ready to go on a sunset Gondola cruise on Payao Lake.

 

 

Day 7

 

We woke early for a walk around the local village and we saw a 500 year old tree, which is very special to the village.  After our walk we had breakfast and then set off for a tractor tour of the community and it was a great way for us to see how the village has come to win national awards for the best self-sufficient village economy.  It was clear to see why, from the farmer fields, a family that produced gas from the rice shells and basket weaving.  With the tractor, they then took us up into the mountain and we went on a jungle walk.  The noises from all the insects was incredibly loud.  With hundreds of insects all around, it was a moment where you must take a minute to realise where you are and take it all in.  It was so dense and green and I loved every second.  It would also be such an amazing thing or our clients as the noises of the jungle were just incredible.

 

We had a picnic in the forest which was made by one of the locals for us and we instantly added it onto the list of things for our clients to do.  Fantastic. We then slowly made our way back to the homestay where we cooked dinner together with the owners.  She gave us a basket and some scissors and took her into her garden, where we picked some vegetables and used then in our dinner.  It was so fresh and tasty and amazing to see how they are so self-sufficient.  We had and early night as the next day we were to make our way back to Chiang Mai.

 

 

To be continued…..

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.


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