Tag Archives: accessible transport

Graham’s trip to Rome

At the beginning of September, I attended another Seable’s Holiday to Rome. This was, yet again, another fantastic and memorable trip.

Our small group set off on another adventure travelling to London Gatwick Airport to catch our flight. On arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport we were met by Damiano and Emma who would be our guides for the holiday.

We had four fantastic days exploring Rome, some of the mainstreams and more iconic locations followed by places known mainly by locals.

Lake Albano, nearby Castel Gandolfo, a very nice and clear big lake where we had a fantastic swim, hired a Kayak and pedal boats to explore it.

Kayaking on Lake Albano

 

We visited an organic farm where we had a fantastic freshly cooked meal prepared using only organic ingredient from the farm. Whilst at the farm we saw some friendly cats who certainly enjoyed the attention we gave them, and even our leftover food. After the meal the nice man at the farm took us to meet the donkeys, there was a Mother, Father and two little babies.

Organif farm, donkey and nice farmer

The visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican City, was unforgettable. We had a touch tour which enabled us to feel different pieces within the building. Throughout this tour we each had a headset that could scan point on the map and describe to us what we were looking at. We then headed outside to hear the Pope’s speech. To read more about the Vatican click here

Graham touching sculptures in St. Peter Basilica

We also took a tour around the Vatican Museums where a nice lady assisted us throughout our visit. She explained a lot about the Vatican Museum and its history. As part of this tour we were also able to go into the Sistine Chapel. Once in there, you have to remain silent and the use of cameras and mobile phones is not allowed, in fact every few minutes you would hear a person reminding you about this rule. When in the Chapel we were lucky enough to be able to touch, unlock, open and close the Sistine Chapel door.

We also took a walking tour around some of Rome’s most famous Piazzas, including Piazza Navona, the majestic Pantheon and the well know Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, we were unable to go to the Spanish square and its steps. We then headed to the Coliseum, we could not go to the top level as this was not safe. But from the level we were, we were able to see the ruins and also to look inside the Amphitheatre.

Posing in front of the colosseum

Our final full day in Rome consisted of a tour of a big farmers’ food market where we sampled some more Italian food and purchased ingredient to make fresh pasta in an Italian cooking class. In this session we made our own dough which we used to then produce fresh pasta. We were shown how to make ravioli, tortellini and tagliatelle, which we would then have for lunch with a traditional pasta sauce.

Local farmers' marketArticle written by Graham.

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

Vietnam and Cambodia – The Great Adventure

I am Emma, from Seable Team, and I have just returned from the most incredible experience in Vietnam and Cambodia and, guess what,  I can’t wait to share it with you all.

It was an inspection trip of the 2 countries to help us plan a future holiday for a group of Blind and Partially sighted travellers.  We partnered with a Vietnamese tour operator who carefully planned a detailed itinerary for the 3 weeks.

In the following blog, I will be sharing with you the details of our trip.

VVietnam Lonely Planet Guide Book

Day 1

Flight from London Gatwick to Doha-Doha to Hanoi.  The start of our 17-hour journey began and to say I was excited was an understatement.  I love a long-haul flight at the best of times, but I have to say that Qatar airlines was up there with the best of them.  The seats were comfy and with 2 meals and unlimited drinks on each flight, we were well fed, watered and even managed to get a good amount of sleep before we landed in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Landing in Hanoi at 7am, we couldn’t wait to meet our guide and get started with the day. We were met by our guide Thomas and he took us straight for a traditional Vietnamese breakfast-Pho.  He told us he was taking us to one of the best Pho in Hanoi and we couldn’t wait to try it.  After what can only be described as the best beef Pho of our lives we had a quick iced coffee and then headed to our hotel.

We had a couple of hours sleep, as by now the jet lag was starting to catch up with us.  We got freshened up and went for a welcome lunch with Linda, the lady who organised our trip. It was a wonderful lunch with more food than we could eat, including the start of our holiday obsession with spring rolls.

We were free for the evening to explore Hanoi….YESSS! When they told us it was a busy night market, they were not lying.  It was crazy! Rows after rows of market stalls selling everything from bags to magnets.  I felt like it was Christmas morning and was far to over excited.  Hanoi’s evening market square was filled with noise and smells from the street food, it was overwhelming. Not forgetting to mention it was still 30 degrees at 10 pm at night, talk about sweating!!

Also, something I wasn’t prepared for was the obsession with Karaoke!! Street after street you would find someone singing surrounded by a group of people, it was amazing.  I would have been temped to join in, if it wasn’t for the fact that I am beyond tone deaf.

It was an incredible introduction into Vietnam and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the trip had to offer.

Busy road in Vietnam at night

Day 2

We were picked up at the hotel by our guide at 9 am and drove to a near by village called Bat Trang.  It is about 13km south east of Hanoi, on the Red River and is a village famous for the making of Ceramics and a long-standing trade village.  The artistry of Bat Trang is well-known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics that have been created for over 700 years.

Our guide gave us a tour of a family Ceramics factory where he told us about the history and methods of their business.  It was fascinating to get an appreciation for such a long-standing tradition within this family.  Imagine us in the gift shop, knowing everything was hand made in that very building, we could have bought it all!

We the made our way to a family owned lacquer factory, where we were taught about the process of lacquering wood to make exquisite pieces of art.  The guide carefully explained each process and the skill required.  It was a very interesting tour and again the gift shop made it hard for us to leave.  It was only day 2 and we felt like we were bringing back the whole of Vietnam with us already!

After the tour, we went to the Hanoi streets for a walking tour.  Going through the hot sticky streets filled with rows after rows of spices, herbs, vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.  It was an explosion for the senses with all the smells mixing together.  Getting to try all the local grown vegetables and fruit and smell the freshly picked herbs was a great experience.  Also, something I haven’t mentioned yet was the amount of people on scooters riding around the streets.  I was very glad to have our guide with us to help us navigate the streets.

After a delicious lunch we went to the Hanoi Temple of Literature which was the first University of Vietnam built in 1070.  With its incredible history, buildings and gardens it was a great tour.

We then went over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the nation’s founder’s body is preserved.  The colonial Presidential Palace, which was originally the French Governors office and a fine example of French architecture in Hanoi.  It was very interesting to hear about the history but lacking in any tactile experience with us not being allowed to touch anything within the buildings.

In the grounds there was the One Pillar Pagoda, built in the 11th century in dedication to Buddha of Compassion and reminiscent of a lotus blossom rising from the pond.  I really enjoyed getting to walk up the pagoda and sending a wish off to Buddha.

That evening again we ventured into the crazy streets of Hanoi and found a street food stall selling fresh crabs.  We sat eating and drinking beers whilst listening to one of the many karaoke singers, it was perfect.  As we were making our way back to the hotel, we got our first experience of a tropical thunder storm-we bought a couple of ponchos (to cover us from the rain) from a market stall and ran through the rain home; it was a brilliant and funny end to a very busy day.

Vietnam Street Food

Day 3

Picked up at 8am from our hotel by our guide for our trip to Ha Long Bay with an over night stay on the boat.  It’s listed as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, so we had high expectations. The drive was 3 hours long with a stop half way at a local service station. We were in a mini bus with the other travellers who were coming on the boat with us, so it was a great opportunity to chat with them and get to know them.  The guide for the excursion was called Ha and was fantastic.  She had brilliant English, as well as knowledge and history of Ha Long Bay.

We embarked on the Oriental Sails Cruise, which was an elegant boat with 3 floors and a wonderful open terrace.  Our room was a good size with one big window, looking out onto the waters of Ha Long Bay.  I couldn’t wait to see what the excursion had to offer.

Once everyone had settled into their rooms and freshened up, we went to the dinning room for lunch and the boat headed to Vung Vieng, a fish village along the limestone islands of Bai Tu.  Dinner was an impressive feast, with dish after dish coming out.   We all ate a little bit too much, but it was worth it.

After lunch we had the option to either go in a bamboo rowing boat around the fishing village or to take a kayak and follow a guide.  Damiano and myself were feeling slightly more adventurous and so we chose to go kayaking. I think we made the right choice as it was a great experience.  Ha guided us through the waters of the floating fishing village and as we kayaked, she told us about the history of the village and how they are sustainable.

Returning to the boat, we had a spring roll cooking class, where each of us had a go at making one and then we got to eat the final product.  This was a great interactive activity for everyone on board.  Dinner was served after, again it was a feast with traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

After dinner some guests did some singing and dancing whilst the others got involved in the squid fishing off the side of the boat. We went for the night squid fishing, but unfortunately, we had no luck in catching anything; we shouldn’t give up our day jobs! We called it a day and headed off to bed.  I have to say, I don’t have the strongest sea legs and I was a bit nervous about sleeping on a boat as I have a slight sea sickness issue, but I can honestly say it was one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had (I think the slight rocking actually sent me to sleep like a baby).

Kayaking in Hanoi Bay

Day 4

The next morning, we woke up early at 6am for a Tai Chi lesson on board the terrace.  I have never done Tai Chi before and I found it very peaceful.  With the music and his voice telling us what to do, it was great and got us all ready for a big breakfast, ready to start the day.  We then headed towards Thien Canh Son Cave and beach.  After a short climb up some steps on the island, we reached the cave.  It was full of limestone stalagmites which were wonderful to touch (some of the limestone we were unable to touch as it effects the development however), and Ha told us all about the way in which the cave came to be about. Then we made our way back to the boat and started the journey back to the harbour. Ha Long Bay was a real experience and one that I will always remember.

After our return to the harbour we made our way to the airport, where we flew to Da Nang airport.  It was an hour flight from Hanoi and went super quick, by the time we were in the sky, we were landing already.  We were met at the airport by our guide and driver, who took us to our hotel in Hoi An, about 40 mins from the airport.  We arrived late and so checked in and called it a night.  The hotel was beautiful, covered in lanterns and I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning and start exploring.

Hanoi Dragons

Day 5

Waking up in Hoi An felt fantastic and I couldn’t wait to start the day. Breakfast was great and the hotel was as wonderful as I was expecting in day light.  It had a lovely pool and spa area with lanterns everywhere.  We were met by our guide Chanh who took us to our first activity of Lantern making.  We had a brief introduction into the history, shape and colour of the lanterns as wells as the many stages of making them.  We then got to have a go at making our own.  I have to say I really enjoyed making mine and felt like a pro.

From the lantern making, we made our way to the Hoi An walking tour visit.  A quick drive took us to the main attraction spot of Hoi An being the iconic 400 year old covered bridge which a Japanese styled temple is based on.  It was a little bridge and full of history, great for some photos.  Then we continued to the Museum of Trade Ceramics, a Vietnamese style wooden house which has showcased ceramics since 1858.  The Tan Ky House which has had a long standing 200-year-old Chinese merchant residence.  We were welcomed with a refreshing cup of local tea, which was much needed in the mid-day heat and then a tour commenced with much history of the residence.

We walked next to the Ong Temple, which was built for worshipping an ancient Chinese general who had been admired for his bravery, loyalty and justice-Guan Yu.  It was built in 1653 by the Chinese settlers and was a fantastic temple.  It was very tactile, with every part of the temple able to be touched and the smell of incense was incredible.  Then we strolled around the market stalls selling baskets full of vegetable, herbs and spices.  We then were taken to a restaurant by the river for a wonderful dinner.

The afternoon was free for us to explore the markets and what else Hoi An has to offer.  When researching Hoi An, we read that it was the best place for tailor made clothing and so we weren’t going to miss this opportunity. We googled the top-rated store and we made our way, feeling like we were on a mission. We decided on the type of suit we would like and the colour and fabric, then it came to barter the price.  You must be strong and have an idea of a price you are willing to pay (google helped us with this) and then it was time to measure.

Hanoi Bay

Day 6

After having a big breakfast, we were met by our guide outside the hotel to set off on our next adventure in Hoi An. Our plan was to visit Tra Que Village for a Farmer workshop and cooking class.  After a quick 15-minute drive from the hotel, we arrived in the village and were met by fields and fields of different shades of green.  We were welcomed with a basil seed cool drink and given a farmer’s uniform to dress up in, including a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the scorching sun off our heads.  Our second guide for the day from the village, gave a brief explanation of each vegetable and herb as we walked around the fields, stopping to smell and pick the herbs as we walked.  He often would give us one to smell and ask us to guess the herb-which turns out to be much trickier than we would have thought! We joined in gardening activities in preparing the land, fertilizing the seaweed, raking the ground, sowing, watering and finally picking the vegetables that we would need to use in our cooking class.  It was a fantastic tactile experience to get to have a first-hand go at the farming and learn how the locals grow their produce.

Back at the restaurant area of the farm, we were given an apron and chef hat ready for our cooking class. We were taught how to make spring rolls, chicken in a clay pot and local savoury pancakes filled with prawns and chicken.  It was a wonderful cooking class, filled with detailed descriptions of how to make each dish.  Once prepared, we made our way to the cooking station to cook the food ready for us to eat.  The instructor was great fun, helping us flip the pancakes and even add some fire into the cooking.  The heat from the kitchen was incredible on the hot day but it was so worth it when we sat down to eat the food we had made.  The meal was delicious, full of garlic and chilly with the fresh veg we had just picked only an hour ago.  It was a great morning and I loved every second of it.

That afternoon we had a free afternoon and so we thought we would check out the local beach only 10 minutes away from our hotel.  With what seemed like an endless beach of white sand, it was met by the beautiful blue waters of the South China Sea.  After quickly picking two sunbeds next to the sea, I ran into the cool waters.  I have to admit that being in 40 degrees heat is wonderful but I was certainly missing going into the sea to cool off and so this was a welcomed visit.  The waters were calm and clear.  Once I had cooled off, I headed to my sunbed, ordered a cocktail and laid in the last bit of the afternoon sunshine, it was heaven!

As the sun was starting to set, we walked down the beach to explore it a little before heading back to the hotel.  The beach was incredibly busy with all the locals, this was a much cooler time of day and it seemed to be the perfect time to come to the beach to avoid the scorching mid-day sun.

Back at the hotel after we had eaten enough street food to feed 10 people, we decided to try out the hotel spa, to finish the day off nicely. It was a beautiful area at the top of the hotel, filled with wonderful smells of flowers.  We both had a traditional Vietnamese massage, which was fantastic.  At the end of the hour, my lady sat me up and continued to style my hair into the most beautiful plait, which was unexpected but a lovely surprise. We both left feeling incredibly relaxed and ready for a much-needed sleep.

 

Day 7

I could have stayed in Hoi An forever but unfortunately we had a morning flight to Ho Chi Minh to catch.  Saying goodbye to our guide and driver, we waited in De Nang’s Airport for our flight.  After a small delay of a couple hours, we were on our way to Ho Chi Minh for our next adventure.  The flight was only one hour and went by incredibly quickly.  We were picked up by our guide and driver and the first stop was for some dinner.  We were taken to a lovely restaurant in the city centre.  It was empty and we had the whole restaurant to ourselves which was an experience.

We started our drive to Mekong Delta which is 2 and half hours from the city.  The car was very comfy and the drive went by quickly enough, stopping once in a local service station.  The car could only take us so far, and then a boat had to take over.  We made our way onto the boat ready for a short 20 mins boat ride to our Homestay for the night.  The homestay was far grander than we were expecting, with a very big open entrance area, filled with extravagantly decorated furniture.  The family owning the homestay greeted us and took us to our room, which was a big room that was simple, clean and cool.

Due to our later arrival because of our delayed flight, our guide slightly altered the itinerary and offered to take us on a late afternoon bike ride around the village where we were staying.  It was a great opportunity to explore our surroundings.  With fields of green, local houses, dogs, birds and more fruits and flowers in the trees, it really was an experience for all senses. The cycle ride lasted for about 40 mins and it felt great to do some exercise after sitting all day.

Back at the homestay, we freshened up and made our way to the kitchen to help the family prepare our evening meal.  The two women of the family showed us how to help them prepare our meal, which can only be described as a feast.  A little table was set up on the terrace at the front of the house, next to the river and it was like something out of a movie.  The two of us sat at the table while the ladies kept bringing out different dishes they had prepared for us.  From spring rolls, fish, chicken, rice, noodles; to say we were full was an understatement! Our guide also during the meal, brought to us the family’s home-made rice wine-it was pungent and had a real kick to it.  We had a shot of rice with every new dish that was brought out to us and it quickly got us tipsy.  Once we had successfully finished dinner we practically crawled over to the two hammocks set up beside us and laid in them as our dinner went down.  It was a wonderful way to end the day!

Cooking in Vietnam

Day 8

The morning started with a home-made breakfast and after the night before I thought I would never eat again but somehow, we both managed a full breakfast.  We said our goodbyes to the family of the homestay, with a big thank you for their wonderful hospitality. Our guide leaded us towards the boat and went through the plan of the day.  The first stop being a local clay pottery workshop tour at the Brick Kilns, where we got to learn about how the local people create beautiful potteries from clay.

Next stop was a local workshop, where we got to see how they made rice paper, coconut candy, pop-rice and pop-corn, with us getting to have a go at every opportunity.  It was fun to try and make the sweets and even more fun to try them once they were made! The guide described the different wines and let us try a little bit of each, it was still only 10.30am and each wine is about 40 percent proof-it was a fun morning.  My jelly legs were definitely feeling the wine!

We made our way back on to the boat and went on a lovely boat ride through the Mekong River to the local restaurant for our dinner.  We ate local fish and vegetables and had a little rest after eating.  I think the morning rice wine had made me sleepy. Once we had had a rest, back on the boat, we made our way further up the river.  Eventually we stopped at the side of the river and we swapped onto a much smaller rowing boat. We were given a traditional Vietnamese hat to help us shade from the intense sun and we headed off for a tour on the rowing boat.  The lady stood at the back of the small boat and rowed us through the small water paths of the Mekong River, past the local houses lining the waters.  It lasted about 30 mins and it was a very peaceful experience, hearing only the water splashing around us as we glided through wild untouched water ways.

The boat ride brought us back to our bigger boat, which we made our way back onto and headed to a local music stop.  The tables had plates of different fruit on them for us to refresh ourselves with and local tea.  We sat and listened to the locals sing whilst we took a rest from the travelling and hot sun.

After making our way back on the boat, we got to the car and started the journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.  It was the evening by the time we arrived and after checking in to the hotel, a quick change, we headed out to explore Ho Chi Minh at night.  Our guide told us that the city is famous at night for its big hotels and roof top bars.  He told us of a couple that are a must try, for fantastic views of the city at night and so we made our way to find them.  We went into the Bitexco building, which is the tallest in Ho Chi Minh and went up to floor 52 to the Heli Bar.  The waitress guided us to a small table against the window and it made you feel like you were on top of the world.  It was incredibly high and the lights of the city sparkled below us.  A live band was playing as we ordered 2 (expensive but worth it) cocktails and enjoyed the experience of being the highest people in Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Min City - Night - Skyscrapers

Day 9

Greeted by our guide, we were ready for a day of exploring Ho Chi Minh by day.  The first stop was at Cho Ion, the Chinatown of the city but unfortunately it was going through renovation and so most of it was closed. We quickly went to our next stop being the Fito Museum.  It is a traditional Vietnamese museum which told us all about the medicine used in the past and included a replica pharmacy where we had the opportunity to dress up as a doctor of medicine in Vietnam.  Damiano, of course was the first person in the group to dress up and have a go at playing the role. The museum was full of history and great information where we got the opportunity to learn all about the history of medicine in Vietnam.

After the museum, we had a quick lunch and then headed to the Reunification Palace, which was the former residence of the President of the South of Vietnam until the end of April 1975.  It was an incredible Palace filled with grand rooms and at the bottom of the Palace, were the bunkers used during the war. Unfortunately, the Palace was not the most tactile visit, with most of the rooms roped off, however the guide did a fantastic job of telling the story of the history within the Palace.

The tour then took us to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a neo-Romanesque cathedral constructed between 1877 and 1883 using bricks from Marseilles and stained-glass windows from Chartres.  It was very strange to be standing in Vietnam and looking at the Notre Dame, thinking you could be in France not Vietnam. It was an incredible building that has stood the test of time from the French reign over Vietnam.  Next to the Notre Dame, was the famous Old Saigon post office, where we got the opportunity to send some post cards back home. Last stop for shopping was at the French built Ben Thanh Market, which dates back to 1870.  It was a maze of stalls selling everything you could imagine.  After picking up some souvenirs, we made our way back to the hotel, where we rested and got some food. Tomorrow was a big day for us, as we were going to CAMBODIA (wahhoooo), and I could barely sleep with the excitement!!!

 

Day 10

Waking up at 6.30am read for a big day of travelling because this was the day we made our way to CAMBODIA! We were both incredibly excited and I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the journey there, as I had read a few stories about crossing the border and it not being the easiest thing to do.  We made our way to the bus station and checked in for our bus. We had to fill out 2 forms with our personal details and pay 35 dollars each for the visa to cross the border.  I paid and handed over our passports to the guide from the bus company who came on the bus with us to Cambodia.

The bus was comfy with big seats and we were given a bottle of water and breakfast (2 pastries each) which was a nice surprise. We got comfy for the next 7 hours journey, stopping half way at the service station which was just before the Cambodian border.  Once we reached the border, the guide told us where to walk to once off the coach.  They called us one by one, checked our visas and passports and then we were met by the coach on the other side; it was as easy as that! Once everyone was back on the coach we continued the rest of the journey to Phnom Penh.  When we arrived at Phnom Penh, our driver met us and took us directly to our hotel to check in. We were free to explore by ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and evening as our guide for Phnom Penh, would be meeting us in the morning.

That evening we went out with the aim to find some street food and see what Phnom Penh has to offer at night.  The streets we busy with many bars and it all was a bit of a maze. After the day of travelling we were tired and after we have walked for a while exploring the night life we decided to just get some food and beer and made a slow walk back to the hotel.

Cambodia Phnom Phen

Day 11

Our guide met us ready for a busy day of touring Phnom Penh.  Mr Chey spoke fantastic English and got us excited for the day ahead.  The Royal Palace, was first on the list and the guide explained the rules of dressing before entering the Palace.  All women have to cover to their knees and arms to the elbows.  It was an extremely hot day and having to cover up made me feel like the warmest women on the planet, but it was worth it as the Palace was extraordinary.  It was built by King Norodom in 1866 and it was extremely extravagant with gold everywhere and the Silver Pagoda was also located in the Palace grounds.  The flag was flying high to let us know that the King of Cambodia was in residence, which was a very exciting moment to know we were that close to the King.  The guide gave use an informative tour of the grounds of the Palace.

Next, we went to the National Museum, which is one of Phnom Penh’s true architectural gems.  It was designed in Khmer style in 1917 by famed French architect Georges Groslier and Ecole Des Arts Cambodians. The building was great; however, the tour guide at the National Museum had very limited English and we were unable to touch any of the monuments, which made the tour very limited.

After a quick stop in the local Cambodian post office, we sent another post card home then made our way to Wat Phnom.  This is the first pagoda to be built in 1373 to house the Buddha statues discovered in the Mekong by a woman named Penh.  In the temple at the top of the pagoda, after doing the ceremony and praying, there was a lady there telling people fortunes.

Walking along the Sothearos Blvd it had a great view of the city and was an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air at Chaktomouk River bank. Then we had dinner at the River side restaurant, with a local Cambodian dinner.  It was wonderful and great to enjoy a rest after a jam-packed morning.

Once dinner was done, we made our way to our afternoon activity with the guide.  We were going to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  I have to say I was slightly apprehensive about this tour, as I was unsure of how it was going to be. The Killing Field was one of the sites where there were brutal executions of more than 17,000 individuals, most of whom first suffered through interrogations, torture and deprivation in Toul Sleng Prison during Pol Pot regime from 1975-1979. I was very ignorant about my knowledge about the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and I learnt a lot from our guide during this tour; however, it was a harrowing tour that will stay with me forever.  We walked through the field of where the mass graves once were.  The details of the Killing Fields were shocking and incredibly sad. They have a building inside the killing field, holding all the skulls found when the fields were excavated.  It is an experience that you cannot really prepare yourself for, to stand in front of 10,000 skulls. It was extremely daunting and brought home the realisation to the extent of the deaths that happened right where I stood.

A short drive from the Killing Field, took us to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum-S21 prison.  This prison was previously a high school and used as a prison by Pol Pot’s security forces and became the largest centre for detention and torture during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Inside the prison, along the walls were photos of every person that were kept within the prison.  As you walk through rooms of faces upon faces of all the people killed, everyone visiting the prison is in silence and the experience is eerie and uneasy.

On our way back to the hotel, it started to rain like I had never seen before, seriously crazy rain! The roads were quickly flooded turning into streams and I felt terrible for all the people on scooters that were getting soaked as they travelled beside us.  By the time we had made it to the hotel, it had turned into a typhoon with the wind and rain at full force whistling around us.  That evening we decided to stay in at the hotel rather than try and brave the weather because let’s face it, you would have to be nuts to want to go out in that weather. It was nice to get to just chill for an evening and get ourselves ready for another big journey the next day.

 

Day 12

We had breakfast and then were picked up by our driver who took us to the bus station, for our next journey to Siem Reap.  It was a similar coach to before, comfy with water and breakfast provided.  The journey was 6 hours with a stop half way at a local service station. The food looked incredible, as we looked on from a far unable to buy anything.  Thankfully the journey went quickly and we were in Siem Reap before we knew it.

Our driver met us at the bus station and drove us to our hotel in Siem Reap.  It was a beautiful hotel with incredibly friendly staff.  We had a free afternoon and evening, so we bought two tickets for that evening and then made our way to have to street food-as by now we both were super hungry (I was hangry).  We made our way to Pub Street, filled with shops and food stalls.  After picking where to eat, we ordered some things to try that we had not eaten before.  One of them things being crocodile, which was like a fishy chicken and I feel bad for saying that I liked it but it was quite good.  We decided to walk to the circus as it was showing on the map as only 15 mins-I would recommend to take a tuk tuk as the walk was at the side of a busy dirty road but we made it after carefully navigating our way there.  It was a very organised event, selling popcorn, ice-cream and cocktails as you walked in.  We were guided to our seats and waited for it to start.  It had a fantastic atmosphere, with everyone sat around in a circle and each person was given a hand fan to keep you cool from the heat. The show was brilliant, filled with crazy acrobatic stunts and fire shows. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was a great experience.

By the time we were leaving the circus, it was raining again and so we decided to get a tuk tuk back to the centre, costing $4 but you will have to barter it down. The night was finished with an ice cream roll, (which is something I’ve wanted to try for a while) and then headed back to the hotel as the next day was a busy tour day.

 

Day 13

I was incredibly excited for the visits in Siem Reap, as I love Temples and the history behind them.  Our guide met us at our hotel early in the morning and our first Temple we went to visit was called Angkor Wat.  It is a world heritage site since 1992 and is famous for its beauty and splendour.  On our way we stopped to buy our tickets for the temples-it was one ticket for all the temples we would be visiting on that day and they took our picture for the ticket. Our faces were on our own tickets and we were ready to visit the first temple.

Angkor Wat did not disappoint! It is one of the 7 wonders of the world and it really felt like it. It took your breath away with the impressive magnitude of the temple. The guide asked if we would be happy to go on the non-traditional tour and keep away from the crowds, which we loved and immediately said yes.  He took us to the east entrance and it was nice and quiet.  As we made our way towards the main temple, the guide stopped us at any great photo opportunity and it felt like we had our very own photographer with us.  He told us the history of the temple and took us on a tour of the inside of the temple. He told us whenever we were allowed to touch the walls, carvings and statues making it a real interactive tour.

We next went to Ta Prohm Temple, one of the area’s most beautiful temples and where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed.  At Ta Prohm, it was incredible to see the trees take over the old temples, it was a real nature vs man made.  Walking through the ruins, again the guide would stop and take some great pictures and get us to feel the fallen tomb stones and they lost their battle against the huge roots from one of the trees.

We had lunch at a local restaurant next to the river, and after walking in the heat all morning we had really worked up an appetite.  The Cambodian food was fantastic with fresh fruit juices, chicken curry, sticky pork, rice and of course spring rolls (we couldn’t eat a meal without a spring roll now).

Finally, we went to Angkor Thom, which is the antique capital of Angkor Thom 12th century, with its huge statues at the south gate depicting the churning the ocean of milk.  Bayon Temple is unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara the Phimeanakas. You can feel the faces as you walk through the temple. Our guide told us about various gods, goddesses, and other-worldly beings from the mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism (modified by centuries of Buddhism).

Our tour for the day was over, so our guide took us back to our hotel and we were free for the evening.  We thanked our guide for a great day and said our goodbyes.  We had a rest until the evening, where we made our way back to the night market streets.  Damiano’s friend was visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia and so we met him and went for a local meal.  He ordered all the local traditional dishes for us to try, and they were delicious.  After a great evening of food and company, we headed back to the hotel-I was shattered.

Angkor Wat

Day 14

Our driver picked us up and took us to the airport in Siem Reap, where we waited for our flight to Ho Chi Minh.  As we walked to our plane, we quickly realised that our plane was the very small one with propellers.  I walked onto the tiny plane and as we made our way to the 2 seats, we strapped in ready for the flight.  It was a bumpy ride but quickly over in an hour and a half.

Reaching boarder control in the airport, I wish I could say coming back into Vietnam was as easy as it was going into Cambodia, but unfortunately it was not.  After queuing in serval different ques and filling out forms, we finally made it to the front.  For the visa coming into Vietnam from Cambodia you need a passport photo and to pay $25 each-we had no photo or money!

Our journey to Phan Thiet had finally started and we were ready for the 5-hour drive-apart from we hadn’t eaten from 8am that morning and it was now 4pm and we were extremely hungry! We eventually arrived in Phan Thiet and thanked our driver for giving us such a smooth and easy journey.  We were staying at the Romana Resort for the next 3 days and it was a fantastic break in the trip.

 

Day 17

We started the journey back to Ho Chi Minh.  We stopped half way into our 5-hour journey at a local service station and they were serving boxes of mini pancakes.  I immediately bought a box and they were wonderful. Arriving in Ho Chi Minh at around 9.30-10pm we went straight to our hotel and rested until the next day.

Vietnam Flag

Day 18

This was our last day in Vietnam and we wanted to make sure it was a good one.  We weren’t flying back to the UK until 7pm that day and so we had the whole day to do one last thing. The Cu Chi Tunnels.  The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong‘s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.

The tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels was led by a local guide who walked us through the networks of tunnels and we even had the opportunity to go down into some of the tunnels.  I was too scared but Damiano went down into the small space and crawled along the tunnel.  At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to shoot one of the guns. We picked to shoot an AK47 and had 5 bullets each.  It was expensive at $25 for the ten bullets but what a rare chance to do something you would never otherwise get to do.  I went first and nervously pressed the trigger and that was enough for me. I have learnt that I am definitely not a natural born shooter.  We were given tea and local yams (as they were grown there at the tunnels during the war) to end the tour.

Meeting our driver, we then made our way back to Ho Chi Minh airport to head off on the 19-hour journey home ahead of us.  The drive to the airport took 1 and a half hours and we were quickly there.

Qatar are a wonderful airline and it was a great first flight, with us being comfy and well fed.  We were soon in Doha and with only a 3-hour layover, we were soon on our second flight back to the UK.  With only 8 hours between us and UK soil, I could practically smell the grey London air.  I slept for most of the flight, which was fantastic.

Our Vietnam and Cambodia adventure was over.  I felt sad that it was over, but I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our big adventure and stay tuned for more adventurous blogs!!

Thanks again,

Emma

 

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

Blogging with Life of a Blind Girl

My name is Holly and I’m the author of the blog Life of a Blind Girl. I started my blog back in 2015 and it’s evolved so much since then, my blog has always been my corner of the internet but I didn’t realise how many opportunities it would actually give me including writing for Seable and other organisations and charities.

 

Life Of A Blind Girl Logo

I started my blog in the hope to share my experiences of living with a visual impairment, to educate others, to tackle the common misconceptions surrounding disability and visual impairment and to empower others living with a disability.

I’ve always had a passion for writing, that passion lead me to start my blog and I haven’t looked back since. My blog is a mix of educational related content on visual impairment and disability, sharing my experiences of going to concerts or places I’ve visited, giving people tips on accessibility, education, dos and don’ts to name a few, and I am passionate about all of these topics.

I am also very passionate about helping others and having a blog allows me to do that in a creative way, it makes me extremely happy when people tell me that my blog posts have helped them in one way or another, it really makes the hard work and dedication worth while.

Like everything, blogging has its challenges, as a blind blogger, I’ve faced a few which I thought I’d discuss. However, I have found solutions for these issues.

 

Holly Tuke

Finding an accessible blogging platform

 

There are two popular blogging platforms: Blogger and WordPress, personally I prefer WordPress. I did try Blogger, but as a screen-reader user, I thought that WordPress was the most accessible and offered better functionality, it’s also very easy to use.

In 2017, I went self-hosted, meaning that I now pay for my blog and have my own domain, it means that I have so much freedom with my blog, and I own it, rather than WordPress owning it. It was something that I put off for a while, as I didn’t know how accessible the process would actually be for someone with a visual impairment and also wanted it to be a worthwhile investment which it definitely was. I’m so glad that I went self-hosted and it was an accessible process using a screen-reader.

 

Making my posts as visually appealing as possible

 

As I have no useful vision, it’s hard to visualise what my blog posts look like through a sighted person’s eyes. I am also unable to get inspiration from other bloggers photos as I can’t see them.

I am very lucky as I have amazing parents who take my blog photos for me which I am extremely grateful for so that is my main way of how I get around that issue. I also look at Stock images so if I don’t have a photo myself, then I can use one of those.

 

Collaborating with brands

 

As I’ve learnt more about blogging over the years, connected with other bloggers and really thought about the future of my blog, one thing that I do struggle with is finding brand collaborations. As I predominantly talk about disability on my blog, with the odd lifestyle and beauty post thrown in the mix, I’m not your average beauty, fashion, lifestyle or travel blogger. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that brands don’t really have anything to cater towards disabled bloggers, or they just simply don’t think about collaborating with disabled bloggers, but I’m hoping that this will change in the future as I think disabled bloggers are extremely valuable and bring a lot to the blogging community.

 

However, I am extremely lucky that I get to collaborate and work with many amazing charities and organisations such as Seable, the RNIB and Scope to name a few. Working in partnership with these organisations has given me the chance to take part in campaigns, write guest posts and really get my voice out there and help others. I absolutely love working with these organisations and I am thrilled when they ask me to get involved with their work.

 

Seable Logo RNIB Employment Line

Gaining blog subscribers

This is something that I struggled with at the start, I saw bloggers that started around the same time as me had so many more followers than I did and I often wondered what I was doing wrong. As I started to connect with other bloggers and actually feel confident in my own abilities and writing, my followers seemed to increase and continue to steadily grow which I am so grateful for. I started to get more involved with the blogging community even more, and that really helps my blog, but also allows me to support other bloggers as well which I love doing.

 

Starting a YouTube channel

I’ve wanted to start a YouTube channel for a while now, as an extension of my blog. I knew the type of content that I wanted to film, but I had no idea about the filming and editing part as it can often be very visual. However, I didn’t want this to stop me from doing YouTube so like everything, I found ways around it. I created my YouTube channel, have started uploading videos and I am most definitely still learning.

In terms of filming, I get someone to help me set up the camera, making sure that I’m in the right position and that it’s at the right angle and then I’m all good to film.

 

In terms of editing, I actually do all of that myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really do fancy editing, I keep it nice and simple, but I’m pleased that I am able to do the whole process independently. I use iMovie on my Mac with VoiceOver and edit using shortcut keys. It’s a thrilling feeling knowing that I’ve edited my own video.

 

I wouldn’t change being a blind blogger for the world, I love blogging and it has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I couldn’t imagine not being a blogger as it’s such a huge part of my life. I have also made some of my closest friends through blogging and being part of the blogging community is wonderful.

 

There are thousands (probably millions) of bloggers out there, each offering something different and many giving unique perspectives on life through their writing.

To anyone that is looking to become a blogger, then I would urge you to just go for it. It is so worth all the hard work! Dedication and determination are key, but it is so worth it.

 

To read more blogs from Holly Tuke check her website https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

 

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

 

Masuma’s Adventure in Lanzarote with Seable

This week’s blog has been written by our guest Masuma who came with us on the magical island of Lanzarote, the northernmost and easternmost island of the Canary Islands.

 

Dragging myself out of bed on Tuesday morning at 1.45am was the least pleasurable part of the holiday! However, several hours later and over 1600 miles away from London I landed in a landscape described to me as black lava rock fields and white-washed houses. I was met by Damiano from Seable and Marialaura at the arrivals area of the airport. They were our guides for the trip. Whilst we waited for my friends to arrive we acquainted ourselves with each other.

 

With a jammed packed itinerary for the week ahead, knowing that all the planning and organising was being taken care of by Seable, my friends and I were in good spirits and looking forward to unwinding from the Monday to Friday work routine.

 

My first enjoyment came with the freedom of being able to go for a run on the sandy beach of Playa Los near our hotel without needing to be guided. The sound of the sea alongside me provided a sense of direction, and the wind in my hair and the changing texture of the sand on my feet was exhilarating. Knowing that our guides were nearby provided a comforting safety net.

Our visit to Timanfaya National Park involved an underground sensory experience simulating how it might feel to experience a volcanic eruption. After walking and exploring the Martian-like landscape we got to see the geothermal demonstrations. Steam gushed out of the ground with a whoosh sound a moment after water had been poured into a hole. Our guides provided us with running commentary throughout the day, but also allowed enough time for me and my friends to spend time together.

We also had the opportunity to do some sea kayaking. As it was something I hadn’t done before, I was a little apprehensive, but once I was in the kayak with my instructor the worries disappeared, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This day was a day of firsts for me as I also tried snorkeling. After I got over the fear and the panic I felt when putting my head underwater I came to like the sensation. The instructors on the day provided the right level of support and were not at all overbearing.

 

Other activities we took part in included horse riding and tandem cycling, which were equally thrilling. We also had the opportunity to make some bath salts, which I’m very much looking forward to using.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do a fair amount of travelling with my family to countries like India and Egypt, as well as with friends to European cities including Rome and Cologne.  However, I was yet to go on holiday with just my VI friends, until recently.  Having Seable to organise all the arrangements from excursions to travel whilst abroad, as well as having sighted guides meant I could fully relax and unwind.

Seable provides tailored holidays for blind and partially sighted people.  This can range from a relaxing break to something more active.  It’s your holiday, it’s your choice!

 

Article taken from: https://eastlondonvision.wordpress.com/2018/07/20/masumas-adventures-in-lanzarote-with-seable/

 

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

 

Four Ways to Make Traveling with Kids Easier for All

Our guest blogger for this week is Daniel Sherwin from the blog http://dadsolo.com/. Daniel is going to talk about how to make a trip with kids easier.

Traveling can be loads of fun, but kids can often find it tiring or anxiety-inducing. If you’re worried about how to keep your kids entertained and sane, don’t panic. Here are some tips and tricks to make traveling with kids easier and more fun for the whole family.

 

 

Bring Snacks

 Traveling can be disruptive and can leave any child restless. From its potential impact on regular meal times to having to rely on less-than-healthy options, it isn’t great. Yet food can alleviate travel stress, too. An empty belly can be a source of irritability for a child. Counter this by packing tried-and-true favorites for them to snack on. If your kids love PB&J or pudding cups, then stock up on them if you are going on a long car ride. Skip any treats that could cause a mess, and avoid perishables. Should your child’s favorites happen to be full of sugar, it’s a good idea to consider how that might influence them during the journey. Look to complement these with healthy travel snacks, like dried fruit. For flying, consider chewing gum or gummy bears, as these can help pop ears.

 

Comfort Items

It can be stressful or scary to leave home, even when the eventual destination is somewhere fun, like a theme park. To lessen any upset, bring some comfort items for the kids. If they have a favorite blanket or plush toy, then take them along to combat the chaos. Taking pieces of home with you can reassure your little ones when they are most anxious. They can cling on to their stuffed animal, play with their favorite handheld device, or read their favorite book on the way. If you’re traveling with the family dog, allow your child to sit next to Fido, who will surely provide comfort, joy, and distraction for your little one. (Be sure you’re keeping your pup safe and comfortable, too!) Little things can do a lot to make your children feel less afraid and distract them from the anxiety of travel.

 

Activities

 A teddy bear or comforting blanket may only achieve so much when it comes to keeping your children distracted. As a contingency, look to make use of fun activities. You don’t have to rely on electronic devices, either. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should discount the value of a tablet, as these can be indispensable on a long journey. Download a few movies or some offline apps, and you can keep them entertained. It may be a good idea to limit access to these devices, however, to ensure their effectiveness is not diminished from overuse. Supplement devices with options like puzzle games or coloring books with plenty of crayons. If you are worried about mess, you could opt for dry erase markers. They are easily removable, and if you feel that your child won’t get out of hand, you could even let them make a few drawings on their window.

 

Their Perspective

 While traveling might sound like oodles of fun, getting to the destination may be unbearable for little ones. Even with all their distractions, they may be restless. Given that, try to involve them as much as you can. Encourage them to pack a bag of things they want, but be sure to do it under supervision. If they’re old enough, you might ask them to take responsibility for their luggage, too. This may not be appealing to some children, but it’s another way to keep them occupied. Importantly, try to take as many rest breaks as possible, at least every couple of hours. You could use these breaks as opportunities to visit new places, like historical monuments or parks, or simply to get a bite to eat. If you are traveling by plane, make sure that your children go to the restroom and eat well before flying, as it could be a long wait to board.

 

It just takes a little extra prep and patience to make this a fun adventure. Give your kids a yummy snack, help them to feel comfortable, and don’t forget to take breaks when you can. You and the family will be on your way to having a blast in no time.

 

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

Accessible Tourism for All Comes to Thailand

In February of this year, Seable, aided by the Thai tour operator, Nutty’s Adventures, came to Thailand bringing a group blind and partially sighted travellers from Victa, a very well known charity from Milton Keynes, UK. Their 12-day tour took the  group of tourists to both the North and South of Thailand. The tour was definitely a wonderful and rewarding experience for the participants and also proved to Nutty’s Adventures, that with some careful planning and hard work Thailand could become a successful tourism destination for all people, regardless of any disabilities they may have.

While plans are being made to promote Thailand overseas as a “Tourism Destination for All”, the first course to train licenced Thai tour guides in the right way of handling blind and partially sighted guests has just been held in Ayutthaya from 19-21 June.

This training course was planned with the support and cooperation of the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA) and valuable assistance was provided by Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK. which was asked to act as a consultant and provide the relative manuals.  The course was conducted by Nutty’s Adventures and the Thailand Association of the Blind.

The course was fully subscribed and more guide training will be organised in the future and in October and November Nutty’s Adventures will go to Europe to promote Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All in Germany and then globally at the World Travel Market to be held in London in November.

Everybody involved sees a great future for accessible tourism for all in Thailand and are determined to work together to make it happen.

What Nutty’s Adventure said about SEABLE:

At Nutty’s Adventures we have just  completed our 3-day training course for guides working with blind and partially sighted guests. It was an enormously rewarding experience for all. Everybody learned a great deal and found time to have a good time too. Now we all look forward to developing Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All.

We wish to give special thanks to Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK and the Thailand Association of the Blind for their valuable assistance in making this course the great success that it was.

 

 

 

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project,  as it showed the world how much time, effort and passion Thailand as a nation is  devolving to the “accessible holidays” cause.

Thailand is indeed becoming an accessible travel destination that all Visually Impaired travellers should consider, and this is thanks to passionate individuals like the guys at Nutty’s Adventure,  at the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA).

Thank you all.

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

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.

 

Disability in the workplace

There are more than 11 million disabled people in the UK, and shockingly, just 6% of those who are able to work are in employment. Even today, there is so much stigma around people with disabilities and how they fit into the workplace. According to statistics published by the charity Leonard Cheshire, 1 in 6 of us will be affected by disability at some point in our lives and for many of us, it will be the hardest thing we ever have to face.

Disability in the workplace

 

8 out of 10 people with a disability weren’t born with it – the vast majority become disabled through an injury, accident, heart attack, stroke or conditions like MS and motor neurone disease. Sadly, people living with disabilities are far less likely to be employed than non-disabled people due to a number of factors, one of them being that disabled people are around three times as likely not to hold any qualifications compared to non-disabled people.

 

Fewer than 50% of working-age disabled people are in work, compared to 75% of non-disabled people, but disabled people’s day to day living costs are 25% higher than those of non-disabled people. These figures help highlight the problems many disabled people face day to day and may give an insight into why there may still be stigma attached to disability in general, but also in the workplace.

 

This stigma can lead to individuals feeling isolated and separate from society, as they don’t see themselves moving in the same direction as their non disabled siblings and friends. It can be hard for the individual but also the families due to the available social circle decreasing drastically after leaving government funded education.

 

One problem the disabled community face is the fact that non-disabled people aren’t taught and exposed to disabilities very often. This creates ignorance and the social stigma of there being ‘us’ and ‘them’, which is something that needs to change. Things like Channel 4’s critically acclaimed show The Undateables focuses on adults with disabilities finding love. While this is not strictly to do with disabled people in the workplace, it does open up and expose the normality of disability to the general population – something that employing disabled people also does.

 

Disability in the workplace

 

Working life helps introduce everyone to a wide variety of new people. There are a few schemes, like Mencap’s Employ Me scheme and the US based company Opportunity Works, that aims to put more people with disabilities into work. These schemes provide appropriate training to develop the skills needed to get a paid job, experience in a real working environment, CV writing and interview preparation, help to learn new skills and cope with change and the schemes work with businesses employing people with a learning disability, so they can provide the right support and benefit from having a diverse workforce.

 

These kind of schemes are increasingly important to people living with a disability, as it instils so much more confidence, a strong sense of independence and initiates a bridge between people with disabilities and those without. On one hand, the person with a disability has the chance and opportunity to make friends and build relationships with people other than their carers or family members. On the other hand, research performed by Mencap states that disability employment helps teach and familiarise non disabled people with disabilities and helps change attitudes and challenge misconceptions around all forms of disabilities in the UK.

 

In a Forbes article written in 2012 by Opportunity Works’ co-founder and COO Judy Owen, she states that “Employers reported that providing [work] resulted in such benefits as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity.” These positives highlight that including a disabled person in the workforce increases the moral of the workforce as a whole and benefits employers to get involved in these schemes too.

 

Disability in the workplace

Disability in the workplace should be celebrated and utilised as much as possible. There are so many positives, such as improving current employee satisfaction, improving company diversity and creating new possibilities and opportunities for those who may not be able to do it for themselves. Many employers have stated that disabled employees have a higher job satisfaction, have less sick days and are late less, hardworking, friendly honest and dependable. In the individual, it helps create confidence and a sense of independence that so many people, whether they were born disabled or have become so, unfortunately lack. This gives disabled people the chance to earn their own money to be able to pay for things like holidays and days out themselves without having to rely on family members, carers or the government – a priceless feeling that you cannot get from anything else. One of Mencap’s Employ Me scheme clients stated that it “feels good to be earning money, it helps me do new things and gives me a sense of achievement”. This solidifies that including disabilities in the workplace is successful for both employer, but more importantly the employee.

 

Article written by Rosie Sanderson.

 

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.