Armenia Without The Plane Trip

Maybe you knew that sumac is an edible spice.  I only learned this recently, and I just ate some.  (Disclaimer: I bet you can’t go and pick the sumac off the tree in your backyard and roast it.  But then again, maybe you can….my friend Lauren cooks with grape leaves she picks from a parking lot near her house.)IMG_4177


Seta’s Cafe, Belmont

Seta’s Cafe opened in 2013 on Belmont Avenue in Belmont (right on the border of Watertown), and although I’ve only had one dining experience there, I’m already planning my return trip. Lunch today was Luleh Khorovats, which is ground lamb and beef, grilled with onion and spices (yes, sumac), served on homemade lavash bread.  Seta serves brunch, lunch and dinner, and caters.  This is an accessible place: parking lot behind the restaurant, ramped door, space between tables, room to place your order, and an accessible bathroom.  I must return soon for brunch, because I cannot resist the allure of Foul Mudamas.  (Isn’t language a beautiful thing?)IMG_4169

To round out your dining experience, you could visit the nearby Armenian Library and Museum of America (review coming next week).   Tickets are on sale now for “Women of Ararat,” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown on March 28th and March 29th.  “Woman of Ararat” is a love story of a young couple, William and Julie, which also tells the story of Julie’s family, four generations of Armenian women living in Watertown.  Later this spring is a centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide:   on April 23rd, Trinity Church hosts a memorial service and on April 24th, there will be a procession leaving from the Massachusetts State House to Armenian Heritage Park.


The Labyrinth, Armenian Heritage Park, Boston, MA

Side note: I had no idea where the Armenian Heritage Park is, but I found out and look forward to going.  With Marianne.  Just as soon as the ice and snow melt.   It’s on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (the website claims the Greenway is fully accessible), near Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park.  World Labyrinth Day on May 2 might be a good time to visit, as the labyrinth looks beautiful and accessible.

In “About Us” on her website, Seta says “My baba (my father)…..would hand me a piece of the dough and say ” This is what the dough should feel like once it’s done” and so I learned to bake bread my grandfather made at his bakery in the Armenian Quarters in Jerusalem.”

I’d say she learned well.   Dining at Seta’s cafe is an inviting, and accessible, first step into Armenian culture.

Maine Adaptive Sports: Where Skiing Can Be Fun (Even For The Slightly Terrified)

Wheelchair battery? Check. Medical supplies (and lots of them)? Check.  Medications? Check. Go Pro? Check.  Ski gear and warm clothes? Check.  The dog bed, dog food, and the dog? Check!

It took me an entire day to get the gear together for five of us to head north, and we set off with no small amount of trepidation, given that extreme cold temperatures were forecast for Maine on a recent February weekend.

photoWas it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

Check out her video here (thanks Go Pro!).

IMG_1445Marianne has skied for years with Maine Adaptive Sports at Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine.  So have others who are veterans, paraplegics, amputees, and the blind.  She has skied with many of the same volunteers, year after year, who welcome her (and us) back like long-lost friends.  Maine Adaptive Sports is fortunate enough to have a dedicated lodge, slope-side, with plenty of parking.  All the equipment Marianne needs is right here – including helmet, goggles, hand warmers even!  They make it downright EASY for you to get on the slopes.

IMG_1429Like a well-oiled machine, Maine Adaptive volunteers get their skiers on the slopes by 9 am, and they keep them going until lunch time.  Skiers can sign up in advance for a half-day of skiing or a full-day (see the website for on-line forms).  Sunday River management has some restrictions on the program;  for example, the handicap program runs only on Sunday (not Saturday) on a regular weekend, and there are some limits during school vacation weeks.  However, skiers and their volunteers ski for free on the day of their lesson (no small thing given the price of single-day lift tickets).

IMG_4140Our first ski experience with Marianne, many moons ago, was at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.  I found the mountain slightly crazed, packed with careening skiers heading pell mell down the main run, while music blared from unseen speakers.  The handicap ski program was in the main lodge (that may have changed by now), and you had to get in line with everyone else to use the only-somewhat-accessible bathroom.  Same story with parking – you’re in the mosh pit with everyone else.  Having to compete with the teeming (although happy) masses for bathrooms, parking, and yes, even air space, means added maneuvering for wheelchair users.  And extra work. And compounded stress.

IMG_1442Sunday River can be a bit of a drive if you live near Boston.  But it is so worth it to get to this big (lots of runs and they stay on top of snow-making), family-friendly (yet challenging for those like their thrills!) resort, especially because of Maine Adaptive’s beautiful launching space for skiers who use wheelchairs.

We’re lucky enough to stay with our extended family (who put a ramp in their condo for Marianne to support her skiing endeavors!) but Maine Adaptive Sports also maintains a list of lodging in the area:  Sunday River Lodging Directory.

IMG_4148Marianne was hesitant, really scared even, at first.  But now she is a skier, thanks to the hard-working staff and volunteers at Maine Adaptive.  She steers herself.  She’s been known to do a half-pipe or two. She’s wiped out with the best of them.  She skis with cousins Brendan and Rachel, Uncle Bob and Aunt Marcia, her brother, sister, dad.  Apres-ski? She definitely enjoys that hot chocolate and sense of personal satisfaction at the end of a long hard day of skiing.

Thanks to Maine Adaptive Sports – and Sunday River – for equalizing the world, one run, one day, at a time.



NYC: Focus On Chelsea For Accessibility And Less Stress


The High Line Hotel, NYC

Central Park, the Top of the Rock, Times Square, Museum Mile, a Broadway show, St. Patrick’s Cathedral:  a quintessential New York City trip to some.   I offer you here an itinerary for a slightly less touristy – but no less iconic – NYC experience that is much friendlier to the slow walker or wheelchair user.

Consider booking a room at The High Line Hotel;  a fairly new hotel built on the site of the former dormitory for the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, New York City.  The developers retained the feel of the Gothic Revival structure and to me, it’s just beautiful. The price can be right too, from the low $300’s per night (up to mid $500’s).



Intelligentsia runs a fantastic espresso bar in the lobby of the hotel with really, really nice baristas, and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with a preponderance of small dogs). The good news is that you too can bring your dog (even if it’s not a service dog) for a sleepover if you so desire. There are a few downsides:

– There is only one ADA room, and the back outside courtyard (which beckons invitingly, were it warm outside) is not accessible. (There is another courtyard with cafe tables in the front of the building, and this one is accessible.)

-The bed in our room was tucked into an alcove in the room, and there isn’t enough room for a transfer. I didn’t see the ADA room, but you’d want to make sure there is clearance around the bed.IMG_3617

– The lighting in the room is too dim, especially in the bathroom. The manager responded to my trip advisor review saying that the lights are on dimmers;  I knew that and still think the lighting is poor.  The bathroom sink area has very little counter space;  I’d check to find out what the ADA bathroom looks like.


Chelsea, NYC


The Morgan Library and Museum, NYC

Something I love about the Chelsea neighborhood:  the sidewalks in this part of midtown are wide, great for walkers and wheelchairs.  I walked for hours both in this neighborhood and then uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum (an accessible museum) on Madison Avenue, and every street I hit had clear curb cuts and pedestrian walk lights.  You could theoretically walk or roll as far as the theater district from here (but probably not much further unless you had many hours and good weather).

Need some other ideas to while away your weekend?  Let’s start with food:  Across the street from The High Line Hotel  is a great breakfast (and more) place, the Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which is nicely accessible from the street.  Wide aisles and good spacing between some tables, as well as an ADA bathroom.


Chelsea Market, NYC

Nearby is the Chelsea Market, a restored factory, chock-a-block with accessible stores and eateries. The biggest problem here is that some of the stores (the bookstore) and diners (Friedman’s) have squeezed too much into their space.  It’s also all a little precious, but I can be convinced to overlook that for a small price (like those free samples the Fat Witch Bakery doles out).   Droobing (a 3D photo booth) alone would be a reason to go to the Chelsea Market (and the Droob stall is accessible!) – that and some people-watching from tables scattered through the main area. It’s all indoors and there is a big public bathroom area (with an ADA stall).


Clement Clark Moore Park, NYC

And then you could walk or roll around for hours to work up your next appetite.  Right next door to our hotel, The High Line Hotel, is an accessible park, the Clement Clark Moore Park (he of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” fame);  the grounds of the seminary and the hotel once belonged to the Moore apple orchard estate.  Photos show a big swath of land and a grand country house;  hard to imagine that here, now, in the midst of the all the concrete, storefronts and traffic.  I hear that there is a reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in the park on the last Sunday of Advent each year.


View from the High Line, NYC

The Hudson River Park is a great outdoor destination, with about 500 acres of space along the west side of Manhattan.  The piers in the Chelsea neighborhoods are all accessible according to this site.  Another place for views is along the High Line, a converted freight line that now serves as public space, runs overhead. See this map for accessible entrances to the High Line.  The park is 1.45 miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.

The Hotel Chelsea, on West 23rd Street, is being renovated and will open in 2015.  Built around 1883, it’s a landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dylan Thomas died here, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend was found stabbed to death here, and it’s been home to Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Mark Twain and others.  This iconic hotel is worth a sidewalk viewing, at least it’s open to the public.

Since the mid 1990’s, many art galleries have re-located to Chelsea (many from Soho).  There are several performance venues (Irish Repertory Theater, Joyce Theater and The Kitchen), although, interestingly, none of these performance venues listed any kind of information for the wheelchair-user.  The Irish Repertory Theater is accessible but needs advance notice (call the box office) to put out a ramp at the front door.  The Kitchen is completely accessible. The Joyce Theater is also accessible.


Greenwich, NYC

History lovers take note: Chelsea features prominently in the Manhattan Project and WWII.  “In the early 1940s, tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project were stored in the Baker & Williams Warehouse at 513-519 West 20th St.  The uranium was removed and decontaminated only in the late 1980s or early 1990s…” (Wikipedia).  For more info on the development of the atomic bomb and uranium stored in Manhattan, see this New York Times article.

And do check out a copy from the library of Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, that veteran New Yorker, if you plan on staying midtown and venturing downtown.  Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker from 1938 to 1996, and his book chronicles (mainly eccentric) people in a place (on the margins) that is rapidly vanishing to gentrification.  His characters and the streets they frequent will inform your downtown trip for sure.


Downtown Manhattan

Hey Blue Hills, Marianne Is On Her Way

I love to hike, and one of my favorite, close-to-home places is the Skyline Trail in the Blue Hills, a 7,000-acre reservation managed by the DCR (Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation) that encompasses Dedham, Milton and Randolph.  Everyone in my family has done it with me…except for Marianne.

But maybe that will change some day.  I am on the look-out for the 2015 release of a documentary called 4 Wheel Bob which chronicles the determination of a guy named Bob to hike the Sierra Nevada Mountain range – in his wheelchair.  You can find out more information on Tal Skloot’s film here.

In the meantime, these images  of Bob’s hike, taken by an accompanying photographer named Ezra Shaw, are truly inspiring.  Northeast Passage is an organization founded by the University of New Hampshire that offers a breadth of adaptive sports for wheelchair-users, including hiking.  For those of us who are not wheelchair-users but perhaps the companions, families, lovers of wheelers, check out this new endeavor:   Mothers of Adventure is a new, Boston-area venture that looks to connect hikers (the Blue Hills, anyone?) looking for local hiking partners.

Blue Hills Reservation with Mothers of Adventure, October 2014

Blue Hills Reservation with Mothers of Adventure, October 2014

A Small Slice of San Francisco

_SC03221Although Fisherman’s Wharf (home to San Francisco’s fishing fleet AND Ghirardhelli chocolates) is insanely crowded in August, at peak tourist season, I loved our hotel, the Argonaut, at the far end of the wharf.  Close enough to the madness of the Wharf if that’s what you want, but take a left out the front door and you’re at the gateway to the Presidio, 1400 acres of hills, woods, beaches and paths right on the bay.  There is lodging within the park called The Inn at the Presidio; click here for accessible accommodations.

There is no denying that the Argonaut Hotel is pricey, but it is centrally located for many tourist activities, and the whole place seems easily accessible, from the front door, to the lobby spaces, to the attached restaurant and its adjoining outdoor dining area, to about 4 or 5 ADA guest rooms. Not all have roll-in showers, so make sure to specify if that’s what you need. You can bring your dog, even if he or she is not a service dog.  This seems to be a West Coast/Southwest thing, and I love it.

IMG_3056A few small things (and its the small things that can add up to make or break a hotel stay):  the room windows actually open so you can get fresh air, the beds are not too soft, there are plenty of outlets for charging (wheelchairs, electronics), and the shower shampoo, conditioner and body wash are all in refillable containers mounted to the shower wall (I dislike the waste of the small travel-sized toiletries that so many hotels dispense).  We’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel and all are very good.  (I’m a rather tough restaurant critic, so that’s saying something.)

Adjoining the hotel is a national park visitor center (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park), with a park across the street (part of the National Park site). The visitor center is fully accessible and has multi-media displays covering San Franciso’s maritime history beginning with the early days of the native Americans, the Ohlene tribe. There is a walking tour, led by NPS guides, and if you contact them prior to your visit (even a day in advance), they will make sure the trail is wheelchair-friendly. I spoke with a park ranger who is on the accessibility board for the NPS, and she gave me a universal access guide to this particular park; you can get one here, although they are in the process of updating it.

_SC03236At the Argonaut Hotel and at the San Francisco Maritime NHS, you are within walking/rolling distance of the Presidio with views of the Golden Gate Bridge (if the fog, named Carl, or so we have been told, is not present). The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a separate park within the National Park Service, although you can get information, including a map and brochure, at the visitor center at the Argonaut Hotel.    We biked along the trail and much of it was paved (so good for wheelchair travelers) – although not all of it. You’d need to check online before you headed out to see where the trail becomes unusable by wheel.  I did find this link for trails just north of San Francisco and this one for accessible sections of the trail near the Golden Gate Bridge.

One note: don’t bother buying The Fodor’s guide to Northern California 2014 as it has no ADA info whatsoever, that I can see. The index has no listings for “accessibility” or “disability” or “wheelchair.” There’s not even a small nod to travelers using wheelchairs in the general information section. Seems like a glaring omission. How hard can it be to include whether a hotel has accessible accommodation?



Guest Post: Summer Trails in Vail, CO

IMG_3587Many thanks to my sister-in-law, Marcia Mahoney, who took notes on her recent summer trip to Vail, CO and wrote the following:

“We went to a free concert at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. The sidewalk down from the parking lot was free of bumps and negotiation nightmares (as shown) IMG_3575but despite that, they offer a shuttle service for those who might need it, which was quite handy for my mother who just has stability issues. Both entrances to the amphitheater were accessible. The seating for wheelchairs had a prime viewing spot without viewing complications and included places for able bodied friends and family. IMG_3571

IMG_3589The following day, some of us who are lucky enough to have legs that can walk up a hill, hiked to the top of the Vail Ski Area mountain. My brother easily joined us on the gondola as the grandmother guardian. The restaurant at the top was fully accessible with stalls in the bathroom where both you and Marianne could both have done a jig. But what was amazing, at least to me me, was the path down to the zip line viewing spot as well as the restroom and ticket sales building was accessible. Granted a tad of four wheeling capability would have been necessary, but Marianne’s chair would have made it. This allowed my mom to walk down and watch our zip line silliness, which made her feel included.

Just a small snippet of what Vail seems to be doing well. I saw more of it all over the city. The buses had wheelchair lifts.”

I’ll add that Vail also has a handicap ski program; for more details see here.  A quick google search for “wheelchair accessible lodging” yielded many results – not surprising for an area with a well-developed handicap ski program.

Portland, Oregon: Just Visiting

IMG_3043Living all of my life in or near Boston, Massachusetts, I was certain I’d have an instant affinity for Portland, OR.  So much in common: oceans, city life, a liberal bent, a northern mentality…

I was wrong.  Much as I liked Portland, I just don’t fit in.  Seattle or San Francisco might take me in, but I’ll forever be a visitor to Portland.

For one thing, driving in Portland is like entering the Twilight Zone. There are road markings I’ve never seen in my life (the 2-foot wide green strip on the right side of the road couldn’t possibly be the bike lane, right?), bikers zoom at you out of nowhere and the pedestrians look like Zombies on parade, taking a break from their headphones and i-things to menace drivers with a single scowl.  The city has special and strange lines on the street for bus traffic  – I imagine bus travel is the third most-preferred form of travel (after foot and pedal) because it is so green.  The welcome sight of the highway warmed my speedy little Boston heart, and I vowed to return to Portland only on foot or wheel.

Second, true to the stickers you see everywhere – “Be nice- You’re in Oregon!” – the people are by and large very friendly (unless you’re a car driver sharing the road with a biker or pedestrian, maybe).  But the constant admonishment to “Be Nice – You’re in Oregon!” began to raise my ornery, Massachusetts, stand-offish hackles a wee bit.  When you say, “be nice” does that mean I have to talk to you and hear about your day, even though you are a stranger?  What more will you want from me?  Is this a scam or something?!

Last but not least, I have no hipster vibe or clothing.  No piercings or tats.   I do have a travel espresso mug (the coolness of which IS remarked upon by the barista from Oregon that works at my local Peet’s) but that hardly cuts it here.  I just don’t fit in.

But I’ll return, and you might consider a visit, too.  Here are some travel goods:

-We stayed at the Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland, which was a mistake.  It’s expensive, tacky, run down and noisy (both inside and out).  The hotel has made wheelchair modifications, but because it’s an old building, they are jerry-rigged.  There’s a lift but it’s squeezed into a corner, the halls are narrow and the elevators small, and the restaurant (which is only partially accessible) is crowded by tables and chairs. I am told there are rooms that meet ADA specifications.

– This is where I would stay:  the Ace Hotel.  Entrance is through the adjoining Stumptown’s front door – and wow, do they have fantastic coffee….and smiling baristas.  Cool downtown spot, with ample lobby seating and wheeling area in front of big plate glass windows (perfect for your Stumptown espresso and people watching).   Although there is only street parking, there is a garage two blocks down and the sidewalks are easily wheelchair accessible.  There are several wheelchair-accessible rooms (I couldn’t see any of them but I was told the showers are roll in with grab bars and the doorways meet ADA standards). Plus, pets are welcome! Woo hoo.

-Good coffee and breakfast at accessible Caffe Destino in Northeast Portland. Wheelchair accessible, with ADA parking spaces nearby. Walked one block over to Whole Foods  for lunch for our day trip to the Columbia River Gorge area.

-Troutdale (east of Portland on the Columbia River, on I-84) is about 40 minutes from the Whole Foods mentioned above and is and the beginning of Oregon’s scenic Route 30 drive.  Plenty of pull-outs for photos along the way, and a wheelchair-accessible rest stop called the Vista House at Crown Point. The Vista House has ADA parking spaces, is well-ramped, and has a lift from the first floor to the lower floor, where the photo gallery, gift shop and the rest rooms are.

We continued on the curving road through moss-laden Douglas fir trees (also known as Oregon pines) first to Multnomah Falls, part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (  The full loop can take 3-5 hours. Another option to doing the drive out and back along Route 30 is to take Route 35S, after the Hood River Exit 63, drive past Mount Hood, and then return to Portland.

– Another great lodging option outside of Portland proper is McMenamin’s Edgfield.  The McMenamin family has converted about half a dozen abandoned properties in the Portland area, and this one was formerly a Poor Farm, built around 1913. The property is almost completely wheelchair-accessible, including garden paths, a glass-blowing gallery, an outdoor cafe, the pool hall and game room on the basement level, the Black Rabbit restaurant, the gift shop and espresso bar, the first-floor bathroom and accessible hotel rooms. The building is ramped from the outside to the lower level, where a highly-decorated elevator brings you to floors one and two. All this and an outdoor concert space too! Although I didn’t see them, I am assured the accessible rooms have ADA-defined wide doors, roll-in showers and grab bars. There seem to be plenty of ADA parking spaces. There’s a lot to do here, and it’s a great gateway to the above-mentioned scenic drives. We had lunch at the Black Rabbit, and although it was so-so, the wait staff were attentive and the restaurant was easy to maneuver in a chair.

Lucky Staehly, one of the residents of the Poor-Farm-Turned-Nursing-Home, is commemorated in several pieces of artwork on the walls.  Lucky used a wheelchair and was a “pool shark, ladies’ man and wheelchair racer” – love it!

-If you love the outdoors, see the Tryon Creek State Natural Area, which has good ADA parking, an ADA path called the Trillium Trail and an accessible nature center (, about 20 minutes from downtown Portland.


The Mad River Barn Will Make You Happy

“Hotels make you happy” said Marianne, as she settled into her bed last weekend at The Inn at the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield, Vermont.  She might be right – at least, in a hotel like this one!DSC02884

The Mad River Barn is under new ownership, and they’ve lovingly restored this old inn, including accessibility in these areas:  guest room (sleeps three) and bath on the first floor, parking, pathways and front entrance, indoor dining area, outdoor patio and restaurant bathroom.DSC02873

The aesthetic is both modern and re-purposed.  The furniture lines are clean and the inn is uncluttered, and yet there is something interesting at every turn, from the old door shellacked and hung as art, to the wall signs made of brightly painted sprockets and the bathroom fixtures made of reclaimed pipe joints.  The interior designer, Joanne Palmisano, has two books in print, Salvage Secrets: Transforming Reclaimed Materials Into Design Concepts and Salvage Secrets Design and Decor, both of which are on sale at the front desk or might be available from your library (the first is available through my library).

DSC02899The halls, although they meet ADA standards, left only a little wiggle room for Marianne’s big electric chair, and I was nervous about marring the freshly-painted wood.  (We left not a trace, I’m happy to say.)   A smaller electric chair or a manual chair wouldn’t have an issue at all.

Breakfast was included in the very reasonable room rate of $140/per night, and I loved it that efforts were made to provide farm-fresh, healthy meal choices.    The inn offers dinner as well, a nice choice for families who want to minimize the number of times they get in and out of the car!  The dinner menu met a variety of diets, from the meat-eaters to half-size portions, kid menus, or filling salads.   Vermont has several breweries in hot demand right now, and Mad River Barn serves up some of the best.

My only regret is that the upstairs lounge area is not accessible, and it looks like a lot of fun  with oversized, cozy-looking chairs, a fireplace, game tables and big screen TV.   This is definitely a family-friendly inn, and I hear that plans are underway to create a dog-friendly abode on the property as well.DSC02919

The Mad River Valley is a great destination:

–  Waitsfield is a good base from which to access the many programs that Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports has to offer, both summer and winter.

– Fall foliage season is right around the corner and Vermont’s scenic by-ways include lots of leaf-peeping, quaint covered barns, and idyllic-looking sheep and cows grazing serenely.

– Vermont’s Festival of the Arts runs in Mad River Valley from August 1 through Labor Day, and the Valley Arts Foundation took the time to compile a program that clearly delineates which venues are wheelchair friendly (and kid-friendly too!).

– Check out the  Waitsfield Farmer’s Market on the green in Waitsfield on Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm, mid-May through mid-October.

– We loved the Hen of the Wood restaurant in Waterbury when we dined there a couple of years ago.  The Waterbury restaurant is not accessible but the newly-opened Hen of the Wood in Burlington IS accessible.  The only catch is that the new and accessible restaurant is in Burlington, about an hour away. DSC02926

Anchorage, Alaska Is Surprisingly Accessible

IMG_2887Alaska is the home of the grizzly bear, avid fisher-folk, cruise-ship mavens, hipsters and artists, and the highly-caffeinated. It is not, in general, an easy state for a wheelchair-user to navigate, but Anchorage stands out as an oasis.  (In the summer, that is.)

I prefer big hotel chains for accessibility, because they tend to be more predictable. The downtown Hilton Anchorage was bleh and expensive but accessible. (I do, however, thoroughly applaud the usefulness of their website for wheelchair travelers.  If only all hotel websites were this descriptive!)

I would suggest staying downtown, as the sidewalks are wide, wheelchair-friendly, and there are many well-timed pedestrian walk lights (meaning that you can actually get across the street before a rented Jeep or truck with mounted gun-rack mows you down).

You can easily spend a day or two in Anchorage.  Here’s what I’d suggest:

– drink espresso (Kaladi Brothers is accessible and excellent) but skip Side Street Espresso (terrible latte and so-so egg burritos)
– eat the salted caramel ice cream at Fat Ptarmigan (their pizza establishment next door gets great reviews, and they’ve got locally brewed beer too) IMG_2911
– visit the Anchorage Museum (couldn’t peel my 13-year-old from the interactive science displays, had a fantastic meal at Muse in the museum, appreciated the multi-faceted display on Alaskan culture, was transfixed by the earthquake monitor and tsunami display on the second floor; GREAT exhibit on ocean trash, photo below)IMG_2899
– go on Saturday to the Anchorage Market and Festival (it’s accessible and you can find art, jewelry, crafts, clothing, food and more food).  Loved Octopus Ink‘s clothing and crafts (they have a shop and are represented at the Saturday market too — or you can buy online)
– motor or wheel on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (11 miles of views, although check on the status of the bridge before you go; if it’s still out, your trip on pavement will be considerably shorter)IMG_2916
– indulge your inner outdoor-enthusiast and go shopping at 6th Avenue Outfitters

From Anchorage, drive the Seward Highway for some breath-taking views and wheelchair-friendly pull-outs (some even have ADA port-a-potties).  National Geographic published a piece with suggested places to stop on the highway.

DSC_0088Anchorage and its surrounds provide an adventurous day or two (maybe three) if you’re a slow walker or wheelchair-user. Those long daylight hours of summer give you even more time to get around, and the abundance of espresso shops can only help keep you motoring along.


The Emerald Necklace Park IS a green, shining jewel in the heart of Boston…but alas, it IS NOT wheelchair-friendly

Back Bay Fens section of Emerald Necklace Park

Back Bay Fens section of Emerald Necklace Park

I have a job for the City of Boston. The Emerald Necklace Park system is really beautiful, but it could better for all, just as their designer, Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned. Boston’s planners can start with pathways that are consistently accessible to wheelchair-users.

Olmsted was a landscape architect in the 1800’s whose dream was to give city residents common ground to come together to relax and escape from the pollution and congestion of the city. The Emerald Necklace Park, in Boston and Brookline, consists of nine distinct parks unified by seven miles of paths, and was designed by Olmsted over 100 years ago. What started with the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall grew to incorporate the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Jamaica Pond, the Arboretum and Franklin Park.

Office of Emerald Park Conservancy

Office of Emerald Park Conservancy

There is a small, wheelchair-accessible building nestled into the Back Fens section of the park called “The Emerald Necklace Conservancy.” For $2, you can get a detailed map of the park space and pathways – but they are missing any handicap-accessible notations whatsoever. I called the office and spoke with someone who confirmed that this was a huge missing piece; she referred me to the Director of Historic Parks for Boston Parks and Recreation. No one answered the phone when I called in the middle of the day on a weekday, and the website for Boston Parks and Recreation has no information that I could find on wheelchair accessibility for the Emerald Necklace Parks. I find this incredibly surprising. I sent an email to Boston Parks and Rec with my questions and concerns.

Unpaved section of Emerald Necklace Park in the Fens

Unpaved section of Emerald Necklace Park in the Fens

I did my own reconnaissance, and it’s not great for a wheelchair. Discrete parts of the park are accessible for a wheelchair: the Arboretum has access and paved paths, as does Jamaica Pond. Parts of the Back Bay Fens would work for a wheelchair, but the paths are either pavement or flattened dirt paths. If it was a nice day, for example not too wet and therefore muddy, you could park at the Museum of Fine Arts or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and venture across the parkway to take in a bit of the Fens, but you wouldn’t get too far before the pavement was torn up or the paths became downright inaccessible.

Squeaky wheels get grease, so if you care about Boston, and it’s outdoor spaces, and whether it’s accessible to all, then please go on line to Boston Parks and Rec and send them an email too!