Madrid Accessibility and More

Reflecting

May 25 came and went more than four months ago. In the meantime, I've come to some realizations:

For me, the enthusiasm for writing about my travels fades more and more the longer I'm home.

I find that my interest wanes because I don't want to sound like a guidebook. If you want detailed descriptions of what you can see in Madrid, I highly recommend that you consult one of the multitude of guidebooks available. But I want to tackle travel writing in a different way. I want to come as close as I can to providing instant reactions about accessibility. I can do this best by recording my experiences as I travel and sharing them on social media whenever I get back.

I realize that I have a unique perspective to offer in the genre of travel writing. I understand why I’ve been encouraged to publish my perspective. However, that perspective doesn’t feel at home on this blog. I’ll explain my plans for this blog at the end of this post.

In the meantime, I promised to write a blog post about my accessibility experiences in Madrid.

What follows are my takeaway points on that topic.

 

Accessibility in Madrid, Spain

I have observations on the accessibility of public transportation and of religious sites and palaces that are popular with tourists. I will also comment on the accessibility of a couple of museums and other attractions.

 

Public Transportation

Buses are accessible. I didn’t use the buses, but they were clearly marked as accessible.

Each local train has an accessible car. A wheelchair can enter this car without being lifted. The accessible car I used included an accessible restroom with enough space for a wheelchair user and an assistant.

I don’t know whether taxis with wheelchair lifts are available.

 

Tourist Attractions

Several historic buildings are either fully or partially accessible. See the website for Spain’s Patrimonio National for information hours of operation, for ticket pricing, and for additional information about the accessibility of various Royal sites. If you need to switch the site from Spanish to English, there is a pulldown menu that allows you to do this in the upper right-hand corner of the Patrimonio National home page.

I visited the following:

 

Religious Sites

El Escorial (Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial )

At this centuries-old monastery and former royal residence, I saw religious art. The gardens, the royal burial sites, and some royal living quarters are open to the public, but only the chapel, a few courtyards, and a few indoor rooms are accessible to wheelchair users. Apart from the chapel, the accessible indoor spaces are empty of everything but their artwork. The accessible outdoor spaces are paved with large, uneven cobblestones. If you use a wheelchair, be prepared for a rough ride. El Escorial does offer accessible restrooms, though the one I found was locked, and I would have had to ask for a key if I had needed to use it.

The Monastery of The Barefooted Royals (Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales)

We went here but didn’t go inside because we were told it is not accessible.

The Royal Monastery of The Incarnation (Real Monasterio de la Encarnación)

Unlike the other chapels we saw in Madrid, the chapel of this monastery is done in pastels. .

This convent is partially accessible. Wheelchair users can access several rooms on the first floor. Ramps were under construction at the time of our visit.

 

Palaces

We visited two palaces. The interiors of these palaces were decorated and vibrant jewel tones. Each residence contains a room paneled with painted porcelain. Here is additional information about each site, including accessibility information:

 The Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid )

In addition to housing opulent rooms, this palace houses a collection of armor from different periods. Any spaces where the public is allowed are accessible. Wheelchair users get to ride an elegant elevator, many of the likes of which have been relegated to the past. But don't worry. This one worked fine when I was there.

The Palace of Aranjuez (Palacio Real de Aranjuez)

Among the variety of decor at this palace is a room displaying wedding dresses worn by members of the Spanish royal family.

Any areas where the public is allowed are wheelchair accessible.

 A view of the palace at Aranjuez from one of the gardens

A view of the palace at Aranjuez from one of the gardens

The Island Garden and Prince’s Garden in Aranjuez must be lush in late spring and summer. They were, nonetheless, a pleasure to stroll through in mid-March when the trees were still hibernating a bit and the weather was misty. Be advised that they are paved with gravel. A wheelchair ride on these paths is bumpy, and some wheels would get stuck. However, the atmosphere of the gardens was worth the discomfort required to see them. I also recommend visiting the Royal Barge Museum in Aranjuez.

Other Attractions

The Royal Theater (El Teatro Real)

 The Royal Theater (Opera)

The Royal Theater (Opera)

We followed an audio version of the theater's general tour. It was interesting to learn about the design of the building’s interior and exterior, as well as its history. The opera house The upper house is totally accessible. Still, if you use a wheelchair, you might want to call ahead before purchasing tour tickets. Staff will need to get you access to a stair lift for you to reach the first level above the street. We didn’t plan ahead and had to wait a bit before beginning our tour.

El Prado (art) museum (El Museo del Prado)

This art museum is totally accessible.

All over Madrid, Las Meninas, a painting of a princess and her ladies in waiting is reproduced on mugs and purses. Want to see the original work of art? You can find it here. Want to see paintings depicting central figures from the Spanish Inquisition? Want to see portraits of nobility? Want to see religious art? Want to see artistic interpretations of mythical figures? You will find all the above here.

Thyssen Museum

This art museum is totally accessible. In its collection are works of art from around the world — not so much from Spain.

A Private Tour with Professor Stephen Drake-Jones

My traveling companions and I also purchased a private walking tour led by Professor Stephen Drake-Jones, Chairman of The Wellington Society. On this tour, which was relatively accessible, we learned about the Habsburgs, who ruled Spain from 1516 to 1700. We walked to various locations associated with the that royal line. Between these locations, we made three stops for tapas. The tapas were included in the price of the tour. At all the places we ate, my chair had to be lifted up a single step to get in the door. If wheelchair users have someone who can do this for them, this tour is worth considering. The restrooms in each tapa stop were on the same level as the eating areas. However, the restrooms I saw were small — not accessible in the sense of having ample room for a wheelchair or an assistant to maneuver. On this tour, we entered buildings only for tapas. I cannot speak for the content of The Wellington Society’s other tours. The professor offers another centered around Hemingway's time in Madrid, for example, and he says it's also accessible.

Mercado San Miguel

 The Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor

If you want accessible tapas without a tour, try the Mercado San Miguel. I and several other people on the Internet describe this place as a tapas food court. It is a totally accessible entrance. Inside, you will find traditional tapas, which are snack-sized. Or, if you want more of something, you can get meal-sized quantities.. I saw three kinds of paella, ham and olives, ice cream, hamburgers, fruit and whipped cream, various cheeses, and so much more. You can stop here during your visit to the historic Plaza Mayor.

 

Additional Accessible Restrooms

It was our experience that museums and palaces had accessible restrooms. I’ve read online American fast food chains are required to have accessible restrooms, though I didn't test the accuracy of this claim myself. I'm putting this information out there in case someone needs it.

 

Looking Forward

I’ve decided not to schedule my posts to this blog. And when I do post here my posts will be shorter. They'll be glimpses into my creative process. I'll also post announcements here whenever I use social media to share my travel and accessibility experiences.  "Like" my author page on Facebook or follow my author Twitter and Pinterest accounts for more information on travel and accessibility around the world. You can get to all of these accounts using the social media links on this website.

Changes — In My Posting Schedule and in Technology

Today was the day I planned to make my first travel post, describing my accessibility experiences in Madrid Spain.

But I still need to go back through the books I bought during my trip. I wouldn't want to identify people and places incorrectly. I do want to research accessibility laws in Spain. Teaser: I was impressed, and I want to look into whether the standards are as consistent as they seemed.

Why haven't I done the above in the two weeks since my last post? Because I have a job outside of writing. Okay, okay, also, there were times in the last two weeks when I could have researched instead of watching TV. I chose TV.

Regardless of the reasons, my travel post wasn’t ready today. Yet, as you can see, I posted. This is a cheat post. It comes with a treat though. I'm way into this 60 Minutes segment. It's about technological research and development going on at MIT. Several of the projects highlighted could benefit people with disabilities.

Scott Pelley goes to MIT's Media Lab where crazy ideas become reality Subscribe to the "60 Minutes" Channel HERE: http://bit.ly/1S7CLRu Watch Full Episodes of "60 Minutes" HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1Qkjo1F Get more "60 Minutes" from "60 Minutes: Overtime" HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1KG3sdr Relive past episodies and interviews with "60 Rewind" HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1PlZiGI Follow "60 Minutes" on Instagram HERE: http://bit.ly/23Xv8Ry Like "60 Minutes" on Facebook HERE: http://on.fb.me/1Xb1Dao Follow "60 Minutes" on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1KxUsqX Follow "60 Minutes" on Google+ HERE: http://bit.ly/1KxUvmG Get unlimited ad-free viewing of the latest stories plus access to classic 60 Minutes archives, 60 Overtime, and exclusive extras.

Have thoughts about this segment? I'd love to hear them. Why not comment below?

In my other two posts, this is where I wrote, “See you in two weeks." This time will be different. From now on, I plan to post here monthly, so that when I have a travel post in the works. I have more time to give it depth. I also need to spend more time revising my novel manuscript. Since I started this blog, the time I would have spent on my novel, I've spent on drafting, designing, and posting on this page.

I'm going to keep this blog going. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you want to read what I write. This blog lets me give you content regularly. It also gives me another opportunity to connect with you. The downside is, while I'm hanging out here, you can't read a novel I haven't released, or a short story. I haven't written. So expect another post from me on May 26th. I'm excited to tell you more and to unveil a new banner design. In the meantime, if you haven't done so already, subscribe to my blog using the form in the right-hand sidebar.

 

What Fuels My Creativity

History

In my last post, I wrote that history sparks my imagination. When I was in elementary school, I used my imagination to engage with the stars of history -- think the Lincolns.

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These days, I’m inspired by history’s extras. The spark for my novel-in-progress came from a rumor in a biography. Census records and math don’t allow for the rumor to have been true, so I took the story and gave it to fictional people.

I’ve also gotten prompts from the following places:

StoryADay

On this site, Julie Duffy offers a podcast and blog posts about navigating the writing life. Among her posts are also weekly writing prompts. But what helps me most about this site is the event it’s named for.  It challenges participants to write a story a day in May and September. There are no word count requirements for the stories. They can be six words long or 6,000. The idea is to get to the end of the story, even if, to get there, you make a note to “flesh this out later” and move on to the ending. I challenged myself to follow the traditional goal last May. Taking on the challenge taught me that I could write a story a day. Why? Because a rough draft doesn’t need to be good. It just needs to be written.  Revision can wait for the next month.

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I was invested enough in two of my products from StoryADay that I came back to them over the summer and fall. After weeks of polishing them, I sent them to online magazines, where they were published. Now they're here, too.

In September, I did something else Julie Duffy encourages. I created my own challenge. I was in the middle of drafting my novel, so I aimed to write a scene a day. While I didn’t meet this goal, I wrote every day, and writing every day made writing easier.

SWAGR

The heading above this sentence isn't a massive misspelling. The StoryADay site also hosts the Serious Writers Accountability Group (SWAGR). On the first of each month, Julie Duffy invites StoryADay subscribers to post their monthly writing goals. It’s free to subscribe, and posting here has done so much to keep me tuned in to writing.

Promptuarium

This blog features character, dialogue, and picture prompts. These are tagged for horror and fantasy writers, but I've used a few of them to develop non-speculative stories.

Writing Challenge

This is an app available for Android and Apple devices. It suggests an object, a character, or a situation. The challenge is to start a story with whatever the app has given. You have  a short time to begin the story. When time runs out, the generates another object, character, or situation you may want to include.

Writing Challenge got me started on “Neighbors.” It told me to write a story involving a bicycle. From there, I wanted to write a story about perceptions.  The bicycle and this motivation brought the story to life.

I could list so many resources here, but I have to stop somewhere. So I decided to focus on what I’ve gotten results from. Where do you turn for creative fuel? I hope you’ll share in the comment space below.

See you in two weeks.

How I Became a Writer

Wow! You’re reading this. That means it's April tomorrow, and I’ve finally done something I intended to do in January. I’ve posted a response to a blog prompt from DIYMFA.com.

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DIY MFA is a place for writers to take online courses, to connect with other writers, and to get guidance about writing, publication, and marketing.

Gabriella Pereira, the founder of DIY MFA, wrote a book to go with her website. At the start of 2018, she hosted the online club inspired by the book. As a member of the club, I received two blog prompts each week in my email.

I began to respond to the prompts, then chickened out about publishing what I wrote. I’m going to blame this prompt for freezing my posting hand.

The question you see at the top of the post doesn’t make me squirm too much. It’s asking about the process that led me to become a writer. It asks “how” not “when.” My struggle began because the full prompt, while beginning with the question above, later introduces the concept of a “zero moment”—the moment a person decides to become a writer.

The "zero moment" concept trips me up.

 Photo by  Matt Briney  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

I can’t pinpoint one moment when I decided to become a writer. I remember imagining that historical figures stood at the foot of my bed. They told me about whatever aspects of their lives would interest a five, six, or seven-year-old. I’m throwing ages into cyberspace because my earliest memory of these nighttime imaginings must have been before I moved out of commuting distance from Washington DC. Before the move, my parents used to take me to the Smithsonian museums on weekends. These trips sparked my imagination.

My life with cerebral palsy did, too. When I was five, six, or seven I also made up stories about a girl with a cerebral palsy. I didn’t write the any of these down. They were a way of coping with my increasing awareness that I was different than other kids my age. It must have been awesome to imagine someone like me being called to adventures.

I was seven when we moved from the DC area. My new elementary school in Iowa had a writer’s club that met in the library before school. I know that I wrote during club meetings. So, if the definition of a writer is someone who writes narratives down, then using a notebook and a pencil at writer’s club made me a writer.

Yet a creative writer does so much more than put words on a page. She tells stories—or gives herself over to stories that want to be told. By giving herself over to a story, she leads multiple lives — multiple“real” ones. My stories are real long before I ever write them down. I was a storyteller before I was a writer.

Being a writer and being a storyteller are not the same. Some writers write instruction manuals. These writers have to lay out steps, objectively and simply. (Shout-out to those who do. I always say that the next time I get a new gadget, I’m going to read its instructions before I try to use it.)

Unlike technical writers, storytellers aren’t objective. Storytelling is about making a unique experience universal. (I’m getting this definition of storytelling from somewhere, but I don’t remember where. Thanks to whoever said or wrote it first.) Making a unique experience universal requires the storyteller to interpret events, to uncover their emotional meaning, and to share that meaning with someone else. Sometimes that someone is characters and an audience. Other times, there is no audience, only characters. The story forms in the storyteller because she was inspired to give her beliefs, dreams, and experiences new meaning through the journeys of characters. When a storyteller shares an experience with a character and records that sharing, she becomes a creative writer. I did — in writer's club. Writer’s club took me from a storyteller to creative writer.

See you back here in two weeks.