I decided the first post here on Simply Emma is going to be about my recent trip to New York. I’m going to call this little series ‘Disabled and the City’. I hope you enjoy.
My partner and I visited New York the week before Christmas and arrived back home with a few days to spare before Christmas Day.
New York is an amazing city and we absolutely love it. If we ever win the lottery we are definitely buying an apartment in the city, we love it that much.
This was our third trip to New York, but our first time going in December because we have always wanted to see all the Christmas lights, the Rockefeller Christmas tree and basically pretend we are in Home Alone 2.
I’ll try not to go into too much detail, but I thought I would take it day by day of the things we got up to and focus on the good, the bad and the ugly parts of being ‘Disabled and the City’.
After a delayed flight from London, we finally got to Newark a little later than planned. So it was a relief knowing we had a wheelchair accessible taxi pre-booked to take us to our hotel. We didn’t want the hassle of getting a train into Manhattan this time as we had done that on our first trip. We had been up a crazy number of hours by this point, so couldn’t wait to get to the hotel.
The special assistance was great at Newark and they were waiting promptly with the aisle chair to help me off the plane as soon as all the other passengers had disembarked.
I can tell you this. There is NO BETTER FEELING than getting back into my own chair after a long-haul flight. It’s AMAZING!
I can never get comfortable on a plane and because I can’t stand up and walk about, I’m stuck in the same seated position the whole journey. I hate the seats on planes, they are just not comfortable at all. Usually, by the time we land I’m desperate to get off the plane because my butt, hips and legs are so sore.
Anyway, once we had our suitcase and I was back in my chair we headed to the transportation desk and a nice man helped us by locating our taxi and then we were on our way to the hotel.
It was around 8pm so it was dark by this time so we got our first glimpse of Christmas lights as we drove passed houses that were all lit up. It was already impressive and we were only driving passed in the taxi. We were excited to get out and about the next day.
Our hotel was the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown on East 52nd Street 3rd Avenue. It was a brand new hotel that had only been open for about 6 months. We booked a king accessible room with roll-in shower and we thought as it was a new hotel that the room and bathroom would be fairly large and suitable for my wheelchair to move around in. We quickly realised that wasn’t the case when we got to our room. There was a small space between the end of the bed and the bedroom furniture, making it extremely tight for my wheelchair to get passed it every time. This also meant I couldn’t sit at the desk to do my hair and makeup in the morning or sit and eat anything in the room as I didn’t have any surface to lean on. Note to self: buy a portable lap table that can be used in situations like that. The bathroom was okay, although there weren’t any grab rails apart from the towel rails, which I found to be quite strange for an accessible room. There was a little shower seat that was attached to the wall that folded up. I never really like these in hotel bathrooms. I find them extremely uncomfortable not mention tiny and unsafe especially if you don’t have good balance like myself. I wish all hotels would cater a little better for disabled guests and possibly have wheeled shower chairs instead or at least available to use. We didn’t do much else that night as we were both exhausted.
The next morning we got up and ready pretty early and headed for breakfast. We thought we’d be used to the cold living in Scotland, but as soon as we stepped out the hotel it was like a wave of freezing cold air hit us in the face. It was FREEZING. We jumped into Applebee’s for breakfast and welcomed the warmth from the cold. After breakfast, we had a stroll through Columbus Circle Christmas Market where we bought two Christmas tree ornaments and a piece of art from a local artist. As soon as we spotted the dove ornament we immediately had to get it, as it reminded us of Home Alone when Kevin picks the two turtle doves from Mr Duncan’s Toy Chest store and then gives one to the Pigeon lady. Since the Christmas Market was right at the entrance of Central Park we decided to have a stroll through the park and it was lovely. We ended up watching two little squirrels play and eat for a while. It was nice relaxing in the park and we felt like we could enjoy it more as we didn’t have a lot planned for that day.
Our next stop was the American Museum of Natural History. We had originally planned on taking the bus but decided to walk to the Museum through Central Park instead and I’m glad we did. The wheelchair accessible entrance to the museum was around the other side of the building and once inside we wanted to find the disabled toilet, so we asked a member of staff who was kind enough to escort us. Straightaway we were hit with the same problem we keep coming up against in New York…there is no separate disabled toilet. This means that there is one disabled cubicle in both male and female toilets, which is a big problem for us especially as I need my boyfriend to assist me to the toilet. So the way they have the disabled cubicle in both the ladies and men’s means he can’t come into the ladies and I can’t go into the men’s. We explained this to the lady who showed us to the toilets and she understood and said there was a family room we could use, but it was up a few floors and through a lot of exhibitions. Not great if you are desperate for the toilet. It was really cool to be in the museum especially if you’ve watched the Night at the Museum movies. We saw some of the exhibitions that featured in the movie, including the massive T-Rex and the main entrance that features in a lot of the movie too. We spent a good 2-3 hours wandering through the museum and once we left there we walked back through Central Park to watch the Ice skating and then down 5th Avenue to see the Christmas window displays in the fancy shops.
We had tickets booked for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that night, so we headed for dinner at TGI Fridays where we had a great waiter who was really cool and who we enjoyed chatting to him. I will never forget how cold I was that night and how it took me ages to be able to move my hands and arms properly to eat my dinner. It was like my body was frozen solid. The Christmas Spectacular Show was also great and put us both in the Christmas spirit. The Rockettes are amazing the way they move in sync with each other – mesmerising. We had another toilet issue in Radio City Music Hall as in they don’t have one. We had 4 members of staff helping us and they all agreed how crazy it was that they don’t just have a separate disabled toilet as not all disabled people have the same sex as their carer, partner, family member etc. They finally suggested that we use their staff toilet, which turned out to be perfect.
After the show, we went to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. We couldn’t believe we were actually seeing it for real. It was beautiful and magical, just like you see in the movies but 10 times better. Seeing the tree was one of the main reasons for wanting to go to NY in December. It was very busy around the tree so we decided to head back to our hotel after spending some time at the Rockefeller Centre.
I thought that it might be a good idea to put the rest of our trip into another post or two because I have a feeling it might get a little lengthy if I don’t. If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned or accessibility, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of ‘disabled and the city’.