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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 6



BROOKLYN

No barrier-free visit to Brooklyn would be complete without visiting one of the most mythical seaside destinations on earth.

Coney Island is a sensory overload of roaring roller coasters (the Cyclone, world renown, but not accessible), towering Ferris Wheels (Deno’s Wonder Wheel, a landmark that has towered over the Boardwalk since 1920, is accessible) and a world-famous strand (totally barrier-free), forever immortalized on black and white postcards displaying hordes of humanity assembled at the Atlantic in a by-gone era.

Heading toward the ocean on W. 16th Street, visitors come upon an iconic figure used in many movies.

The old Parachute Jump, a part of Steeplechase Park’s heyday, rocks gently in the summer breeze.

The landmark ride entertained Coney Island visitors from 1941 until ’65. It’s been repainted and shored up, but chances are slim that funseekers will ever again ride its parachutes to the ground.

The Boardwalk is plenty wide to accommodate wheelers, Rollerbladers, walkers and all other visitors to the beach.

An eastward stroll and roll on the Boardwalk takes visitors past the ocean on one side and the old time shooting galleries and various amusements on the opposite side.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 5

BROOKLYN To walk off the calories from Junior’s, stop at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a verdant oasis in this dense, urban, stickball-playing-in-the-streets borough. Roll among wide paved paths. Explore the Steinhardt Conservatory -- a series of glass structures so beautiful that wedding parties seem to be perpetually posing among its palms and perfect leafy backdrops. The conservatory is very accessible and there’s an elevator down to barrier-free restrooms. The Japanese Hill and Pond Garden is one of the oldest outside of the land of the rising sun. The looping, gently sloped roll around the pond is so peaceful, one completely forgets about the frenetic cacophony of the surrounding city. In the summer, the Lily Pool Terrace delights with tropical water lilies blended with elegant lotuses and other aquatic plants displayed in large ponds. The beauty can be viewed easily from wheelchair height – there are no rails or obstructions. The pool attracts dozens of photographers -- pro and amateur -- spellbound by the floral delights and the magnificent reflections they cast into the water.

Monday, November 28, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 4

BROOKLYN If the Grimaldi’s pizza was shared and the belly is ready for some late afternoon refueling, pop in to Junior’s -- a true Brooklyn legend. The neighborhood is a little rough around the edges, so the urban safety-conscious wheeler might want to visit before sundown. Those of are more “devil may care” will visit the diner-like deli from 7 in the morning till past midnight. Who knows if Junior’s has the best corned beef and pastrami? Let the hundreds of New York delis battle that one out. What Junior’s does have is nostalgia, a true living, breathing slice of old Brooklyn. Brooklyn lost cityhood around the turn of the century, the Dodgers in the fifties and Steeplechase Park in the sixties, but Junior’s lives on. Enter through a stately art deco building using a wide, level entrance off an extension of fabled Flatbush Avenue. You will find people who have been coming for more than half a century for deli fare, along with lots and lots of barbecued chicken dinners. The cheesecakes are huge, fabulous and consistently voted the best in New York by critics and everyday diners alike. And a hint to those in need of an accessible restroom: steps are required for the old facilities but there’s a big, new, accessible restroom by the kitchen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- PART 3

BROOKLYN If chocolate ice cream isn’t your thing, then roll a few paces away from Fulton Landing to Grimaldi’s Pizza. Roll through the level entrance door and the aroma of coal oven pizza convinces you to ignore any diet you’re on and contemplate downing an entire pie by yourself. The d├ęcor is red-checkered tablecloths and autographed photos of Frank, Dino, Tony and lots of other famous Italian singers on the walls. The place is old, so clearance around tables is tight and the restroom isn’t up to ADA standards. One other note of caution: you will succumb to temptation and burn your mouth while rushing to eat a molten slice. Don’t worry; the pleasure far outweighs the pain. Brooklyn Heights Promenade is just up the hill from Fulton Landing. This level and accessible strip of scenic parkland rises above the East River and provides a panoramic view of Gotham's steel and stone skyscrapers. The serenity of the park epitomizes the beauty of the neighborhood's exquisite old apartment buildings, corner markets and mature tree lines. The walkway is one of the most special places in the city, where one can gaze off into New York Harbor and look at the Staten Island Ferry, and at Lady Liberty herself. Walkers, joggers and wheelers of every age congregate on the Promenade to take in the western sunset over Manhattan – or to just sit and read a book in one of New York’s most picturesque settings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

BROOKLYN BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 2

BROOKLYN The Fulton Ferry Landing is completely accessible. Water Taxi captains and conductors are quite adept at easing up to the pier and assisting with a ramp, depending on the water level. The Water Taxi can be boarded at one of seven piers in Manhattan. The ride is not for the faint of heart, because the little watercraft bobs like a cork along the Hudson and East rivers until you reach the Fulton Landing. But the view is well worth it and we (Heidi has used a wheelchair for more than 25 years) vouch for the safety and accessibility. When exiting the Water Taxi, you can’t help but look up at the hulking Brooklyn Bridge. The landing site is the perfect place to gawk at the massive bridge from below and to take spectacular photos of lower Manhattan on the horizon. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, with its inexpensive cups of creamy traditional flavors, is within spitting distance of the Water Taxi station. The sweet tooth nirvana is ramp-equipped for access.

Friday, November 25, 2011

ACCESSIBLE BROOKLYN


ACCESSIBLE BROOKLYN

Brooklyn. Is there any other word in the American vocabulary that conjures up so many images?

Hearing the word “Brooklyn” instantly paints pictures of a spectacular and famous bridge, a much-parodied accent, a world of Italian pizza houses and Jewish delis and the home of Coney Island.

Brooklyn is the stuff of movies and stand-up comic routines and teary-eyed nostalgia for the Dodgers, who packed up for LA in the fifties.

Brooklyn has so much art, architecture, ethnicity, history, culture, neighborhood character and unique dining, it would take more than a month to explore it.

Fortunately, the mystical place over the bridge from Manhattan can be explored and experienced quite well by wheelchair. To meander freely about without freezing, it’s best to visit between mid-May to mid-October.

Brooklyn can be reached from a Manhattan hotel by rolling over the completely accessible Brooklyn Bridge walkway or taking a taxi or lift-equipped bus on the famed bridge’s roads. Nothing, however, beats the drama of arriving by water.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

ROMPING THROUGH WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN -- part 5

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN We watched a play from our wheelchair-accessible seats at the John Golden Theater, then taxied it to the Beekman, where an express elevator provided easy wheelchair access to the Top of the Tower. We were weary from packing so much into one day, but the Beekman’s ethereal charms set the stage for the most atmospheric of all our New York moments. Vodka martinis in hand and a stunning starlit view of the metropolis before us, we knew we had taken Manhattan. Author Steve Wright has published more than 2,500 travel stories. His spouse, an ADA expert, has used a wheelchair for four decades.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ROMPING THROUGH WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN -- part 4

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN The world’s most famous skyscraper, on Fifth Avenue between W. 33rd and 34th streets, is 102 stories tall, plus a 16-story mooring mast. Tours of the Empire are wheelchair accessible. Elevators reach the breathtaking open-air observation deck, which has lowered telescopes and lowered viewing areas to serve wheelchair users. We decided it was time to head back for the hotel, but that we’d trek home via Sixth Avenue, so we would see the Midtown deco landmark -- Rockefeller Center. The expansive complex covers West 48th to 51st Streets between Fifth and Sixth avenues and includes Radio City Music Hall. Cutting down W. 50th Street, we admired buildings adorned in art deco medallions. Back at the Benjamin, a classic 1927 skyscraper, we noted the small lobby is easy for wheelchair users to negotiate and the doormen are quick to do their duties. Twenty of its 209 rooms are wheelchair-accessible one-bedroom suites, which have barrier-free bathrooms to serve disabled guests. The suites are huge by Manhattan standards and have baths equipped with grab bars, bath benches and shower wands for accessibility.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ROMPING THROUGH WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN -- part 3

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN We were drawn to the granddaddy of all deco skyscrapers. The observation deck closed nearly two decades ago and the building is not set up for tourists like the taller Empire State Building, but the Chrysler is our favorite by far. In daylight, its stainless steel-clad spire dazzles in the morning sun. At night, the Chrysler’s illuminated upper windows make it the most sumptuous siren of all the Manhattan skyline. The 77-story masterpiece at Lexington Avenue and E. 42nd Street also is replete with deco-styled automotive imagery. Nearby at 220 E. 42nd St., the Daily News Building is another deco treasure of the same era. Almost next door to the Chrysler, the structure tells its own story in a large frieze over its entrance. As soon as we saw the long lines at the Empire, we were glad we had CityPass tickets in hand. Not only does the pass booklet offer admission to top attractions, it also allows its holders to skip past long ticket-buying lines.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

ROMPING THROUGH WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN -- part 2

WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN We loosely mapped out an art deco lover’s tour covering dozens of city blocks. First up was the General Electric Building, at Lexington Avenue and E. 51st Street, which is across the street from our hotel -- the Benjamin. The lavishly-decorated 51-story art deco tower is highlighted with stylized lightning bolts. From the same spot, the view to the south shows off the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and Waldorf Towers -- an entire block of art deco covering E. 49th to 50th streets between Lexington and Park avenues. The twin structures are noteworthy outside and the luxurious deco interiors are worth a visit inside. We eaded over to the Beekman Tower at the corner of E. 49th Avenue and 1st Street. We admired its classic art deco friezes and made a note to return at night to check out the deco bar on the top floor. We headed south, finding ample curbcuts at the cross streets. Looking west in the morning sun, we gasped every time the steely, shiny crown of the Chrysler Building revealed itself through the canyon of buildings.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

ROMPING THROUGH WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN -- part 1




ROMPING THROUGH WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE MANHATTAN

By Steve Wright and Heidi Johnson-Wright

NEW YORK -- Millions of Manhattan city lights twinkled to the left of us while the East River and its magnificent bridges beckoned to the right. We were 23 stories above the city, sipping martinis, listening to live jazz standards on the piano and soaking up the sights at the Top of the Tower lounge. From our lofty perch amid art deco splendor in the peak of the Beekman Tower, we’d reached that magical time when traveler’s exhaustion gives way to a kind of devil-may-care euphoria that justifies every dollar spent on toney restaurants, skyrocketing hotel rates and rising air fares. The Beekman, a deco-drenched gem and a landmark in the city since its 1928 opening, earns our triple-A rating: scoring high marks in architecture, atmosphere and access for people with disabilities. We did our best to combine our love of design and need for accessibility with our third must -- an endless quest for a sense of place, that intangible thing we call atmosphere.

Friday, November 18, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 11

LEED-ND Just as hundreds of municipalities have required LEED standards for building and created incentives for LEED construction, Norquist expects regulatory agencies to eventually adopt LEED-ND standards for zoning and development permits. “We cannot sustain the sprawl created by zoning requirements for huge setbacks, big streets, minimum lot sizes, minimum parking requirements, separation of uses,” Norquist said. “A lot of the current regulatory structure promotes sprawl. “LEED-ND really tries to work with developers and real estate investors to create value. “People like to live in a green environment. It is more and more important to people -- both in a public relations sense and in the reality of the market.” Wright frequently writes about Smart Growth and sustainable communities. He and his wife live in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. Contact him at: stevewright64@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 10

LEED-ND “People should not look at it as some kind of radical environmental movement, LEED-ND is very consistent with real estate trends,” CNU’s Norquist said. “Studies have shown greater price collapses in the housing market that is far remote from job sites. In many areas, the far-flung sprawl is doing worse than the old city center neighborhoods. Areas with convenience to shopping, jobs and activities are performing better in the market.” Norquist noted that gasoline is no longer cheap and governments can no longer afford to pay for superhighways and the entire infrastructure needed to support sprawl. “If grade separated highways were the answer to economic vitality, Detroit would be the richest city in the world,” Norquist observed.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 9

LEED-ND The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) convened a panel to study the benefits of LEED-ND and found the green neighborhood rating system can: • Reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and hypertension by making physical activities a part of people’s daily lives by designing walkable, bikeable communities with open spaces and parks close to work and home. • Reduce the risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases, reduce air pollution and injuries from vehicle crashes by building compact communities where people can move about via walking, biking and public transit – rather than being dependent on the automobile. • Improve mental health by reducing the amount of time spent commuting to work and increasing the amount of free time that can be spent with family and exercising in open spaces built into the development. • Encourage healthier diets by making fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible because the rating system rewards points to developments that create space for community gardens and other means of local food production.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED - part 8

LEED-ND The Town of Truckee’s leadership and involvement has been key to the process, which also includes a collective of partners and the general public. Analysis of historic land use and block patterns, the creation of distinct character areas, a regulating plan and place-making drawings for the extended downtown, form-based code and building types study have all been used in the redevelopment process. Together, they facilitate the logical and orderly expansion of the downtown on this former 75-acre lumber mill site and railyard. With Americans dealing with soaring health care costs and illnesses directly related to obesity, LEED-ND also aims to create healthy communities through smart development patterns. “Research has shown that living in a mixed-use environment within walking distance of shops and services results in increased walking and biking, which improve human cardiovascular and respiratory health and reduce the risk of hypertension and obesity,” according to the USGBC’s website detailing the benefits of the new LEED-ND rating system.

Monday, November 14, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 7

LEED-ND Sophie Lambert, Director of LEED for Neighborhood Development with the USGBC, agrees that LEED-ND can help address many of the concerns people have with new development. “Community groups who sometimes oppose new development due to concerns about traffic and the like could see the environmental, health, and social benefits of a LEED-ND project. In addition, LEED-ND is the first national rating system for green neighborhood development in smart growth locations with compact, walkable form, and energy- and water-efficient buildings and infrastructure. Getting the community involved has proven successful for a pilot LEED-ND project in northern California. Working through the LEED-ND process helped to educate both the community and development team about the benefits of sustainable site design," said Darin Dinsmore, Professional Planner and Sustainability Consultant about the Truckee Railyard Master Plan. The railyard redevelopment area is located at the eastern end of the city’s historic downtown and will serve as an extension by strengthening the downtown core and local businesses. Plans include a mix of recreational facilities, commercial shops, restaurants, lodging, and civic uses, plus a variety of residential unit types, including live/work units, work/live units, and multifamily residential units incorporated in a mixed-use development. The redevelopment will incorporate affordable and workforce housing for locals such as artisans, entrepreneurs, and tradesmen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 6

LEED-ND Justin Horner, Transportation Policy Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said LEED-ND works for small villages as well as big cities. “A major misconception about smart growth is that it will transform our neighborhoods into Manhattan. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We need density to create markets for local businesses and to make transit feasible, but most people would be surprised at how modest that density threshold is. What LEED-ND does is give us a concrete image of what smart growth actually is -- and we think people will like what they see.” Horner points out that in a relatively short period of time, LEED accreditation became a respected national standard for sustainable building development. He said LEED-ND will take LEED’s market cache and apply it to entire neighborhoods, so consumers can “separate real sustainable development from the pretenders.” “LEED-ND is the first systematic attempt to really define what smart growth is. The system’s measures and metrics not only provide guidance on how to minimize the environmental impacts of development, they also reflect the latest in cutting-edge urban design,” he explained. “These are the places people will want to live. “Historically, environmentalists have been great at saying `no’ to development, but we can no longer ignore the environmental consequences of where we live and how we live,” Horner continued. “LEED-ND opens the door for environmentalists to say `yes.’”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 5

LEED-ND “In exurbia, we find that there is often one car provided per adult, sometimes resulting in three or four cars per household. The benefit of living in a LEED-ND community is that the family can downsize their number of cars -- AAA estimates an $8,000 cost per year per auto, including insurance, gas, etc. -- and avail themselves of some walking to meet needs, along with bike and transit options plus car share options,” he said. “Car share is cars placed in public locations, available for rental by mile or hour. So a family that needs a car once a week for a regular activity or outing can reserve a shared car for a couple hours, say, every Thursday evening. In an economic downturn, such options are looking increasingly attractive.” Farr said a decade of working with LEED building standards has shown that a premium green building might cost three percent more than one built with conventional materials, but the structure may see up to a 16 percent increase in appraised value, plus it will be cheaper to operate. “We want to apply those same principles of cost/benefit to an entire neighborhood,” Farr said of LEED-ND. “The benefits to the homeowner are profound; the benefits to society are huge. For generations, we have subsidized the wrong stuff. LEED-ND may help in a national debate to redirect scarce resources to long-term, lasting value.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 4

LEED-ND “CNU is composed mostly of architects, planners and real estate investors and it played an important role in connecting the rating system to market realities,” he said of the mom and pop benefits of LEED-ND. “There is a whole cascade of benefits that come with compact development: transportation options, walkability, improved real estate value -- it makes the economy more efficient.” Chicago-based architect Doug Farr, one of the fathers of LEED building certification and author of Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature, said LEED-ND has created first-ever certification standards for entire communities and master planned developments. He explained that LEED-ND projects earn points by addressing principles of smart growth applied to the development of virgin lands, sensitive lands, and infill developments. It also incorporates CNU’s charter that urges the creation of walkable communities and coherent urban places with: a mix of uses, choices in types of housing and options for how one gets around, with walking being the most reliable mode of transportation -- plus biking and public transit. “There is a strong argument that this is about choice and giving people rich communities and their ability to find their place in them, not dictating solutions,” he said. Farr said LEED-ND’s sprawl-busting standards can make life much more economical in tough times.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED - part 3

LEED-ND “The old headquarters was on a transit line, but the new one was built so far away that everybody who worked there had to drive. People who used to take transit had to buy a car,’’ he said. “The energy spent on commuting to the new building blew out the energy savings in the LEED-certified building.” “The Bank of America Tower on Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets in Manhattan is a perfect example of a building that was built to meet LEED platinum building standards, but would also meet LEED neighborhood standards because it is an infill site with something like a half dozen major transit lines reached by elevators right underneath it,” Norquist said of the 54-story skyscraper on Bryant Park. “Not every place is like Manhattan, so the (LEED-ND) system is calibrated to deal with smaller communities and smaller projects. While filled with complex calculations for everything from number of streets per block (small streets and lots of them earn high points) to ways of conserving topsoil and wetlands on-site, Norquist stresses that LEED-ND’s bottom line is market-friendly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED -- part 2

LEED-ND An exhaustive 100-plus page document creates a checklist for every conceivable element to promote sustainable neighborhood design. Points are given for: connectivity to existing development, water and land conservation, developing with a strong grid of streets, building near transit, creating affordable housing, using infill sites, facilitating a mix of uses, integrating universal design to accommodate people with disabilities, and dozens of other measures of compact, efficient neighborhood design that promotes healthy walkability while reducing automobile dependency. “The LEED building program was limited in that a building could get a platinum (the highest standard of building sustainability), gold or silver certification, but be in a location where the employees or residents would be driving unnecessarily long drives to get to work, shopping or home,” said John Norquist, CNU President and CEO. Norquist said that very example happened in the Chicago area when a major bank headquarters moved to a new location in a highly-efficient building that earned a high LEED rating, but was isolated far from public transit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

LEED-ND: NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED


NEW RATING SYSTEMS FOR GREEN NEIGHBORHOODS IS INAUGURATED


By Steve Wright


In a short decade, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has become the standard for measuring the sustainability of a building. With everyday people fighting soaring energy costs and striving to spend their dollars efficiently in a bad economy, LEED has gone from an obscure movement to a clear concept in the vocabulary of mom and pop consumers. But a number of leading urbanists began to realize that if applying LEED standards to a building is good, developing a system of LEED standards for every aspect of neighborhood development would be great. And that is exactly what a herculean effort by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and the Natural Resources Defense Council has achieved. Born of a balloting process among planning and sustainability experts, the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System (LEED-ND) integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

Monday, November 7, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 9

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR Ojen, situated in the El Juanar Valley and surrounded by orchards, welcomed its first human settlers during the Stone Age. Casares is picture postcard village with a population of just three thousand and the view from the approach that is more breathtaking than the vista of Gibraltar one sees on the costal road on the way. Jubrique is a place where one might spot a working burro or an old building adorned with a colorful bullfight poster that captivates the traveler, its bright colors almost as beautiful as the wild poppies in the nearby valley. Steve Wright is quite enchanted by Spanish-speaking destinations from Central and South America, the Caribbean and of course, mother Spain. His wife is an Americans with Disabilities Act expert who has used a wheelchair for 35 years.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 8

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR Zahara de la Sierra is arguably the crown jewel of Andalucia’s white towns situated on mountainsides. Even from a distance, the remains of its 13th century Moorish fortress hypnotically draw one’s gaze. Explore the town’s narrow streets, then relax with a cold Cruzcampo at cafe in a plaza by the cathedral. Istan, founded in 1448 as a Moorish outpost, boasts winding streets and whitewashed houses that reflect its colorful history, which was rich with viniculture and silk production. Yet to be overrun by tourism, it lends itself to quiet exploration. Gaucin is where a castle’s origins date to Roman times and eagles are drawn to the structure, frequently riding the up-draughts above the towers. Visit this charming town on a clear day and you’ll be treated to views of the Rif Mountains of Northern Africa.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 7

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR To get a true taste of Andalucia, jump in the rental car and follow any one of the dozens of looping trails that take you through the pueblos blancos, the white cities so named because of the postcard-perfect whitewashed walls. Every guidebook has a map, so don’t worry if you get lost. Getting lost takes you off the beaten track to towns devoid of tourists but rich in local flavor with traditional casas with iron windows overflowing with fresh flowers. Sample fresh game meat, jamon, queso and gazpacho washed down with sherry or fino from nearby Jerez. Most white towns are terraced, with the streets between one level or the other too steep for wheelers. But be patient and drive around the charming towns until you find the perfect plaza to park in and roll out among the tiny sun drenched outdoor cafes. Favorite pueblos blancos include: TOMORROW -- Zahara de la Sierra, Istan & Guacin

Friday, November 4, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 6

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR Malaga doesn’t get the fanfare of its sister cities, but it has much more than the largest airport and supply of rental cars with automatic transmission in Southern Spain. Spend at least a day in the birthplace of Picasso strolling the streets, exploring the plazas and savoring fresh grilled fish at a beachside chiringuito. Located in the heart of the old port city, the Picasso Museum is a work of art itself – a 16th century building with a stunning architectural mix of Mudejar and Renaissance elements. An accessible walkway also takes visitors through an archaeological roll past Phoenician, Roman and Moorish remains dating back to the seventh century B.C. The museum itself provides a glimpse into the private life of the master artist, with more than 200 paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and graphics that were given to family members – many never on public view before. The museum is completely barrier-free. Near the Picasso Museum, in Plaza Obisbo, is the 16th-century Renaissance Malaga cathedral. Some crude but functional ramps provide access into the awe-inspiring grand cathedral that survived damage during the Spanish Civil War. Down by the beach, the paseo maritimo has miles of accessible walkways, with plenty of access ramps down to the beach. Be sure to eat fresh fish – be it deep fried are grilled over charcoal right on sand – at a chiringuito. These little beachside bars are an integral part of life on the Costa del Sol.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 5

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR Christopher Columbus rests here in an ornate tomb held high by four giant figures. The beautiful Giralda Tower, not really accessible because the ramps inside were built for horses and are incredibly steep, shines bright day and night. Along the banks of the Rio Guadalquivir, one can see the simple 13th century Moorish beauty of the Torre del Oro – so named because it once was clad in golden tiles. Further up the east bank of the river lies the Corrida de Toros, Sevilla’s historic bull ring and perpetual rival to Ronda’s as the true home of Andalucia’s most famous sport. Here, the ghosts of matadors Manolete and Joselito still thrill to the cheers of the crowds. Whether you think the pastime cruel or culturally iconic, an inexpensive tour cuts a wheelchair-accessible pathway through a fascinating small museum and onto the hard packed dirt surface of the ring itself. For a stroll free of crumbling sidewalks and maniacal motorcyclists, enjoy the pedestrian mallway that is Calle Sierpes – named so because it meanders slightly like the body of a serpent. Colorful awnings help calm the sun high above and the street is lined with book stores and places to get a good cup of coffee or sweet treat.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 4

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR Sevilla, to many a poet, priest and pedestrian, IS Andalucia. Speaking of the pedestrian experience, it can be a bit challenging for wheelers because of narrow sidewalks favored by speeding motorcyclists and teeth-rattling cobblestones in the pleasant Santa Cruz district. Four of Sevilla’s crown jewels – The Real Alcazar, the Cathedral, the bull ring and Calle Sierpes are very accessible. The Real Alcazar has elevators that allow disabled visitors to explore its corridors. Listen carefully and you can hear the many stories this royal palace has to tell. Tales of its origin as a Moorish fortress centuries before the first millennia, of its transformation into an opulent palace by Pedro the Cruel, of its reincarnation through Gothic elements added in the Middle Ages. Sevilla’s Cathedral is bigger than St Peter’s in Rome, with five lofty naves and a staggering main altar nearly 120 feet tall. Follow the signs to the accessible entrance and take advantage of the barrier-free restroom and gift shop filled with photo books in English. Once inside, marvel at the altar covered in carved statues and entirely coated in gold – a remnant of a nearly two century monopoly that Sevilla enjoyed in trading with the New World for precious metals and other goods. TOMORROW -- SEVILLA PART 2

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR -- part 3

ANDALUCIA BY WHEELCHAIR To know Cadiz, you must roll through the streets in this city, the oldest in Western Christendom. Peer into courtyards ornamented with Arabic tiles and you can almost picture Phoenician merchants, Berber spice traders, and sailors readying for ocean voyages to the New World. Despite its age, Cadiz is an amazingly compact and accessible city. The key is finding centrally located underground parking – Plaza San Antonio has a great one -- with accessible spaces and an elevator up to the grand plaza where it is located. Cadiz is a city of plazas where you can walk and roll from port to beach to fortress in a town surrounded by water on three sides. Cadiz is a civilized place with flower markets and an old world pace that means most shops close on Sunday.