Accessible Tourism in Catalunya

Not for the faint-hearted but all disabled are welcome

The EU introduced a new regulation from July 26 for disabled air passengers to receive greater assistance when travelling through Europe, in the light of this, Executive Traveller put accessible tourism to test in Calatonia.Catalonia or Catalunya is proud to have developed its accessible tourism facilities – making it the land where all can enjoy a wide range of accessible leisure and cultural sports. Catalunya likes to be seen as the home to the sea and mountain; the

land that is ancient and avant-garde; a place of adventure and tranquility, rural and cosmopolitan, modern and old, active and calm, sweet and bitter, serious and joyful. Nevertheless, we knew that this exercise was going to be a challenge.
Accessible tourism does not begin on land; we had to overcome accessibility on the airplane first before we could reach Barcelona to continue the journey through Catalonia and back.
From a survey for Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Now Boarding campaign, over half (61%) of the respondents had experienced difficulties boarding a plane. And nearly three quarters of those disabled travellers (74%) felt that airport and airline staff did not always understand their impairment or know how to meet their needs. It was as if airlines and their staff were so keen on making the best out of every seat sold that accessible flying was not part of the deal. It could also be that most disabled passengers were economy passengers who were subjected to leg room which could be described as challenging for able passengers. Should disabled passengers ‘cough-up’ for premium seats or expect to be upgraded even when the premium seating section of the aircraft was full?
Catalonia on the other hand has been working hard at making its destination accessible. Our first stop was Salou, a destination renowned for sun, sea and adventure. With only Ryanair flying into the near by Reus airport, accessible tourism means that travellers have to arrive at Barcelona airport and continue the journey by a two-hour drive to Salou.
Salou, the ideal holiday resort is right in the heart of Costa Daurada. It is 103km from Barcelona so you will need to rent a car if you arrive at Barcelona airport.

Nevertheless, it is only 12km from the provincial capital of Taragona and 9 km from Reus airport. Salou boasts nine beaches ranging from Cala Crancs Cove which is 85m in length to Ponent Beach which is 1,100 m in length. It has a water sports resort but its biggest attraction in Salou is apart from its nine glorious beaches. Salou also offers golf, congress and incentive tourism as well as good food but our choice attraction was Port Aventura, a theme park attraction was the most advanced accessible destination.
Port Aventura is totally accessible and well-worth a visit. The resort has been equipped to cater for all including the disabled. There are five themed areas showing different parts of the world and ways of life. Mediterranean, the Far West, Mexico, China and Polynesia. Each themed area is equipped with rides for all tastes and ages and all accessibly designed. It is particularly reassuring to see the visibly displayed signs at entry points to even the most challenging rides welcoming the disabled.

Catalonia has more to offer than accessibility to visitors.
There is Mont Blanc where you must make an effort to visit La Ruta del Cister to learn about connecting three monasteries through the creation of the well-known Cistercian Route, established in 1989, a categorical boost was given to tourism in the three counties of La Conca de Barberà, L'Alt Camp and L'Urgell, which have spared no efforts to publicise a region that is imbued with culture, gastronomy, tradition and heritage. From the monasteries, which are the area's leading attraction, visitors can tour the towns and villages of the three counties that make up the Cistercian Route.

Do not omit to visit the Poblet, the most important feature of the men’s branch of the Cistercian order which still houses a monks’ community. Poblet is a standing out point of reference in the history of the Aragon Crown. It was founded in 1150 having its trajectory cut in 1835 due to the Civil war. With the monks’ reestablishment in Poblet, an ambitious restoration and conservation process began in 1940 which has returned to the monastery the majesty it deserves.

A guided visit starting at the Royal gate will take you through the different chambers that shape the old cloister. The monastery of Poblet is the biggest inhabited cistercian group in Europe. It was declared Human Being by the UNESCO at the Argel meeting in 1991. Remember to set aside a few euros for some bottles of Abadia de Poblet from the Poblet cellars.

Vall de Boi
Historic Churches and an almost superbly equipped National Park

The municipality of Vall de Boi is made up of eight small villages and it is known worldwide for its exceptional natual richness and cultural heritage.
The National Park of Aigüestortes I Estany de Sant Maurici is located in the heart of the Pyrenees, the most north-westerly part of Catalonia.

It has high mountains, winding streams, marshes, almost 200 lakes, imposing crags, fir trees and freshness.

The beauty of this all is that it is accessible and has been equipped to allow wheel chairs to pass each other. It only major fault at present is that it does not have any toilet facilities and the entry of private vehicles are restricted. All cars must be left in the car parks allocated at the park entrances. There are public transport services in villages within the locality to take visitors to the park otherwise it is a long walk.
The Park is open all year round but is covered in snow during winter so extra caution should be taken when visiting during these times.

The Park however lacks toilet facilities something which hampers the other very efficient accessible facilities that have been installed. Vall de Boi is also home to a group of eight churches and a hermit which have been declared World Heritage by Unesco. The churches are open all year round and have been built under the influence of Lombard Romanesque. They are functional buildings of one or three naves, and stand on small granite ashlars, are covered by wooden beams or tunnel valults.

Their bell towers stand out. Inside the churches are mural paintings, descents, carvings and altarpiece frontals used to fill the spaces with images all revealing the spiritual values of the medieval society. The region is also home to one of the most imprtant spas in Catalonia.
Lleida - Land of Fruits
39 hectares of apple, pear, cherry, apricot and plum trees produce over 900 tonnes of sweet fruit under regular climate conditions in Lleida.
A Place to stay, see and eat in Lleida
Monestir de les Avellanes
This beautiful monastery which began as a centre for hermits and became a premonastic community in 1166 offers 37 refurbished rooms, all of them with outside view, internet and Wifi access, TV and reading room. The monastery became the first and most important seat of the religious order in Catalonia, thanks to the support of the Counts of Urgell and its devotees. The monastery does not provide televisions in the bedrooms. Prices range from 41 euros bed and breakfast to 89 euros full board.

Llengua de serp (snake's tongue) or the Queen's Bastion

Seu Vella

Originally a Muslim mosque, then a place of worship, followed by military headquarters and then returned to be a place of worship again, the Seu Vella will allow you to enjoy the wonderful views of the city offered by the jetty of the"llengua de serp" (snake's tongue) or the Queen's Bastion. The Seu Vella is accessible by car or on foot from Carrer Sant Martí, entering into the walled precinct by the Porta del Lleó, or from Plaça Sant Joan, by lift,

through the entrance hall of Sant Andreu; or using line 12 of the urban buses, which run from Monday to Saturday from 7.30am to 9pm. The Seu Vella old cathedral, also known as “Lleida Castle”, is definitely the city’s most emblematic monument.Other attractions in the region include the Gardeny, mountain biking and the commercial hub.
Transportation available: AVE – the high speed train to Tarragona

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© Executive Traveller 2003