Disabled Travel

Paris: Was Travelling To See Masego Worth It?

BLD experience setting in her wheelchair with her back and backpack facing the camera, she is holding up her phone taking a picture of the mona lisa

Paris awaited my arrival. I was devastated to miss Masego’s London performance. I’d been wanting to see him for years and each time failed. In 2019, Masego performed at The Ends Festival. We arrived halfway through Masego’s set but the assistance team took forever and a day to give us our wristbands. We missed his performance. But from what I did hear I was eager to properly immerse myself in one of Masego’s live performances.

In 2021, I make multiple hints to loved ones that I wanted Masego tickets as a Christmas present. Masego tickets quickly sold and I was not a benefactor. Rightly so. He is an incredible musician. I didn’t know when he’d be performing in London again so I looked around to see what his tour schedule was.

I saw he planned to be in Paris at the end of the year. A switch went off in my head. Let me do two things I love in one. Travel and listen to live music. So I asked my cousin, another Masego fan, if she wanted to come with me. To my surprise, I didn’t even need to persuade her. She was 100% down and I was ecstatic. Travelling again with my cousin would be a treat. Booked months in advance were our tickets, accommodation and transportation. Organisation unmatched!

A couple weeks before the trip we made a itinerary of everything we’d do, day by day, hour by hour. We weren’t able to follow it to a T but it was in incredible tool which made sure we always knew what we could do and roughly where things were.

St Pancras to Paris

Eurostar support wheelchair users by allowing us to book tickets at a discounted rate for them and their companion. This was both of our first time getting the Eurostar and we didn’t know what to expect. PEOPLE make sure you get there an hour before as they recommend so you can swiftly get through security and passport control. Strikes were taking place so it was a bit hectic and there were lots of delays to the service. We were warned about this and given the chance to reschedule our trip weeks in advance but there was no way we would miss Masego AGAIN.

On the train were seated in a spacious area with two spaces for wheelchair users that had a working disabled toilet right behind us. I had to remain in my wheelchairs which was slightly uncomfortable but I made do – I probably could have queried this and will do the next time I travel. We were happy to have been provided with a meal on both journey’s. To my surprise they actually were okay!

A Snippet Of Our Grand Itinerary

The Eurostar delays had an impact on our itinerary. We had planned to get lunch after we dropped our bags off at the hotel but by the time we got to Paris we had just under 3 hours for dinner. There was no way for me to get my much needed rest and be able to eat 2 meals within hours of each other. I was running on 3 hours sleep and worn out from travelling. So we ate our snacks that we brought from the supermarket next to the hotel and I napped until 30 minutes before we had to leave for our reservation.

Our dinner reservation was at Ober Mama. I was so shocked to love it there! For the first time I had freshly cooked pasta which could have been cooked a little more for my liking but it was delicious. The decor was cute; My cousin likened the decor to a Sicilian garden. However it wasn’t that spacious, they had more tables in there than is comfortable.

The staff and customers always bumped my chair when they passed me. The staff nearly always apologised. They had a steep ramp that wasn’t very secure to access the building. Their accessible toilets was kept under lock and key and was surprisingly small. I unfortunately cannot speak to full accessibility of each place I went to, only entrances and comfortability in the place. I was so cold during my trip that the only place I ever used the toilet outside of the hotel and the Eurostar was at Le Bataclan where Masego performed.

Was Travelling to Paris Worth it?

Going to Paris for Masego was 1000% worth it. I managed to spill the majority of my drink all over myself in my excitement. Masego was an amazing performer who I wish to see again one day. It was such a vibe but I have to say there is no crowd like a London crowd.

In London, we basically perform for the musician. I was slyly glad it wasn’t like this in Paris. I realise it means that in London the musicians tend to listen to the audience singing to them more than actually singing. Like I didn’t come here to hear people sing off key. Please work them vocal cords. And work those vocal cords Masego did!

Everything is dying…

We had brunch by the Notre Dame then went to view the Notre Dame then walked/rolled (worst mistake ever, 20 minutes in the cold isn’t a normal 20 minutes) to the Louvre. People with Disabilities and their companions get free entrance to the Lourve. I normally love a museum but i really wasn’t because I was so cold and tired. But I got a front row view to the Mona Lisa which was cool!

Our next plan was to do a River Seine cruise on the second day and see the Eiffel Tower but because of the cold and my wheelchair nearly dying we had to axe that plan. Clearly you can see from my blog in BCN, I had not learned my lesson about charging my chair properly. My phone battery running low despite using my portable charger and my cousins phone completely died.

We decided to go back to the hotel and regroup. It took us ages to get back. Google maps decided it wanted to be an opp plus they had strikes so buses weren’t going to particular stops. Oo this reminds me that on my last day I found out there are some bus stops in Paris that aren’t wheelchair accessible. I’m not quite sure why to be honest as it looked fine.

Extraordinary Cold Induced Distress

Anyway back to regrouping. We finally got back to the hotel and I was distressed by the cold. I didn’t want to exit the hotel again but I calmed myself and compromised. We decided we’d skip the cruise and go to dinner so that we have time to rest and warm up. I had to sit in the shower with warm water running onto my legs multiple times in a bid to warm up. It felt like I had put them in a freezer. My legs didn’t warm up fully until we came back from dinner and a spontaneous trip to the Eiffel Tower hours later.

As a Black person in Paris I felt really comfortable as nearly every other person I saw was a Black French/ Francophone. I also couldn’t tell whether someone was chatting us because I don’t speak a lick of French 💔. My knowlege of Arabic is greater than my French. I would love to improve in both to be honest.

I got a couple recommendations of place to go to from some Black people that I know who have connections to France and ended up seeing loads of reels of Paris since everyone and their mother seemed to take their asses to Paris that winter.

Black Owned Restaurants in Pari

We went to two Black Owned places that I really enjoyed but ultimately were not wheelchair accessible. You could get into the restaurants but one was small and hard to navigate and neither had accessible toilets. We went to Mama Kossa who served some delicious African food, a great luminous decor and a DJ that kept the vibes high. Before we left Paris we went to Gumbo Yaya which is a petite American Soul food restaurant. Their food was really nice and I was vibing to their playlist – it was like my own was playing. It had the likes of Frank Ocean and Dreamer Isioma playing.

Reflections of Paris

Whilst I had an incredible time I had am rethinking my stance on travelling to countries during their winter. I was so frozen, I worried I had frostbite. I frequently had to stop myself from crying because of how cold I was 😭. Coldness also has an adverse impact on my disabilities so that definitely wasn’t a help!

I struggled with my lack of French. I can at least communicate basic needs in Spanish and Portuguese. But I couldn’t do this in France.

The cost of wheelchair accessible taxis were extortionate!

I’d definitely go to Paris again, but in the summer! I would also love to experience the Black French LGBT scene. Hopefully on one of my trips to France I can drag alone one of my French speaking queer friends or that I make some Black French friends that live out there.

Tchau x

Thank you for reading. Let me know how you found this blog.

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