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Jour de Valentines à  Paris

Jour de Valentines à Paris

Kirsten Newman gets into the romantic spirit - Parisian style

Cupid with arrowCupid’s arrow is poised and ready. As the cheeky cherub bears down and February 14th approaches, dewy-eyed couples all over the UK are holding hands, looking deep into each other’s eyes and making plans. But if you haven’t been quite so organized, and the usual bunch of red roses going to cut the mustard for your loved on this year, worry not, as Kirsten Newman gets into the romantic spirit - Parisian style – in time for the big day.

The 14th February is famous for proposals of marriage and over-the-top romantic gestures. There are many stories for the origins of Valentine's Day - some trace it to an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, whilst others connect it with one or more saints of the early Christian church. Still others link it with an old English belief that birds choose their mates on February 14.

Valentine's Day probably came from a combination of all three of those sources, plus the belief that spring is a time for lovers.

Where ever it came from, planning for a Valentine’s Day surprise may not be so easy if you have a disability, particularly if you intend to travel – but with a bit of planning, there is no reason why you can’t surprise your amore with a romantic sojourn to Paris, what ever your situation.

Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year, which means you may be able to pick up on a mid-week break somewhere, or take your pick of the weekends either side of the big day – 9 – 11 February, or 16 – 18 February. If you are in the mood to get romantic, look no further than a trip on the Eurostar to the original city of love and romance.

Paris is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world, from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame, to contemplating Mona Lisa in the Louvre. It has earned its reputation as the City of Love with its narrow streets and smoky cafes of Paris' Left Bank, making it the perfect destination for lovers in love.
Paris is divided into sections North and South of the Seine, more commonly known as the Rive Droite (Right Bank) and Rive Gauche (Left Bank), respectively.

The Paris Tourist Office has welcome centers around the city, providing free documentation and advice to visitors. You can find maps and pocket-sized guides to Paris sights and attractions at one of the welcome centers. Visit their website for comprehensive information on sights and attractions in the city, and how to get there.

The high speed Eurostar service gives an alternative means of traveling to Europe for those who find direct rail travel between London and Paris or Brussels more convenient or comfortable.
The Eurostar runs between London Waterloo International, Brussels and Paris, stopping at Ashford International in Kent, and Lille. All the stations are fully accessible. For passengers using wheelchairs there are wheelchair spaces in the first class carriages and a toilet compartment with facilities for wheelchair users is located near the wheelchair spaces.

For the blind community, only Guide Dogs supplied through Guide Dogs for the Blind Association can be carried on Eurostar trains, although Eurostar is looking into allowing other Assistance Dogs on their service. Guide Dogs are carried under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) or Pet Passport scheme as it is commonly called. More information about Eurostar can be found at: www.eurostar.com/UK/uk/leisure/travel_information/before_you_go/special_travel_needs.jsp.
For more information to assist planning for London travel, both for Eurostar and other forms of travel, check out the following two websites:

http://www.dptac.gov.uk/door-to-door/06/06.htm
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/TravelHolidaysAndBreaks/index.htm

Of course, no visit to Paris would be complete without seeing two things; the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumphe. For a full list of accessible attractions in Paris the main tourist website has the best information.

Paris does not have a particularly good reputation for its accessibility, but it is improving. Much of the public transport (excluding the Metro underground trains) is wheelchair accessible, as are many buses operating in the capital. For longer journies the best advised traveling is by bus or taxi. For more info in English, call Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens on: 08 9268 7714.

The Guide du Voyageur à Mobilité Réduite, available free at main train stations, details all facilities. Taxis are obliged by law to carry you and to help you into the vehicle, and also to carry your guide dog if you are blind. Specialist taxi services are available in some towns: these are detailed in the Ministry of Transport and Tourism's pamphlet Guide des Transports à l'Usage des Personnes à Mobilité Réduite, available at airports, main train stations and some tourist offices. The guide also gives some indication of the accessibility of urban public transport systems, and the availability of cars for hire with hand controls.
For Paris, Access in Paris by Gordon Couch and Ben Roberts, published in Britain by Quiller Press and available from RADAR (£6.95), is a thorough guide to accommodation, monuments, museums, restaurants and travel to the city.