This weekend I've been on my first overseas trip with the wheelchair. I was a bit nervous, but did it in a way in which I knew I'd have a bit of support. I've been working with our local twinning association ever since I moved to Scotland, so when I was invited to take part in a trip to the Festival Filmes des Femmes in Créteil I jumped at the chance. Because the trip was being organised with the help of Créteil Jumelages there was someone arranging things for us and they would be with us for the whole trip. I was travelling with two colleagues as well.
We stayed at the Novotel le Lac in Créteil, which I'll do a separate post about and I'll also cover my experiences at the airport separately. Most of the visit was a mixture of official visits (to schools, their fabulous new Mediatheque and the Conservatoire), excellent food and films at the festival.
Créteil itself is a new town on the edge of the Paris suburbs. Most of the city has been developed since the 1960s and it is fairly flat, which made it easy to get around. The town centre has a very 70s raised town square area, with carpark under, which is surrounded by the Hotel de Ville, various civic buildings, some flats and the Maison des Arts de Créteil (MAC) where most of the festival took place. Access to this part of town was quite good, although the route from the MAC to the single lift into the carpark was a bit circuitous. The MAC itself was accessible and had a lovely cafe. There was plenty of room to move around. Wheelchair access was to the bottom of the cinema, at the very front, which is normal, however we left the wheelchair at the door and I used my crutches to get down the top couple of steps to get a better view from the front.
Connected to the town square was an enormous shopping centre, which we visited briefly for some shopping and ate at on two evenings (once at a creperie, the second time at Flunch). It was a good shopping centre but again it only had one, small lift, at which queues formed on a Sunday) not as accessible as it should have been.
The festival's other venue was a small cinema, La Lucarne, which was located near the Mediatheque in an area of Créteil built in the 1960s, one of the poorer areas of the city. Unfortunately the 1970s building was not very accessible - there was no disabled toilet and it was the only place I absolutely needed to get someone to help push me up the hill (apart from the ramp at the Novotel, which I'll cover in a separate post). However I managed to get into the auditorium for the film, so everything worked out. The mural on the outside of the building was painted by a Chilean artist who fled the Pinochet regime.
The films we saw were Todos estan Meurtes, which eventually one the Youth Jury prize; Sol Branco, the winning short film (which we saw twice); Notre Enfance á Tblisi; the Grand Prix winner Objects in the Mirror and a Beatrice Dalle film, Bye Bye Blondie, which I need to try and watch with subtitles. It was the only one with no subtitles. Todos estan Meurtes and Objects in the Mirror both had English subtitles. Sol Branco and Notre Enfance á Tbilisi had French subtitles which I could sort of follow, so Bye Bye Blondie was the only film I really struggled with.
On our "day off" on Sunday we were taken for a brunch at La Bellevilloise it Paris itself. The meal was *amazing*. The venue was wheelchair accessible, in that there was level access and a disabled toilet, but very busy so I was glad I had taken the crutches and could use those instead. I ate way more than I should have (including two desserts!) but look at the food!
The venue was pretty good too.
Our hosts then very generously drove us on a tour of the main sights of Paris, which is as amazing a city as it was last time I was there. I plan to go again.