France Handicap Sport

Travelling in Aveyron in France with an handicap: Bozouls, a wheelchair friendly destination

3 May 2018
Last week I spent a few days in a French region called Aveyron to attend a travel blogger convention for the first time. Let me tell you, I was a bit stressed and curious to discover this event. So what is this travel blogger convention? During two days we attended conferences and workshops, we met tourism and travel agencies and, last but not least, we enjoyed 2 surprise evening events. And, above all, it was the perfect opportunity to meet fellow travel bloggers and reunite again with friends. So intense!
Millau viaduct.

Millau viaduct.

Every year the convention takes place in a different city and this year it was in Millau in Aveyron. When I saw Millau viaduct I immediately understood why monumental has be choosen to be the convention tagline! Reaching 343 metres high Millau viaduct is higher than the Eiffel Tower and also is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world (2460 metres)! It is really impressive! Not surprising that everybody heard about it in France!
But appart from Millau viaduct I must admit that I never heard about Aveyron before and that I never thought to visit this region. However I have been completely charmed by it and I would be happy to go back. Fortunately, as bloggers, we had a chance to visit different cities of the region during one or two days, as part of our blog trips, before the official start of the convention. As for me, I spent one day and a half visiting Bozouls and Espalion.
Bozouls, a charming village.

Bozouls, a charming village.

Discovering Bozouls canyon with a motor disability

Understanding the canyon geology at Terra Memoria museum

If you ask locals what to do in Bozouls they will surely answer you to go admire the canyon, also called the Trou de Bozouls. This canyon, beeing 100 metres deep and 400 metres wide, is intriguing. It looks like a horseshoe! Over the centuries, the Dourdou river dug this chasm and today many houses and other buildings, built only a few metres away from the cliff, overlook the canyon.

Among those building there is the Terra Memoria museum. Visiting it helps to understand how the canyon has been shaped over the years. The museum is designed so visitors can interact with different elements and that’s pretty cool, especially for kids. For example you can touch and lift different rocks, listen to audioguide and manipulate models. The museum is not so big and mostly aimed at kids but it is still a good way to easily understand geological history of the area before admiring the canyon from the museum lookout platform.

Regarding accessibility, everything goes well. It is easy to move around the museum in a wheelchair and there are wheelchair accessible restrooms.

Flying in a microlight aircraft above Bozouls canyon

Now that the canyon of Bozouls doesn’t have any secret left for us anymore, what do you think of admiring it from the sky? Or maybe you prefer to stay on the ground! As for me, I was very excited when I found out my blog trip program included a flight in an microlight aircraft! I was impatient to have my first flight in such a tiny plane for the first time and, simultaneously, I was also a bit nervous. But eventually, once I saw the aircrafts, I just wanted to get onboard, get equipped as a Top Gun pilot (love that movie! Maverick here I come!) and fly away!

Ready to fly!

Ready to fly!

With some help from the microlight aircraft club I succeeded to roll on the grass, reach the plane and transfer in it. Once inside, the pilot explained to me some basic aviation rules, showed me around the aircraft and detailed to me our flight plan. At this point we are ready to fly. So let’s go: fasten your belt, put your flight helmet on and let’s take off!
The sensation was smoother than what I thought it would be. I thought it would have been quite rough and bumpy, especially while taking-off and landing… So here we are in the sky, flying above the Trou de Bozouls, Espalion, St-Côme d’Olt, Calmont d’Olt castle… We even see old lava flows. From the sky landscapes seem different and we can clearly see the horseshoe shape of Bozouls canyon. Take a look at it!
The Trou de Bozouls seen from the sky.

The Trou de Bozouls seen from the sky.

A few weeks ago I had never imagine to fly in a microlight aircraft. Today I am so glad to have done it and I hope I will do it again! That was an awesome experience. Flying in a microlight aircraft is possible even with a motor disability so it would be a shame not to enjoy it! So if you would like to try, and if you are passing by Bozouls, you should give it a go. It will cost 35 euros for 15 minutes, 60 euros for 30 minutes or 100 euros for 1 hour. And, if you would like to go further and learn to pilot a microlight aircraft, arrangements can be made to enable people with a paralysis of the legs to pilot.

Hurtling down Bozouls canyon in an all-terrain wheelchair

After being high above the canyon let’s explore its depth as closely as possible… but still being in a badass vehicle: an all-terrain wheelchair! I already heard about it but until last week I never tried it. Thanks to the Aveyron parasports association I tried it and absolutely loved it. That was awesome!

With Blandine and Daphnée, ready to hurtle down the canyon.

With Blandine and Daphnée, ready to hurtle down the canyon.

Driving an all-terrain wheelchair we are in total control. Unlike in a joëlette, when we drive an all-terrain wheelchair we don’t need anybody to help us and we can move wherever we want when we want. Everything can be controlled from the handlebars and a special version for tetraplegic people also exists. I had a lot of fun driving this electric vehicle up to 35km/h. I could easily go down the canyon and follow the other travel bloggers who were driving electric bikes and electric motorbikes. I rolled on grass, flatten some roots and didn’t care about rocks on the ground! All the things that I can’t do in my wheelchair!

Copyright : Mairie de Bozouls. Photo : Jean-Luc Calmelly.

Copyright : Mairie de Bozouls. Photo : Jean-Luc Calmelly.

Discovering the culture of Aveyron in Bozouls

Playing Quilles de Huit in Espalion

During one day visiting Bozouls I had a glimpse at the beautiful landscapes of Aveyron. While I never thought to visit this area before, I now want to discover more of it. Well, no need to go far away. Only a few kilometres away stands the charming city of Espalion, crossed by the Lot river. The Vieux-Palais (the old law court) and the Pont-Vieux (Old Bridge) look so picturesque that we could think that we are back some centuries ago.

The Pont-Vieux and the Vieux Palais on the left.

The Pont-Vieux and the Vieux Palais on the left.

A few metres away from there many locals are playing a traditional local game : Quilles de Huit. At first sight this game looks like a mix between bowling and pétanque : Eight standing pins are placed one meter away from each others, while the player hold another pin, the quillou, in one hand and a wooden big ball, looking like a bowling ball, in the other hand. The goal is for the player to strike down the pins. To do so, he has to firstly strike the quillou with the ball and then, if there is any pin still standing, he is allowed to throw the ball directly at them. Some skill is required!

Not easy to play this game beeing in a wheelchair but at least I tried!

Not easy to play this game beeing in a wheelchair but at least I tried!

Savouring local food in a Michelin starred restaurant

In just a few days I discovered a genuine, warm and welcoming region. A territory as beautiful as the locals I met there and as generous as the local food. Aligot, tripous, cheese soup: traditional dishes in Aveyron are copious. But for this blog trip diner we discovered a more sophisticated food as we were invited by the Michelin-starred Chef Guillaume Viala in his restaurant Le Belvédrère in Bozouls. Every meal, while not being local recipe from this part of France, was highlighted with local ingredients.

As beautiful as delightful!

As beautiful as delightful!

Unfortunately the restaurant is not wheelchair accessible. There is a steep slope and a step to enter in. Plus it is impossible for a wheelchair user to access the restrooms. However the restaurant will be renovating next year and from then it will be wheelchair accessible. To be continued…

Accessibility in Bozouls and Espalion :

  • Bozouls streets are often steep. If you are a manual wheelchair user, you will need someone’s help.
  • There are disabled restrooms in the car park behind the city hall. The street is Allée Paul Causse.
  • There are disabled restrooms in the Avenue Pierre Monteil in Espalion, just next to disabled car parking spots.
  • There is one wheelchair accessible hotel room in the hotel la Route d’Argent in Bozouls. There is no curb-cut to access the sidewalk leading to the room but the staff has a movable wooden ramp. I would advice you to call them before your arrival to ask for the ramp to be put in place. The main entrance of the hotel is not wheelchair accessible (there are stairs). There is another entrance with a ramp but it is a bit too steep. The hotel restaurant is wheelchair accessible.
  • The restaurant “le 121” is fully wheelchair accessible.
A great blog trip with awesome people. Can't wait until next year!

A great blog trip with awesome people. Can’t wait until next year! Copyright : Mairie de Bozouls. Photo : Frédéric Lombardi.

If you’re planning to travel to France, want to discover more wonderful regions and awesome accessible activities you can have a look at all my posts about travel destinations in France.

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