A week to the beautiful Auvergne in France sounds good, right? When I think of France, I think of fresh croissants and delicious baguettes. But I found out there is more than just that.
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
We stayed at Gîtes La Différence, a fully accessible house with a private swimming pool for a maximum of 8 people, including up to 2 people who are wheelchair-bound. The house is quite spacious and has almost all the necessary, medical adaptions you can think of. Read more about this accommodation here!
In the area around La Brousse is a lot of nature, so a beautiful nature walk is definitely one of the things you can do. The forests are not easily accessible, but the roads are good to do in a wheelchair. Every day, there are the Auvergne morning markets in the surrounding villages. You can buy local products such as honey, cheese, sausages, woven baskets, etc.
Lac d’Aubusson is just a 5-min drive. It’s a large recreational lake with a beach, where you can swim, and hire canoes and paddle boats. There is a playground for children. People with a disability can easily access the lake and facilities, with designated parking spaces close by, graveled flat paths, and even specially designed picnic benches for wheelchair users.
With a population of 26,500 residents, Vichy is not very touristic, but you can find enough things to do and see. Vichy’s spa waters are one of the major attractions, and you can find them at fountains throughout the town or at one of the spa hotels. The Vichy Spa Hotel ‘Les Celestins’ offers hydrotherapy treatments using local thermal water, osteopathy, physiotherapy, and skin-care sessions.
The highlight of the week was parapente, also known as paragliding. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my entire life. Part of the excitement was that we did not know exactly when or even if the paragliding event would take place. This is dependent on the weather and more specifically the thermic. The initial planning was on Tuesday, but it finally took place on Thursday.
But what is parapente, and how does it work?
Parapente is also known as paragliding or screen flying, and it descends from parachuting. Unlike parachuting, parapente is about staying in the air for as long as possible. You often fly over beautiful mountains and valleys. Parapente is the simplest and most natural form of flying, the wings float slowly and silently through the air. The screen consists only of textiles and lines, which makes the screen lightweight. Parapente originated from the dream of Icarus to get the ultimate sense of freedom.
And how is it accessible?
The company that offers people with a disability the ability to do this amazing activity is called Aeroparapente. The instructors have mobilized around the ‘Heaven for All’ association with the objective of allowing people with reduced mobility to access paragliding flights at the top of the Puy de Dôme.
Before arriving at the Puy de Dôme, you’ll have to take the train to get up on the volcano. The train is wheelchair-accessible and takes off around every 20 minutes during the summer. On top of the volcano, your instructor (moniteur) will be waiting for you, if needed, with a special wheelchair. At the top of the Puy de Dôme, there are 7 places where you can take off, all around the volcano. The flight area of the moment is the one facing the wind. Once found, the moniteur will equip himself and you for the experience. He will then check all security and hooking points. And then it’s time to ‘sail’ away and enjoy your ride. Gliding around the volcano and slowly descending toward the valley was a memorable experience. The chair does not have any head support, so we had to make one with duct tape and a neck brace. Everything is possible, as long as you believe in yourself.