Ghent, Belgium (train from Lille)
We walk to the train station through the quiet cobbled streets of awakening Lille.
Go to the SNCF office near the entrance and get tickets. The wheelie assistance office is down the back in an alley. No problems organising this, although my partner speaks french which makes things easier.
Aha, an issue: the train has some carriages with a wheelie symbol but our helper in his wisdom does not put me into one of these. His slow but functional electric portable lift deposits me to a spot between two carriages. The door is too narrow into the carriage so I sit in the doorway, which is noisy, cold and uncomfortable. Jill sits in comfort in the carriage proper. We will argue for a wheelchair spot on return, although the station lady claims there are none!
It takes about an hour to get to Ghent. Assistance is dodgy, with a steep misplaced portable wheelie ramp at the train. We then cross the tracks with two guys in orange plastic jump suits, down a lift and through a tunnel full of ancient railway detritus to the hall. The station hall is quite interesting with weird Flemish murals and architecture.
Outside we catch a number one tram to the centre 2 kms away. These are fairly accessible although the redid a 20 cm gap and step at the door. Some trams have a locked flip-out ramp at the door. The drivers are very disinterested in helping. We use our trusty ramp to get me on and off. There is one accessible-ish stop between the station and the centre. Most are inaccessible.
Ghent has some lovely old buildings in the northern style, with steep shingled roofs and elaborate facades. There is a river and some canals about, and some nice old churches. We go into three churches, all ramped or flat. Some museums are closed as it is Monday. I buy some nice Belgian chocolates and we have a hot chocolate and terrible lasagna at a scenic canal tourist trap. Ghent falls short of Bruges on prettiness but it is still quite interesting and has fewer tourists. It also has a (small) castle. The interior is impossible for wheelie access although I can get inside the grounds. It was worth a look. It has a torture museum of sorts.
There is quite a carry on at the Ghent station on return, with a most unhelpful wheelie assistance guy and a really nice relaxed helpful orange jump suit guy.
It is generally a prerequisite for a job in wheelchair assistance to be rude and surly, and usually downright obstructive. I find the best strategy is to be polite, patient and persistent. Obstruction man is grumpy that helpful man is helping. We all ignore him and get on the train via the tunnel lift cross-the-tracks up the very steep wheelie ramp routine. They choose the very last carriage as usual. At least I can fit inside. Another glitch: they have to unhitch our part of the train so we change carriages via portable ramp en route at Kortrijk. All part of travel experiences.
The land is very flat and the sky is grey. I miss Tuscany a little.