After a family stay in an active tourism programme, Lonely Planet’s accessible travel director rates his experience very positively
Traveling all over the world is Martin Heng’s great passion. Australian born but undoubtedly a citizen of the world, Heng is Director of Accesible Travel and Editorial Advisor at Lonely Planet. Breaking barriers discovering countries and cultures from every corner of the planet, this traveller shows us that no physical or mental disability can limit the pleasure and enrichment of the experience of travelling.
The Costa Brava Girona Tourist Board invited this travel expert, who visited us during his last summer holiday. Accompanied by his family, he enjoyed several activities and discovered L’Estartit, L’Escala, Sant Martí d’Empúries, Pals, Girona, Banyoles and Platja d’Aro, among others.
Lonely Planet’s accessible travel director did not know the Costa Brava, and he rated the experience very positively. One of the things Heng was most excited about was when he bathed in the sea, specifically in Platja d’Aro. He explained that he had not bathed in the sea since he suffered his accident. And he highlighted that there are many accessible beaches on the Costa Brava and with adapted services, while in Australia there are no such facilities.
One of the other aspects that Heng valued most was the ease with regard to mobility, thanks to the proximity of the tourist resources or the car parks right next to facilities and bathing support, which he says is not common in many other countries. Another strong point, he says, is the active tourism activities that are accessible to everyone that are offered in the area.
The Costa Brava Tourist Board designed a tailor made trip for Martin Heng and his family. They prepared a proposal for various activities for them to discover the territory and they also proposed active tourism to enjoy the wide range of inclusive services offered in the area. The whole family stayed in accessible apartments and hotels and were very grateful for their accommodation in L’Estartit (Centremar apartments), Empuriabrava (La Vida sin Limites apartments), Olot (La Perla Hotel) and Girona (Carlemany Hotel). They also visited the Oma Hotel, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, which specializes in senior guests.
The purpose of the trip proposal was to ensure that the whole tour and activities were equally enjoyed by his family and him, on a joint trip to remember. Throughout the programme the Alt Empordà Council, Roses Tourism, the Baix Empordà Council, l’Estartit Tourism, Pals, Platja d’Aro, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Girona City Council, Banyoles Tourism and Garrotxa Tourism collaborated, among other institutions and companies.
One of the most interesting cultural visits of his tour was that of the archaeological site of Empúries. The tour of the site is accessible to all audiences and he was able to do it with ease. A visit to the Ciutadella de Roses was also organized, where he took part in a mindfulness session by Mindfulkit, in this privileged place, a Cultural Asset of National Interest and archaeological site.
The Costa Brava Tourist Board advised Heng to visit coastal towns such as Palamós, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Platja d’Aro and Calonge.
During the discovery of La Garrotxa, Heng visited Santa Pau, Castellfollit de la Roca and Besalú. He also made the tour of the Croscat Volcano thanks to the use of a Joëlette chair that facilitated the entire journey in a comfortable and agile way. “If you have some physical disability you don’t tend to go into the wilderness”, Heng said, who added “it is good to have access to nature, because I can’t go on paths like this, with steps and slopes. For me it’s impossible. And everyone knows how important nature is to mental health.” On this trip Natura i Magia, guides specialized in helping people with disabilities, accompanied them.
On his visit to Girona city, Martin Heng was impressed by the cathedral and marvelled at the alleyways in the old town. “The cathedral is impressive. Since there are no columns there is a lot of open space”, he said. On the accessibility of the city the travel expert said “everywhere there are pedestrian areas, so you don’t have to worry about going up and down kerbs”, adding “the city is very well planned because the traffic is restricted. The cobbles are not so big, they are pretty flat, and there are many shops that have ramps at the entrance.”
The traveller enjoyed the company of the owner of La Vinyeta Cellar , Josep Serra, with whom he talked about the operation of the cellar and its commitment to sustainability, as well as tasting wines and local products. “It’s great to meet someone with so much passion and so many ideas”, said Heng. “La Vinyeta is an excellent place to come and visit, because of the sustainability of the techniques it uses and how it has diversified from the production of grapes to the production of cheese, oil and honey”, he stated.
The great offer of accessible active tourism on the Costa Brava allowed Martin Heng to participate in many activities that, besides an adrenaline rush, offer unusual and spectacular views of our territory.
“It was great to see volcanoes, forests and medieval villages”, said Heng after his hot air balloon ride with the company Vol de Coloms, with whom he also shared a good breakfast.
From L’Estartit he took to the air thanks to a two-seater paratrike with the company Vol Factory. He was able to enjoy spectacular views of the Medes Islands, Montgrí and the Empordà plain, with its contrasts of sea, plain and mountain landscapes. The flight lasted approximately 20 minutes.
The air activities did not end with the paratrike flight. Invited by Windoor Realfly Empuriabrava, Martin Heng experienced zero gravity in a wind tunnel. “It’s been very stimulating”, Martin said, “I can’t walk much, but at least I can fly,” he added.
L’Escala Sailing Club also invited Martin Heng and his family to go on an accessible sailing ride. They enjoyed the experience with ‘Vela per Tothom’, a pioneering initiative in access to navigation for everyone on the Costa Brava.
Martin Heng was enthusiastic about the trip, and said that his family had also enjoyed it. The landscapes of the Costa Brava and the Pirineu de Girona completely captivated this traveller, which although he has travelled the whole planet, seemed to him very unique and beautiful. Accessibility to beaches and nature in general impacted Lonely Planet’s accessible travel director, who assured us that if he can, he will visit us again very soon.