Jayonlife focuses on the different countries and cities Jay has visited, and the different attractions available to travellers. It features her thoughts on how other place compare to her home of London. Both in terms of accessibility and the attitudes of the people towards disability as a whole. It also includes her thoughts on topics that affect disabled people at home and abroad.
I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend the Commonwealth Women’s Forum. This was only the second time that there had been a Women’s Forum. The first one was in Malta two years prior. The different Commonwealth forums focus on a certain topic, Women, Business, People, and Youth Forums. Various members of society communicate their needs and worries with Heads of Commonwealth States. I was a bit trepidatious about attending something like this. It was a case of full blown Impostor Syndrome, feeling as though I didn’t belong in such an environment. But I had to make sure to quieten that voice, and focused on my reason for being there. I plan to advocate for the needs of disabled youths and disabled women in Nigeria. That was all the qualifier that I needed to remind myself of, to get my head straight.
Age is a Non-Factor
Throughout the three days of the Commonwealth Forum’s, I had the chance to listen to and learn from many young people. They were each playing their part in changing their small part of the world for the better. One such young person was 15 year old Peace Ayo (above), who is a Nigerian native advocating for equal right to education. She gave a powerful and moving speech on stage, calling on her own personal experiences. It really brought it home for me that had I not come to the UK, I would need people like Peace. I would need someone to fight for my shot at an education. Because let’s keep it all the way 100, many places around the world would not see the value in educating a disabled girl.
Throughout the Commonwealth Forums, myself and Mrs Alexander have been able to network with new people and organisations. Since the ending of the Forums, we already have a meeting on the books, and are looking for creative ways to collaborate. It would be a damn near impossible task to try and fix the world of all its ills by yourself. So why not have a great community around you that is striving towards the same goal! While some collaborations/partnerships may not materialise into something straight away, it’s nice having people you know you can call on.
Every delegate of the Commonwealth Forums attended with a clear goal and agenda on their mind. It was thrilling to see how passionately they were being fought for. From the need for more women in politics , to ensuring the rights of those within the LGBTQ+ community in the Commonwealth. While it is a daunting task, and one that can at times mean going toe to toe with your respective government, the will of the people is undeniable. The work is being done on the ground, and at higher levels, all we need is the political will.
It was not all work and no play during the Forums, as there was a welcoming party on the Monday evening. Music was provided by a UK choir, and Ellie Goulding. While HRH Prince William gave a speech about the Commonwealth. It was nice to talk to other delegates from around the Commonwealth and find out what cause brought them over to London. Plus, there was an abundance of food to be had, including gorgeous chocolate from Ghana. What’s not to love?
A New Path for Jay?
Working with Mrs Alexander (above) as part of Star Children Initiativeand Every Woman Matters UK has enabled me to do more. For a while now, I have been wanting to expand my repertoire to include more than “travel blogging”. Being able to attend the Commonwealth Women’s Forum allowed me to open my eyes and see what was actually possible down this path. Throughout my travels, I have always been conscious of how privileged I am to be able to do so. But it really shouldn’t be because of where I grew up, that I am afforded this chance. While nothing is set in stone, I would like to do more work fighting for others like me. Who knows, maybe in the future I could be up on one of those stages or on a panel!
Monday is a day that is thought of as the beginning to a long work or school week. If your birthday happens to land on a Monday, you don’t go around jumping for joy. Cuz even if you are free to celebrate, chances are that nobody else will be able to enjoy it with you. Luckily for me, I had been visited by Lady Luck a couple of times in a row. I won tickets to an African Supper Club hosted byLerato Foods AND won the Hamilton Lottery to see the musical for £10 per ticket!
Bloggers Eulanda and Omo of HDYTI recently celebrated the 3rd anniversary of their blog, and were running a few giveaways on their Twitter channel. I happened to be the lucky recipient of two tickets to an African Supper Club hosted by the fabulous Lerato Umah-Shaylorwith a dance being performed by Eulanda. I was joined for the Easter/Spring inspired feast by my friend Leila, who thankfully hooked me up with great photos cuz I was too busy eating! I had been excited to win these tickets as it was my first time taking part in a supper club. The event was hosted in Battersea at theLondon Cooking Projecta beautiful hire space that provided plenty of seating, as well as a huge restaurant grade kitchen.
Moin moin w/ tiger prawns or mushrooms and flowers. (Leyla Bile)
We were welcomed with a gorgeous fruity hibiscus drink, that I honestly could have drunk all day. The menu (above) had me excited to get some yummy Nigerian food in my belly! I was pleasantly surprised by the aubergine rolls, as I am not big on them cuz of the mushy texture. Unless it’s Baba Ganoush, but that’s just in a league of its own. The pepper soup was not as spicy as I am used to, but that was to be expected. When catering to a variety of different taste buds, you simply cannot risk upping the heat factor! The standout dish for me had to be the Jollof Quinoa, my GOD that thing was amazing. I had to stop myself from eating all the quinoa from my side of the table!
As mentioned above, the super talented Eulanda provided the entertainment and danced around our tables, which I loved. She also invited the diners to join her in some steps, as well. Not so big on that part, as people do not need to know that I’m a bad dancer! Thankfully I had made some new acquaintances on my table so we were all able to join in the fun. I was happy to be seated once more, though! I’d rather leave the dancing to the professionals, while I focus on my food, haha.
Apart from the amazing food, the best part of the supper club was the company. Sitting around a table and sharing a meal with people you have just met, is what Jay lives for! To Lerato’s surprise, there were quite a few Nigerian diners at this feast. I enjoyed getting to know the people I was dining with, and was told of a seafood restaurant in North London. Enjoying this great meal and experience with my friend Leyla was the perfect start to my Monday. I was able to stay behind for a little while, and had a chance to speak with both Eulanda and Lerato. It was a pleasure to share in their passions on Easter Monday, and then snap a picture with them! #blackgirlmagic
I had been playing the Hamilton Lottery on my phone since January of this year, hoping to win £10 tickets to the musical everyone was talking about. An email notification popped up on my phone, and I immediately thought it was a scam, until I received one from the Hamilton app, also. After months of entering the lottery daily, I had won the chance to grab cheap tickets to see Lin Manuel Miranda’s critically acclaimed show. I immediately bought the tickets, and then asked a couple of my friends to see who was free to come and see the show.
After our fabulous dining experience, I headed towards the Victoria Palace Theatre to meet up with my theatre buddy. Like everyone else, I had heard the hype surrounding the musical and already knew a bit about Alexander Hamilton. The inside of the theatre was beautiful, and the staff were helpful before, during and after the show. We had sat next to an American couple from Seattle who had seen the show many times before, so we knew we were in for a treat. Our tickets were front row centre, so we saw the action up close and personal!
The musical was absolutely phenomenal. The cast was magnificent and so diverse! The songs were catchy and instantly memorable. The whole show was uproariously funny, like laugh out loud hilarious. My favourite characters were Washington, Hamilton, Angelica, King George and Lafayette/Jefferson. But the entire show, from start to finish had me hooked. As soon as we left, we wanted to go back and watch it again. Especially since myself and the actor that played Washington had some super intense eye contact during the end. For like half a second, but still! I would highly recommend playing the lottery, as you really never know!
I found the Victoria Palace Theatre to be accessible for my needs, as there was ramped access to the entrance of the building. There was an accessible toilet beside the entrance to the stalls section of the theatre. From the front to the back of the theatre, it was levelled, so those in wheelchairs need not try to navigate around steps.
Greenwich is an inner London borough located in zones 2 and 3 on the London underground. It borders the boroughs of Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets and is South of the Thames River. Greenwich Maritime is a UNESCO World Heritage site, that was inscribed in 1997. This includes the town centre, royal park and all related buildings. I decided to film in Greenwich because all 3 stations (Greenwich, Greenwich Maritime and North Greenwich) are wheelchair accessible. As well as the area being served by a number of different buses that all have ramps and spaces on board for wheelchair users.
ACCESSIBLE LONDON SERIES
I have an Accessible London series on my YouTube channel. Through these videos, I show viewers, both mobility impaired and otherwise, the great accessible things you can do in London. I include information about transportation, tourist sights and restaurants. The first video I shot was in Shoreditch back in 2017! You can check out my very first video hereand see the hilarious outtakes that didn’t make the final cut, here. Two friends filmed me and helped keep my spirits up. I decided to start this series to have an interactive avenue of imparting some accessible knowledge. It will also help other travellers that may be on their way to London. I know I keep calling it a series, even though I only have one video, but the numbers will increase! If there is anywhere you would like me to film, please do drop me a line.
FILMING IN GREENWICH
During the filming session in Greenwich, I was joined by the fabulous Caroline who is the founder of TravelEatSlay. We decided to film together and complete my video, as well as promote her apparel brand. You may recognise her from my post about all the different black travel events I’d attended last year. We had to brave the wind, rain and other people on Saturday, but we were able to do it! It was great fun having someone who was also on a similar path to me, trying to grow their brand. We had many laughs along the way, and you can check out our shenanigans on my highlighted IG story. I will be working on editing the video over the upcoming weeks, and can’t wait to show you the finished product! Make sure you don’t miss a thing and subscribe to my YouTube channel.
For anyone that is interested in collaborating with me, I am interested in hearing from London bloggers! Whether you blog about travel, fashion, food, or lifestyle. As long as it has an accessible component and it’s in London, I’m down. Reach out to me via , or comment onthis TweetI wrote, so I can add you to the blogger list!
Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport in Mumbai is the second busiest airport in India, after Delhi’s Indira Ghandi Airport. It was originally called Sahar International Airport before the name changed. It was named after Chhatrapati Shivaji, who was the first monarch of Raigad Fort.
Regardless of whether you are arriving in Mumbai, flying off somewhere else or picking up luggage from baggage, you’re sure to be dazzled by the sheer amount of fabulous art pieces you can see along the way. The Jaya He GVK New Museum was the brainchild of Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chairman of GVK. And it was curated by Rajeev Sethi, a famous Indian designer and art curator. The museum has over one thousand artefacts, some dating back to the 11th century. Jaya He features work from over one hundred artists from all over India. It is likely to be the largest public art initiative in the country.
“We have lost a sense of space, a sense of being. I feel no different at Shanghai airport from when I am at Dubai. I do not want the Mumbai airport to be so.”
I completely agree with the vision statement that Sanjay put out for the building of Jaya He. While I haven’t been to all the major airports in the world, I have been to quite a few. There is nothing that makes Heathrow completely stand out from Schipol. Yes, there are a few reminders here and there to let you know that you are in London or Amsterdam, but you’re not completely immersed in the locality. For the short time that I was able to enjoy the museum, I was taken on a visual expedition through Mumbai, and India as a whole. The old sat happily alongside the new, and told the story of the nation. And with a country that has the size and depth of India, that is no small feat.
“At its earliest conception, ‘Liminus 2’ was the name I gave the artwork program for the Mumbai International airport, Terminal 2, now known as Jaya He.”
Having seen what can be done when a major airport like Chhatrapati Shivaji, I want the other airports that I have been to, to follow suit! I was not expecting, nor prepared for the beauty and wonder that I experienced at this gorgeous airport. The interior of different parts of terminal 2 are a museum, housing parts of Indian heritage. From the paintings, sculptures, and tapestry found all around, you’re taken on a journey through India’s arts and crafts culture. I am only upset that I didn’t have more time to spend in the airport itself.
Have any of you been to Chhatrapati Shivaji airport? Or another airport that simply took your breath away and made you want to stay?
South Africa is an amazing country to visit, this enormous nation is home to so many delights. From it’s geography as the most Southern point of the African continent, to it’s people and the wealth of culture they bring. The most famous of them all being the late Nelson Mandela, the former South African president. When thinking about a trip to South Africa, most people end up with the same dilemma. Which South African city should they visit? The main two contenders are the powerhouses of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Even though these cities are located in the same country, they are rather different. So how will you choose between the two of them? Here are some notes that I made that should help you make up your mind.
Johannesburg, Joburg, or Jozi is the largest of the South African cities and it is also the business capital of the country. You are likely to find many international companies with offices here. As such, you will find a wonderful mix of local South Africans, as well as visitors from all around the world. This diversity, and the large population of Johannesburg means that you will never run out of things to do here.
Maboneng Precinct is the cool, hip neighbourhood on the east side of the city. You will find an abundance of creatives collaborating side by side. Artistic and thought provoking artworks, on the street, as well as in galleries. Maboneng is teaming with cultural venues from intimate cinemas, theatres, to performing art centres. Such as the POPArt Centre, a place where you go to watch a comedy show and end up seeing Mos Def. Yes, that really happened to me.
There are a large number of places to pick up some gorgeous African wares dotted all around the city. The fashion district is home to many shops and schools where you can buy and learn all things fabric and textiles. As I had neither the time nor the inclination to learn how to make clothes, I bought them instead! I was able to buy an already made dress, and had a jumpsuit tailored. I was walking around like the African Queen, I am.
Soweto is a township in the city, it is actually an abbreviation for South Western Townships. This was the home of two Nobel Peace Prize Winners; Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Both of these accomplished men lived on the same road, Vilakazi Street. No other place in the world can boast such a claim! A large part of the fight against apartheid was fought within Soweto, and as such is an important place in South African history. Walking through Orlando West, you can visit the different museums such as Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum and Nelson Mandela Museum commonly known as Mandela House. In my opinion, you can’t really get the full South African experience without coming here.
A REAL AFRICAN CITY
During my time there, I felt such a sense of belonging in Johannesburg. I was staying at a hostel in Maboneng where I was regularly referred to “sis”. It was a lovely feeling being so wholly welcomed in another African country. Everywhere I went, there were faces that looked like mine and were smiling right back at me. Definitely a joy to experience travelling as a black woman. Obviously, that did not happen near the financial district, as they never smile anywhere!
Johannesburg is both accessible and inaccessible. The posher, more gentrified areas obviously had great roads and pavements, such as the financial district. When you go to places with less money invested, the pavements are a lot more jagged and not as accessible. Meaning that wheelchair users may find themselves having to go onto the road to avoid accidents.
Many buses have ramps, as well as seat belts for wheelchair users to secure themselves in place. There are taxis available in the city, but none that are adapted to be wheelchair accessible. For those with manual wheelchairs, the drivers should help you un/load your chair.
The Gautrain is a golden accessible delight, and a jewel in Johannesburg’s transportation crown. The train is frequent and incredibly fast. It connects the OR Tambo Airport to major business districts and the Northern part of the city. It has step free access and specified seating areas for wheelchair users. But be warned, it does cost a pretty penny!
VISIT CAPE TOWN
Despite the name, Cape Town is a city, and a wonderfully natural city at that. Located by the coast, Cape Town offers the hustle and bustle of big city life, but is close enough to nature so that you can get away for the day. From the dizzying heights of the Table Mountain, to the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town has a lot to offer any visitor.
This beautiful flat topped giant can be seen from nearly everywhere in Cape Town. If you are feeling up to the challenge, you can climb to the top of this behemoth, but it is not for the faint of heart. For those that prefer to take it a little bit easier, you can relax and take a cable car all the way up. The view of the city from Table Mountain is simply unparalleled, you can even see as far as Robben Island on a clear day. Throughout the city, and even on the island itself, you have giant frames that allow you to take pictures with Table Mountain.
You cannot mention the history of South Africa without referencing late President Nelson Mandela. It was here on Robben Island that he was jailed for 27 years, fighting for justice. A tour of Robben Island Museum takes you on a journey through the hardships that Mandela and other freedom fighters faced. A visit here will illustrate the struggle faced by many South Africans on the road to a more united nation. This former prison, now converted to a living museum is a must see.
Being a port city in the Southwestern region of the country, you are able to enjoy all the things that come along with its location. Such as Boulders Beach, which is home to a large penguin colony, a few of whom live for the camera. You can have some amazing seafood, that you know won’t have travelled far to get to your plate. Or spend the best part of the day at the V&A Waterfront shopping mall, with many restaurants, tourist attractions and even an aquarium!
From my experience, Cape Town is much more accessible than Johannesburg in terms of transportation. The MyCiTi transport network was built with accessibility in mind. The buses on the network have space on board to accommodate wheelchairs, as well as ramps that allow level access on and off the buses. The MyCiTi stations have large fare gates that are big enough for wheelchair users, buggies, and those with large pieces of luggage.
I found the pavements to be in much better condition, and didn’t spot any loose tiles. Of course, I didn’t venture beyond the tourist areas, so it may be a different case on the outskirts. There are some areas where there was a large step from the road to the pavement. So it could be possible that you may need to travel a bit further up the road to get sloped access from the pavement to the road and vice versa.
SO WHICH SOUTH AFRICAN CITY, JAY?
I loved both cities for very different reasons. The natural beauty of Cape Town and it’s surroundings is simply unmatched. But the feeling of belonging in an African city, I only felt when I was in Johannesburg. So I say, choose both! South Africa has so much to offer, so don’t just limit yourself to just these two cities, see it all!
Mainstreaming Disability was an LSE talk that I was invited to be a part of earlier in the week, organised by the LSE Student Union. They sought to ask the important question of how we as a society could make change and actually make positive steps in mainstreaming disability. I had been invited to be one of the speakers at this talk late last year. This was an exciting opportunity for me, as I have wanted to be invited to more talks such as this one. While I am known and brand myself as the disabled black woman who travels around the world solo, I wanted more.
It is important for me to be seen as an expert voice in my field, as this is a lived experience for me. Here at home in London, and whenever I am abroad. Even though I may not always talk about it, I do notice the differences in treatment, expectations of those with and without disabilities. Obviously not having all the answers, I felt that I had something important to say in regards to the mainstreaming disability topic. I was thankful for the invitation to give my views.
Mainstreaming Disability: The Panel
I was part of a panel for the talk, and joined by three disabled men. Daniel Holt (far left) is an equality and human rights activist and aspiring to be human rights lawyer. He spoke about the topic focusing on the subjects of disability, relationships and sex. I felt that his talk was very powerful and an important one to have with the audience. The desexualisation of those with disabilities, and the added layer of vulnerability disabled people face is not discussed enough.
Ashley Otu (second left) is a current LSE student doing his Masters at the university. His talk was the most interactive, as he illustrated growing up with autism through superhero films. He incorporated a scene from the Superman film, and one from the Captain America film. Listening to him gave me (and I’m sure the audience) a bit more of an understanding about this invisible disability.
Josh Hepple (next to me) is a law graduate, a commentator, activist and disability equality trainer. I learned so much from Josh, with all the facts and figures he included in his talk. He discussed the social model of disability. Tackling the issue that it is actually the society around the disabled person that makes people disabled. He considered the language used when referring to disability vs. impairment.
Mainstreaming Disability: How Do We Make Change?
The focus of my talk was less to do with numbers and statistics, as I took a more personal approach. I talked about the experiences that I had growing up with an obvious physical disability. And how I dealt with that through the years. I discussed my travels, and where I felt more accepted as a disabled person. I believe that in order to make a lasting change and actually mainstreaming disability, we must always look at the person first. Connecting with one another on the human level will only show that we aren’t all that different.
There was a Facebook Live video of the talk, which you can watch and listen to here
Apart from the usual technical difficulties, I had a great time at the panel. I was greatly supported by four of my friends being able to attend, and take the obligatory photos! I want to be involved in more panels, so please reach out to me via my contact page.
Antwerp has so much to offer that I had to separate it into two posts! You can find the first Antwerp post here. So let’s not waste any time and dig right into part two of this fabulous little city!
Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) is a very unique museum, and unlike any that I have ever been to on my travels. Located by the docks in the hip neighbourhood of Eilandje, it towers over the surrounding boats and buildings. The different floors are stacked on top of one another like building blocks. I really enjoyed my visit, as each floor is dedicated to a different theme. Ranging from life, Antwerp, food, and even death. The museum is accessible to the 9th floor, but there are some steps to get you all the way to the top. There is a a lift from the ground floor to the 9th, however, you need a staff pass to be able to use it. That was the downside for me, as I always needed someone to go with me. So I just used the escalators after a while.
You can only access the top floor via stairs (around 34 steps) for the panorama view. However, for people unable to get to top floor of MAS, you are able to use the side terrace on 9th floor. While not as spectacular as the rooftop, you still get some pretty gorgeous views. This is also the location of the ‘t Zilte restaurant. This two Michelin star restaurant is always fully booked, so you have to make reservation in advance!
Antwerp Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of Our Lady is absolutely stunning. At a great height of 123 metres, it is the tallest Gothic building in the Low Countries. The cathedral has 4 different Rubens paintings housed within its walls. This is especially great for those that don’t have time to visit Rubenshuis. The artworks are translated into a few different languages, great for non Dutch speakers. You may find the front door really heavy to get through, but Antwerp cathedral is accessible once you got inside. There is a wheelchair at the front that can be loaned for people that can’t stand for long periods of time. Plus there are loads of seats everywhere else. Thank God for pews, eh?
The inaccessible places are the crypt (because it has to be built underground, for obvious reasons) and the front altar as there are steps there. But you can still get a very good view of the Rubens painting from the side angle. Having been there myself, I do have a warning for those on crutches; there are big gaps where light fixtures are stored near the giant columns. Big enough for a crutch to accidentally go through and cause injury. So be careful!
A very short walk away from the Antwerp Cathedral is the Grote Markt, or the Great Market Square. The cobble stoned square is situated in the historic old town district of Antwerp, and features the famed Brabo Fountain in the centre. The sculpture shows the legendary Brabo, who is said to have cut off the hand of a giant and thrown it into the nearby Scheldt river. The surrounding area is also home to stunning Antwerp City Hall, as well as a large number of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
Apart from the slightly larger cobblestones, I found this area to be very accessible. The whole city of Antwerp is pretty flat, so there are no large hills to contend with, which is always a plus. However, when it did rain I had to be mindful not to slip on the very smooth stones, that had been polished by years of rainfall and foot traffic. It is a really pretty place to spend the afternoon, as you’re so close to everything but you can still take your time.
Antwerp Botanical Gardens
Botanical gardens are very pretty places in general, but obviously much better when they are accessible. The Antwerp botanical gardens were a dream, with ramps everywhere and plenty of seating with benches galore. Like the Grote Markt, this is also a lovely part of Antwerp to just relax and let the day pass by slowly. As it is not as well known as the market, you will find fewer people here, and will more likely bump into a local than a tourist. Please note that the greenhouse is only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.
As I’d said in a previous post, I found Antwerp to be an accessible city. It is the compactness of Antwerp that makes it so easy to get around, and allows you to see so much in a short space of time. Here is my guide on all the amazing places you can (and should) visit in this gorgeous city.
I arrived in Antwerp via train from Amsterdam. I decided to visit Antwerp instead of staying in Amsterdam, as I’d been to the city many times. Travelling to the city using the train is the best option, as you already have a sightseeing option right there in the station. Antwerp Centraal is well located in the middle of the city, and is worth a look around. It is an absolutely gorgeous station, and is also referred to as the Railroad Cathedral. The interior mixes the old with the new, and it’s such a delight to see. American newspaper ‘Newsweek’ considered it one of the most beautiful stations in the world. And for good reason, I had such a great time exploring it, but it was also accessible, as there was an abundance of lifts, ramps and escalators.
The Antwerp Zoo is located right besides the station, located at the Koningen Astridplein exit of the station. It means that even if you are only in Antwerp for a very short time, you still have an opportunity to experience one of the tourist hotspots without worrying about missing your train! Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest and best known zoos in Europe. What’s even better is that it is an accessible dream; everywhere is accessible via wheelchair. So, guests with special access needs are able to enjoy their visit, without missing anything. For those that cannot walk very far, the have wheelchairs that can be loaned out to guests that require them. Give as much notice as you can, so that you have a chair available to you. Those that are travelling with a disability, you and your companion are entitled to a cheaper ticket. Which means you have more money to spend on a plush animal toy, or just buy more Belgian chocolates!
Meir & Stadsfeestzaal
A short metro ride away from Antwerp Zoo, and you will find yourself in Meir. This very long and very large shopping street has all the international favourites, as well as some local brands. While the area is cobbled, it is flat and smooth throughout, ensuring that everyone, disabled or otherwise, has equal opportunity to part with some cash in exchange for new goods. As Meir street is so long, there is very little chance that you won’t get pulled into a store.
Or better yet, the department store Stadsfeestzaal. The interior is reminiscent of the opulently decorated Galleries Lafayette in Paris, meaning lots of gold everywhere. There are many kiosks in the main atrium of the hall, as well as larger stores to the sides on the ground and top floors. This large space has lifts and escalators to all areas, as well as some restaurants on the top floor, with ramps included! It’s a great shopping centre that provides access to free WiFi.
Once you’re able to pry yourself away, you will not be too far from Rubenshuis. The famous Flemish painter actually lived in this museum for 25 years. The entrance to his house and the studio section has both stairs and a ramp. The downstairs part of his house and the studio are flat throughout, so should not pose an issue for those travelling with a disability. There are two floors available for viewing. However, owing to the fact that this was Rubens home for many years, they have been unable to make the 2nd floor accessible. To get upstairs, you need to be able to climb a rather narrow wooden staircase. I did not make the trip myself as I was able to see quite a lot from the lower floor. Including the gorgeous courtyard, complete with ramps to all areas and benches towards the back.
Depending on when you visit Rubenshuis, you will have the company of many school children on trips. So it may be wise to schedule a visit very early in the morning or much later during the day. Another point to note is that when you’re going from room to room, there is not that much space, so it would be advisable to go when the museum is less crowded. The museum staff were lovely and allowed me to sit on the chairs in the different rooms to rest my legs. The paintings and sculptures are described in English as well as Dutch. Which was lucky for me as my Dutch is limited to the rude phrases my friends taught me! A bonus point in Antwerp is that there is free wifi around main parts of the city. You can usually find it on your devices under “Antwerp free wifi”. It is an absolute Godsend for travellers and those that get easily lost like me!
As previously mentioned, Antwerp is a small city, but it has a lot on offer! So much on offer that I have decided to split it up into two posts. Otherwise, this just becomes a long love letter to a fabulous Belgian city! Here’s part 2!
Black travel events enthusiast? No doubt you have seen me a lot in the past few months. I have been going to a lot of black travel events or BAME travel events, after my long hiatus. Don’t get me wrong, I am a lover of all travel centred events and conferences. But there is something to be said for events that are catered to me and those that look/live like me. Here are the three latest black travel events I have attended, and how I found out about them.
The first of the three black travel events I went to this year was hosted by Women in Travel CIC. I had the pleasure of meeting the founder Alessandra Alonso at my very first WTM. Even though I had missed a large portion of the Women in Travel event at WTM, I was lucky enough to catch the remaining 15-20 minutes. Speaking briefly with Alessandra, I loved and related with everything she was saying in regards to the presence of women within the industry.
Black history month is celebrated in October in the UK, and Alessandra was hosting an event featuring BAME Female Travel Entrepreneurs. The panelists above gave us all an insight into the reasons behind their travel focused businesses. They shared knowledge through their experiences in getting their businesses started, and how it’s not necessarily always a direct path. The atmosphere was one of solidarity and friendship. These were women that I could look to for assistance and inspiration, and I felt like I could truly just be around them.
After the session had finished, we had gone to a nearby pub and continued talking and trading life and travel stories. It just felt so fun talking to women from BAME backgrounds that were as travel hungry as I am. We bonded so well that I even created a WhatsApp group for all of us afterwards. It allows us to stay in contact, build networks, and find support both online and offline. Side note: If any BAME women reading this want to join, please do drop me a line via the contact page, we’d love to have you!
The second of my black travel events was hosted by Vivienne of Melanin Travel and Eulanda (yes, same as above) and her husband Omo of award winning travel website, Hey Dip Your Toes In. I had actually met Eulanda at another Women In Travel event hosted by Alessandra earlier in the year. So I am sure she was used to (read: tired of) seeing my face pop up everywhere.
Shades of Travel was a post WTM party, celebrating and highlighting the diverse voices that are present within the tourism industry. It was a fun event that allowed me to meet people from different sections of the travel world, and find out how they were getting their message out. Having been to the previous event, I was able to see some familiar faces and catch up. Plus, with free food and drinks, you know that I was always gonna be in attendance!
After the event had finished, I was walking towards the station with the lovely lady in green crouching down. Caroline is the founder of Travel Eat Slay, which is a travel apparel company. We had decided to collaborate and have a little filming session in Greenwich. We wanted to highlight our brands, see more of London and just generally have a good time. If you’re interested (of course you are), you can see me rocking their latest fashions on their IG page
The last of the black travel events I attended was hosted by Doyin and Hannah, creators of Black British Travel Meetup. Whenever you look online, the landscape of the black travelling experience is overwhelmingly American. BBTM was born to highlight and celebrate the travel escapades of black British travelers. The original venue had to be changed to accommodate the number of people that had expressed interest in attending. This tells you just how needed this event has been for a while. Having been to so many other black travel events, I recognised a lot of faces. The panelists were Vivienne of Melanin Travel (yes, I am sure she’s following me), Omo of HDYTI and Clé Hunnigan. Clé and Doyin run the Wind Collective and plan trips for travel obsessed millennials.
The evening was filled with fun and games, allowing us to find out a bit more about one another through travel BINGO! The winner received a solo flight to a destination in Europe. I was able to mingle and trade travel stories with new and familiar faces. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and introduced me to some amazing new people to follow on my Instagram. And actually got me over the 1,000 followers mark on IG, so yay, BBTM!
The panelists provided their tips for making travel work for you, and how they got their start. It had the authentic feel of a meet up. We were all there to learn from one another and enjoy each other’s companies. Hannah and Doyin have already announced that there will be another meet up in the new year, so watch this space! And make sure to follow them on IG and Twitter, so you don’t miss a thing.
“to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of on the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.”
Until a few years ago, I did not even know that there was a specific day dedicated to those with disabilities. Which, I should have found out much sooner considering the fact that there is a day for everything else, it seems. The IDPD has me thinking about the different experiences that I have had travelling with a disability.
Even though I could be on the same amazing trip as other people, there always seems to be an element of pity. The sad eyes, and the “bless your cotton socks” looks that get flung my way. It usually doesn’t bother me, but it can get annoying after a while. Like, just stop it. You see me out here living my best life and taking exceptional pictures in this wonderful place. Why ruin it with pitiful eyes and words about my disability? Enjoy the view and mind your business! It works wonders for your skin…
As you may have noticed, I am quite an adventurous young woman and will give most things a try. From bungee jumping to sky diving, I’ll try most things at least once. I am used to people presuming that I would not be able to do something because of my disability and already doubting me. Claiming to know my abilities better than me, so I really enjoy proving them wrong. However, there are certain instances where they were absolutely right, and I definitely should have listened. One such instance was when I was in Panama earlier this year. I found myself on my hands and knees up a mountain. Sometimes, you really should listen to Jorge.
While I wish it wasn’t, travelling is a privilege. Due to financial constraints, disability, familial obligations or anything else, it is not as easy for others to travel. I am always very aware of my privilege whenever I travel as a disabled, black woman around the world. Many that look like me, come from similar circumstances are not afforded this luxury, and I never intend to take it for granted. I travel so much, not just so that I may see the world, but so that the world can also see me. There needs to be more people of diverse backgrounds that are seen globetrotting, and I will definitely do what I can!
The attitudes of people around the world towards me and my disability differs from place to place. In more Western countries, there have been stares but people are less likely to come up to me and question me. Whereas I received more questions in African countries and when I was in India. The most surprising reactions that I received was during my trip in India last year. As I have a very obvious and visible disability, I am used to the stares. However, I was not allowed to pay for many tourist attractions that I visited, I was ushered right through. While I tried to tell them that I was fine with paying, as the exchange rate was heavily in my favour, they weren’t having any of it. Any extra money that I had left was given to nearby homeless people or used as tips.
Whether at home or abroad, my disability is seen as a symbol of inspiration. Me boldly defying the odds and living life, anyway. It’s not like I have much choice, but thank you random person. However, unless you are going to contribute to my travelling fund, I’d be alright without knowing how much I inspire you. Thanks.