I‘m Luana, a friend of Patrick‘s. I‘m legally blind with a residual vision of roughly 5%. Like Patrick, I love travelling. So, it has been very clear to me for quite a while that I would use the summer between my Matura and starting at uni to travel.
An unexpected invitation
In February, I got back in touch with a former classmate of mine, Luca, who is spending a year working in Canada and invited me to visit him. Catching up with an old friend and doing my first overseas journey was a combination I certainly couldn‘t miss out on.
So, I quickly began looking for flights. The direct flights from Zurich are more expensive than those from Basel-Mulhouse, where you have to change planes. My mother wanted me to take a direct one and offered to pay the difference. Deal!
I also had to get a new passport, because my old one expired in June, and an eTA visa. The visa procedure was fairly easy. I had to fill in an online form (personal data, some health issues, criminal record…) and make a transaction of 69 CAD. Just minutes later, I had the confirmation in my mailbox. The visa was linked to my passport, so I didn‘t have to print it out or do anything else.
I was flying with Air Canada. They have a very handy app where you can manage your bookings, check in and download your boarding passes to. It works fine with VoiceOver too.
The journey to Canada
While waiting for my train to Zurich, I met a family I know who turned out to be heading for the airport too. So, we travelled there together, which was great because it was firstly much more interesting than a train ride on my own and they secondly also helped me find the meeting point for the assistance at the airport, what I especially am very thankful for, because it was not as close to the platform as I had expected. Also with the assistance things went very smoothly. I was allowed to board as the very first and a stewardess explained me all the security stuff personally and let me touch everything.
There was a board entertainment system, which, however, was with touch screen and I don‘t think it was in any way accessible. I managed to use it through magnifying the screen with the camera of my phone.
Also at Toronto Pearson airport everything went well with assistance. After I had gone through the customs check and got my suitcase, my friend Luca and his father picked me up right in the arrival area.
Two weeks in Canada
During the first week, we visited different places near Hensall, where Luca lives, like London, Clinton, Goderich, Grand Bend, and the Pinary Provincial Park, where we went canoeing. Most afternoons were spent at the beach, chilling in the sun and swimming in Lake Huron. This lake is twice the seize of Switzerland!
On Sunday, Luca and I set off for Niagara. Since the journey took about three hours, we stayed in a motel overnight. This allowed us to see the Niagara Falls beautifully lit at night.
Two days after returning from Niagara, we set off for Ottawa, a journey that contrary to the originally calculated six hours took us about nine. This was partly because finding the right streets near Ottawa was very challenging. I managed to help a bit by looking for places, street numbers and crossroads on the map (#blindGPS). To us as Swiss people Canadian distances were impressive every time again.
After having checked in to our hotel room, we went to have dinner and bought some postcards. The next day we did some sightseeing and bought more souvenirs. We have plenty of Canada shirts now, that‘s for sure.
From Ottawa we drove on to Toronto. Again, finding the way wasn‘t exactly easy, but the most difficult part was finding the hotel. We had booked a room via booking.com and the address that was given there was shown as being in the middle of a street on Google Maps. So, we asked around a bit. As I also figured out on other occasions, Canadian people are quite helpful. Finally, we managed to get to our room at 9 o‘clock. According to my calculations, however, we should have managed to at least three hours earlier. The next day, we did some sightseeing before returning to Luca‘s place. We visited the Royal Ontario Museum, where I was especially intrigued by all the dinosaur skeletons. We skipped the CN Tower, because – as we had learned from Luca‘s parents – it‘d have cost us 60 CAD each.
Back at Luca‘s place, we took the last days to relax a bit and go to the beach one last time.
Luca drove me to the airport and accompanied me until the assistance took me to the security check. Again everything went smoothly and I was also this time the first allowed to board.
In Zurich, I was picked up by an attendant of Careport (ZRH‘s assistance service), who helped me get my luggage and brought me down to the tracks from where on I continued my journey home by train.
To sum this up
It‘s been two absolutely great weeks. Besides meeting Luca again I especially enjoyed getting to see all the different places (big thanks to him for driving me everywhere, all these trips really were more than I could possibly have expected). It was very useful having a car at our disposal, since it made travelling certainly easier and more flexible. However, I don‘t know whether we could also have got from city to city via train or bus. It would cetainly be something worth checking out, I think, because especially if you only have one person able drive, that many and long car journeys can get quite exhausting for them. It is important to note, however, that you will hardly be able to get into more rural areas without a car. Public transport in North America is nothing like what we‘re used to here.