|By Rebecca Angeli-Just
Special to the News-Sentinel
Lodi, CA, USA
"I have wanted to visit Paris since 1974 when I fell in love with a novel, "The Pursuit of Love," written by Nancy
I was diagnosed with MS in 1986, and as my mobility has decreased significantly, I thought maybe I had
waited too long to make a visit to France a success. Late last summer while having dinner with my friend
Carolynne and her daughters, I asked if they would be interested in going to Paris in 2008. They said yes, even
after I explained that traveling with a disabled person isn't always easy.
To my delight, a search on Google (what did we do before Google?) proved you can find almost anything on
the Internet. I typed in "Paris, disabled travel" and located Derek Guzman's "Paris on Wheels" Tour Service.
Guzman, an ex-pat American from New Jersey, facilitates tours of the sights of Paris and surrounding areas for
those of us using wheelchairs. Guzman even pushes the chair.
I e-mailed his Web site and he responded with the information I needed. For a reasonable fee, he would meet
us at our hotel and accompany us to the sights of our choice such as Versailles, Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
He also was able to recommend hotels with handicap-accessible rooms, restaurants, etc.
We arrived at Charles De Gaulle International airport at 1 p.m. CDG is a massive airport, but we were whisked
away and guided through its endless maze of escalators by efficient airport staff. We reached baggage claim
shortly, where I had arranged through Guzman to be met by a Ramp-Van Taxi that could accommodate my
scooter, wheelchair and all our luggage.
Guzman met us the next morning at 10:30 a.m. and we set off across the streets of Paris; Guzman pushing my
wheelchair and the rest walking. We ran into our first roadblock when the key to the handicap elevator couldn't
be located at the Metro station. It had been misplaced and it took a better part of an hour to hunt it down and
get me to the level — the Metro is Paris' underground public transportation — needed to continue our journey.
The key found, we made it to the train station and were soon on our way to the Palace of Versailles.
So far, Derek had managed to get all five of us on all public transportation without paying a euro. When we
arrived at Versailles, Derek was able to talk us into the handicap accessible entrance again without buying or
waiting in the horrendous line for tickets. We spent the next few hours transfixed by the art and grandeur of the
After another night of wonderful food and wine, Derek met us the next morning and this time we went shopping
and across town to the Eiffel Tower. On this excursion I thought I could use my electric scooter — I was wrong.
By the time we had completed shopping and had traveled across Paris, my battery was just about dead. We
took pictures of this amazing structure and then loaded my scooter and the rest of us into taxis and back to the
hotel, where we shared our late afternoon snack of wine, cheese, sausage and bread with Derek. The bread in
Paris is wonderful, the best I have ever had. He said that this repast was very "French."
Eventually, we made our way back to the airport and home with great pictures, memories and the plans for
other trips in the future."
"As my Dad is in a wheelchair, we were worried about getting around Paris and what we would be able to see
and do. My travel agent recommended Derek's company "Paris on Wheels". What a wonderful time he showed
us. We felt like a friend was showing us Paris. He did all the pushing and was nice and understanding with my
Dad, and even took the time to listen to all Dad's old war stories. My sister and I had time to sightsee and do
some shopping while Derek entertained Dad. I'm sorry we could only use him the one day, as we had already
booked other tours - none, by the way, as fun or as interesting as the ones we took with Derek. If we ever return
to Paris we will definitely use his services again, only this time for more then one day! If you are in need of
assistance and someone who speaks the language and knows Paris, I would highly recommend Derek."
Lyn and Don Backe
Annapolis, MD, USA
"My husband and I hope to include Derek Guzman on our vacations all over the world! We first used his
services in Paris for 4 of the 6 full days we were there. My husband is a large man in a manual chair; we hired
Derek to guide and to push, and it was worth every euro and then some. Derek knows Paris, he understands the
needs of the person in the fauteuil roulant, he is tireless, funny, and good company. His cheerful presence and
strength made all the difference to our vacation - he watched for potholes and pedestrians while Don and I
looked at Paris, and took a zillion pictures."
Debra Kerper, Easy Access Travel
Specializing in Travel for The Disabled
Corona, CA, USA
"My husband and I had learned about Derek's service last summer and decided to get in touch with him. We
spent 2 days with him going around the different neighborhoods of Paris and had an absolutely delightful time.
I'm an amputee and cannot walk long distances so I take a manual wheelchair everywhere I go. Derek was
great at "pushing" me around and telling us all about the marvelous sights and using the great public
transportation in the city. His love of Paris and everything it has to offer was quite contagious as was his
enthusiasm and abundant energy! The fact that Derek is fluent in French was a real plus for us. We definitely
plan on returning to Paris and using Derek's expertise to finish our sightseeing."