You may recall hearing fireworks and confetti going off in my little blogging corner at Christmastime, when my better-half surprised me on Christmas morning with a trip to Disneyland Paris. Between one thing and another, I had not had the opportunity to visit the Parks since March 2010, and I had been feeling decidedly ‘homesick’ for my beloved castle. Well, the countdown began immediately and now, before I know it, I’ve been and gone and the whole thing is like the very best kind of dream. I’ll do my best to tell you all about it while it’s still fresh in my mind and I’m still swaddled in that post-Disney glow.
Last Wednesday, January 18th, was D-Day. Before I begin in earnest, I’d better introduce you to Keith. You’ll be hearing a lot about him.
He is my very own Prince Charming, and the one who booked this trip. Our flight was the earliest one to Paris from here, at 11.00am, which meant that with a flight time of just under two hours, we would have most of the day to spend in the Studios that afternoon. Or so we had hoped!
While our flight was lovely (including celebratory champagne and cake!) and super-efficient, landing us at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 1.30pm local time, we hadn’t bargained on the Disney bus. The last time I’d gotten the Disney bus was four or five years ago, and I remembered it as being a speedy, if expensive, service. (The Disney bus is €18 per adult, one way.) On every trip since, we’d been travelling with others and instead had hired a car to take us to our hotel, as it made far more financial sense that way. As it was just the two of us this time, we decided to take the bus, and followed the signposts to where we had caught it in the terminal a few years ago. The bus comes around every 45 minutes, and we had a half hour wait before ours arrived.
All was fine and dandy, until the bus driver stopped a little outside the terminal, and unceremoniously booted Keith and I, and one other family who had caught the bus with us, out with our bags and baggage. This, apparently, had been the bus TO the bus. A pre-bus to the real bus, if you will. Here, we had to wait for another half hour before the second bus trundled up to take us to Disneyland.
Before you think I’m one of those horrendously moany travellers, I’ll be the first to admit that this was just a minor hiccup. The bus service is great, and this is just something that had changed since the last time we had availed of this service, which was, admittedly, quite a while ago. I don’t mind waiting, not in the slightest, but this is definitely something that people should be aware of and should factor in to their plans. With a 1.30pm landing time, I’d anticipated an entire afternoon in the Studios, but this little game of musical buses meant that with a transit time of approximately 45 minutes, it was just after 4.00pm when we got to our hotel, on-site.
After a super-speedy check-in with a great cast member, we paid a flying visit to our room to dump our bags and then caught the shuttle bus to the Parks from outside the hotel. This is a fantastic service which visits almost all of the Disney hotels. The hotels advertise a regular shuttle bus every 12 minutes, but I’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes between buses. They are a brilliant facility and with these, the Parks are literally only minutes away.
As we only had two nights, I was determined to hit the Walt Disney Studios first and save our only full day for the Disneyland Park itself. Generally speaking, you can get around to all of the major attractions in the Studios in just half a day, if the queues aren’t too crazy. We had one and a half hours, before they closed at 6.00pm, to squeeze in as much as was humanly possible. On your marks… Get set… GO!!
After the obligatory ooh-ing and aah-ing and photographs in the Front Lot, the new Toy Story Playland was our first port of call. This was a new addition since our last visit, and since Keith is a self-professed Toy Story nut, this was something we’d both been dying to see. It didn’t disappoint!
An enormous Buzz Lightyear stands sentry at the entrance, welcoming all who visit. The sheer size of Buzz meant that we had to stop and get a picture, at which he boomed: ‘If you’re taking a photograph of me, be sure to get my good side!’ Utterly brilliant. We couldn’t stay and play with Buzz for too long though, as there was lots to do and not enough time to do it in!
The Toy Story Playland is sheer Disney magic. The giant Buzz is but a precursor of the huge toys scattered around at varying intervals, making visitors feel as if they are the toys in the coolest playroom I have ever seen. Super-sized coloured fairy lights are strung overhead, lighting the paths and our fellow visitors as dusk began to fall on Paris. Our first port of call was the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, which is based on the soldiers parachuting from the staircase on Andy’s birthday in the first Toy Story movie, and is every bit as awesome as it sounds. In typical Disney style, even the queuing area is so much fun, with life-size green soldiers dotted about to keep order. One soldier mans a gigantic baby monitor – just in case Andy makes an unexpected appearance! There was virtually no queue, and so we did the Disney duck and dive, scooting under the queue ropes and jumping the railings, until we got to the top and could hop into our six-seater ‘parachute’. Seconds later, we were zooming through the air until we could see right over the entire Park!
This is a great ride – it basically goes up and down as parachutes and seats are tethered to the central pole. It affords stunning views of the Park, but I personally think it’s very kiddie-friendly – it goes up very high, hitting 80 feet at its highest point, but not so fast that it’d scare anybody, and it’s not jerky or frightening like these drop-rides usually are. With a quick stop to grab some photographs in front of the parachute backdrop, it was onwards and upwards!
The next ride we encountered was the Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin, another kiddie-friendly ride with a mini-rollercoaster theme. Slinky Dog is joined nose-to-tail and runs in a circle, sliding up and down at points. As time was ticking by, we didn’t stop for Slinky, hoping to get back later, as the RC Racer ride loomed beyond.
The RC Racer is definitely not one for the small kiddiewinkles, but is about a thousand times more fun than I expected it to be. It’s quite simple in layout – a semi-circular, u-shaped orange Hot Wheels track, on which Andy’s favourite racing car goes back and forth. Simple, in theory, but mind-blowing in practice! Again, the queue was non-existent, but this one wasn’t so easily skippable, as the queuing area actually follows a winding racing track. We ran the length of it, and wow, it’s long! I can only imagine the length of time you could spend queuing there on a busy day.
One thing I loved about this ride was the fact that there are containers in each row of seats for bags. I love rollercoasters and thrill rides, but usually have to wedge my bag between my legs, wrap the straps around my wrist and hope for the best. (And before you say it, not bringing a bag simply isn’t an option. I’m a girl. I need things.) We might be way behind the times and you guys might be used to this in the US parks, but it’s a new development here and one that I am seriously impressed with.
This ride only lasts a minute, but it’s a scream-out-loud minute. Riders end up at a ninety degree angle to the ground, both backwards and forwards, as you zoom back and forth on the track. What can I say?? Brilliant! Both Keith and I loved it, and would have jumped right back on only for the racecourse to be navigated in between. We didn’t have precious minutes to spare, running around a track to get back to the start of the ride! Instead, we decided to pay a dino-sized Rex a visit, before waving ‘goodbye’ to the monkey-banner and moving on to the rest of the studios.
With half an hour to go before closing, Crush’s Coaster was next on my list. I had only been on this ride once before and I can’t tell you how much I love it! The whole underwater theme is nothing short of spectacular on this one – zooming along the East Australian Current on the back of a turtle shell is officially my favourite thing to do at the Studios! Again, I love the queuing area for this ride – we were able to bypass the empty outdoor queue and get straight indoors, where you could easily be on an Australian harbour at sundown. Two seagulls overlook the queue, flapping their wings and periodically shouting, ‘Mine! Mine!’ There were a quite a few people waiting for this one, but we weren’t in line for any longer than ten minutes before we were in that turtle shell and whizzing along the E.A.C., through jellyfish, bubbles and all sorts of underwater creatures.
Bidding Nemo and Crush a hasty goodbye, we had ten minutes ‘till closing. Ten minutes in the Studios – what would you do?! Keith and I could not leave the Studios without riding The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We hot-footed it across the lot and were literally the last people in the doors for the last ride of the day, squeezing in by the skin of our teeth!
Now, I have a love/hate relationship with the Tower of Terror. It always seems like a great idea, until I’m actually in the queue and I realise I have to go through with it. This is what I usually look like at that point:
I adore thrill rides, so it’s not just the 160 foot drop that bothers me, but the story that goes with it. The part of my brain that is supposed to register that these things are not actually real doesn’t seem to work very well. It’s why I’m so terrified (and thrilled) by visiting the Dragon in her underground dungeon. I find myself becoming very much caught up in the spookiness of it all, and no matter how many times I tell myself it’s a ride, I still never quite believe that I’m not going to be dragged into the underworld by some demented ghost family. Anyhow, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how the Tower takes your breath away – and looking out over the Park from the top, into the inky blackness of a Parisian night sky, made it all the more electrifying!
That was it; that was all we could squeeze from the Studios before the gates clanged shut. Usually, we would also make sure to visit the Studio Tram Tour, Armageddon and the Aerosmith Rock’n’Roller Coaster on a Studios visit. In any case, the Tram Tour was closed for maintenance, but we have done each of those at least five times, so we didn’t mind missing out too much.
The Disney Village was our final port of call for the night, where we went to the Rainforest Café for some fantastic food and non-stop entertainment. (And by entertainment, you know I don’t just mean the storms and the animals, but the reactions of unsuspecting diners when a gorilla perched above their head decides to go ape.)
Steak was on the menu for both of us, and was cooked to perfection with a delicious pepper sauce. A glass of rosé wine was the perfect complement to the meal, and I finished with the most incredible crème brûlée (and what I could steal of Keith’s chocolate cake when he wasn’t looking!).
After a stroll around the shops in the Disney Village, we hopped on the shuttle back to our hotel, ready for Disney dreams and rope-drop at the Park the following morning. Day One: buses and parachutes, gorillas and dinosaurs, aeroplanes and elevators, steak and cake, turtles and terror. All in all, a resounding success!
To be continued…