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Disneyland, Paris

sleeping beauty castleI can say, hand on heart, that I never thought I would find myself at Paris’ Euro Disney; the manufactured tourist tacky factor had turned me off without a second glance. When (for a surprise anniversary) I was brought here I must admit to enjoying myself rather more than I thought I could. The designers’ of Disneyland Paris really planned everything down to the last detail, and only having Staffordshire’s Alton Towers in which to compare it, I escaped into a world of fantasy the moment I walked towards the entrance gates.

There are a number of ways to get to Disneyland Paris, including the Eurostar. We caught the RER bus from Paris, which takes you to Chessy – the furthest reaches of the outermost suburb. Although it was a spring Wednesday (bright, sunny and very warm), the train was virtually empty and by the time I reached Chessy only a tiny handful of passangers were heading towards Euro Disney, which I took to be a good thing. Having booked our tickets online, we had to enter via a special gate on the far right of the entrance, and then panic kicked in when passports had to be presented. My passport was already looking tatty from keeping it in my pocket too often, and I wasn’t sure I had a photocopy with me (or even if a facsimile was acceptable). Riffling through my bits and pieces some little passport sized photographs of myself caught a wispy breeze and floated away over the barrier. One of the entrance staff picked it up for me, and I wanted to explain it was not for reasons of vanity that I carried such pictures, but because the weekly Paris train passes required photo ID! With a sigh of relief, I found the passport copy, had my hand stamped with an ultra-violet readable ink and set foot into another world of simulacra and simulation.

mesa, big thunder mountain, frontierlandmain street usa, euro disneyThe entrance leads straight into ‘Main Street U.S.A.’ which was based upon Walt Disney’s own memories of growing up in Chicago Illonois, and forms a long avenue looking down towards the Sleeping Beauty Disney castle. Like most, I kept on walking to arrive at the rides. Main Street USA is something that can be visited later in the day, although it seems to comprise mainly of smaller commercial enterprises, and asides from admiring the facades I didn’t have the chance to venture inside. American’s (although not exclusively so) may be interested in the Liberty Arcade which can be found here. It details the history of the Statue of Liberty as France’s gift to the States.

I don’t know if it is because I am right-handed, or used to driving on the left in England, but I always have a natural inclination to bear left. When you reach the Disney castle, the different sectors of Euro Disney spread out in all directions. Bearing left will take you straight into Frontierland with the impressive rocky cropped Big Thunder Mountain looming out of a surrounding lake, complete with paddle steamer. Like rabbits caught in a car’s headlight, we headed straight towards the runaway mine train. At this point I had no idea either on queuing times, nor how runaway train, euro disneythe fast track option works (I will get to this later, as it’s rather neat and will save you much time). From the entrance the queue looked promisingly short, but this illusion was short-lived as the queue followed many twists and turns really giving you no clues as to when you might actually reach the runaway train. It would be a good ride to queue for on a wet day as it is all roofed and on a particular hot day (as I experienced), it provided comfortable shade. As I discovered was the case for nearly all the rides, the queuing experience had been well thought out, and there are many details and things to keep your interest as you move about the queue. You can tell Euro Disney was created on a high budget by the quality of the designs – even the boulders looked convincing when you got up close and personal, and was a league above the crude fibreglass creations at Alton Towers. Eventually we boarded the train, and the first thing that surprised me was the lack of storage for baggage; you basically take it on with you, which meant on some of the faster paced rollercoasters, I was putting my foot down through the strap of the rucksack, just in case G-force wasn’t doing its job. The Big Thunder Mountain, runaway train is not an extreme ride at all, and seemed to find appeal with young and old alike. Before the end of the day we took this ride twice, because between the scenery and views you cannot take it all in during one sitting. I highly recommend it.

terrapinspaddle steamer, euro disney

space mountain, euro disney, parisAfter the queuing experience of our first ride, we thought we’d better try the fast track option on Space Mountain, and so darted off to the opposite extreme of the Euro Disney, Discoveryland. Somewhat bizarrely for a major ride, the queuing time read as being five minutes, which made me wonder if everybody had deviated left upon entering the park. Obviously we forgot about trying the fast track option and went straight onto the ride. There was no actual queuing time, only the time taken to walk to the rollercoaster itself. Space Mountain is definitely one of the higher adrenaline rollercoasters Disneyland captain hook, euro disney parisParis has to offer, and whilst recommending it to adrenaline junkies, do take care of your head and neck. Between neck wrenching and ear bashings, the seat harness doesn’t offer the ultimate in comfort pour le tête. Also note that any bags will be going on this ride with you, and women may be asked to remove dangly earrings. At the end of the ride, expect everyone to race towards the photographs, looking to spot themselves, and take photos from the television screens with their digital cameras (complete with flash!) in a bid to avoid the extortionate photography costs.

Whilst here we popped into Captain Nemo’s submarine (Les Mystères du Nautilus), which isn’t a ride, but a themed attraction complete with giant squid. There was no queue, and it was well done, but not the most exhilarating amusement Paris’ Euro Disney has to offer. Kids may enjoy joining in with the adventures of Buzz Lightyear (armed with Laser pistol) whilst in Discoveryland, or driving a 1950’s car through cities and landscapes. Later in the day we returned to watch the 3-D rendition of ‘Honey, I shrunk the Audience’, which feature’s Monty Python’s Eric Idle and Rick Moranis from the original ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ film. The queue was relatively short, and you can pick up a pair of 3-D glasses, before piling en masse into a large entrance room with a number of doors leading through to the auditorium. With the attraction being sponsored by Kodak you’re forced to phantom ghost house, euro disneyendure several Kodak adverts on television screens translated into numerous languages before being allowed to enter. If you understand English, the two doors at the very bottom offer shorter queues nearer the front. For the French edition, you must enter via one of the other doors to receive a French translation of the film. The film comes with a warning for young kids and those with fears of snakes and rats. I hadn’t expected grown women to stand up and yell, and mothers to drag out tearful children, nor for the film to receive claps at the finale – this seems to be a French thing as I’ve noticed the same thing at the end of a cinema film in Paris on occasion. Some of the 3-D effects seemed lost on me. People gasped and stifled yells, reaching out to try and grab at illusions, whilst all I was getting was double vision, but perhaps my eyes just need to relax their focus as the 3-D experience kicked in a little later.

Eating

heronDespite this being Paris (kind of), cuisine is pretty much what you might expect from a theme park, i.e. fast (that’s fast as in pizza, chips, ice-cream etc. I found waiting to be served took a little longer). It’s a little overpriced and edible, but forgettable. If you have a bit more spare change in the pocket, go down to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride over in Adventureland, especially if it’s a wet day. The scenery is very atmospheric with glowing lanterns hung everywhere, and a Caribbean styled river with palm trees and pirates. We slightly regretted missing out on what seemed to be better quality food and ambiance.

Over in Adventureland, you can explore maze like caves and on a bright day you may find yourself stumbling around until your eyes adjust to the dim light. Some of the paths lead upwards towards bouncing wooden bridges. A climb up La Cabane des Robison (Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house), offers some of the best views of Euro Disney, and is remarkably realistic for an artificial Banyan tree. From here you can descend down towards Pirates’ Beach, with a nice view of a pirate ship and skull shaped rock. The two main attractions in Adventureland are Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. As you approach Indiana Jones it’s hard not to hum along to the theme music playing from concealed speakers. Only a couple of months ago I heard this music being played in the entrance of a National Trust property for a 15th century Moat House, which was slightly perplexing. After Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Temple of indiana jones and the temple of perilPeril is the next highest adrenaline rollercoaster Euro Disney has to offer, and as a result is a bit rough on the neck and head, but great fun (we took this ride twice). Again, any baggage you have will be going on the ride with you, so be warned. If you’re feeling a little tender when you get off, I recommend taking a short stroll over to Pirates of the Caribbean. Fortunately it’s not a typical dull pirate ship ride (which inevitably makes me vomit), and it’s not a high adrenaline rollercoaster, but a tranquil boat ride. My girlfriend told me they had it when she visited a few years ago, but it now has the Pirates of the Caribbean name and theme instead, although essentially it is same. Our lucky streak continued and we experienced a mere 5 minute queue, although walking to the boats, you could see on a busy day this ride has the potentially for a horrendously tiresome wait. There are some great props and scenes to keep queues entertained, but the light is very dim. I’m not sure if Euro Disney raise the temperature down pirates of the caribbeanin this subterranean attraction, but I had the distinct impression of being somewhere semi-tropical. The hanging lights, and palm tree make for a relaxing atmosphere and you really are transported away by imagination by this fantasy realm. The boats move slowly, and the ride was much longer than I had been anticipating. The animatronics are expertly done, and there’s so much detail to see and take in, that it is impossible to do on one trip alone (I took two!). It definitely ranked as one of my favourite attractions.

sleeping beauty castleFantasyland is very much orientated for children in mind, so I’m afraid I can’t offer too much insight into this part of Disneyland Paris. The Sleeping Beauty Castle that stands tall and proud as you walk through the Main Street Entrance, forms part of the Fantasyland sector, and you can explore some of the insides. The gift shops have a distinct Christmas feel, and in one we watched as a skilled glass blower created intricate glass objects. Upstairs you can view the Disney themed stained-glassed windows, and step out onto the balcony for better views of the theme park.

Euro Disney does have more to offer, and next door is the Walt Disney Studios Park, but this is a separate attraction and requires separate payment for entry. We opted to do some things twice, and miss others (mainly younger children’s attractions). You can certainly fill out an entire day here, and if you’re unfortunate to come at a weekend or bank holiday, I dare say you will not have time to do everything you have planned. This is where the Fast Track option comes into effect. 

fantasyland euro disney
Photo: Fantasyland, "It's a Small World", Euro Disney Paris

Fast Track

windmill euro disney parisThis ingenious option allows you skip any hefty queue that might monopolise much of your time at Euro Disney Paris. I was a little confused how it worked initially (but then I am easily confused by most things). On many of the more significant attractions, there is a special fast track ticket machine and queue (not necessarily in the same place). You sometimes have to wander around the edges of a ride to find it, but eventually you should see a machine where you can enter your ticket to receive a special fast track pass for that specific ride. The ticket will display a time, usually around an hour from the current time, and with a half-hour window or more, in which it can be used. Now I don’t believe you can run around the theme park collecting up lots of these fast-track tickets, and believe I’m right in saying you can only collect a new one once the previous fast track time has come about. When the allotted time slot appears, go to your ride, and again you may have to explore the edge of the attraction briefly, but you will eventually find the special fast track queue which will speed things up a great deal.

To visit the official website follow this link – Disneyland Paris

Disclaimer: Please note that all views expressed are solely my own based on a day’s visit to Euro Disney, Paris. The website and article is in no way supported, endorsed or connected to Walt Disney S.C.A. Disney Enterprises Inc. and their subsidiaries and affiliates.

 


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