I’ll preface this by stating that I am no where near as prolific a writer as our hero Lou. This was a historic trip for me, my wife, and 2 of our 4 kids as we can now claim that we have been to all 4 Disney Parks throughout the world. My two youngest missed out on Tokyo Disney when I was living in Tokyo, as they were not yet born! But my favorite resort will always be Walt Disney World in Orlando as it represents my childhood memories of Disney. Therefore I make several comparisons to WDW.
Day 1 (Tuesday November 23rd)
Arrived at Disneyland train stop after riding the Eurostar train from London at about 3pm. For those of you who are familiar with Disneyland Paris, the train stop puts you right at the entrance to Downtown Disney, Disneyland Park and Disney Studios. My plan was to run down to the ticket counter and purchase two day passports for both parks. I left the wife and kids back at the train stop with all the luggage as we needed to catch the Hotel Bus to the hotel from the train stop. I figured I could save some time by getting the tickets for the next 2 days to avoid queing for tickets in the AM. I returned about 20 minutes later not with 2 day passports but with annual passes. I kept thinking my wife’s going to kill me but hey it’s Disney and we’re on vacation in Paris! It only cost me 80 Euros more total for annual passes for 6, plus it gave us more flexibility while in Paris (not to mention a perfect excuse for coming back soon!). Caught the bus to the Holiday Inn at the stop (very similar to the bus system in use at WDW). 15 minutes later we were checked in at the hotel. Of course, instead of settling in for the evening like we had planned, it was off to the Magic Kingdom for the night – hey did I mention I bought season passes!
The Park really looked beautiful with all the Christmas lights and music. My first impressions were that it was very similar to Main Street in Tokyo and Disneyland more so than WDW. It is substantially smaller than WDW. No matter – it felt as though I was home. Everything felt very familiar yet slightly different.
We headed straight for Discovery Land (Tomorrowland) for my favorite ride – Space Mountain. Looks more futuristic than WDW as it is colored Gold and has lots of Earth tones and Neon lights. I prefer the traditional white covered look though. The ride itself is way cool with 2 inversions! The height restriction only allowed for my two oldest daughters to ride with me (actually only 1 is really tall enough but the second one slipped thru the system!) The rockets are different as well – side by side seating vice tandem style, and they could fit about 40 or so in one shot vice only 6.
Star Tours was next – Rex and C3PO speaking French. The kids thought that was pretty funny. Just like in WDW we seemed to blow past Endor every time. We then grabbed some quick chow at the Hyperion Cafe. It’s right next to Space Mountain and is done in the same futuristic look. It’s set up like a big ampitheater seating style as they have the Legend of the Lion King show several times a day here.
Very American style hamburger type fair and real French fries (OK we were in France and kids brought that one up). After dinner we all settled in right in front of the castle for the 7:30 pm Fantillusion Parade. The castle is spectacular looking all lit up in purple with several thousand purple “icecycle” types lights as well. The parade looked and felt very similar to the Main Street Electrical Parade minus the “elelectical Parade” synthesized music. I have several photos that I will post. After the parade it was down Main Street for some shopping and then back to the Hotel for an evening of indoor pool swimming. During the Christmas season it “snows” on Main Street every half hour for a few minutes – just like at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! (You’ll notice that I make references to WDW a lot because that’s what I’m most familiar with.) It was then back to the hotel where we all went swimming (indoor pool!).
This should have been our first day in the Park, but since we spent a few hours the first night in the Park, it was day 2 Anyway, we were early of course and were at the base of the castle at the “rope drop”. Straight thru the castle to Fantasyland. The park was empty, and we were able to ride on everything with no wait what so ever. It was very cold and clear, so it was nice to ride on the indoor rides. The rides were identical to what I could remember. Dumbo seems to be rather popular, no matter what park you ride it in. Peter Pan of course was in French, and “flying” over London had new meaning to us since we live in London! Many of the characters were available and all the kids got many autographs with virtually no crowds. Mickey was especially accommodating! I felt especially blessed to be able to ride “It’s a Small World” as I know it’s under rehab in WDW. It is more like IASW in Disneyland than WDW (it has the same façade as Disneyland). There was also some interactive touch screen computer activities for the kids at the end of the ride at the exit area in which you could communicate with others in different languages.
OK now, I’m kind of foggy on where we all ate but we didn’t starve so I’m sure we ate somewhere. Lou, I do remember scouting for turkey legs as the next day was Thanksgiving, and I wanted my turkey. I’m sad to report that turkey legs don’t exist in Disneyland Paris and if they do I couldn’t find them.
In the late afternoon, we headed off to Adventureland and (start singing Lou – Frontierland). In these two Lands we went on Pirates of the Carribean – French speaking Pirates! And the Phantom Manor (aka Haunted Mansion – narrated in French of course). The Manor was similar, in most regards, but the big difference comes at the end – it’s the same ghoul riding on all the cars. Big Thunder Mountain was about the same as WDW. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril was a unique ride that I do’t recall anywhere else. It is a backward riding rollercoaster which was very similar to Big Thunder Mountain with two looping inversions. Very cool. I was hoping to see the Country Bears but there is no venue at DLP. Bummer. I have video of the Bears from Japan singing in Japanese, and it is very funny. I was hoping to see it in French. Also notably missing was Splash Mountain – probably for the best as it was pretty bitterly cold out. Of course after eating again somewhere after popcorn and other goodies, we settled in for the Fantillusion Parade for the second night in a row. You always seem to notice more details the second time around. Day 2 complete. Same as day 1 – back to the hotel for a swim.
Day 3 (Happy Thanksgiving)
Early start again but this time it was off to MGM Studios. It is within walking distance from the Magic Kingdom front gate. Of course, the first thing we (me and my oldest daughters) did was head to RnR starring Aerosmith. We rode that twice while DW and two smaller ones rode Aladdin’s Flying Carpets. RnR was awesome and very much like in WDW. The most notable difference is that there are many more stage lights and less glowing neon roadsigns – I kept looking for any sighting of the I-5 to no avail. After RnR we checked out Armagedon Special Effects. I had no idea what to expect, and it was very cool – I wouldn’t recommend it for younger ones but it felt like you were on a space station with asteroid fragments bombarding you. I don’t want to say more than that in order not to ruin the uncertainty for those of you that may go on this one day – the uncertainty was half of the suspense. After that we all hooked up for the Backlot studio tram tour. Catastrophy Canyon was the highlight. I have not been on this ride anywhere else, so I don’t know how similar it is elsewhere. Jeremy Irons and a French celebrity narrate the tour via plasma screen TVs on board the tram. The kids enjoyed having “Scar” as there guide. The cold and the Fog were both in full swing. Visibility was down to about a quarter mile. So after the tram ride we headed inside for some hot chocolate.
The main Street in MGM is in doors which was a blessing on this frigid day. I’ll post a photo of that as well. We then took in an indoor show at Cinamagique. A very funny and entertaining show centered on the big screen but also involving live action cast members and some stage special effects – once again I don’t want to give too much away as the unknown was half the fun of the show.
We are not huge MGM fans in WDW, so we decided we had seen and done all we wanted to here in Paris, so we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving lunch by heading over to the Disney Village and Planet Hollywood. It is within walking distance of MGM and the Magic Kingdom. We sat under a huge F-18 jet which was used in the movie Independence Day, which was awesome as I fly the F-14 Tomcat Fighter jet. Happy thanksgiving – the service was awesome and everyone ate their fill – not as expensive as I thought it would be either.
After lunch (and it was getting pretty late) we went back to the magic kingdom to re-ride all our favorites. A cool ride this evening was Phantom Manor – the fog was still very thick, and it really added spookiness to the attraction! The kids seemed to take a liking to Star Tours – I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I just bought the Trilogy on DVD and we’ve all been watching the movies. They especially like the fact that Rex seems to be a bumbling pilot. They hope their Dad is better! After a quick bite of chili for dinner (I know non Thanksgiving traditional, and as I said before I was bummed that I couldn’t find any Turkey Legs, Lou) we headed back to Disney Village for some shopping. By the way – annual passes get you 10% off all purchases, so it was beneficial for us to get them (plus now I have an excuse to go back).
We spent all day in downtown Paris getting oriented. The real thrill was going to the top of the Eiffel Tower! It was cold and somewhat foggy again. After spending the entire day in Paris, it was back to the train and our hotel and since the train drops you off right in front of DLP – what else? – some RnR/Star Tours/Space Mountain and Honey I Shrunk the Audience – Same presentation but in French. They do have a few rows with English translation headsets but the main theater volume overpowers the headsets. No matter – you know the story line.
Another day in downtown Paris for some culture. The Louvre, the Mona Lisa the Arc de Triomph and Notre Dame. We went up to the top of Notre Dame and saw the Bells. It looked just like Disney’s animated version, and I kept expecting to run into Quasi, and I half expected the gargoyles to come to life with Jason Alexander’s voice (I know – more Disney references). Back to the hotel for a restful night after watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. The next AM it was back on the Eurostar for a 2 ½ hour trip back to London.
My overall impression is that Disneyland Paris is awesome! It is substantially smaller than WDW but every bit of the Disney magic you would expect. You can still get very tired walking but you can cover more ground in a very short period of time. There were no fireworks when I was there, and I missed that, and I wished the Parks were opened later at night. Magic Kingdom closes at 8pm while the studios closed at 6pm during the winter season. The Cast Members were nothing short of spectacular. They were very helpful and all spoke English very well. I find that if you go out of your way to try to learn others’ culture and to speak their language (even just a few phrases) they will go the extra mile for you as well. I know I’ve left out a bunch of stuff, but like I said, writing 101 was never my forte.