DISNEYLAND PARIS 2009
Carolyn (49) trip planner, complete Disney-aholic since 1989
DB (47) always been a Disney fan, but only fairly recently converted to the parks
DS (40) special birthday trip organised by the family
DD (26) my daughter, also Disney obsessed since 1989
Monday 14 September Friday 18 September 2009 (5 days, 4 nights)
TRAVEL METHOD :
Personal car / aeroplane / transfer
Disneys Santa Fe Hotel
EXPERIENCE OF DLP:
Carolyn 6th trip
DB 2nd trip
DS 1st trip welcome, newbie!
DD 6th trip
Planning for this trip began around August 2008, when the family began thinking about the best way to celebrate my sisters 40th birthday in February 2009, without actually telling her we were planning something special. We discussed booking a venue and having a family party, but decided that she wouldnt be too keen on that, as she doesnt like a lot of fuss. Then we discussed she and I going away together somewhere for the weekend, but we had already done that a couple of years ago, flying up to Edinburgh for a long weekend and having a huge amount of fun together, (including sampling whisky at 8.00 a.m. having just got off the plane, and whilst still at the airport!!). I then suggested what I thought she would really love a trip to Disneyland Paris, as she had never been there. As a family and separately we have been to Walt Disney World in Florida many times, as we all love it there, and when my daughter was younger we also made several trips to DLP on family holidays. Myself and DB had also been to DLP once before together, and he has been to WDW with me a couple of times. However, this trip was about my sister, and we were all in agreement that we were sure she would really love to visit DLP. We also decided that even though her birthday was in February, we would try to arrange the trip for later on in the year, and that way a very special birthday would be celebrated on more than just one day!
Therefore, I began scouring the internet and travel agents for the best deal I could find, and discovered that going in mid-September was nicely affordable. Hopefully, crowd levels wouldnt be too bad at this time as well, as UK schools all restart at the beginning of September after their summer break. An all-inclusive deal including flights seemed to be rather expensive, even booking through a travel agent with all the discounts they could offer, so I ditched the travel agent idea, split the package up, and began to price up a separate flights and hotel/park ticket deal, booking them myself. We have previously stayed at both the Santa Fe and the Sequoia Lodge, and whilst the Sequoia Lodge was our favourite, we reckoned that for somewhere to just sleep and leave our stuff, the Santa Fe would do nicely, as it is more competitively priced than the Lodge, thus giving us more money to spend in the parks!
By the beginning of 2009 I was finding really good deals on both flights and hotel/tickets packages, so I therefore rang the Disney booking line and booked 2 double rooms, preferably connecting or at least adjoining, with park tickets, (and breakfast is also included). Total for this (for all four of us) was 922.68, with their extra day & night free offer. I then scoured the internet for the best flight deal, flying from Birmingham Airport (in the UK) to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, (total flying time just over an hour). Flybe came up with the best price, which, after taxes and paying for luggage (can you believe that?!), came out at 100 each. I duly booked these flights. We fly out at 6.30 a.m. (ugh) and return on the Friday at 9.30 p.m. It had already been agreed amongst the family that we would all share the cost of DSs trip between us, as her birthday treat.
DSs birthday arrived in February, and we all bought her little gifts to unwrap. I printed off a made-up invitation from Belle, (her favourite Disney character), for DS to join Belle at DLP on 14 September 2009 for a special 5-day birthday celebration. I then folded this up and hid it inside a kids Beauty & the Beast book, which I wrapped up in jolly paper. I had already previously bought her a gorgeous Belle photo frame/figurine, which also had a tiny snowglobe on it, so I wrapped that up too. (Got it during a trip to WDW in December 2008). The weekend after her birthday, we went round to see her and gave her the gifts. She loved the Belle photo frame, but looked a bit puzzled when she unwrapped the book until she opened it and found the invitation. Then she cried. Ah maybe not quite the reaction I was looking for! Anyway, she seemed to have trouble believing that we were actually going I had to keep reassuring her that we really were!
Nothing to do now then but wait . and wait
DAY MINUS 22 SUNDAY 23 AUGUST 2009
Planning meeting @ parents house, over lunch, with all parties present!
Had a great meeting, discussed plans for Sunday 13 September, and decided we all need to stay overnight at mum and dads house, as they live very close to the airport and we need to start out ideally by about 4.15 a.m. on Monday morning. We also discussed finer details such as holiday insurance, exchange rates for the Euro, what clothes to take etc. At the end of the day, we went off happy and excited!
DAY MINUS 1 SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2009
After panto rehearsal, (I am in a local panto at Christmas, and DB is stage managing it!), we drove home again to pick up the suitcases and ensure we had locked all doors/closed windows/turned off gas etc., then we drove over to my parents house for a quick sandwich and coffee, before trying to settle down for a small amount of sleep. A slight crisis occurred when it was realised that DB had packed his regular medication in the smaller suitcase he had originally intended to take, and hadnt moved it across to the larger suitcase he ended up taking hence, when we went to look for his bedtime pills, the whole pill case wasnt there He ended up driving all the way back home again (around 35 miles round trip), collecting the spares (as we didnt realise at the time that the pill case was in the small suitcase, sitting in the bedroom quietly!), and driving all the way back. I had to stay up to let him back in, and that, combined with the whole Im too excited to sleep! thing resulted in neither of us getting very much sleep at all that night!
DAY ONE MONDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2009
PLAN Drive to airport, fly to Paris, transfer to Santa Fe, check in, to DL Park.
ACTUAL So at 3.30 a.m. my phone alarm goes off, disturbing me from the small amount of sleep I had been taking! We all got up at that point, and after very quick showers and large cups of tea/coffee, the minicab arrived to take us to the airport at around 4.10 a.m. Luckily, the journey to the airport only took 15 minutes, and we were there very quickly. Hmm self check in at little kiosks! Except we didnt know how to use them properly, and my DD managed to book herself in but without a seat assignment! She booked the rest of us in, then we had to wait for the check-in desk to open 10 minutes later so that she could ascertain whether she was able to sit with us on the plane! Fortunately, she was, so with our second mini crisis averted, we waved goodbye to our luggage and headed for the departure area.
We found a nice place for breakfast, and DS and I shared some toast, whilst DD had an omelette and DB had a full English breakfast (men they can always eat a full breakfast, no matter how early it is!). We finished our drinks and wandered off to find magazines to buy for the journey.
We were a little late boarding the plane, and it was about 30 minutes late taking off, but as the journey is only an hour long anyway, we were able to pretty much make up the time as we flew. It is always interesting flying from the UK to France, as you never really fly high enough to lose sight of the ground and/or sea below you! The aeroplane was a tiny, 88 seater propeller plane, and was really nice comfy leather seats, etc. We were sat by the back of the wing and for the first time in my life, I saw the wheels ascend and descend from out of the wing! Interesting!
Anyway, shortly after that we landed safely at Charles de Gaulle Airport, collected our luggage (first lot out!), and found our way to the free shuttle bus that would take us to a different terminal in order to catch the Disney bus to the hotels. This took quite a while the shuttle arrived quickly, but as this is such a huge airport, it took a good 30 minutes before it pulled up at the Disney bus stop. 68 Euros and 10 minutes later, we were on the bus. At this point, I fell asleep, so I missed the majority of the journey, but after about another 30 minutes my DS and DD were prodding me awake, saying were nearly there!. I looked off into the distance and could see the top of the Earful Tower!
The bus made a stop at a couple of hotels before ours, then unloaded us at the front of the Santa Fe, a (Disney) Mexican-themed budget hotel. We gathered up our luggage again and headed into a nearly empty reception hall! However, when we were given our room allocations, it became immediately clear that we had not been given connecting rooms, as previously requested. I asked for this to be amended, and without too much fuss they reallocated us two connecting rooms, (124 and 126), in building 24. To our delight, the rooms were ready and it was only 10.45 a.m.! We also had to pick our breakfast times for the rest of the week, and we asked for between 8.00 and 8.30 a.m. We managed to get 8.30, 8.30, 8.15, and 7.45 a.m. in that order.
We quickly made our way over to our rooms to drop off the luggage, make a restroom stop, change shoes etc., before heading out to the park. A quick look around the rooms confirmed that they were clean but very basic more about this later.
We walked from the back of the hotel to a lovely walkway beside a man-made river, which then wended its way to the Disney Village (about a 10 minute walk). We walked slowly through the Village, pointing out various things to DS, and checking out which shops we wanted to visit later! A few minutes later, we walked through the security bag-check, and turned towards the right to the Disneyland Park, (the Disney Studios being to the left hand side). After passing through the beautiful gardens and underneath the DL Hotel, which arches across the park entrance, we arrived at the turnstiles for the park. Wow I cant believe we are really here!
We picked up maps and a park schedule, and then went underneath the Main Street Train Station. We paused by the bandstand so that I could nip into City Hall to pick up First Visit and Happy Birthday buttons for DS. Shock, horror! They dont have them here! All they have is a generic sticker that they will write a name on for you! I got her a birthday one anyway, but she didnt use it in the end. This was to be the first of the many cutbacks that we saw during our week in Disneyland Paris.
DB and I covered my sisters eyes and guided her to the other side of the bandstand, and pointed her towards the castle before removing our hands predictably, she got a bit emotional, which set me off!
I wanted to check if the candy shop on the corner of Discovery Arcade (cant remember the name of it now) had rice krispie Mickey ears, so we headed in there first, but they didnt seem to stock them. They did have a huge selection of goodies though, so we had a very quick look round before heading out and up Main Street. Taking lots of photos as we went, we turned right at the hub and walked towards Discoveryland.
DD, in accordance with ancient family tradition, wanted to ride Space Mountain first, so us three chickens hung around and waited for her, as it was showing a 5 minute wait time. It turned out to be slightly longer than that, but within 10 mins or so she was on her way back to us, all Spaced up. We realised at that point that we were quite hungry, so decided to nip into Videopolis for lunch before exploring any further. It is a shame they no longer run a stage show in there, as it used to be one of the highlights of this park, but due to economic cutbacks they now only show clips of cartoons on overhead screens. We joined quite a long queue to order the food, but sent DB off to find a table while we did this. The restaurant was only about a quarter full, though.
The first new thing we noticed about this restaurant, apart from the lack of live stage show, was that now instead of ordering individual items, there are a very, very limited number of set menus available. Menu 1, the basic, comes with burger or chicken nuggets, fries, and a cold drink. Menu 2 is quite a bit more expensive, and also includes a doughnut or sweet brioche for dessert, but also has the option that for a further additional Euro, you can upgrade your cold drink for hot coffee. There is no option to upgrade the basic meal to include coffee, you have to make a completely separate coffee purchase. There is also a kids option set menu. Shockingly, we found this set menu option to be prevalent throughout the parks and the village we were unable to find a single counter service restaurant that let you purchase individual meal items during our stay. I ordered the Menu 1 with chicken nuggets and water for myself, and the bacon cheeseburger with orange juice for DB, plus two coffees. Cost was around 16 Euros. DS and DD both had the bacon cheeseburger options.
Anyway, one nice thing about now having the cartoon clips in here we were able to watch Steamboat Willie while we ate, a short none of us had ever seen it its entirety before! I know, I know call myself a fan
Once we were suitable refreshed, we headed back out into the park, turned right and walked straight into Buzz Lightyears Laser Blast. It was listed as a 5 min wait, but we pretty much walked straight on. After bragging about how well I was going to do, and checking I was wearing my shooting arm, I thrashed everyone else with a massive score of 18,300. Hmm. Well, at least no-one else scored higher than me that time.
Out of there, turn left and walk round to Star Tours. DS opted to browse the shops instead she has a problem with her back which meant she was taking painkillers all the time, and quite sensibly made the decision not to go on rides that may have resulted in her being unable to move around too much, or being confined to bed for days on end. She had made us promise faithfully before we went away that this would not stop us from going on the rides without her, however, and whilst we did feel a bit guilty about keep leaving her alone, we did try to maintain a balance between doing the rides we all really loved, and giving them a miss so she didnt have to keep hanging around on her own waiting for us to finish riding. Anyway, we walked straight on to Star Tours, and once again set off for Endor. We got the back row, which I always think throws you around a lot more than being towards the front, but I put up with it as I really do like this ride.
We came out of there, collected DS, and walked back towards the hub as it isnt possible to cut down behind Star Tours to Fantasyland, which was our next destination. Turning right again, we went to Its A Small World, which has the most amazingly pretty and detailed frontage, and was a walk on. I sang all the way round, to everyone elses irritation!
After that, we checked out the wait time for Peter Pans Flight, but the fastpass machines were covered up and there was a 25 min wait for standby, so we gave up on that idea and headed for Adventureland, to Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride doesnt have the Captain Jack Sparrow overlay, and the narration and singing, with the exception of the Pirates Life for Me song, is all in French, but on the plus side the ride is slightly longer than the WDW counterpart, and has two drops, which is quite exciting. It is also a much darker ride than in Florida, more ominous and less comic. Again, straight walk-on.
Once we had conquered the seven seas and seen off the villainous pirates, we strolled down to Frontierland to check out the wait time for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Not brilliant 25mins longer than I wanted to leave DS standing on her own for at this stage! So we picked up 3 fastpasses, and headed for Phantom Manor. This has a really well themed spooky garden full of dead plants to walk through on the way up to the door of the Manor. A 5 min wait later, and we were herded into the stretching room scary! Although the cast members didnt really seem very enthusiastic here, I have been spooked by better CMs before there was one guy once in Florida who I swear was genuinely undead! Again, the ride narration is all in French here, but you get the gist of the ride. It is a different storyline to WDW, being darker and rather more creepy and sinister. The bride theme is still there, but she appears to get through a lot of husbands before they come to an untimely and sticky end!
Anyway, we really enjoyed the ride, and after ditching the hitchhiking ghost, we made our way back to the Wildest Ride in the Wilderness. Ooh, this ride in DLP is amazing!! It is far and away my favourite ride there, being quite a long ride and with two very exciting sections, (at the very beginning and the very end), completely in the dark! This happens when you travel underground to get to the main section of the ride, which is on an island. I love it so much because it is thrilling, rather than downright scary I dont do big, fast rollercoasters! As we left the station on the train, I yelled, yee-ha! at the CM there, and he shouted it back! Fantastic.
Unfortunately, as the train is picked up by the first set of rollers to be lifted to the top of the first steep incline, it does tend to jerk rather sharply, and because DB is tall, he had trouble being comfortable in the seat the lap bar didnt sit on him properly, and he pulled a muscle in his back at this point. He decided it wouldnt be a good idea to do this one again for a few days, until his back felt better.
There is a great shop behind BTM, where I remembered there being some really lovely jackets the last time we were here, so we decided to go and have a look round there. (To the left of this shop is a building marked Assay Office; every time we walked past this building, I piped up with, Assay, Assay, I say (old Music Hall joke opening line), which had me convulsed with laughter every time I did it. Disappointingly, no-one else seemed to find this funny. Not once. Miserable lot.) Anyway, we found some lovely pins in there, and picked up a couple. DB and I collect (not trade!) pins, but we are quite specific about which ones we buy. We like to get pins for the hotels we have stayed in, and ride specific ones too. Occasionally I will also go a bit mad and buy anything pink or sparkly though, and this time I found a Mickey ears shaped pin that was covered in tiny, pink sparkly crystals ooh!
It was now about 2.45 p.m. and we were all starting to feel very tired, having been up since stupid o clock. We walked from Frontierland round to the top of Main Street, and stopped at Caseys to get some hot drinks. DD gave up at this point, and took her drink back to the hotel with her to have a lie down, although afterwards she said she didnt rest for long before getting up and going for a walk round the resort to have a look round. We sat outside Caseys with our tea and coffee, and just then the Once Upon A Dream parade began. The parade route was lined quite deeply with people, but from where we were sitting it was still possible to make out the tops of the floats, if not the dancers and characters around them, so we stood up and took a few photos, before getting second cups of tea for the tea drinkers amongst us (not me bleurgh!). After this, we felt quite refreshed and ready to carry on for a little longer.
We took DS towards the castle, then went into the dungeon underneath it to surprise her with the Dragon! He was amazing, all growly with big teeth. The lighting effects in there are great, it really has been designed to be as atmospheric as possible. After taking loads of photos, we exited that area and went inside the castle for a good look round. It is really lovely, you can go upstairs and walk around little scenarios telling the story of Sleeping Beauty, all made up of stained glass and artefacts. You can even go outside up there, and walk around the battlements a short way the views from there are amazing. Back inside, I love the way the stone trees are all glittery with tiny lights in them.
After looking round there, we went back downstairs and into the Christmas shop for a mooch around. One thing that was really noticeable was that all of the Mickeys Magical Party merchandise was reduced by around 30%, suggesting that this particular theme is coming to an end, although no official announcement has been made yet. I bought a gorgeous MMP jigsaw that was reduced from 15 Euros to 10!
However, the long day had now finally caught up with us, and we agreed that although the park would be open for another couple of hours, we had had enough for one day. Therefore, we slowly walked back down Main Street, enjoying the atmosphere and the fact that we didnt have to rush to beat the crowds leaving or anything, and walked back to the Village to meet DD outside Annettes Diner, where we decided to pick up food to go and go back to the hotel. We went to their take out window, and I ordered 2 x Eurochicks (chicken burger with fries), 1 cheeseburger & fries, and a cheese & pasta salad. There was only 1 other person in front of me being served, and we had our food very quickly it smelt lovely!
We took a slow walk back to the Santa Fe through the lovely walkway, with very few other people around. Before we came to Paris, we had talked about possibly taking a trip on PanoraMagique tethered balloon at the back of the Village, but it never seemed to be open when we were there. By the end of the week, it looked as though it was being tested, as it seemed to rise a few feet in the air and there were a couple of guys who seemed to be inspecting it, but just like the last time I was at DLP in November 2006, it did not seem to be operational at this time. Maybe it was a weather issue? Although we did have good weather all week, no rain at all, cloudy with occasional sun!
Anyway, we got back to the rooms, put the kettle on (which we had taken with us, along with sachets of cappuccino coffee, instant hot chocolate, tea bags and UHT milk sachets!), ate our food, (which was delicious!), unpacked our cases, and were in bed and asleep by 9.15 p.m.!!
DAY TWO TUESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2009
PLAN Breakfast in hotel, to Disneyland Studios
ACTUAL We were up bright and early on our first full day at Disneyland Paris! After quick showers, we went down to breakfast in the La Cantina restaurant, which was a good 5 mins walk away from our room, behind the main reception area. We were shown through very quickly, despite the rather long queue to get in, and we went to find a table first of all. The table we chose was a round one, with four chairs, near the back of the furthest away dining room. The amusing thing was, this very quickly began to feel like our table and we felt we had to have this one every day after that. Did we succeed? Read each days breakfast report to see!
We went off in pairs to gather up our breakfast buffet items coffee or tea, fruit juice, cereal, stewed apple, croissants both plain and chocolate, freshly baked bread rolls, butter, jam, cheese, and ham. Yummy, and as much as we wanted to eat.
DD arranged to meet us at the entrance to the Studios about 30 mins after we finished breakfast, and she then headed back off to the room to pick up some forgotten items. Meanwhile, we went out to the front of the hotel to catch the Disney bus to the parks. We got there just as a bus was pulling away, but fortunately another one came along 5 mins later, so we waited for the doors to open so we could board. Well, the doors opened, and a very, very stroppy lady driver spoke loudly to me in French. I looked at her and said, pardon? very politely. She tutted, rolled her eyes, and said board at the back! in an extremely rude manner. Hmm. Excuse me for not speaking French! She was very un-Disney, I thought.
A few minutes later we pulled up at the parks. To be honest, in the time we had waited for the bus and ridden it there, we could have made the walk to the parks; on future days, this is what we did, and this turned out to be the only day we bothered with the bus.
We arrived at the Studios, met up with DD, and went in. The theming of the front of these Studios is really lovely, so pretty. We paused briefly to take photos of the Partners statue in the entranceway. As we entered the park, the Stars n Cars parade was about to start, so we hung around for it. This was a really nice parade, only small, but was basically all film related and was either a specific car for each character, or a float with their dressing room on it and the characters waving from their dressing rooms. However, I couldnt believe the music it was all done to the tune of Remember the Magic, which was a parade I used to absolutely love from WDW, and I had had the song ingrained in my head since 1997 when Cinderellas Castle in WDW was a big, pink cake!! I sang along (in a sad, obsessed kind of way!), while we took photos and waved at the characters. I spotted a hidden Mickey in the paintwork on Cruella de Villes car!
Once the parade had passed us by, (it stopped further on and the characters got off to mingle with the guests, but we had other stuff to do!), we checked the park schedule and saw that Cinemagique, one of my favourite shows at this park, was due to start shortly, so we decided to go there first. I do love this show, it is a humorous look at the history of cinema, and always makes me both laugh and cry! DS really enjoyed it, as she is a bit of a film fan.
From there, we walked slowly round the park, pointing out to DS the things I thought she would be interested in. We walked past the Tower of Terror, as this was newly open since our last visit, and noted that the fastpass machines were covered over. The ride itself was showing a 20 min wait. DD left us at this point to go on TOT, while we walked towards Rock n Roller Coaster just to look at the area, as we knew this was down for refurb during our visit (DD was gutted!). There had been a lot of publicity on the internet about a newly refurbed and renamed Backlot Express restaurant, which was now called the Blockbuster Caf and was supposed to be themed around film props, and supposedly opened a couple of weeks before we got there. However, it was shut! So I have no idea what it was like.
We stood and mourned the closure of R & R C on behalf of DD for a minute, then turned round and walked towards Armageddon. This also looked closed, but proved to be open, if a little underused! No queue, and we walked straight on. This is a rather bizarre show, as you stand in a holding room whilst being instructed in French by a cast member on how to participate in the filming of a scene from the film, (although there is a movie running on a small screen over his head that has English subtitles!), before being shepherded into a medium sized, doughnut shaped room that is supposedly the control room of a spacecraft. There is a lot of noise, the floor rattles a bit, lots of steam belches out from places, a bit of flame appears in the middle of the room, then it turns out we were attacked by aliens, apparently. I think I must have missed that bit. Definitely not a repeater for me, this one! It seemed like a lot of build up to not very much at all, really. There just seemed to be something missing from this show.
Anyway, we walked back round towards TOT to collect DD, and on the way, DB decides he wants to go on it shock, horror! He is not a thrill ride person, but as his normal daytime job involves occasional working at heights, he does not have the fear of falling that I have, and he was intrigued by this ride as he has never done it before, not even in WDW. I was really keen for DS to experience the pre-ride part of this, we have both ridden TOT in Florida, but this one, being newer, has a slightly different walk through area. We therefore came up with a plan to enjoy the pre-ride walk through, then just before they boarded us into the lifts, myself and DS would ask for the chicken exit!
So we set off into TOT, and it really is very nicely themed, if not quite as dark as its counterpart in Florida. One thing we did notice though there were cobwebs and dust everywhere, but the carpets were immaculately clean and freshly, brightly vacuumed! Anyway, we went through the Twilight Zone room, and then asked a cast member if we could bail, citing a change of mind as the excuse. He directed us a bit further on, and told us to ask the next cast member we met to let us out of the side door. Well, the next cast member was taking his role of TOT attendant very seriously we told him we wanted out, and he glared at us silently with a very sombre expression for ages we began to panic slightly, thinking he was going to make us go on the ride after all! Eventually, he asked if we were sure, and then, still keeping perfectly in character, directed us to go to the right hand side and out of a door there. We scuttled off rapidly!
We bumped into DD in the shop, she had been on the ride twice and had loved it each time, although she did say it was very hot in the lifts. We went and sat outside on some pretty stone benches, and didnt have long to wait before DB came out grinning like an idiot! He had really enjoyed himself.
We then walked back towards the front of the park looking to get a drink, only to be held up slightly by the High School Musical show. This was a very loud and, ultimately, irritating show that seemed to take place every 15 mins or so throughout the day. I think if I had had younger children that were really into HSM, it probably wouldnt have been so bad, but it did become more and more annoying as the week went on!
We found a beverage kiosk, and ordered 3 coffees, 1 Fanta, 1 Coke, a chocolate ice-cream, a chicken sandwich (which DS & DB shared), and 2 brownies. We found a lovely place to partake of our refreshments nearby that had beautiful tiles, and flowers in planters, around a French caf style seating area. This was outside a building that appeared to be just a themed area, as it was a fake travel agent set in the 1940s.
After this we headed for the Backlot Tour, which was posting a 15 min wait but was probably more like 30 mins. I had forgotten how amazing the last part of the tour is, in that you drive through a fake film setting with dragon breath and collapsed buildings! It is really atmospheric, and such a pity you cant actually walk through the area to examine everything more closely. We also saw some fabulous bits of set from the film Dinosaur, and it wasnt until after we were home again that I realised I had also seen one each of the original SoloSub and hovercraft vehicles from the now extinct Horizons ride in Epcot!
We decided to walk through a completely new section of the park next, which has been built next to the Backlot Tour Toon Studio. We looked at the new Cars Race Rally ride, which I had had high hopes for, but it was a much smaller ride than it had looked in pictures on the internet, aimed at quite small children, so we just admired the lovely theming of the area, and moved on. We also passed the new Crushs Coaster, which looked really great, but never dropped below a 90 min wait, and get this did not have fastpass machines!! How mad is that? Disney may have made a slight error there, I think.
We were just about to round the corner to have a go on Les Tapis Volants Flying Carpets over Agrabah when we spotted a familiar furry ratty face. Emile from Ratatouille was posing for pictures! DS and I, and with no prompting at all from our dad, (unlike when we were in WDW in 2007!), as he wasnt even there with us this time, shrieked in excitement and ran to join the (small) queue of children waiting to meet him. Ooh, he was lovely! We made a big fuss of him and had our photo taken with him, it was great fun!
After that we carried on to the Flying Carpets. Now, Ive never been on these in WDW, considering them to be a childrens ride. How wrong I was! We walked straight up to the head of the queue, (showing 5 mins wait time), and a few minutes later three adults were crammed into one carpet (2 in front, one in back). Hmm, this is a snug fit .. Anyway, it was hugely fun, as every time it had managed to struggle its way up to the limit of its height, my DS insisted on keep dropping the carpet by a couple of feet, making me shriek! We got off at the end of the ride, and ran round to go on it again!
And again only the third time, it broke down before we boarded, (three fully grown adults in one carpet were probably too much for it!!), so we gave up and went to the Animagique show instead, which was really lovely and a good excuse for a sit down!
When we emerged from the theatre, DD decided it was TOT time again, so she nipped over to that, whilst we went to the Carpets to see if they had been fixed yet. They had, so we rode again, but split up into 2 cars this time just in case it had been our fault they broke!! When we were all carpeted out, we went to the coffee kiosk and got hot drinks for all of us, sitting down on a nearby bench to relax for a few minutes. By the time DD got back to us shortly after that, it was 5.30 p.m. and the park was due to close 30 mins later, so we walked back through the entrance, doing a little shopping on the way, before walking back to the Village for an early dinner.
We had decided to go to Planet Hollywood that evening, so we went in there and had a good look round while we waited a few minutes to be seated. Our server was a little slow in taking our orders, and the meal seemed to take quite a while to arrive, especially considering it was very quiet in there, but when it did arrive, it was hot, fresh and delicious! DS and myself shared a turkey club sandwich with fries, and when I asked our server if it was okay for us to share, he confirmed it was but not only that, when they brought the food to us, they had split the sandwich between two plates and given us a full serving of fries each with it, for which we were not charged any more than for the standard serving! How lovely of them. Both DB and DD had the BBQ bacon cheeseburger with fries meal, and we all had soft drinks, although my Sprite tasted awfully like 7-Up to me, and DBs cup of coffee was an enormous cup with a tiny amount of coffee in it! Other than these small niggles, we were very happy with our Planet Hollywood experience, and would not hesitate to go there again, although not on this particular trip as it was comparatively quite an expensive meal.
Once we had finished our meal, we did a little shopping in the Village. DB and I had wanted to buy DS a gift to help her remember her birthday trip here, so he distracted her in the Disney Store whilst I purchased a lovely Belle snowglobe; I also picked up a Mickey & Friends chocolate advent calendar for DD, and a Happy dwarf t-shirt for DB. We also got a few pins of some of the rides.
We went into Disney Fashion to look for a jacket for DD, as she wanted to get a new one on this trip. She and I drifted off together and she began trying on different jackets. Suddenly, we became aware of some activity going on, and then DB and DS appeared, talking to a member of security. I looked at them but they seemed okay, so I decided to leave them to it while I finished offering my opinion to DD and her prospective purchase. (She didnt make up her mind that night, and we ended up going to the Disney Store later in the week as they had larger sizes in there). We caught up with DS and DB in the next shop, and they told us that they had nearly caught a couple of shoplifters! DS had seen them ripping clothing off the coathangers and stuffing things into a bag, but they had noticed DS watching them and had left the store. DS had alerted DB, and they had found a security guard and told him what was happening. Unfortunately, the shoplifters got away, but their description was circulated around the Village so hopefully they would be caught at some point if they went back and tried to do it again.
After this bit of excitement, we strolled slowly back to the hotel, enjoying the evening, and upon arrival back there we gathered in our room so I could distribute the gifts I had bought that evening. DB also gave me a really gorgeous Christmas jigsaw and some pins he had bought for me without my knowing; this was a late birthday present from my birthday at the beginning of August, as I had previously asked him to get me something nice while we were away! Cups of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate were then consumed, along with a few biscuits (that we had taken with us), before a very grateful falling into bed at around 10.30 p.m.
DAY THREE WEDNESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 2009
PLAN Breakfast in hotel, Disneyland Park
ACTUAL Well, we successfully managed to get our table at breakfast again! When we first arrived in the dining room, there was a couple at our table already, but they looked as though they were finishing up, so we sat at a table next to them, trying not to glare at them or mentally wish them harm(!). DD, DB and DS went off to get food, leaving me to guard our bags etc., and whilst they were gone, the couple finished off and moved from our table, so I was able to move all our stuff over there by the time everyone returned!
We had the usual fare for breakfast, and afterwards returned to the rooms to pick up some extra medicinal items etc. Unfortunately, our room key refused to work! We managed to get into our room via DS & DDs room, and we wedged the connecting door open with a note on it asking mousekeeping not to close it. We decided to get the cards recharged on our return later, and headed for the park.
We walked up Main Street, just happy to be there, and then DD went her own way, arranging to meet up with us a couple of hours later by the Sword in the Stone, behind the castle. We went through the castle and to the Carousel, which was showing a 5 min wait. I spotted a gorgeous horse with a dragon armour overlay, and waited for it to come round with the intention of riding that one. However, when I managed to get to it, it was stopped too high up and I couldnt climb on!! I had to quickly walk nearly all the way round to the other side of the Carousel before I found a horse that was low enough for me to get on. DB and DS were already on horses, and trying not to laugh at me as I struggled to climb onto some stupid, low horse. Stupid Carousel. Anyway, when it started up, it was rather lovely. The ride lasts just long enough for it to be fun without making you feel ill from whirling round in one place!
Next we went on Les Voyages de Pinocchio, which is fun if a little dark and menacing, followed by the quite similar Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs). Both of these were also showing 5 min wait times, but were virtual walk-ons. As we came out of Snow White, we turned round to look at the entrance, and spotted the Wicked Queen peeping out from behind the curtains at a high window!
Having spent many years going to both DLP and WDW, I had never been on the Dumbo ride, figuring it was for children only, but my experience with the Flying Carpets yesterday had made me rethink this, so we went to Dumbo next. This was showing a 5 min wait time, but in reality it took much longer, being nearer to 20 mins. However, it was worth the wait! The 3 of us fitted into one elephant a little better than we had into one carpet DS was muttering mutinously about if my bum cant fit into an elephant, Im going on a diet!. This was great fun, and again went a lot higher than I had expected it to!
It was now time for us to meet up with DD at the back of the castle, so we wandered over there, sat on a bench to wait, then decided to go into a nearby shop for candy floss. For 3.5 Euros we got the biggest stick of candy floss any of us have ever seen! It was enormous!! DB doesnt like candy floss, he says it is like eating hair, so I watched as DS tried to tackle this huge heap of pink, sticky fluff it was funny, I took photos. We also got some soft drinks. I do like candy floss, but was holding out for some popcorn later.
DD turned up slightly late, but we werent too worried. DB bought her some candy floss too, and we caught up with each others progress she had been on Space Mountain, Orbitron, (which none of us had done before, and she was slightly startled by the speed and height that the rockets went up to!), Star Tours, Its a Small World, the Carousel, Pinocchio, and Peter Pans Flight.
After finishing our drinks and candy floss, we made our way to Peter Pans Flight, although as DD had already done this, she went over to Dumbo. Peter Pan was showing a 20 min wait time, which was pretty accurate. The fastpass machines were covered over.
Now it is time for my popcorn! I got a large box, which was yummy, and we sat on a wall nearby while I ate that and the tea-drinkers got cups of tea. Then we explored Alices Curious Labyrinth, which is a lot of fun. We kept trying to surprise each other with unexpected splashes of water from the dancing waters in there! We were also slightly surprised by a sudden appearance from behind a hedge of a life size figure of the Queen of Hearts, who was shouting at us in French! We climbed to the top of the tiny castle at the centre of the maze, and got some good views out over the park. As you exit the Labyrinth, there is a big, red throne chair which is great for photo opportunities!
I wanted to visit the Casey Junior ride, which is a really fun mini train ride, and also Le Pays des Contes de Fees (Storybook Boat Ride), but they were both closed, so we left Fantasyland and headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. After a great ride on that, we hung around outside as, according to the show times guide, Capn Jack Sparrow was going to put in a personal appearance in about 10 mins time! Well, he turned up, and despite being a rather slight person, he was a very good likeness of the real Capn Jack! What was really funny was the fact that all the other character meet n greets we had seen had been overrun with over-excited children; this one was overrun with over-excited women!! There were only two children waiting to meet him, and I hotly dispute my DSs later claim that I nearly knocked them out of the way to get to Capn Jack when he appeared! They just didnt understand the queuing system, that was all. No, really. Anyway, we had photos taken with him, and then went to explore Adventure Isle, an area full of dark and dripping caves, which was great. Unfortunately, DD and I lost DS and DB we took a wrong turn or 12 and got hopelessly lost! We finally found them after ten frantic minutes of retracing our steps, they were just standing nonchalantly outside waiting for us! We passed on exploring the rope bridges, as it would have hurt DSs back to be bounced about on them, so we just continued walking towards Adventureland.
DD went off to Indiana Jones & the Temple of Peril switchback rollercoaster, the reckless fool, whilst we opted for the far tamer Le Passage Enchante dAladdin, which is a quite cute little walk through attraction with vignettes from the Aladdin film.
Everyone was now getting a bit hungry, so we began wandering around with no real clear idea of what or where we wanted to eat. We checked out Hakuna Matata, but most of what they had appeared to have spicy coatings which none of us fancied, so we ended up going back to Main Street and Caseys. We all got foot-long hot dogs with cheese sauce, fries, and drinks. DS managed to get bright orange cheese sauce all over herself, and it left her fingers quite stained what on earth is it doing to our insides??
We wanted to watch the parade properly after lunch, as we had missed a lot of it on the first day, so we then went and sat on the kerb in front of the castle, saving a space for DD as she went for a quick look round the Christmas shop in the castle. The Once Upon a Dream parade was really lovely, I had promised myself I wouldnt cry, but when the last float went past, full of princesses and their true loves, I found myself a bit sniffly. I looked round at DS, and she was at it too! DB just tutted at us, he has no idea.
After the parade had passed us by, we walked back to Frontierland for another ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. When we got there, (15 mins wait), DS and DB decided neither of them wanted to ride, so DD and myself went on, scoring the back row again after asking nicely. It was just sooooooo much fun!! When we got off, we collected the others and then headed over to Phantom Manor, (love that theming!), followed by a trek all the way back to Discoveryland for Buzz Lightyear. This time, I scored 33,500 oh yeah, I rock!! Well, actually, I MAY have been beaten by one or two other players on this occasion ..
It was getting near to park closing time by this point, and we were also quite tired, so we meandered back down Main Street, looking in the shops as we went, and left the park without buying anything today.
On our walk back through the Village we discussed where to go to eat, and decided to look at the menus of the different places until we found something that inspired us. DS, DB and myself settled on takeaway from New York Sandwiches DS and myself having chicken tenders and fries, and DB having a cheese & salad baguette. DD wanted a Rock n roll Burger (bacon cheeseburger) from Annettes, so she went to get hers and we met again afterwards.
Back at the hotel, we had our room keys recharged, and they told us that the key unit had been changed to see if that would work. However, when we got up to the room, the keys still refused to work, so we gave up on them for that day and just went in through the connecting door again. We put the kettle on, had our food, and then settled down with hot drinks, before lights out by around 10.00 p.m. DS and DD had lights off and were asleep by 9.15!
DAY FOUR THURSDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2009
PLAN Breakfast in hotel, Disneyland Studios
ACTUAL No-one at our table in the restaurant this morning good! Usual breakfast, but it seemed to be taking us a bit longer to get going this morning. DD got fed up with waiting for us as we slowly got our second cups of tea and coffee, and shot off to the Studios as soon as she had finished breakfast to see if she could get onto Crushs Coaster before the queue built up.
We followed at a more leisurely pace, and once inside the Studios decided to go to the Art of Animation show, which consists of a cast member explaining how animation has changed over the years, ably assisted by Mushu appearing in lots of film clips, (Dra-gon! Not lizard! I dont do that tongue thing ..). This was presented in French, but all the seats had both an English and a German translation available through headphones. This was a nice show, and we exited into an area where there is a lovely display of drawings and original film cels to look at. There is also an animation master class, but that was closed when we were there.
When we got outside, Sully was attending a meet n greet session, and we paused to watch this for a few moments, as it was quite funny. He was very tall, and kept looming at kids some ran off screaming, some ran up to be hugged and pose for photos. Because he kept stamping his very big feet down hard on the pavement, and swinging his very long arms around wildly, he had more kids running away than towards him!
Time for the Flying Carpets again and this time, not only was it a straight walk-on, but we managed to get our carpet to fly really high! DS and I went in one carpet, and DB went in another one on his own, but in order to fill up the ride, they eventually put a random stranger in the back of his carpet.
When we exited there, we met up with DD, who had had to pass on Crush, as because there was no fast-pass machine for this ride, the queue had gone from nothing to 60 mins within seconds of the park opening there were people queuing outside the park when she got there, and they just ran in the second it opened! She therefore gave up for this trip, and went on Tower of Terror twice instead, although she did say it was still really hot in there and she thinks someone had been sick in one of the lifts earlier on as there were cast members cleaning it out when she got there. She also did the Flying Carpets. She then left us again and went into the Art of Animation, while we went back to Cinemgique again, as we had really enjoyed this earlier in the week.
As we exited that show, we were just walking past a Mickey meet n greet area, when we happened to glance across at him, and saw him leave his post and walk across to where a disabled lady was watching him from her wheelchair. He walked over to her quite slowly, to gauge her reaction to him, and when she began to laugh and clap her hands, he went over and interacted with her for ages it was absolutely lovely to watch, she was clearly delighted to be meeting him, and he kept holding her hands and kissing her head. Another magical Disney moment.
DS and I went to find a bench to sit on, and sent DB over to the coffee stand for drinks. While he was in the queue, DD came towards me and I began frantically miming drink? to her, so I could catch DB before he was served. She nodded, and that was the point at which I caught sight of the cast member walking near her who had caught all of my miming and was miming back, yes please! at me! It was really funny! She got her drink, but unfortunately he didnt. We all sat down to enjoy our coffee, and guess what happened High School Musical! Arrgghh!!
Suitably refreshed again, although somewhat twitchy from HSM, we went over to the far side of the park to get in line for the Moteurs, Action Stunt Show Spectacular, which was great fun, as always.
We did a little shopping in the shops in the entrance arcade, arranging to have it sent back to our hotel so we didnt have to carry it round with us all afternoon. I got a Mickeys Magical Party snowglobe for my friend for her birthday, and two lovely mugs for her and her husband for Christmas.
After this we were finished with this park for the day, so we left DD to one more go on TOT, and walked round to the Disneyland Park in search of some lunch, with her promising to follow us as soon as she was done. We went to the top of Main Street in the hope of eating at Victorias, as they do a lovely croque monsieur, but it was closed! I couldnt believe how many restaurants were closed this week. DB found a nearby table to wait at, and DS and I went back down Main Street to the Market Street Deli, which was doing a meal deal of a croque monsieur and a packet of crisps, plus a soft drink, so we got those, along with teas and coffees, and took them back to DB. I actually had the mushroom version instead of the ham, because I really fancied the look of it, and I was right it was really tasty! DD turned up shortly after that, and she also got herself the meal deal from the Deli. While we were sitting eating our lunch, Minnies Party Train (a kind of mini parade) came past us twice. Slightly better than HSM, but we had already seen this about 5 times during the week at this point!
We needed to get some cash for planned shopping later, so we walked back down Main Street through the arcade behind the shops to find an ATM. All full of cash again, we walked back up Main Street but through the shops this time, and then shopped our way back down the other side! I bought some Christmas gifts of cookies for friends, (to go with the mugs I got earlier!), then got chocolate and (Mickey ear shaped!) nougat for my mum and dad, plus socks for DB for Christmas, a gorgeous pink Minnie sweatshirt for myself, yet more pins, and some keyrings for work colleagues. We arranged to collect all of this from the Emporium on Main Street later that day.
When we came out, people were beginning to line up for the parade, so we decided to sit on the kerb and watch it again from near the bandstand opposite the Main Street Train Station. Guess what? DS and I cried again!!
After the parade, we began to make our way back towards Frontierland, and as we turned left at the hub and went over a bridge, our attention was caught by movement in the dry stream bed to the left hand side of the bridge. We saw a rat! A real one! It was huge, as well! I thought it was rather cute, but then I do like rats. Several other people stopped to look, and then it ran off into the undergrowth. I suppose even Disney cant stop real wildlife from living in its parks I have seen snakes in WDW in Florida before now.
Anyway, DS opted out of Big Thunder and went off to enjoy Phantom Manor on her own, while the other 3 of us went on the wildest ride in the universe, hanging onto our hats and glasses, and had a great time. We sat in three separate seats this time, and DB said this was slightly better for him, as he could sit in the centre of the car and stretch his legs out more. He sat in the middle section, and DD and I sat at the back again we had such a laugh.
We collected DS and went back to Main Street to collect our shopping, before leaving the park and lugging all the shopping back through the Village. We wanted to pick up some more goodies, most notably DD wanting to get the jacket she had seen and loved, so DB offered to base himself at Starbucks with a large cup of coffee and look after all the shopping while we ran round and bought more stuff! Bless him.
Once we were all shopped out, we got takeout cheeseburgers and fries from Annettes (DD had a Eurochick), and we sat at their outside seating area to enjoy it, as every other night we had got takeout, by the time we had got back to the hotel, the food was cold!
We could put it off no longer we knew that we had to return to the hotel and begin the dreaded packing. We wanted to get it done that night so that we could enjoy the next day to the full without having to waste time packing. Therefore, we dragged our weary and heavily laden with packages selves back to the Santa Fe, went into our room via next doors again, and dumped all our bags on the beds. I stood and stared at it for a bit in the hope it would somehow pack itself, but it didnt, so I had to get the suitcase out and we all spent the next 40 mins or so packing, unpacking, repacking, in a desperate effort to fit everything in! Eventually, all was done, so we had hot drinks and went to bed, with lights out by around 11.00 p.m.
DAY FIVE FRIDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2009
PLAN Breakfast in hotel, check out, last few park hours, fly home
ACTUAL We were up quite early this morning, quick showers and final packing, then we took the cases downstairs with us to check out before breakfast. We started by taking the cases into the left luggage room, got a receipt for them, and then went into reception to drop off the room keys. This was the point at which I discovered that, for a deposit only, you can borrow hairdryers and/or kettles from reception!! Ah well, we know for next time.
Anyway, we went through to breakfast for the final time, enjoying (at our table!) bread, cheese, croissants, coffee and juice etc. After breakfast, we decided we didnt need to go back to the Studios again and would just go to the Disneyland Park to repeat favourites apart from DD, who had a burning desire to revisit TOT again! Unfortunately, I had packed (to keep as souvenirs) our early morning park entry passes, so a quick trip to reception and I had two new ones to use. DD took hers and shot off to the Studios, agreeing to meet us outside the Park when she was done, as we wouldnt get there until a bit later than her. We got to the Park at 9.45 a.m., but despite the official opening time being 10.00 a.m., they just let everyone in without anyone needing an early entry pass.
As we entered Main Street, all the trolley buses and horse-drawn trams were parked around the bandstand, so we paused to look at them, before heading for Buzz Lightyear, where after a mere 5 min wait, I beat my own record and scored 44,100. Next up was Star Tours again, then we walked round to Its a Small World. This was posted as a 5 min wait, but there seemed to be quite a long queue. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a brain that is capable of independent thought, so instead of just following the queue like sheep, I steered us to the (also open) right hand side of the queue and we walked straight past everyone else and to the front of the loading area!
After this was a quick trip on Pirates, and we then picked up fastpasses for Big Thunder as it was showing as a 30 min wait, but the queue looked longer than that. We walked back to Main Street, and got coffee and waffles from the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour. This created the only communication problem we had all week, as the young female cast member taking our order did not speak English at all, and I had to resort to lots of pointing at the menu and miming what I wanted! She slightly misunderstood waffle with chocolate sauce and we ended up with a hot chocolate instead, but she got it right in the end! Just as we were leaving, another cast member turned up and apologised for the confusion, but we were okay about it. The only bad bit about this was the cost 3 waffles, 1 Mickey ears shaped chocolate filled brioche roll, 2 coffees, 1 tea, 1 coke, and a Fanta = 25 Euros!! Anyway, we were on holiday so I tried not to gulp as I passed over the money . And to be fair, the waffles were really lovely, I had one with Chantilly (cream) and it was gorgeous. DS said the brioche was lovely, too, it was filled with a creamy chocolate sauce.
Once we had finished this, we went back to Big Thunder, although DS still didnt want to ride, and we had one last go on this. One thing I had missed on this trip though was that because the park closed at 6.00 p.m., we didnt have chance to go on Big Thunder in the dark, which was a shame as this ride is amazing in the dark, really exciting, and you can see the castle from the ride, beautifully lit up and sparkling.
We walked around the corner to catch the train for a ride all around the park next, but that was when we discovered that it only picks up from Main Street! So we trekked all the way back round to the Train Station at the bottom of Main Street, and after a 10 min or so wait, the train pulled into the station. We rode all the way round the park, and it was lovely, although there was no commentary at all on the train, which was a shame.
Back at the Main Street station again, DD left for a final shot at TOT, and we headed for Honey I Shrunk the Audience. This was a major disappointment, as it was very shabby and in need of refurbishment, plus the majority of the special effects didnt work. The theatre was only about a quarter full anyway, but the mice effect and the final sneezing dog effect didnt work at all, which takes a large part of the humour away from the show.
I wanted to check out the Casey Junior train and Storybook Boat rides again to see whether they were running today, or if it was a more long term closure, so we went round to them, pausing at the old water wheel building to take photos of the doors in the buckets, just to prove a point to DD. This used to be a ride years ago, although she swears it didnt, but I distinctly remember not going on it because the queues were too long! It was closed a long time ago because there are only about 8 buckets, seating 4 people at a time, and first of all people avoided it because it was a very slow loading attraction, then people stopped going on it because it was a very boring attraction! But the building is still there, for some reason.
Anyway, the Casey Junior Train and Storybook Boat rides were both open, so with minimal wait we rode both. The Casey Junior Train ride is good fun, a bit faster than you expect it to be, but once again the cars are a bit on the small side DB and I squeezed into one shaped like a cage (the whole thing is circus themed), and doubted we could stand up again unless we did it simultaneously! It runs through some really lovely little model villages, and there is a gorgeous castle at one point. The Storybook Boats are cute and fun, too.
We were now very aware of the time, so we went back to Main Street to meet DD and get something to eat before we left. We sat near Victorias again, and had croque monsieurs (I had mushroom again) and hot drinks, although DD had a hot dog. While we ate, we watched the Mickeys Magical Party show on the stage behind us, in front of the castle. We were not overly impressed with this show, as it appeared to have no real storyline, the music was very heavy on the bass side, and it just appeared to be random singing and dancing.
It was now the time we had all been dreading time to leave. We walked slowly back down Main Street, pausing at the bottom to get a cast member to take our photo with the castle in the background, and then trudged unhappily back to the Santa Fe to collect our luggage and wait for the bus back to the airport.
While we were waiting for the bus though, a strange thing happened. A man approached several groups of people and asked them if they had already bought their tickets for the bus. I began to panic slightly, as when we had caught the bus from the airport earlier in the week, we had had to pre-purchase our bus tickets from a desk inside the airport, so I thought he was telling us we had to do the same thing and get our tickets before we boarded. When he asked us if we already had our tickets, I told him no, and asked if we needed to buy them first. He said that if we wanted to wait for the bus we could, but that he could also take us in the minibus for a cheaper rate. I assumed he was a Disney employee, and agreed to go with him. He led the 4 of us and one other couple round the corner of the reception area to a minibus, and we all piled in. It wasnt until we began the journey that it dawned on us that he was not wearing Disney ID, and there were no markings on the bus itself. DB was chatting away, and didnt seem concerned, but DD and I were beginning to panic. What if he was planning to take us somewhere quiet and murder us all? I couldnt help but think though that he had picked the wrong journey to rob us, as by the time we were leaving, we had spent all our money! Wouldnt he have been better off doing this to people as they arrived at the airport? Throughout the journey, I was carefully making a note of the direction we were going in, to ensure we were actually travelling towards the airport. When he turned off the main road somewhat before the road signs indicated the direction to the airport, I became convinced we were all going to die. Nothing like a little overreaction, is there! However, shortly after that, we passed one of the Disney buses, which was travelling the same way as us, so I felt a little better after that. Until as we began to negotiate the roads into the airport, three motorbikes overtook us and began cutting in front of us, doing wheelies, waving at the driver etc., and I once again became convinced they were part of the conspiracy and were going to help the driver to kidnap us all. The other couple in the minibus were very quiet and didnt speak much, so I began to think maybe they were in on it. Anyway, after about 40 agonising minutes, not helped by the fact that I had fallen asleep on the way to the parks on Monday and therefore didnt recognise the countryside we were travelling through very much, we finally pulled up at the airport terminal. I leapt out of the minibus like a scalded cat! DD had spent her time idly tracing a pattern on the window with her hand, in case she needed to try and break the window to get us out, DB had chattered away not really being concerned about anything, and DS had become increasingly worried as she had spotted my face and realised how worried I was! We got our luggage out of the boot, shoved our money into the drivers hand, thanked him, and wobbled off into the airport!
With hindsight, maybe I had overreacted somewhat, but this experience made me think I would never do this again in future, I would just wait for the Disney bus. To save an extra 8 Euros and about 30 minutes of time was not worth the worry and panic this caused us! I guess these guys feed on the confusion of tourists quite often we dont speak the language, and we are tired and confused at this point. It is therefore easy for them to make us think they are offering an official service, when they arent. I think he was just a taxi driver trying to make a fast buck! And on the plus side, he had taken us to the right terminal for our flight, and not just dropped us off somewhere where we would have had to get the free shuttle bus across the airport.
Anyway, we found our check in desk, checked in the luggage and ourselves, and went for a bathroom break, before settling down for about a half hour wait to go to the departure lounge. Charles de Gaulle airport is very large and not very user friendly, so by the time we had found our departure gate we were feeling very tired and frazzled indeed. And this is where we played musical gates for the next hour! First of all we were told one gate to wait at, then about 15 mins later the listing on the TV screen showed us as departing from a different gate, so we trekked over there, only to be told 10 mins later that we were at another gate! This went on and on and on for the whole hour, with us ending up back at the first gate we had gone to! We eventually boarded the plane, tired and fed up, and took off more or less on time.
The flight was quick and uneventful, but by the time we landed at Birmingham airport, tempers were a little frazzled, resulting in a minor fallout amongst some members of the party. The least said about it the better, but these things do happen.
The hotel rooms were very, very basic, and were lacking in a lot of areas. There was no tea/coffee making facilities, no hair dryer, no boxes of tissues in the bathroom, only one rubbish bin per room, (in the bathroom), only 3 towels per day per room, (despite rooms being for 4 people!), and no replacement or renewal of the soap and shampoo all week. We also had a blown lightbulb in the bathroom which was not replaced all week, despite one in the bedroom being replaced the same day it blew. Although to be fair, we never actually reported this and asked for replacements. However, the view from the window in the room was lovely we overlooked the walkway beside the river, and it was really pretty.
Our room keys refused to work after the first day, despite the lock being physically changed by the maintenance guys at one point and the room cards being recharged on numerous occasions. We eventually had to wedge open the connecting doors with bits of paper, leave notes on the doors asking mousekeeping not to close them, and only enter through DS & DDs room! Reception had told us that they had charged all 4 of the keys so that they worked on either room door, but in reality this didnt happen, as mine and DBs keys didnt work in either door past day one, and DS and DDs keys never worked in our door.
The towels issue was never particularly a problem, it just meant that each day we had to ring mousekeeping and ask for a couple of extra towels per room, which they brought to us very quickly. However, if we didnt use all of these extra towels before leaving the room the next morning, they would be taken away by mousekeeping, even if they were unused! We ended up by hiding clean towels in a drawer every morning in order to have enough for morning showers! On the Wednesday, when I rang mousekeeping and asked for extra towels though, after I had asked for extra towels but before I could give my room number, the mousekeeper said, okay, we will bring them!. I said, but dont you need to know my room number?, and she replied no, I already know 124 & 126. Wow, how did you know that? Magic!. Sigh. Only at Disney. (Nothing to do with the fact that we had been asking all week, or the room number probably comes up on her switchboard when she answers the phone to me).
Walt would have been horrified everywhere we went in the parks, there were cast members in costumes walking from place to place, obviously going from backstage areas to the areas where they were working for the day. Also, there were characters at some points who were clearly walking back to crew quarters or backstage areas; they stayed in character, but were not interacting with guests.
A lot of the rides were in quite a shabby state, and clearly needed maintenance and / or repainting. There was cracked concrete in places, and a lot of walkways needed weeding.
Smoking aargh! There are no defined areas for smoking anywhere in either of the parks, so people were doing it everywhere queue areas, (although not in indoors queue areas, to be fair), just walking around the parks and Village, all over the place! It was quite unbearable in places.
Extra Magic Hours these were for 2 hours each day before park opening, so meant that from 8.00 a.m. each day we were there, we could have got into the park before any non-resort guests. However, in reality, we never got up early enough to take advantage of this! The crowds werent that bad really during normal opening hours, plus the number of attractions that were open during EMH was so severely limited as to make it not really worth the hassle of getting up and out really early.
Fastpasses the vast majority of these machines were closed for the duration of our week, with very few exceptions. In addition, the main new ride (Crushs Coaster) didnt even have the option of fast passes. I know crowds were quite low, but it meant that any of the newer or popular rides had 60 minute standby queues, making them something we didnt have time to do on this trip!
These are only minor niggles really, and would never stop me from returning to Disneyland Paris. I really love this place for several reasons it is Disney, for a start, plus it is tiny enough to do in just a couple of days, although it is nice to take a couple of extra days to really explore and enjoy the place. Theming of the entrance areas to both parks is extremely pretty and well kept, it is nice to sample the different foods on offer, and there are shows and rides there that may be replicated from other parks, but have their own little differences. It is a lovely mixture of the familiar and the new, in ways that make it an excellent place to visit.
Overall, we had a really great time, and I think the holiday treat for DS was exactly what we hoped it would be.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the report.