View Full Version : Pal Bittorf - DL Paris (23 February - 28 February, 1999) - Sequoia Lodge

Trip Reports
01-27-2006, 05:24 PM
Time of Year: Winter
Travel Method: Plane
Resort: Sequoia Lodge
Ages Represented in Group: Adult
DLP Experience Represented in Group: Rookie (but freqent visitor to the US Disney parks)
Comments: Paul and his wife, Bobbie, were able to go to Europe for almost a week, including a nice visit to Disneyland Paris. This is a fantastic trip report for those US citizens that are planning a trip to DLP. It also includes a wonderful description of the couple's stay in Paris before going to the park

Disneyland Paris: Pre-planning Report

Well this is almost too unbelievable to be true! I never thought I’d be writing THIS trip report. This is a trip planning report for Disneyland Paris!

I said in my last trip report for Disneyland in California that this was my Disney year. When I wrote that I never dreamed that I would be going to Disneyland Paris (DLP) in a couple of months. What a year this has been. This is certainly the "creme de la creme" as they would say in France!

When I get to Disneyland Paris next February, I will have been to three out of the four Disney Parks in less than a year. Wow!

This trip is going to be quite different though. There is much to do before this trip ever takes place, as this will be our first time overseas as well. There is already much I have learned and there is much, much more that I am learning as I am writing this report.

Lets start at the beginning, shall we? My wife (33) and I (35) are from Wisconsin. I have been doing a lot of flying on Northwest Airlines (mainly related to my job and a Director of a computer services company) and have been purchasing my tickets electronically via the Web. This got me signed up for Cybersavers from Northwest.

Well Cybersavers one day last October sent me an email advertising a great fare to Europe if you purchased tickets within the next 14 days. It was listed at $299 for a trip to a lot of European destinations. Actually when you add all of the taxes and tariffs the tickets came to around $350 a piece. This was still less than many of my flights to the West Coast. Understand, however, that it will be winter there when we go. Not really in the heart of tourist season! However my wife and I are from Wisconsin so the 40 to 50 degree temps there that time of year should be downright balmy to me! By the way, it is interesting that at Disneyland Paris it actually snows sometimes! By contrast, the Disney Parks here are usually quite balmy. Maybe that is why they don’t have Splash Mountain (bummer) - and why they advertise that 80% of their attractions are indoors and heated!

Now it has been my wife’s dream to go to Paris all of her life. As a matter of fact she took three years of French in college. This seemed like the perfect offer I couldn’t refuse. At the time I didn’t even think about Disneyland Paris being there. I was my wife who reminded me of this fact. No wonder why I love her!

Obviously, on this trip I’m just as excited about spending time in Paris as I will be going to Disneyland (which actually located about 40 miles west of Paris). We will actually be spending 3 days in Paris and 2 nights at DP (Disneyland Paris) with only a full day at the park but also an evening to check out the Disney Village (I heard that this is somewhat similar to Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island at WDW). This should be a nice blend. DLP doesn’t appear to have as many attractions as WDW or DL, but I hear the park itself is beautiful. No small Castle here!

By the way - being a trip to Paris - this also unfortunately for me means another trip to Disney without the kids. We had already though been planning a trip to WDW with the kids for December 1999. Our Paris trip will actually benefit our December trip because the miles we accrue on this trip will get both my wife and I free frequent flyer tickets for the December trip! A nice side benefit. Our kids, by the way, will be staying with both sets of Grandparents at our house and will be in school for most of our trip (this really worked out good - we won’t worry about them as much and they, hopefully, won’t miss us as much keeping their same routine)

Wow, our first European vacation!!! What to do first.

Well the first thing to do was to book the flight. Thanks to E-tickets I was able to do this online. Quite easy actually. We’re flying through Detroit. This is OK, because I fly through Detroit a lot. Funny, but when booking my flight online I had to use my parents credit card because, up to this point at least, my only credit card was a Disney Credit Card! (not anymore unfortunately – more on that later).

Well, the next thing I did was to look up information on Paris on the web. There is lots of it out there. I simply typed in Paris on my search engine and came up with a wide variety of sites, including an ‘official’ tourist site called the Paris Pages (a very useful site) and the Official Disneyland Paris web site. I also found a few unofficial DLP sites (unlike in the US, there are only a handful of alternative sites for DLP-the DLP Fan site was the best – all were somewhat outdated).

The official DLP web site (disneylandparis.com) is really kind of different because the only English version of site is geared for England and not the USA. At DLP we will truly be a minority being from the USA. They do not actively market DLP to Americans (probably because we have two Disney parks in our backyard)! From the official website I was able to get a brochure sent to me by filling out a form. Even though I filled out the option that I was from the USA they sent me (took two weeks) a brochure for England with pounds listed instead of dollars or francs for the price. Fortunately on the web there are a lot of free currency conversion sites where you can easily convert any currency to any currency. Just type "currency conversion" on your search engine to find one.

The brochure was written specifically for the British people. Disney does do a good job at adapting Disney to other countries. Mickey Mouse in the brochure is in a British top hat and Santa in the brochure was called ‘Father Christmas’. A hint of the differences to come? Maybe.

From the brochure and the website, we learned that Disneyland Paris has its own hotels. Since we really love the Disney Hotels in the States, we decided to make reservations for a Disney Hotel at DLP. We also have a Disney Credit Card, so this seems like a great idea. Hmmm, but which one. They have a wide variety – although they all seem to be similar to Disney Hotels at WDW. DLP has a main hotel that reminds me of the Grand Floridian right at the gates to DLP. In fact, it looks like you have to go through the hotel to get into Disneyland. They also have a nautical hotel much like Newport Beach, a wilderness themed hotel, much like the Wilderness Lodge and a southwestern themed hotel much like the Coronado Hotel.

Because of price considerations (and personal taste) we decided to go with the moderately priced Sequoia Lodge (much like the Wilderness Lodge at WDW). Now the brochure that we had offered prices for this hotel at a special rate that included that price of admission to Disneyland which in US dollars would have worked out I figured to about $195 a night. Seeing that even the inexpensive hotels in Paris we had also researched were at least $150 a night, I thought this was a good deal.

I called the 1-800-WDISNEY number to find out information on how I could make reservations for DLP and much to my surprise they said they would transfer me right through to DLP reservations. This, I later found out, is a special department at WDW reservations that really acts like as a reservation service for DLP. They were not able to even give me a confirmation number right away – though I could call back for this in 3 days they said (they were right – no problems getting the number three days later). I also found out that none of the package prices listed in the brochure were available through this number. Yet, since they were very helpful and promised me that I WOULD get the reservation (and I wasn’t sure about my foreign dialing and language skills yet), I decided to go with reservations through them. The price through them actually worked out to be about $185 a night with breakfast included, but not admission to the park. Admission to the park for the time of year we are going is only $29 a day, so still not too bad a deal.

After I gave them all of my information I found out that my Disney Credit card does not work at DLP! A Disney Credit card does not work at Disney – go figure! I was told that the card is not setup for international transactions. I can understand that but I plan to show it to all the employees there anyway, just to show them how crazy this is. They assured me my newly acquired VISA would work just fine however. Oh well! This is not exactly the same Disney as in the US.

As the days get closer I am finding out some interesting things about DLP (yet to be confirmed). Among them is that the Haunted Mansion there is an old (haunted) country house, Space Mountain has a ‘loop’ in it, the Indiana Jones Adventure ride is really a rollercoaster (again with a ‘loop’ although I’m sure it is not ‘just’ a rollercoaster). IASW and Peter Pan are very popular rides there, and they STILL have 20,000 leagues under the sea (have never been on this). Their BTMR looks huge and very elaborately themed. They also have POC, but no Jungle Cruise. It all looks quite interesting. Brian Bennett ( I just had to let him know that I was going to write a trip report for DLP), informed me that this is the only Disney Park where they let the women wear makeup. You know, I had never even noticed that the female employees at the other parks DIDN'T wear makeup. Well now I will have to look. I will have to tell my wife that it is in the name of ‘research’ now that I do this so I won’t get in trouble J .

You know I usually like to write my trip reports in sort of a play by play style, but these months have flown by so fast (it is now just a week away) that I find myself informing you of events in a random style. My apologies, I plan to do the actual trip report in more of a play by play fashion.

In order to get through all I want to say let me just summarize a couple of other things I learned so far:

Even three months flies by when you are planning a big trip so start doing research and planning EARLY! Passport: easy to get, all I needed was a photo (color is fine these days) on a white background (most photographers know how to do this), my original birth certificate (harder to find than I thought) and $60. Allow plenty of time to get the passport (mine took 3 weeks). The other reason I say to allow plenty of time is that my wife’s passport came back with her name spelled wrong! She had to send it back and it took another 3 weeks for her to get it. The earlier the better. We got our passports at the local main branch of our Post Office. Ask for a receipt by the way if they don’t give you one since they send the application elsewhere and this may be the only way for you to let them know you applied should the application get lost. Pick up some travel guides. We brought three travel books on Paris (found out later that most of these could be loaned out through the library). One was Frommer’s which had good detail, one was a guide to romance is Paris which was fun just for that reason (more surprising was that it had very good information and travel tips for Paris), and the other (my favorite) was a book of trip reports from people who had taken trips to Paris (much like this web site). No Disney information though in this book! Frommer’s was the only one that even mentioned DLP and the information was limited. Seems the French have sort of a love/hate relationship with DLP. We found out that you can by a metro pass that includes unlimited use of the trains, buses and subways in Paris and will also allow you to take a train out to the very gates on DLP. Be sure to ask for a pass for zones 1-5 as DLP is in the 5th zone. We recently saw that they just started selling DLP admission tickets at most of the Metro transportation ticket offices so we will be able to (hopefully) buy our tickets in advance. We are going to DLP as the last part of our trip. We feel it would be hard not to explore Paris first. In addition, it looks as though all of the signage in DLP is in English so this may be a welcome sight for us after three days in Paris! Plus we feel at ‘home’ in Disney’s surroundings so this will also be a welcome change for us also. Prepare yourself for high prices. Everything (especially food) is very expensive from what I am seeing in Paris and DLP. I’ll let you know if this is true in my trip report. Looks to be easy to spend $12-20 dollars (USD equivalent) apiece for breakfast alone! Even though my wife had three years of French, I went to my local library and got some French Language tapes. They had many different ones at the library I could borrow. Two of these were specifically for people visiting France and included many travel tips as well. Unexpected and welcome! It is just good courtesy to at least TRY to speak some of the language. I’m a person who stutters ‘in real life’ and I’m looking forward to stuttering in French! WDW reservations worked fine, but you may be able to get a better deal calling DLP direct. In Paris we are staying at a small local hotel in the heart of the downtown. Within walking distance of the Louvre, Notre Dame and even the Eiffel Tower. We chose this hotel because of the recommendation from the Paris Pages web site and also the travel guides we were given – said it was ‘a sure bet’. We also picked it because we knew from the information given that they spoke English there. By the way, when we called for reservations the first time, we hadn’t accounted for the seven-hour time difference and ended up calling them late at night when they couldn’t make reservations. We had to call back early in the morning the next day. They did speak English! I had to get in touch with them twice to get a faxed confirmation – I guess they don’t do that too much over there, but I wanted some proof we had the reservation. They sent me a fax assuring me that a room would indeed be waiting for us. Incidentally, most rooms at the moderately local hotels that have been in Paris for literally ages are small. Some don’t automatically include a private bathroom (ours did however). Also most have two single beds (to conserve space I guess) – that should be interesting. Reminds me of college! We are going to set specific times to call our kids so we are not calling them at weird times of the day – or when they will be away. Almost have to do this!

Well anyway, only 4 days left now. I can’t tell you how excited we are for this trip. We will miss the kids for sure but will be only gone really a short while. Bon voyage!!!

Disneyland Paris: Trip Report

Note, my wife was gracious enough to write the first part of this trip report dealing with our trip over and the time we spent in Paris (days one through three), I finished the second part regarding our trip to Disneyland Paris (DLP) – (days four through six).

Day One – Were Off!!!!

Prior to leaving for Paris, we were very nervous. I was convinced I’d catch the flu that is going around. Well, I didn’t get the flu, but both Paul & I both caught nasty colds on the day we arrived in Paris. We left on Tuesday, February 23, 1999. Paul’s mom came to watch the kids & she dropped us off at the airport for our 10:45am Northwest flight to Detroit. We arrived in Detroit at 1:00pm (Detroit is an hour behind us) and we had to wait for our 5:45pm Paris flight. We had time to waste, so we ate at Cheers. They played old re-runs of the TV show on a big screen. We decided to convert $75 dollars into francs so we had some spending money at a small money exchange booth at the airport. This was at a 5.434 exchange rate, not as high as the 5.9 exchange rate we had on our Visa purchases. We also went shopping for tissues & reading material at the various airport shops. I had forgotten my bottled water at home, so we bought a large bottle to take with us. (HINT: Since it is not always possible to drink the tap water, it is a good idea to carry bottled water with you or have it at your hotel.) Our Northwest flight didn’t leave from the international terminal, so we didn’t have to mess with customs on our way out of the United States. We just presented it to the check-in clerk as we checked our luggage.

The flight to Paris took 7 hours & 30 minutes. I was surprised that our flight path took us north over Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and then the British Isles. It grew dark fairly quickly, so we couldn’t see much of any landscape or the ocean. The crew made all of the announcements in both French & English. They fed us a rather yucky meal- vegetarian lasagna or beef curry. I took the lasagna, Paul didn’t eat. Paul noticed that when the stewardess gave out the bottles of wine to accompany our meal that she did not give wine to any kids. However, French parents poured out glasses for their kids to have with their meals. We watched Parent Trap as the movie. I found my seat to be very confining & my legs were totally cramped and I was so relieved when they showed us the map of our location and announced that we were approaching Charles de Gaulle airport. (Hint: If you can, it is worth it to fly business or first class just for the extra leg room and the ability to stretch out a little more.)

Day two – Our arrival and Notré Dame

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle at 7:00am Wednesday morning Paris time. We lost our entire night’s sleep time and I hadn’t been able to sleep on the plane. We disembarked and followed the signs through customs. We only had to present our passport and the form that they had given us on the plane to fill out. We were all pushed through very quickly, and we were able to pick up our luggage right away. Then, we weaved our way through the tubes and tunnels of the airport to the shuttle bus stop. We took the free shuttle bus to the RER station. They don’t announce the stops, so I had my first chance to speak French to the bus driver to ask him if it was our stop. It amounted to "RER?" and he pointed to the station doors and let us off.

Paul handled buying the Paris Visite passes which gave us 5 days worth of unlimited access to the RER (metro trains) and the city bus lines. Well, we found the train line we were supposed to take, but couldn’t figure out how to fit the large card we had been given into the little slot of the ticket booth. All of the sudden, a man walks directly up to me, very quickly, and says "What iz the matture?" After a moments panic over being mugged at our first stop, I realized he worked there. (Hint: French people have a very different sense of personal space.) He was very helpful and got us through the turn style and explained that the ticket was inserted into the pocket of the plastic wrapper around our card. We were waiting for the train, and Paul couldn’t find his ticket. After a quick search of his pockets, we found it in between the folds of the card. Our train arrived and our trip into the city of Paris began.

On the train, an older American man was playing guitar and singing. The French lady in the seat by the doors where he was standing kept rolling her eyes. She found him to be annoying, but Paul thought he was an OK guitar player and his voice wasn’t that bad. After a few stops, he passed his ashtray and got off the train. He was yelling some rude stuff in English for our benefit because he didn’t get much, but we were very American in our attitude and just ignored him. It was interesting to see the French houses and businesses on the outskirts of Paris. The RER went through a number of tunnels & the main thing I noticed is that there is a large amount of graffiti on every surface & a lot of litter along the tracks. It was neat to see the different billboards and advertising in French though. The trains filled up quickly because we were there at the peak of the morning commute for work and school. It exposed us to Parisians immediately and in large numbers. (Hint: the RER trains do not announce the stops. However, each metro station is marked with large visible signs and the train posts a map of the line you are on and lists all of the stops from beginning to end.)

We arrived at our transfer point, and then became confused in the tunnels of the Metro. I stopped to ask for directions and did quite well speaking to the girl at the information desk. We found the line we needed to take and got onto the train. Well, we thought that the train doors opened automatically, and by the time the nice French people helped Paul to get the door open, the train was ready to depart & we missed our stop.

We got off at the next stop and switched tracks to return to the previous stop. When the train arrived, I told Paul that we should take the car to the right. I started walking towards it, turned around, and Paul was gone. He had said we should take the rear car instead, and I hadn’t heard him. So, I debated & decided he must have gotten onto the train. I got on & tried looking through the connecting doors to see if he was indeed on the next car. Well, he wasn’t where I could see him. So, once the train stopped, we both shot out of the train to make sure that we hadn’t lost each other. (Later, at the hotel, I suffered some apprehension and a minor anxiety attack over this. Due to pure exhaustion, I did finally fall asleep & later felt a little more at ease.) We emerged from the metro station at L’Eglise de St. Germain (St. Germain Church) and walked down the Rue Bonaparte to Rue Jacob and found our hotel. (Hint: Streets in Paris are very narrow, as are the sidewalks. Drivers in Paris are maniacs! The cars drive very fast & the streets don’t have marked lanes. You have to be very careful to follow the crossing signs. Cars park along the street bumper to bumper, & drivers use the bumper car method to get out of their parking spots. We checked out the bumpers of several cars & many were scratched up from this type of parking activity.) Our hotel was set off the street with a pretty courtyard. We checked in, and got our key and took the ascenseur (elevator) to the top 6th floor. The elevator was very tiny and we just fit in with our two small suitcases and Paul’s carry-on bag. We stumbled around in the dark, because we couldn’t find a light switch. The light switches were large rectangular switches that you push down on with a tiny orange light. The hall lights were bubbles on the top of the wall that automatically turned off. Well, after feeling the door in the dark for the engraved number 63, we opened the door to our room.

The room was charming. It had fabric wall coverings and matching bed covers. Since we were there so early, they hadn’t placed the drapes over our windows yet. But, they did have a sliding shade to darken the room. The bathroom was very impressive, the countertops were marble and they had a built-in hair dryer. We didn’t have a plug-in converter for electrical appliances. (HINT: The hotel staff provides plenty of fresh bath towels, but they do not provide washcloths.) The 2 single beds had been pushed together in the center of the room and there was a nightstand, small dresser, desk & chair, and a large closet in the corner. The TV was mounted on the wall by the closet and an ottoman was placed beneath it. The room was small by American standards, but was very chic & French. Two very nice Degas prints adorned the walls.

After a minor anxiety attack & beaucoup d’apologies & reassurances from Paul, we slept until around noon, and then emerged to explore Paris. (Hint: When you leave the hotel, you do not take your room key with you. You turn it in at the reception desk and pick it up when you return. It gives you plenty of opportunity to communicate with the hotel staff and to practice your French, plus you can’t lose the key.) We walked down to the end of Rue Jacob and wandered into a nice business district on the Rue de Bucci. We had fun looking in all of the shops and stopped at a curbside food stand to buy a hot sandwich. Our first chance to use French francs. We shared a hot sandwich and continued to walk up past the Boulevard St. Germain de Pris. We had a lot of fun exploring shops, cafes, and malls. We found ourselves at the Senat and the Jardins de Luxembourge. There was a fountain in the park that dated from the 16th century. We saw plenty of statues in various parks that were of persons in medieval costumes, or dressed as knights, or wearing tights, capes, & Elizabethan collars. We continued walking until we reached the Pantheon. We decided to walk to Notre Dame.

I followed along behind Paul, because he had done his research and knew where we needed to go. We had a pretty good map from our Frommer’s travel guide and I have to admit that I doubted him more often than I should have. I just had such an American attitude about getting lost in the wrong part of the city. Besides, Paul navigates based on the position of the sun, and I’m a map-reader.

By the time we arrived at Notre Dame, it was close to the time we had told the kids we would call them. We found a phone booth nearby. To our dismay, we could not make the connection to AT&T to call collect. (French operators don’t speak English and I couldn’t get anywhere with my limited French.) We knew that we could buy a phone card at the post office. I just couldn’t believe our luck, right next to the phone booth was a post office. We stood in line, and I managed to purchase a phone card so that we could call home. It was really good to hear the kids and talk about all of our adventures. After our call, we returned to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was awe-inspiring. It wasn’t as large as I had imagined it would be, but considering when it was built, its size was immense. We entered the Church and noticed the signs indicating certain areas that were off limits because parishioners utilized them for prayer, etc. The Church is still active and we saw a priest hearing confession in one of the chapels established for the purpose. It was extremely dark inside. There were several chapels where you could purchase candles and offer petitions. I did kneel at one of the many kneelers and offer a prayer for my dad and our family & friends. It was incredible to me that I was praying for each of you in Notre Dame! The chapels, which lined each side of the Church, were decorated with woodwork, paintings, and statues. The stained glass windows were beautiful, but the larger ones were very far away. We decided not to pay extra for a tour of the bell towers or the hall containing antiquities. The church was very dark and, as a practicing Catholic, I felt slightly irreverent talking and walking around. I wished that the chapels had been better illuminated so that we could have seen the enormous paintings a little better. The sun was shining, so we were able to see the stained glass windows in all of their glory. We took the time to walk around the outside of the Church. The front was covered in scaffolding for renovations & cleaning. The gargoyles that projected from all sorts of nooks & crannies impressed us. We saw several carvings that had been removed for repairs laying on the grounds next to the new stones that would be carved as replacements.

After a nice walk through Isle St. Louis, we returned to our hotel, slept for an hour, and searched out a nice restaurant for dinner. The waiter seated us near the windows where we could people watch and helped us through our order. We started out with a ½ carafe of wine. There was a British businessman loudly arguing with his investors over his cellular phone when we arrived. He & his associate were smoking cigars (Europeans are smoking fiends!) and it gave us an opportunity to politely avert our attention and scope out the street scenery. I saw a man walking home with a large baguette sticking out from under his arm and realized that I truly was in Paris, France! I had ordered prime rib and Paul had a platter of various meats (pork, chicken, etc). Delicious mashed potatoes accompanied Paul’s meal & my meal included a salad of tart greens with oil and vinegar dressing and potato au gratin. Our food arrived and the British gentlemen left, but only after stopping at our table to apologize for their loud telephone discussion after they realized we were English speaking. We ordered another ½ carafe of wine (it was a very good red wine) and finished off our meal with coffee for Paul and a hot chocolate for me. (Hint: French hot chocolate is slightly bitter and they serve a packet of sugar cubes with it. I used the sugar cubes to sweeten the chocolate and it was pure heaven!) We did not order dessert.

Periodically, throughout the meal, workers had arrived at the restaurant for their shifts and they all greeted each other with handshakes and also the traditional double kiss. Our waiter’s shift ended and we got another who spoke English more fluently. He was very confused when we refused the offer to order dessert. I just did not have room for another bite. I think he thought we didn’t enjoy our meal. He knocked off the coffee and hot chocolate from our bill. (Hint: The waiters include the tip in the bill, but we always tipped an additional 10 or 20 francs because the French really know service!) We returned to our hotel and after watching a little TV (British CNN) we went to bed.

Day three – Tour Day

We woke up on Thursday morning and decided to go out for breakfast at a café we had seen the previous day. However, the café didn’t open until 9:00am and after a brisk walk to waste time, it still hadn’t opened. We decided on an alternative, the Café de Flore, and did a rather good job ordering our petit dejeuner in French. Paul had jus de orange & croissants and I had des ouefs au plat et bacon, jus de tomate, and a chocolat. (Hint: They always serve sliced baguettes with meals, but forget the butter.) It was rather cold & damp outside & a hot meal in a warm café was just what my stuffy head needed!

We left the café and decided to start our day with a tour of the Louvre. We crossed the Seine River again & entered the glass pyramid that is the entrance. It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to view and where to find it. We viewed many famous sculptures and paintings. The highlights of our tour were the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and The Dying Slave (Michelangelo). Paul and I aren’t real art buffs, but we were impressed and could have spent hours discovering various treasures.

We walked through the Jardins de Tuileries to the Obelisk. A gentleman approached us to have our pictures taken, we agreed and then he tried charging us 280 francs for them. Paul refused, so the guy offered me the 3 photos for 200 francs. I paid, since these were going to be the only pictures of Paul & I together in Paris. The photos aren’t bad, but Paul feels we were had! Which we were, but I knew this. My French professor had told me about these photographers while I was studying French in college. I just felt better that Paul’s anger cut down the price by 80 francs.

We decided to catch a bus to the Champs Elysees. We explored many shops and malls & marveled at all of the people. We saw a motorcade & wondered which diplomats or officials we were seeing. We passed 2 police officers stationed on the sidewalk and saw one holding an Uzi. Paul took his picture! We proceeded to the Arc de Triomphe, and walked up the steps to the top. I wasn’t feeling well and the 284 steps just about did me in. We rested in the museum and I went to the bathroom. (Hint: European women spend a lot of time in the bathroom stall. I never could figure out what they do in there. It is truly mystifying & frustrating when you really have to go!) My blood pressure was soaring, but after a rest I was ready to go out on the top and view Paris.

We decided to tour the Eiffel Tower. I was feeling sick and exhausted, so Paul suggested we take the bus. It was packed, but eventually I was able to sit down & at least it was warm. We got to the Eiffel Tower and discovered the top floor was closed. So, we were only able to go up to the second level. Paul was very disappointed. The view from the second level was still really neat, and I don’t know if I could have handled going all the way up to the top. We were going to take the bus back, but we couldn’t find the correct bus stop. So, we ended up taking the RER instead. At the hotel, I rested for a few hours and warmed up. We woke & decided to go back to the Champs Elysees by bus to see Paris at night. Paris is known as the City of Lights because they illuminate all of the famous buildings.

After a brief walk to the Seine River, we discovered that the bus stop was closed and the streets had terrible traffic. (Hint: motorcycles will weave through traffic and use the sidewalks to get through traffic endangering any pedestrians with the misfortune to be walking along the river.) Due to the fact that I had suffered with my cold all day, we were debating our options when we came to another bus station & discovered the bus we wanted to take approaching. We took the bus to the Arc de Triomphe & disembarked to the magic of the illuminated lights. We had so much fun that night. We went to a pizzeria and they made our pizzas in an open fire oven. Then, we went to a cute little bar and had a sorbet sundae dessert and drinks. It was really fun and we got a table near the window so that we could check out all of the fun on the street. We stopped at a huge mall that sold only parfum & I was all stuffed up with my cold so I couldn’t smell any of them. Since I have allergic reactions to some perfumes, we did leave so that I wouldn’t develop a headache.

We took the bus back to our hotel and Paul wanted to stop at another bar, but I was tired & we had planned for Friday night at the Disney Village to be our night out. We got back to our hotel only to discover that the door was locked. We didn’t know what to do! Paul saw a doorbell. I read the little sign, but wasn’t sure what it meant. So, we rang the doorbell & after a few moments of worry, a nice lady came to open the door. We were very relieved to pick up our key and return to our room for a soak in the tub and a good nights sleep. Sometime, in the middle of the night, we were awakened by some loud French voices in the hotel hallway. At first, I was concerned, but the voices were cheerful. Even though I couldn’t understand most of the exchange, I quickly realized that our hotel mates were drunk and returning from a night on the town.

Day 4 – Off to Disney!

Woke up about 7:15 am. Finally starting to get used to the time change. Our last morning in Paris! Paris has been wonderful. Not too bad of a day – some clouds but mostly sunny. Started repacking to take our stuff over to the Sequoia Lodge at Disney. Fortunately, we were able to get our things stuff back in to our suitcases. I was worried because I had spent hours before the trip getting all of my clothes neatly folded and rolled to get them to fit into two small suitcases. We needed to travel light because we knew we would be taking them on the RER train. I wasn’t sure I could get everything back in! Relief!

Headed out about 8:30am for another breakfast at what had become one of our favorite places – The Café de Flore. Handed our key again to the front desk with a rousing bonjour from the clerk. Hmm, a cool, crisp day – I can see my breath! Started walking to the Café de Flore (only a couple blocks from our hotel). Walked past – no one there yet – can see the waiters setting up however. The French really get a late start to their day – virtually nothing opens until 8:30 or 9:00am. Not like America where the breakfast places open at six and businesses open at eight! We did notice people sitting at the Deux Magots Café yet we still weren’t brave enough to try this one – many very good looking people in fancy clothes still here. Not that we couldn’t have fit in – just didn’t look too comfortable.

Well decided to walk around a bit one last time. Thought to myself how much we will miss this place. I was excited to go to DLP, but I would have enjoyed one more day downtown. We took (our now routine) walk across the street to the BNP machine to get another 600 FF. I didn’t know if DLP would have a cash machine readily available – I was wrong on this – there was one in Disney Village and one in every land of Disney itself, plus almost every place took VISA. These cash machines are so convenient! Had a nice walk – still fun to watch the people and the traffic. Saw a Jeep Grand Cherokee this time (one of the vehicles we own) and took a picture of it because it looked so unusual around all of the other small cars!

By the time we walked back to the Café de Flore there and observed a small crowd of people entering. Grabbed a nice table right off of the sidewalk sunroom near where we sat the previous day. Had an even nicer waiter this time and he seemed to appreciate our attempt to order in French. I had Oeufs du plate avec jambon et frommage (or basically two eggs with ham and cheese). My French was pretty good this time! Bobbie I think had the same without cheese. I say basically ham and eggs with cheese, but that is not really true. It is hard to image how different their idea of ham and eggs is from ours in America – These were truly gourmet Oeufs et frommage! We were very thirsty from the night before (very few soda machines around) that we both had two things to drink.. I had of course a cup of their marvelous café (again nothing like our coffee – more like a gourmet expresso) and jus d’orange. We were also very hungry. We noticed an interesting look from the waiter and the people around us when we ordered all of this food. The French usually just have café and croissants for breakfast. Surprisingly, even if you don’t order much you are never rushed. We were always encouraged to stay as long as we wanted to. Most of the people at the café’s were reading newspapers or a book while eating.

We really enjoyed eating there! Was fun watching the people and cars from their sidewalk sunroom. This was Paris at its most perfect for me. I could do this every morning and not tire of it.

After breakfast my wife suggested stopping at a local flower market and getting a bouquet for the clerk at our hotel (who seemed to always be there). Bobbie told me that the French tend to think that we Americans ‘throw money at them’ at the drop of a hat and this would be more meaningful (I agreed 100%). We walked a short distance to the open market area near our hotel and picked up some Orangina (quickly becoming my favorite drink of France) and some flowers. We got the Orangina from what looked to be a normal type of supermarket that was in this open market area. Was amazed at how many of the products in the supermarket were American – could have got many of the foods here that we buy at home. Many more fresh Fruits and vegetables though. Right outside of this supermarket was a flower market where we found a bouquet of really nice tulips for our hotel clerk.

We went back to the hotel and gave the flowers to the clerk who seemed genuinely impressed! Glad we did that!! We got our suitcases and started our journey to Disney!

We had just begun to understand how the metro system worked as we were leaving! Oh well! Took the metro from the station two blocks away from our hotel to Chatelet, which is kind of the Grand Central Station of Paris. At Chatelet we transferred to the RER A train. Again we had to go through a long series of tunnels to get from the metro station to the train station. It was well marked however and this time there was even a people mover on a really long stretch.

Found the boarding area for the Marne La Vallee/Chessy train that is the train that actually terminates its line at Disney. A train came in right as we arrived, yet, when I looked up at a lighted sign I noticed that there was no light lit up for the Marne La Vallee/Chessy station so I decided that we should not take it. That turned out to be fortunate for us as it turns out that there are different "A" trains that branch out to different areas. We would have ended up somewhere in the French countryside!!! We then found a TV monitor that showed that the next "A" train for Marne La Vallee/Chessy was about 15 minutes away (this was actually quite an impressive system) so we settled in. I had heard that our rail pass allowed us to be in the first class compartment so I told Bobbie to look for one. The train rolled in right on time and we did find a class 1 compartment. There was though no obvious difference between this compartment and the others and no one check to see if we had a pass to be there. Oh well!

It was a nice trip out to Disney although we had hoped that we could have seen more of the countryside. We did see some suburbs however most of the trip was either underground or the train track was sunk down into a ravine so you couldn’t see out. The closer we got to Disney the prettier the countryside got. Only problem we encountered was a teenager smoking (trains are supposed to be non-smoking) next to us. They did however realize that the smoke was bothering us and moved to the far end of the car, which I thought was actually very considerate, and something that an American teenager would probably not do.

After about 35 minutes we were at the stop. This is a neat way to arrive at Disney. We later noticed that most people at Disney must come by train as the parking lots for Disney were very small (maybe 500 cars max). Not only does the RER train come here but also so does the TGV high speed trains. Since I had only seen a picture of the station with the TGV, I thought we might be in the wrong place. Turns out however that the TGV station is right next to the RER. After we went up the elevator a floor all of DLP appeared and I (of course) became quite excited.

The first thing we saw was the Disney Village. Planet Hollywood, Billy Bob’s, New York diner, A steakhouse and an assortment of Disney stores were all staring at us. On the other side, only about 100 feet away, was the entrance to Hotel Disney, which is actually part of the entrance to DLP. This is the only Disney I have every seen with a Hotel right at the gates. I must admit it was a very beautiful and big hotel indeed! It reminded me of the Grand Floridian but with more color. Of course the weather didn’t exactly remind me of Florida – it was only just above freezing! The train station, FYI. sits right in between the Disney Village and Hotel Disney. Since we had our luggage our next step was to walk a rather long ways through the Disney Village to our hotel the Sequoia Lodge (which was supposed to be like the Wilderness Lodge of WDW).

One thing that I noticed throughout our stay here is that the folks at Disney had learned from their efforts in California and Florida how to finally design a park the right way. The Disney Village is situated such here that you have to go through it to get to the hotels (with the exception of the Hotel Disney that is right at the gates). You can’t help but see the Disney Village it all lit up and inviting when you leave the park either! Pretty good marketing I must say!

We walked through the Village. Was nice to see all of the signs in English for a change. Definitely American!!! As of yet there weren’t many people around, which was nice also. The weird thing for me was how cold it was – could see our breath!!! We noticed at the far end of the Village that they are building a Rainforest Café. Made sense to me!! Past what will be the Rainforest Café is the manmade lake that all of the hotels (except the low budget Cheyenne and Santa Fe) circle around. Reminded me a lot of the Boardwalk area of WDW. From the hotels you can again see Disney Village staring at you across the water – these Disney folks sure know how to market! Was all very "Disneyish" to me. Even though we were in France, this definitely seemed "home" to me!

Our hotel, the Sequoia Lodge, was very nice, but not very much like the Wilderness Lodge. More of a Frank Lloyd Wright version of architecture – not all that much wood. Was cozy inside and it had a really big fireplace. Not nearly as fancy as is WDW though. Fairly basic I thought to myself, but very nice too. Very much a Disney hotel as there was a waiting area for the kids with a TV showing Disney favorites. Kids are kids you know no matter where you go and even though they speak another language their mannerisms reminded us so much of our own. We missed them!!!

I went to check in while my wife rested her feet on a comfy sofa in the lobby. First thing I noticed was that all the Disney cast members are multilingual and depending on how you said hello was how they would respond back to you. Pretty cool – I later experienced this on the rides when they were queuing up people, Disney cast members rapidly switching between 5 different languages – a skill indeed - yet they did it with style and ease! I was asked when I checked in for my confirmation sheet. They had never sent me a confirmation sheet, so I got a little panicked. Maybe this was because I used WDW reservations! I did remember to bring a confirmation number with me but as I went to grab it she found my name and all was well.

One strange thing, they hand out paper ID cards that are supposed to work like the ID cards at WDW resorts where you can charge anything you want to them. However, when they asked me whether I wanted to use the minibar or the phone in my room and I said no, they did not give me the other charge privileges as well. I’m sure I could have corrected this but I really didn’t care since all of the places took my Visa anyway. They did make you go to the information counter to register for what time you would like your free continental breakfast. Weird, but I suppose they didn’t want everyone there at once. When they asked what time we would like breakfast and I told them 7:30 they seemed shocked – most Europeans don’t eat breakfast till later. I did want to be at the gates right around 8:00am the next day in case they opened early. I also made a reservation that night for the Hunter’s Lodge restaurant there because it was advertised as all you could eat smoked meats much like they have at the Wilderness Lodge. This would turn out to be one of our bigger mistakes.

We went to our room which was on the first floor. I was happy about this because I heard there was a large fire there a few years back and I wanted to be near the ground. J The room was a plain but very nice with a view of some beautiful pine trees right outside our window. This I liked! I grew up in Northern Wisconsin after all! The bed was a big rustic style bed you would expect in a wilderness lodge with a very hard stuffed type of mattress (also what you would expect in a wilderness lodge but not for the equivalent of $210 a night)!. Save the mattress, it was very much like a typical Holiday Inn room. Nice, but nothing special. I was thirsty but only found an ice machine. Not many soda machines in Europe. We Americans must drink a lot because I always thirsty in France.

By the way the cast members we encountered at Disney we very nice though it always seemed a bit forced. We had had such wonderful service in Paris, so even though this service was quite good, it didn’t seem to measure up. The French are hard working and good at serving people already. Learning the Disney way of doing this seemed a bit unnatural for them. It is however much appreciated back in the states where it is not the norm.

Well now that I was here I was excited. The first thing we did was to call our kids. I was now about 2:45 here which means our kids were just having breakfast. Called the kids using the last minutes on our phone card. It was good to hear their voices. Next we checked out the pool area since it was in a separate building right outside our room. There were not too many people in there when we went. It was nice. Had a water slide and a waterfall. There was also a hot tub that was out of order. Probably would be much more fun in the summer as the pool had a portion of it that went outside. The pool building had a nice workout area and also a massage area.

We decided that this would be a good time for us, while we had the time, to pick up some souvenirs for the kids. We walked down toward the Disney Village and this time noticed that they had taken the Zamboni to the ice rink in front of the New York Hotel (they wanted this to look like Rockefeller Center and in a way - it did)! Certainly cold enough! There were tons of skaters and I thought to myself what a neat idea for a park where it is cold a lot of the year. I wondered if they were able to make ice in the summer too. I would imagine it was on a refrigerated floor. That would be cool! Slight pun intended J !

Walked a little more ways to he Disney Village. Lots of shops to choose from. We brought Katie my daughter a Kovou stuffed animal that she said she wanted and brought my son Matthew a weird French stocking hat with Goofy on it that incidentally he loved. The weirder he looks the better these days! Kids!.

Was a very pleasant experience. Afterwards, since the sun was out and it was a beautiful day, I made my best suggestion of the trip. I get one good suggestion each trip. J I suggested we walk the few hundred feet over to the Hotel Disney and the entrance of the park to look around. Since it turned out that the sun was only out for a few minutes the next day – we got some of our best pictures of the entrance and the Disney Village.

How to describe the Hotel Disney. Simply fantastic! Wonderfully detailed and landscaped to the tee. A lot like the Grand Floridian in style but colored in pastels and very new and beautiful. This has got to be THE best Disney Hotel anywhere and I got to stay at the Grand Floridian in a room overlooking the castle so this is high praise indeed. You are right at the entrance to Disney. In fact if you stay on one of the top floor (a special Disney Club level) you have your own special entrance to the park (I heard) and, if your room is high enough, you can see right down Main Street as if you were there! How great that must be! Could watch all of the parades from your room!. Told my wife that I would take her there and stay in one of those rooms for our 15th wedding anniversary. She didn’t object.

In front of the Hotel was also the famous Mickey Mouse done in flowers. Plus a fountain and tiered landscaping. Very nice indeed! We got lots of beautiful sunny, but cold, pictures. I thought to myself during this visit whether given a choice, would I prefer it to be really hot or really cool and my answer is - somewhere in between. I would still have to error on the side of cool though. Was funny the next day to go into buildings for heat instead of to be cool. They need to take the Florida heat and ship it there and vice versa. We walked all around here and tried to peek through the gates. With the (Disney) train station right there it was hard to see much but still it got us very excited for the next day. We stopped at the information booth outside the main gate and picked up a map. Even more useful than the map was a guide they gave as to when the shows and the parades were the next day.

By the way, we noticed that there weren’t too many people there that day. One thing about DLP is that it is much busier on the weekends throughout the entire year. Most of their business is from families taking a weekend trip from around Paris (or the surrounding countries). Weekends are MUCH busier as we found out – even in the ‘dead’ of winter.

Next we walked slowly back to the hotel to rest our feet before dinner. By the way, on the way back, we saw that they had just opened a huge McDonalds in Disney Village. Still can’t get over why the French like crappy American food so much!

The Dinner – probably the biggest disappointment of our whole trip (yet Ok in some ways). We arrived at the restaurant about 5:45 (reservations were at 6). No one there. Walked around a bit and came back – there was a big line. Europeans are punctual!!! We got seated at a nice table for two by the window, which was nice. This dining area reminded me much more of a school cafeteria than a Wilderness Lodge – fluorescent lighting even – yuck. Not like the Wilderness Lodge at all.

Here is the best way to describe our dining experience.

Wait, Wait, Wait. Lots of families. Snack on a mixture of potato chips and peanuts at our table. Weird, yet surprisingly good. A three-piece guitar group starts playing country music pretty good actually but even though they sang in English, they sang many of the words wrong! Lead singer always tried to imitate Bob Dylan – pretty weird – wasn’t expecting entertainment. I play guitar so overall OK. French fries (frites) were brought out. I’m hungry but they only gave them to kids! Hey wait, I’m a BIG kid! Lettuce salads (with assorted nuts and Blue cheese dressing) finally brought out for us (not bad) Wait staff comes out dancing suddenly (bad dancers) with skewers of meat. Sort of cute. We get one small piece of grilled pork, one chicken leg and one small sausage. Nothing else! We eat meat. Bobbie – doesn’t like sausage. Meats Ok but small More ‘country Dylan’ music in the background. Still wrong words! Characters come out – cute as always. Kids love this. Done eating meat. Wait, Wait Bring out grilled pineapple for us to eat (yes grilled pineapple!). Wait Bring out Au gratin potatoes (rest of our food is done long before). We eat just potatoes – quite good actually – wanted more. Finish potatoes – bring out vegetable medley Eat this alone also. More music – sing along to "Country Roads" in English – I sing loud but they use wrong words! Bring out meat and slice it on table. Thought it was beef but turns out to be lamb – yuck. Brought out dessert – not sure what it was – Bobbie didn’t like it, I thought it was OK. Wait, Wait Brought check – our most expensive meal in France – roughly around $130 for the two of us.

Not really what I had expected. We did not have a choice of food and they didn’t have the abundant succulent grilled meats they had at the Wilderness lodge. Kind of lame. Out waitress though was quite nice. She immediately asked us if we were from the US (a rarity there). Turns out she was a foreign exchange student in Michigan of all places. Knew where Wisconsin was – neat. She worked very hard and we appreciated her efforts seeing how busy she was. There had to have been about 150 people at this dinner and about six or seven wait staff.

Well after that (it was now 8:15pm) we headed to Disney Village for a drink. Stopped at Billy Bob’s first. Not much going on – the live entertainment wasn’t set to start until 9:30. They did serve Margarita’s there and this was the first time we had seen it offered in France (actually one of the cheaper drinks). We each had one. After, since it was only 9:00 we headed for the American Grill. Much to my surprise there was a live band there playing a variety of new and older soft rock again in English. I liked this a lot and we stayed for another drink. We were amazed at how many kids were here. Now I know this IS Disney and we had observed some kids when we were at Pleasure Island also, but kids were rampant here and generally unsupervised (as they are all over France).

Was neat to see all of the British, French and Germans enjoying the American music. Strange also having the band members speak in French when not singing although they sang in English without an accent! They were however a very talented band – the keyboard player reminded me of Paul Schafer from Dave Letterman fame.

Our goal was to go to Hurricanes, a dance club to see the Europeans dance. Just thought that might be interesting. We discovered that Hurricanes didn’t even open up until 11:30pm. It did however, like the rest of Disney Village, stay open until 4:00am! Way too late for us when we wanted to be up early for Disney.

By this time I was getting a bit hungry (and curious) and I didn’t want my night to quite end yet so we decided to stop at McDonalds. Yes, McDonalds. Told myself I wouldn’t but just had to see what the special attraction was. By this time everything else was getting pretty crowded anyway. A lot of people from Paris come to the "free" Disney Village on weekends I was told. I would if I lived there! Anyway McDonalds at Disney had serious looking security guards in suits (I told Bobbie they were McSecurity – she laughed). It was a pretty upscale McDonalds with cushioned seats reminiscent of on old-fashioned fancy restaurant!

I had a Big Extra which was an absolutely huge hamburger with lettuce and tomato unlike anything I have had around here. The rest was typical McDonalds with the exception of very good service. J Satisfied my taste for some American food.

Went back to the hotel around 10:00 and went to sleep.

Day 5 – Disney!

6:00am I got my preprogrammed wake up call (by the way the phones at the lodge were the same type of phones as at WDW). Very disappointed – no Mickey!! Just some not to friendly voice telling me that it was my wake up call. I did notice that when I picked up the phone it was automatically in English – so was all of the literature in the room – must have been an English speaking room! Opened my window (there were no screens on any of the windows) and literally poked my head outside. A cold dreary morning! Oh well. Went down at 7:30 to get our breakfast. Breakfast consisted of cereal, yogurt, ham and cheese sandwiches and croissants. Coffee and orange juice from dispensers also. Not too bad – coffee was more like the café I had gotten used to. There was hardly anyone there when we first came, but the time we left again, it was swamped. Morale: go early – beat the crowds.

Because our feet were tired and we knew we would be doing a lot of walking, we headed to the bus stop to take the bus to Disney. Yes, they have a full blown bus service like WDW that serves all of the hotels on a regular basis. Kind of funny actually since none of the hotels are that far away! We weren’t sure how early the buses ran (the park’s official operating time for this weekend was 9:00am to 8:00pm, yet I suspected they opened Main Street at 8:30 – I was right). In less than five minutes a big yellow Disney Bus pulled up. The bus was actually a very cool double long bus with an accordion type center. I wondered why they didn’t use these types of buses at WDW. In five minutes we were at the main gate of the park. The main gate (before the hotel) was locked and we were one of the first in line. I noticed that they were letting in people who stayed at the Disney Hotel or who had reservations for a character breakfast. At 8:15 they opened up this gate and let us in as far as the gates under the Hotel. Lots of gates!

About 10 minutes later we saw Mickey come driving down mainstreet in an old fashioned car. He got out of the car and came up to some kids at the gates and let them through to visit him. This was cool – had never seen this. Had a good photo op of Mickey. I was getting pretty excited. Precisely at 8:00 the red X’s on the gates turned green automatically and the Disney train blew its horn – we were one of the first people on Main Street!

What a Mainstreet! Very beautiful and detailed. All of the buildings were done in colored brick – reminded me much more of Disneyland in California than Florida. Except for the Castle – the castle was colored a shade of pink and was brilliant – definitely without a doubt the best castle of them all! All throughout the day I noticed that this park was much more similar to Disneyland in California than Florida. As a matter of fact Florida could really use some remodeling as they have done in California.

We walked down mainstreet taking it all in. Loved the real gas lamps and the detail and newness was awesome. Bobbie had to use the restroom so we asked where the nearest one was and soon found one of the best parts of the park. On each side of mainstreet were hallways (again elaborately decorated and with real gas lamps. These hallways all had back doors into the main street shops. It was an excellent refuge from the cold and rain and also a brilliant way to get down Main Street when the parades were going on. They finally were able to do it right. Looking down this hallway (which was empty at the time) remains one of my most vivid memories or DLP. Already I was very impressed.

We then walked up to where they had the ropes at the end of Main Street. On the other side of the rope was a very friendly tall, dark, Disney cast member who just seemed to love his job. He and Mickey gathered kids from on the other side of the rope and started playing games with them. This was so cute. One little boy made a mad dash toward the castle with a big smile on his face and another very stoned faced cast member (up to that point) started a chase that was so comical it was hilarious (not planned of course buy very funny) as soon as this man got closer to this boy he would smile and run away – kind of a keystone cops type of show! The other kids, and a little girl who was very shy of Mickey but wanted to be around him, were quite entertaining until the music played and the Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls announcement….in three different languages came on and the rope dropped.

I had heard that the Europeans make a mad dash to the different lands when the rope drops, yet this crowd was neat and orderly. Again another myth shattered. I have seen American crowds that were much worse.

Our goal was to head to Frontierland and straight to Phantom Manor (the haunted house). The crowds were still pretty light as we headed over. My wife had to make one more pit stop and I was actually happy for the chance just to look around. There is MUCH more decorating here than at either DL or WDW. It was fun just to look around. In front of us was the huge mountain of the Big Thunder Mountain Railway – quite huge and impressive – also there was the riverboat and Phantom Manor. We were able to walk right into the Manor. Pretty much the same as the Haunted houses except no real narration during the ride and all of the effects relied more on newer special effects and robotics. It was kind of a perfected haunted house. They rely a lot less on black light and special paint all throughout DLP. By the way the "ghosts" that tagged along with us were on the roof of our car – rocking us! This was really well done – they have great special effects for this ride.

Next we walked over to the BTMR. This was only a 15-minute wait. Remember now though that is was near freezing – we could see our breath! An outside rollercoaster was going to be cold! We got into the mine building and it was nice to be somewhere warmer – we appreciated being inside, unlike Florida where we were hot inside this building. When we got to the train we first noticed how adept the cast members were at speaking 4 or 5 different languages! This must be hard but I’m sure they get used to it. The ride was fun – a big part of it was in a dark tunnel. It had a "gold" waterfall much like in California and seemed to be a much longer ride than the other BTMR’s . It even had one part where the train splashed down into the water for a bit. Cold – but fun. I understand why they don’t have a Splash Mountain there – they could do an all indoor one though! A fun ride!

Bobbie does not like roller coasters that much and was not feeling all that well this day (as I would later discover). She was quite a trooper for going along on the ride and even said she liked it. Next we asked and found a shortcut to Adventureland and we went on the POC. Again Adventureland was so detailed. There is a pirate ship and a rock that looked like a skull that was cool. Many palm type trees around this land also – made me wonder how they can grow them in such cold! POC is inside a building that looks like an old fort. A bit like at WDW yet here the fort was gray. The ride itself again reminded me a lot more of the one at DL and not WDW. The ride starts off going by the Blue Lagoon restaurant much like at DL. Very romantic. I have to say that overall this is probably the best POC also although the DL version is a close second. . They had many more animatronics than at the other "Disney’s" and again it was newer. I was starting to feel especially lucky that I got to see such good attractions. Much of the attraction is the same as the other POC’s – a few more caves and a fairly big drop on this one.

After this we took some pictures and headed over to Fantasyland. Were going to go on Peter Pan’s flight but there was already a 40 minute wait – this I heard was one of the most popular rides at DLP. We never did get on this one due to the long lines – our only disappointment. We did go on "The Pinnochio ride" which had only a 15-minute wait. It was short but cute. Don’t know exactly why but we went into the Mad Hatter Maze and started walking around there. The best part of this was the queen of hearts castle that we went up in and got some great pictures of Fantasyland and the castle.

One of our plans was to go to the Mulan Show that we heard they just had started at DLP. The Disney TV station informed us that the show was performed by real Chinese Acrobats. Sounded interesting. From the pamphlet we had the day before we knew that there was a show at 11:00am. The show was in the Videopolis in Discoveryland (their version of Tomorrowland) and we were only a little ways away.

Took a short walk from Fantasy land into Discoveryland (with one additional restroom stop). Discoveryland was spectacular. Reminded me a lot of the décor of the Tomorrowland in DL California. Had that Jules Verne type of look –even had those weird rocks – although instead of just gold everything was colored in aqua, rust, gold, peach and brown. Sounds strange but it looked great. A lot more use of color than at DL. The highlight of Discoveryland is Space Mountain where every few seconds you can literally see a cannon blast the riders up to the top of the mountain. There was even a smoke effect when this happened. More on that later.

Went toward the Videopolis. On the outside was a huge 3D Balloon (like from "Around the world in 80 days") Inside was a huge theater. Just huge. What’s more is that the top half of the theater was set up with tables so you could actually eat while watching the performance. They in fact served some pretty good fast food fare here. Being around noon this was perfect – a chance to get off our feet for awhile, enjoy some food and watch a performance. Since we were about 30 minutes early we were able to sit right up near the stage – only four rows back in the middle. No tables here but we had great seats. Got some chicken sandwiches, fries and a coke (by the way I had heard that DLP had Pepsi, but this is not the case – they do sell Pepsi by the way we found out at the RER station right outside the gate). The showed Disney cartoons on monitors before the show started as we ate. Everything seemed perfect.

The show itself was very good. The acrobats, the costumes and the special effects were great. It helped that I saw the movie for the first time shortly before we had left for Paris. This had to be one of the best moments of the trip. Everything seemed perfect. The sun even came out during the show.

After the show I was excited to on Space Mountain – Bobbie was going to do some shopping so we arranged a time to meet under that castle. Got into the line for Space Mountain – only a 30-minute wait at this time. Wow – not bad! The queue was great for this ride – dark and a lot like the other Space Mountains but at one point you get to go straight through the middle of space mountain. Space Mountain at DLP has a lot of 3D asteroids in it with a lot of fiber optic effects to make it look like meteors were crashing in to the rocks. You could also see the cars of the ride – they were decorated to glow in the dark – the effect was really good. Space Mountain at DLP has a loop and multiple corkscrews. We were constantly warned about these as we went through the queue. Fortunately, I love these types of rollercoasters so I was really excited. The queue wound all around and eventually went back outside to an outdoor covered boarding area. I had not expected to go back outside. Here they boarded me with a small boy who seemed very excited about the ride – we were also first in the car – cool. The ride actually started outside of Space Mountain, immediately we turned a corner and were loaded in the ‘cannon’ to be blasted to the top of Space Mountain. Not sure what to expect, I just held on. And smiled! The car immediately burst forward and then stopped – guess we weren’t quite loaded in yet. Here we are leaning back in the car at a 45 degree angle ready to be blasted uphill to the top of the mountain. Was this great suspense or what! – must have waited at least 15 seconds in sheer anticipation when the cannon blast sounded and we were hurled at breakneck speed to the top of the mountain (this was a much faster ascent than I had anticipated). Got to the top – we could briefly see for a second the rest of DLP then we were hurled down into the heart of Space Mountain. I knew at this point that I was in for the ride of my life!

Before I knew it I believe we were upside down – because it is dark it was actually hard for me to tell when we were upside down or right side up. 3D meteors were shooting by us everywhere – Fiber optic bursts were all around. One moment we were in total darkness and the next moment we were in a light tunnel or zooming around meteors! What a ride – had to yell it was so much fun. Just had to! What was neat is that the corkscrews actually allowed you to wrap around objects like meteors. Seemed like a very long ride. I counted at least 3 different corkscrews. Finally you went up toward a big picture of a smiling moon and you were done. All of this ride worked for me! The queue, the cannon blast, the loops and corkscrews and mainly the special effects inside made this easily my favorite Space Mountain. I believe I shall be forever spoiled! This is second only to the Indiana Jones ride at DL as my favorite Disney ride!

After the ride I went to meet my wife under the castle. The Mulan parade had just gone through so I had a tough time getting up there. I actually made it there first and I waited about 10 minutes before Bobbie showed up. We took a quick tour of the Castle and actually got caught up on the second floor as there was only a tiny set of stairs leading back down. Since most people were content just to hang around on this floor we had to push our way down!! Almost got stuck in the castle! Not the worst thing that I could imagine happening.

It was past 1pm now so we were now getting hungry (again). I had anted to try the Blue Lagoon (at DL) so we decided to try it were able to find a seat right away (reservations are recommended yet we found here as elsewhere at DLP, not to hard to fit in a table for two). This is a very romantic, beautifully decorated restaurant that overlooks the water and the boats of the POC. Food here was expensive for lunch but very good. The service here was OK but not great – felt like we were ignored a bit as we only had a light meal. At one point through our meal I happened to look over at Bobbie who had actually fallen asleep. After I woke her back up I found out that she was not feeling that good. I knew then that we would have to change some plans. Bobbie wanted me to still have fun (pretty nice of her) so I suggested that she go back to the hotel and lay down a bit and join me be later for the parade. After all, we had seen almost everything we had wanted to and I just wanted to go on the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril roller coaster anyway. We also decided that we would ride the train back to the front gate since this would be easier that walking and she would be able to experience the Disney train as she had wanted to.

This is definitely an advantage to staying on site. After our meal we headed back over to Frontierland to catch the train. There was actually so big of a line that we had to wait for the second train. Caught the train and made the slow circle around. The train here makes a stop at Fantasyland and Discoveryland. Was an interesting ride but much slower than the trains at WDW or DL. By the time we made it to the Main Street Station it was 3:15. Was a good thing we had taken the train because of the parade that was going on. I said goodbye to my wife and we arranged to meet back in front of City Hall at 6:00 (the Spectromagic parade was scheduled for 7:30.

I rode the Train back to Frontierland and headed over to the Indiana Jones Temple of Peril ride in Adventureland. Got into this queue – the wait was listed at 60 minutes. Oh well – didn’t have much else that I wanted to do now. I did want to go on this ride because this was one of the few truly unique rides at DLP. The queue was mainly outside and decorated with the remnants of an abandoned explorers tropical camp. It was an interesting queue but definitely not as good as the Indiana Jones ride queue in DL. That is the best queue of them all by far.

It was here that I saw the only line skipping I had seen all day. As a matter of fact quite a few young Europeans were walking behind the ropes and barriers of the queue to skip ahead. Most people watched but didn’t say much. One group must have been caught as they eventually headed back to the end of the line. This was something I hadn’t observed at any of the "other Disneys".

It did take about an hour to get through the line. During this time it started to rain and it was cold again. The ride itself was fun but very plain. It was pretty much just a rollercoaster with a lot of added scenery – the rollercoaster did have one loop that went by really quick. I liked it, but was kind of disappointed after an hour wait. Also, it was very cold and rainy and the rollercoaster was mainly outdoors. It was a good ride but not worth an hour wait. The Indiana Jones ride at DL is so much more Disney – it tells the whole story – this was just a rollercoaster. I thought however that Space Mountain here at DLP was better (and more Disney) than the other two that are pretty much just indoor roller coasters. This Space Mountain was so much more.

So here I am alone in the park. It is now around 4:30 – what to do next. I thought about going on Star Tours but that ride has only made me sick in the past. Peter Pan, yes, but now almost an hour wait. Didn’t want to see it that much. They are working on a HISTA for this park but it is not opening for another month. BTMR was a lot of fun. Definitely considered another ride there. Yet Space Mountain was "out of this world" (pun intended). My plan was to head that was – taking more of Adventureland in and ride Space Mountain if less than 45 minutes. Walked slowly around Adventureland. It was interesting because Adventureland has an Arabian theme here. As with the rest of the park, lots and lots of landscaping here and lots and lots of foliage. I considered going up into the Swiss Family Treehouse but didn’t have that much time. My plan was to cut through the end of Mainstreet to Discoveryland.

This park in general seems compact like California – soon I was in Discoveryland and facing Space Mountain. A side note – there is a Jules Verne 2000 Leagues under the Sea Sub here, however it is only a walkthrough attraction and reports said not much to see so I skipped it. If I had more time I would have definitely seen that, the walkthrough of Aladdin’s Adventure, the Swiss Family Treehouse and of course Peter Pan. Beyond that there really isn’t much else here.

Ok so let see what the wait is. Only 40 minutes (can’t believe that this one is only 40 minutes while the Indiana Jone’s mediocre rollercoaster was up over an hour and 15 minute wait when I left)! This time I walked right in to the indoor part of the cue. I noticed a young boy being measured for height. He didn’t make it and despite protests from the dad, he was not let on to the ride. One other good thing they were doing was asking people to stop smoking in the indoor queue. Thank God!. The line seemed to move much faster this time. Soon I came to find out why. They were experimenting with letting people line up for the cars on their own! What a novel idea! We have all seen this done before anyway. We could go and stand wherever we wanted to in whatever car we liked. They still had people inspecting that everyone was strapped in tightly. I was amazed at how well this worked once people started to catch on. A smaller boy (who obviously met the height requirement and who spoke a foreign language) made a gesture asking if he could sit next to me. I smiled and said sure, as he looked a bit tentative about the ride. I smiled a lot and looked very enthusiastic (I was – not faking that here!) and shouted some positive word of encouragement. Soon he seemed to be having just as much fun! It was even more fun the second time and I tried to keep my eyes open through the whole thing and watch for things. Things go by pretty fast, but I did see this time the people in line who were waiting. I still had a hard time telling when we were upside down. A great ride!!

Well now it is getting close to 5:30. There were still a lot of people about. It seemed busier than a typical summer day in WDW. Decided to keep tradition and get some of those great chocolate chip cookies on Main Street. Walked down one of the hallways and took the ‘backdoor’ into the bake shop. Everything was set up very much the same as the bake shops at the other Disney’s. I had a hard time ordering with my stuttering, yet the cast member behind the counter was very patient. The person in front of me ordered some café - not a bad idea on such a cold day!! I ordered a couple of cookies and some café.

The store was actually packed so I ate my cookies and café ‘outside’ in the enclosed hallway where they had set up a bunch of tables set up. It felt good to sit down. It was even better to eat good cookies and drink good café (coffee to us foreigners).

Looked at my watch – almost 6:00pm now – time to meet Bobbie. I had hoped that she had made it back all right and was not feeling so bad that she wouldn’t come back. My plan was to wait until 6:30. If I had not seen here I would go to City Hall to find out how to call back to the hotels. I’m sure that wouldn’t have been hard – the people at City Hall seemed to be quite friendly and spoke English well. I knew this because this is where I agreed to wait for her. Of course I only stayed there for a little bit and then decided to wait on a park bench underneath the train station for her. Waited for a few minutes – pretty cold and raining now – a lot of people were leaving and only a handful were coming in. At a couple minutes after 6:00 I got worried that I missed her so I headed back to City Hall. Waited about a minute and Bobbie literally snuck up behind me.

I was happy because Bobbie seemed to have a new energy and was in a good mood. She had gotten a Pepsi at the RER station on her way out and to the bus back to the hotel. She did get a bit of sleep. Rest at least. This is one great reason for staying on-site!!!

Now that we were back as a couple (our only separation – save a brief metro incident – by the way) we headed back down Main Street. As we were going I thought about Le Visionarium – this is just like the Timekeeper at WDW. We had both enjoyed this very much and now it finally clicked in my head that most of it was filmed in Paris! Didn’t even make the connection up until then - DLP had this attraction first!

Le Visionarium is right at the entrance to Discoveryland, just a few paces really from end of Main Street. There were just a few people around as the electronic sign told us that there were 8 minutes to the next show. We went into a room that had a lot of futuristic electronic gadgets all over the place and a lot of special effects. Really cool – plus there was a multiple screen presentation going on as a preview. All in French of course but there were a bunch of these scrolling red electronic information signs that you see around everywhere that were producing subtitles in three different languages – including English. Pretty cool. Also since there weren’t many people around we could sit down on the floor a bit. Having a lot of fun now – didn’t want it to end.

In a few minutes we were in the main area for the show. This is a stand up show with rails to lean against just like at WDW. Was a bit worried that we would have to read subtitles the whole time but soon discovered that half of the crowd was wearing headphones that were pulled out from between the railing. We were lucky to find two that were open in our row. You could turn a dial and hear it being broadcast in about four different languages. My wife had a bit of trouble adjusting hers but we eventually both were tuned into the English version. The headphones were a little loud but I’m sure they were supposed to be that way to drown out the French version.

The show seemed the same as the one at WDW minus Robin Williams and ALL of the humor. This was a very serious presentation. It does tell a very promising story about the history and future of France. It is a very emotionally inspiring presentation. Particularly for the French. At the end of the presentation was a huge round of applause from the audience that I don’t ever remember at WDW. What was also amazing for me is that by the time the show started the auditorium was packed. I was taken in by the moment and felt a bit misty myself. Was neat to think that we all share a common hope for the future. As they "fly" around the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful city of Paris as it is envisioned for the future, it is hard not to feel excited by the possibilities for the future both for us, and especially our kids.

Now that we were so totally entrenched by Disney and had about 45 minutes before the start of the parade, we decided to see if just maybe the line for Peter Pan’s flight had diminished somewhat. No such luck – in fact it was longer!!! Wouldn’t see this one this time I guess. Wanted to do something so we got in line for the Sleeping Beauty ride. After all, all of these ‘dark’ kids rides, even though they are much like the ones in California and Florida, are much newer here and the special effects – while still simple – were better than at the other parks. Plus there was only a 15 minute wait. Seems like sleeping Beauty doesn’t hold a candle to Peter Pan here!

Despite an obnoxious smoker in line ahead of us, the line moved quickly. Surprisingly there were quite a few adults (without kids) in line like us for this one. Many more than I had observed riding these types of rides in the States. It was a nice, albeit, short ride. A good way to cap off the ‘ride’ portion of our stay – very Disney! Just a funny side note. I remember riding the Sleeping Beauty ride in California when I was by myself being the ‘weird uncle tag along guy" in the back seat with a strange family in front. This time it was both me and Bobbie as the ‘weird cousins’ tagging along in back. The interesting part is that in France being the ‘tagalong in back’ is not considered weird at all. No one feels strange doing this here as they have a different sense of personal space. Because of that most of the cars here are completely filled. Makes the line move faster at least!

After Prince Charming came to rescue Sleeping Beauty (yep, same ending), we headed back down one of the ‘halls’ of Main Street to find a spot near the exit (always a good idea) to watch the Spectromagic Parade. By the time we got there, there were plenty of people lined up and it was raining ever so lightly. At least it wasn’t snow! We found a spot on the "inner circle" where we were only one deep. I don’t have any problem standing in back being tall. After not too long of a wait (thank goodness as we had some rude kids by us) the parade began. This Spectromagic Parade was announced as being the exact same parade is in Walt Disney World and Disney in California. I have never seen the Spectromagic parade at either location so I can not tell you if it was the same. I do know that the parade we saw at WDW (twice) was different that this one. It was interesting that the parade was announced in both French and English. We really got used to these ‘multiple’ announcements.

The parade was beautiful but very short I thought – lasted only about 20 minutes. Afterward I made my second mistake of the trip (not really I made more than that!) and we decided to stay until they turned the lights back on in the castle for a final picture. This picture did not turn out all that well anyway – we should have just beat the rush.

We did have a great day though and just wanted to hang around a little bit more. We left then and waved our goodbyes. By now we were hungry again. Our plan was to go to the Steakhouse in Disney Village and have a really good steak. We probably would have been able to have done this but we waited too long and were told that there would be a two hour wait (yes two hours) for a table. Upon further inquiry we found out that a table for two would have been slightly less but still decided to move on.

But where? By now ALL of the restaurants in Disney Village were filled to capacity. Just when I though I might have to force myself into another meal at McDonalds, I thought of the other restaurant at our hotel called; Beaver Creek. This restaurant had a regular menu and was better decorated and seemed much cozier than the Hunter’s Grill. When we got there was also a short line and we heard from the group ahead of us that there would be over an hour wait again. We still decided to try it (McDonald’s just wasn’t what I was in the mood for after such a nice day). Much to our chagrin we were seated immediately at a table for two right next to a bigger group. No big deal since this is quite common there and no one cares about the close proximity! When in France….

Much to our liking this place had a huge American style salad bar that looked great. Also, we knew that we would be able to start eating RIGHT AWAY. Good deal. Also, even though they had a lot of lamb and other strange dishes, they also offered steak and ribs. Bobbie decided to get the steak, and I decided to get the ribs and share. We had another very nice waiter although he was very deliberate in talking to us in English. He would always take awhile to form his words before he spoke. As a person who stutters, this was normal for me anyway! J We immediately started feasting on what was a great salad bar with some outstanding rolls. The breads all over Paris were quite good we found. Alas this was turning out nice. We ordered a bottle of Vittel (bottled water) that everyone seems to drink there. They certainly drink a lot of bottled water!

We had a very nice and relaxed (slow) meal and even had dessert. For once a true French dinner! The meal took us about an hour and forty-five minutes but we had food constantly so it wasn’t too bad. This was not our cheapest meal by any stretch but a good meal.

Well things were drawing to a close now so we went back to our room and watched a little bit of British news and went to bed around 10pm.

DAY 6 – Going home.

Surprisingly, I was just as anxious to get home now. I missed the kids a lot. It was sad to think we were leaving, but I looked forward to those hugs from the kids (not exactly the 10 hour flight though). Fortunately our flight didn’t leave until 10:45. The bus company in their brochure recommended leaving 3 hours before your flight was scheduled to go out. The first bus didn’t leave until 8:00am anyway so I figured that we would still have plenty of time and still get to sleep a bit. I was almost wrong!

Anyway, we were pretty well packed from the evening before so I set the wake up call for 6:45am. Got the cold wake up call right on time and we were up. Looked out the window – already warmer and not a cloud in the sky – figures! Good flying weather at least!

Went down at about 7:15 and realized that we hadn’t picked up a breakfast card for this day also. Of course no one ever told us we had to. Fortunately Disney people know when to bend the rules and we were seated. Had the same breakfast as the previous day then went back to our room to get our luggage and catch the bus.

The bus by the way is an ‘official Disney bus’ that goes back and forth from the airport. Why can’t they have this at WDW? Disney employees did not run it, but it was designated as their ‘official’ transportation and the buses were painted with the Disney logo. You could purchase your ticket on board for a one way trip to the airport for 28FF a piece. This was actually a deal! I had saved a 100FF bill for this but found out that they even took VISA right there on the bus!

The bus ride was great because it is a 40-minute trip (on a good day) and we got to see a lot of the typical French countryside. It reminded me a lot actually of typical Wisconsin countryside! Neat to see some ‘everyday’ life. As we got nearer the airport we encountered an unexpected traffic jam. This traffic jam actually delayed us by 45 minutes and we were both a bit scared of being stranded here another day!

When we got to the airport there were huge crowds and we had to somehow find the Northwest counter in an absolute jungle of people. Fortunately I was tall enough to see RED (Northwest’s color) and we headed for the red. In order to get there though we literally had to push people out of our way. A short distance from the Northwest gate we actually got trapped behind a barrier for United Airlines and a wall of people that actually prevented us from moving. I started to panic a bit at this point, as we were not moving at all and we were already late. Fortunately it was a United counter and as I was shouting Northwest!! Northwest!!, a kind lady (whom I suspected was American) came and let us pass through the barrier so that we could get to the Northwest counter. We only realized later that by coming in this way we had actually skipped to the front of a line of Northwest passengers waiting for the security and counter personnel. I felt bad about this actually but there were literally walls of people everywhere and I had no idea that this was a line at all!

Security here was very tight. We ended up having to first get our paper tickets (we had electronic) and then we were asked what seemed to be zillion questions by the Northwest Security agent. Satisfied we were just a couple of dumb Americans returning home, they let us pass to the next step. I swear that we went though at least 7 security checkpoints before finally making it to the plane and then passed through a final one as we were boarding.

Went back through the "tubes" and the long tunnel people mover and finally made it to the gate where things were a lot quieter. Whew!!!

The plane ride home was pretty uneventful except for one time when they asked if there was a doctor on board (I think someone had fainted for some reason). We flew all the way up to Iceland and Greenland on our way back. Watched two good movies actually that I hadn’t seen before either. It was a long flight, but before we knew it we were in Detroit. Had to go through some screening there from the International terminal that was interesting. At the passport station they simply asked us if we had a nice trip and welcomed us back - very warmly in fact. Grabbed a bit of food at Detroit and headed our final stretch home. Our first 36 hour day (finally learned how to get more hours in a day)!

Our kids were waiting as usual at the end of the walkway where I experienced what is truly one of the greatest joys of being a parent: the unconditional love that comes out openly from your kids who have missed you. And I they. A very happy reunion indeed, I was never so glad to see them I spent most of the evening (and many days afterward) just hugging them - happy to be home. Always fun to travel, even better to come home. Except for next December when we are off (with the kids finally) again to Disney World and the Wilderness Lodge. On that trip I won’t want to leave because all of my family will be with me at one of my favorite places on earth!!!!

Closing Thoughts

We were very glad we included DLP on our list of things to do in Paris. However, if someone wants a true taste of Paris, DLP is not the place. While DLP provides very good service, it is an Americanized version of good service. We found the actual Parisians far more charming and far better at service when they are just themselves. This is contrary to many of the comments I had heard about Parisians before going, but this was certainly our experience. Second, in DLP there were far fewer Parisians than there are in Paris. We noticed many people at DLP for England, Germany and Denmark. Third, Parisians ‘in real life’ seemed far more relaxed than they were at DLP. DLP has kind of that go, go, go mentality – Parisians and Paris is best experienced when you are not rushed. . Fourth, Paris has just so much to see and is very unpredictable where as DLP is kind of the opposite. Fifth, Paris seemed quite "upscale" and "refined" compared to DLP. Maybe it is because Parisians at DLP are on vacation and "let loose" a bit. Finally, and most importantly, Paris is thousands of years of ‘real’ history and ‘real’ culture, DLP is a good ‘replica’ Disney history and culture.

With all that said however, when I rate DLP with all of the other "Disney’s", this one would have to be the best overall in terms of quality of the attraction, the beauty of the park, and certainly for being the most detailed. WDW is still my favorite however because of the sheer variety of what you can do and see and because it is my sentimental favorite also! For all of the complaining the French did about DLP, they certainly have a beautiful park!

Paris is a wonderful city that everyone should have the opportunity to visit! And if you have and extra day – be sure to stop and see DLP – it is worth the trip!

Paul Bittorf