“It’s a small small world after all….”
Anyone who has visited Disneyland Paris will have this song stuck in their brain on repeat. We’ve just returned from a 4 day break from the Mickey Mouse inspired theme park and repetition is something Disney are good at.
With hubby’s job banning all summer leave, we were given the Willy Wonka style letter from the powers be at Police HQ, allowing the kids a few days off school during term time. So last Wednesday we bunked off and took the kids and grandparents to Ebbsfleet International to board our Eurostar train to Paris. The children were beside themselves with excitement as we hurtled through the Kent countryside towards the tunnel. The train was packed with other families having used every excuse in the book to get their kids out of school too and with the constant sounds of “are we there yet?” echoing around the carriage, my youngest son had his face pressed against the window looking for sharks in the tunnel as he informed us that “we were under the sea!”.
We are almost there after 3 hours of sticker books and a very limited game of I-Spy – “is it a tree? track? chair?” and with my twins still learning to read, their something beginning with T could be a seagull or a sandwich, making you feel like you’re playing word games in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest!
After disembarking the train and using the pointless Disneyland Express Luggage service, pointless because we had to drag all our bags away from the station exit and instead upstairs to the luggage desk, queue up to hand the bags over, then take the 2 minute empty bus to our hotel, wait 2 hours for our bags to arrive, then had to walk past the hotel entrance to collect them from the hotel luggage hold, then take them back to our rooms, still not sure how this allows itself to be named the “Express” Luggage Service.
The hotel was perfect for our needs and each morning one of the Disney characters arrived to see the children in the lobby. This can induce a bit of a mad frenzy, with pushing, shoving, elbowing, all to get an autograph and a photo with the character and that’s just how the parents behave! The crowd practically went into a meltdown when Mickey and Minnie turned up one day, we did the typical British thing and pointlessly queued to meet them. As we patiently waited, the families in front took advantage of the situation by arranging different group situations with the plastic headed mice, I’m still at a loss why the grown ups feel the need to have their picture taken? The Mum in front of me put on her Minnie Mouse headband in readiness for her photo shoot with her daughter, when their turn arrived the Mum sent her daughter forward then swiftly pulled her out of the shot so that she could put her vice like grip round the masked Mouse, I would have loved to have seen the look of panic on the ‘actor’ inside Mickey!
The best character meeting has to be meeting a Disney Princess from 1pm each day in the “Princess Pavillion”. My daughter like most 4-year-old girls are princess obsessed, so having put on her favourite dress up outfit we headed to the queue forming to meet one. We saw ‘Sleeping Beauty’ approach doing a bit of method acting, walking on tiptoes, fingers pinched together, manically smiling, led by 2 bouncers so no-one could touch her, as she was whisked in the back door of the pavilion with all the little girls beside themselves with excitement at the prospect of meeting her. As the bouncers walked back we asked how long the wait was to see her, as the queue was getting longer by the minute, he informed us the wait would be 2 hours. Two hours! I wouldn’t wait 2 hours to meet the real Queen, I glanced down at my daughter clutching her princess book and pen and realised I was there for the long haul!
As hotel residents you are given a privilege pass this allows you 2 extra hours in the parks from 8am till 10am, before the general public are allowed in. This is definitley a perk to avoid queueing for rides, however, it also means you need to get up and out of the hotel by 7.30am! On our first day, with my parents taking the children on a Toy Story ride, me and hubby were walking up to the legendary Space Mountain rollercoaster, just 30 minutes after breakfast. As a teenager and into my 20s I used to go any theme park ride, the scarier the better, but now in my 30s I find myself questioning the safety of any ride, analysing the seatbelt situation before alighting and then worrying about whether there will be an impact on my blood pressure afterwards. As we were shown to our seats on Space Mountain, the seat belt came down over our heads complete with grip bars to hold, this is not a good sign, grip bars means we’re going to go very fast and probably upside down at some point. What am I doing? It’s 8.30 am, I have just had a leisurely breakfast of coffee and croissants and now I’m wedging myself into this situation. A loud trumpet noise echoed in our ears as we were thrust into a dark tunnel at god knows what speed, the next 7 minutes consisted of being catapulted upside down, spinning around a tunnel, being rocketed up in the air then back down again, on the few occasions I opened my eyes, I could see hubby’s face pinned to the seat with a manic g-forced inspired look on his face. As my head was flung about my head rest, I pretty much screamed until I was hoarse and we were flung to a sudden stop. We peeled ourselves out of our seats and I tried to bring some feeling back into my hands as I had been gripping so hard. My hubby looked at me and suggested we “did it again”, I hadn’t regained the ability to speak at the point but I think my face said it all!
There are some excellent rides for the kids and they particularly loved the Peter Pan ride which involved sitting in individual pirate boats and ‘flying’ above the streets of London and Neverland. It was magical the first time, even the second and third time, by the sixteenth time the magic was wearing a bit thin. There is so much variety in the parks and over 4 days we did our best to cram it all in, from early in the morning till dinner time we covered all areas, parades and character meetings. Each evening we dragged our exhausted legs back to the hotel and with rooms consisting of a double bed, a bunk bed with adjoining rooms, once the kids were in bed, we had to talk in sign language and watch the TV on mute, taking it in turns for each couple to spend an hour in the hotel bar.
The parades are excellent though, the first night we lined the streets waiting for the floats to arrive, my daughter had prime position on my shoulders, youngest son was on hubby’s shoulders and eldest son was firmly placed in front of my parents. As the first princess float made it’s way past us I looked over at my Mum’s face to gauge how my daughter was reacting, my Mum had tears streaking down her cheeks so I craned my neck to look up at my open-mouthed, wide-eyed daughter as the likes of Cinderella and Rapunzel went past on their colourful coaches. Youngest son was manically waving at Buzz Lightyear, jumping up and down with excitiment on hubby’s weary shoulders, even eldest son was grinning as Lion King and Jungle Book waved in his direction, to see their faces makes the whole experience worth the money and energy.