Travel: Disneyland... Where magic still reigns
Published 06/07/2015 | 02:30
Mickey waved at me!" my eight-year-old son Charles* announced proudly. (*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) "No silly," his friend Camilla, also eight, contradicted, "he was waving at me!" "Foolish children," I thought, rather smugly, because I knew full well that Mickey Mouse had been waving at me! Charles wasn't going to be fobbed off. "He was waving at me," he insisted, "I know because I made eye contact with him!" Then I realised that I, too, was utterly convinced I'd looked Mickey Mouse in the eye. Convinced. And there you have it, the well-known magic of Disney.
The much-disputed waving occurred at the end of the famous Disney Parade which takes place several times a day in Disneyland Paris. Old and jaded as I am, I thought if you've seen one parade . . . However, this isn't so much a parade as a spectacular, with all the Disney favourites on floats accompanied by singers and dancers. Looking around, I wasn't the only adult waving like a demon and shouting "Mickey! Over here!" My son was beyond excitement, but I was actually worse.
We travelled to the Magic Kingdom from King's Cross Station in London (allowing time to visit Platform 9 3/4, where Harry Potter begins his journey to Hogwarts) on Eurostar, which was an absolute pleasure. I imagine that's what air travel was like in the Golden Age of the Jet Set. Best of all, the train deposits you right into Disneyland Paris itself.
After checking in to Sequoia Lodge, one of seven Disney hotels on site, we headed straight to the theme parks, a short walk away. Disneyland Paris is comprised of three main areas, Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios and Disney Village, the last being dining and retail. There was no question where we were going first - Disneyland Park, as I've waited all my life to see the famous Sleeping Beauty Castle. So often in life, our expectations let us down - but not this time. As we went through the Park entrance we were accompanied by five-year-old blonde bombshell Diana and her parents. Diana's mother and I kept repeating things like "Oh my God! Look! It's right there. It's RIGHT THERE!" To be standing so close to a building so iconic that we know it even in silhouette was quite something. Better yet, we got to go inside.
My son wasn't too fussed about the castle, he wanted to press on and go on the rides. There are plenty that are suitable for all ages but my boy was most interested in the scarier-looking attractions. Over the next three days, I had to 'man up' and step well out of my comfort zone. This proved to be a very good thing, as my absolute favourite ride was the Tower of Terror in Walt Disney Studios. And like it says on the tin, it's a tower and it's terrifying. There's a whole backstory to the ride - which is supposed to be a hotel elevator in freefall. An actor playing the bellhop ushered us aboard and had everyone giggling until the 'lift' dropped and our bums rose inches from our seats! I screamed my head off and loved every minute of it. Charles and Camilla thought it was marvellous. Camilla's mummy was discreetly sick when we were finished.
By contrast, the new 4-D Ratatouille ride is great fun for all ages. This attraction is adjacent to Chez Remy restaurant, where we had a bite to eat. Chez Remy is well worth seeing because of the decor (it's all seen from a rat's point of view) and even if you don't fancy a full meal just have the chocolate mousse, which is so big it's almost a meal in itself.
It may sound like a very obvious thing to say, but comfortable shoes are a must, as there is a lot of walking between attractions, and even with the Fast Pass, which allows you to skip queues on certain rides, there is quite a bit of standing and waiting. In order to have a little rest after all the excitement, Camilla's Mummy and I took our children on the Studio Tram Tour which proved a massive hit with them because of the big surprise we had in store. (I won't tell you as I don't want to ruin it).
Disneyland Paris is huge, and even staying on site, getting up early and staying late, there is just no way we could have seen everything. Visitors are provided with a map which shows the location of attractions and provides useful information about whether they take 'Fast Pass' and if there are height restrictions. By day two we were intimately familiar with Frontierland (a Western-themed area which Charles insisted on calling Tortilla Land) and Adventureland and referred less to our map. This was a mistake because after queuing for over 10 minutes to get on the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril roller coaster (and this was using our Fast Pass) we discovered that Charles wasn't tall enough.
We were both a bit gutted so we went to Big Thunder Mountain (also a roller coaster). When they poured me off at the end of the ride I was very relieved that we'd been turned away from Indiana Jones which looked far more frightening. My son loved it, so much so he made me go again.
The latest attraction in Disneyland Paris is Frozen Summer Fun. Frozen is one of the most popular films of recent years, and my son was thrilled to meet his favourite character, Olaf, in real life. At the close of business every day the park puts on a firework show at the castle. 'Firework display' doesn't really do it justice, as this is a spectacular with various backgrounds projected onto the castle, characters appear from films and fireworks go off in the sky. When Elsa started singing Let It Go, everyone joined in. It was an amazing moment, standing in a huge crowd of strangers, all of us singing the same song. It was like a football match but better, because of all the nationalities.
I hadn't expected to see the fireworks, as 11pm is way past Charles's bedtime but he, Camilla and even five-year-old Diana were all there to watch. Despite the kids not getting enough sleep they were far from cranky (as long as Diana was allowed get in between Charles and Camilla) which goes to show, there is no end to the famous Disney magic.
Prices for a two-night/three-day package including standard-class return travel with Eurostar (from London) in July 2015 start from £1,318.60, based on a family of four sharing (children aged 3-7yrs). The price includes two nights' accommodation with continental breakfast at Disney's Sequoia Lodge and three day park hopper tickets for Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.
Frozen Summer Fun runs until September 13th. For information about a family break to Disneyland Paris, visit www.disneylandparis.com
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