Disneyland Paris: Where dreams come true (for adults too)
Holidays in Europe
The older you get the harder it can be to let go, to let your imagination run free. We get so caught up in our everyday lives that precious moments can pass us by so quickly - often without us even noticing. Then, one day, we wake up and it's too late.
So, when we are fortunate enough to get a chance to step off the hamster wheel every now and again, we get a taste of life as we would love it to be. What's wrong with letting our dreams become reality for a while?
This is the beauty of Disneyland. It is the place where dreams come true. And as I walked through the gates of the park in Paris recently with my daughter Issey, I was all set to let go. We had been looking forward to our trip for weeks, and as departure day approached we grew giddier with excitement.
Going to Disneyland Paris is an experience never to be forgotten but a weekend visit - which is the most common type of visit there - is also an assault on the senses like you may never have experienced before. There is so much to absorb that if you do not plan your trip in advance there is a danger it will pass you by.
There was no chance of that happening to us, though, because Issey - even though she is not quite seven years old yet - spent a lot of time preparing for the trip and by the time we left she was very definite about what was top of her list of things to do. Between us, we hatched a plan that took in both our needs (I mean I'm just a kid at heart too, right?) and the plan worked well for us.
Which brings me to my first two tips for making the most of the Disney experience: Firstly, if you can get the earlier flight to Paris on a Friday, you will arrive in the park before teatime and after a quick freshening up in your hotel, you can spend a few hours experiencing the park at its quietest and also get your first taste of the shows on offer, including the nightly fireworks display. Secondly, have a plan, know what rides are top of your wishlist and try and get a couple of them done on that first night.
My next tip is to then start early on Saturday. When you stay in one of the hotels on site - we stayed in the Newport Bay Hotel - you get earlier access to the parks, so make the most of it. It's a good idea, if you can, to get the fast-passes, which have to be pre-booked. Wear comfortable footwear and start at the back of each of your chosen parks and work your way forward. Take breaks, and head back to the hotel to rest when needed. We even went for swims! These are the basic tips that help you make the most of your stay.
It's impossible in one review to do justice to all that is on offer in the parks - it's certainly more than your heart's desire. But it's amazing with children how simplicity is nearly always best. Meeting Minnie Mouse was a real highlight for Issey, as was the spectacular newly-launched parade of all the best-known Disney characters which takes place every day.
This is a special year for Disneyland Paris as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. In true Disney style they are going full out to celebrate this landmark, so if it's on your bucket list this is as good a year as any to make the trip. Aside from the new parade, there are a multitude of new shows to enjoy, so even for those who have made the magical journey before, there is a whole new experience to enjoy.
Among the new shows are an enhanced Star Tours 3D intergalactic journey, two new spectacular events in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle and the stunning spectacle that is Disney Illuminations, which lights up the sky after sunset with projections, light effects, water jets, special effects and fireworks, and which has been specially created as the larger-than-life showpiece of the resort's 25th anniversary.
Since it opened, there have been 300 million visits to Disneyland Paris and still they keep coming and coming; in search of more. And it never disappoints.
It is truly a wondrous place, a place where we can park our cynicism with life and where we can all just be children again.
If you don't believe me about the wonders of Disneyland Paris, here's what the real expert thought of it all...
My top tips and favourite bits
by Issey Conachy, aged 6¾
My dad and I were very organised; we got the Disneyland map and planned what we wanted to do every day. You really should get up early. If you are not able to read just yet, don't worry because the map has lots and lots of pictures to help you.
Pack a notebook and pencil because all the characters love to sign their autographs. Pack some snacks and drinks because queues can be long. I really don't like standing around and neither does my dad.
I've loved Minnie Mouse since I was one and a half and if you'd like to meet her she lives on Main Street next to the Liberty Arcade. Sometimes you can see her outside her house.
I loved Fantasyland. My three favourite rides were The Mad Hatter's Tea Cups, It's a Small World and Peter Pan's Flight. You fly over the rooftops of London, which is great because my cousins live there.
My dad loved Walt Disney Studios. His favourite ride was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I went on it, too, and was terrified but in a fun sort of way. Dad thinks it's good to do things that are out of your comfort zone!
We went on the Ratatouille ride four times. It was our favourite, favourite, favourite! Toy Story Playland is also lots of fun. I had two favourite rides here; my first was Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin. It was fast and made me laugh a lot. Number two was Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. When you were up really high you could see all over the park and I really liked that.
Every night at Sleeping Beauty's Castle there is a light show, fireworks and music - it is totally amazing.
Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris, I want to go back really soon...
Book tickets to Disneyland Paris in advance through Attraction Tickets Direct. Call free on 1800 927467 or visit attractionticketsdirect.ie.
1-Day/2-Park Hopper tickets are priced from €55 per adult and €49 per child (low season/mid-week prices).
2-Day/2-Park Hopper ticket are priced at €125 per adult and €112 per child (and can be used on any two days within 12 months).
3-Day/2-Park Hopper ticket are priced at €157 per adult and €140 per child (and can be used on any three days within 12 months).
4-Day/2-Park Hopper ticket are priced at €191 per adult and €151 per child (can be used on any four days within 12 months).
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