Iris Messina -- November 2003 -- Disneyland Paris (None)
Mike and Iris’s Disneyland Paris trip report. November 2003
On a cold, wet and rainy day in mid November, we took the RER Line A train from Paris to Marne La Valle Chessy to DLP. The fare was a reasonable 11 Euros per person, round trip. We didn’t care about the weather, we were wearing the proper clothing and we were excited about going to a new, to us, Disney park.
Although the park was beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays, to paraphrase the old saying ‘you could have shot a cannon ball down Main Street and not hit anyone’. Where is everyone? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Disney park (outside of DCA, of course) this empty. Oh, before continuing, I really need to say just how pleasant all the Parisians were. I don’t know how they got the lousy reputation that they have but, we did not experience any unpleasantness even with our limited French, and this was not just at the park but everywhere we went.
My first impression was that of the Castle. Much more fanciful than either Anaheim or Orlando and a warmer pink color, too. The dragon in the dungeon was great. We went from the dungeon straight into Fantasyland, very similar in appearance to DL. We picked up our only Fastpass of the day for Peter Pan (we didn’t want to stand in line for the 20 minute wait and the return was in 45 minutes) and, since the rain was not heavy, went to Alice’s Curious Labyrinth a delightful outdoor hedge maze based upon Alice in Wonderland.
Peter Pan, Snow White and Pinocchio followed in quick succession, with the rides and music the same as in the American parks but with any dialog in French. Skipped the Tea Cups, I don’t do them here; I’m not doing them there. Still, I guess I did miss a golden opportunity to barf on the same ride on 2 continents. Settled for popcorn instead. Hmm, popcorn in France is kettle corn. Interesting.
After Fantasyland, we went under an arch, turned right and there was the entrance to Pirates of The Caribbean. POTC was my favorite ride of the park; in fact, we went on it twice and had the boat to ourselves both times. The theming of the queue was terrific and we really liked the ride itself as it was up the waterfall instead of down as in the US parks. Wandered over onto Adventure Island and it probably would have been a lot of fun on a dry day. We could see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril and tried to find it.
After wandering around – we spent a fair amount of time being lost, although I’m not sure why – we came across Big Thunder Mountain. Although we were surprised to see that it was open after the accident in DL, we figured it was probably okay to ride. I’m glad we did as we both liked it.
The queue and the loading area are on one side of the river and the bulk of the ride is on what is in DL/MK Tom Sawyer’s Island, accessed by a tunnel under the river. The ride didn’t seem as ‘wild’ as the US parks but, going 20 mph in the rain in 45 degree weather without gloves on was an adventure all in itself. How I managed to get my gloves onto my rapidly freezing hands, I’ll never know.
By this time we were hungry and it was time for lunch. First, we had decided in advance that we were not going to do the burger thing; after all, we’re in France. We had seen the Blue Lagoon Restaurant while in the POTC (think Blue Bayou at DL) and it looked very interesting. But, it was not to be as the prices were high. Too high for a couple of poor Americans on a budget in a country where the exchange rate is not in our favor. In retrospect, we should have spent the money.
Its not that the meal we had was lousy (lousy meals at Disney parks is a whole ‘nother trip report) it was, well, different. Let’s put it this way, having “Mexican” food in France really was not a good idea although at the time it sounded intriguing. Fuente del Oro had two big drawing points to it: it was inside and it was warm. I had what the menu called a ‘quesadilla’ but was more like a breakfast burrito with goat cheese it in. Different. Not what I had anticipated. But, the desert that came with it was good. Mike ordered chicken thingies (we can’t remember what they were called but we were expecting chicken strips) but they were just wings. The fries were good, as was Mike’s desert.
Warmed and fed, we went to Phantom Manor (aka the Haunted Mansion or, as I called it, the Bates Motel – that’s what it looks like). I don’t want to give anything away but it was darker and creepier than either of the HM’s in the US. I didn’t like it. It was too creepy. Mike thought it was interesting. It seemed to have a story-line but, it being in French and our language skills limited to a phrase book it sort of eluded us.
Did more wandering. Got caught in a bit of a heavy rain and waited under the porch of the Cowboy Cookout BBQ. Had it been open, it might have been great fun to try the French version of BBQ. Discovered on the map that we were pretty close to the Frontierland train depot. Passed by the closed, due to the weather, Critter Coral and Pocahontas Indian Village and found the station.
The train had enclosed seating compartments with only one opening to get on and off. It’s a good thing, too. It was pretty chilly, maybe in the upper 40’s/very low 50’s and it was raining (okay, maybe it wasn’t that cold but, I’m from Los Angeles and when it gets below 65 I start to whine and what was all that water doing falling from the sky?!).
The train passed by the now, elusive, Indiana Jones ride and stopped at the Fantasyland station. We stayed on and rode it until we came back to Frontierland. Determined to find Indy, we got out a new park map, a dry one, and tried again. Not only did we find it but I also finally found the cash machine that was on the map but couldn’t locate.
Hmm, it’s a roller coaster that goes backwards. No, wait, that’s not right. It goes forwards but the cars are facing backwards. Or something. And with an upside down loop. Now, its decision time. Do we go on the ride, there’s no line at all, that is outside, in the rain and cold, that goes backwards and upside down, or not. Mike, who will skydive but won’t do roller coasters has already informed me that I will be riding alone should I decide to ride. Which I do not. And, no Mike, I’m still not going skydiving. Right, jump out of an airplane.
We have yet to even get to Discoveryland and tired of continually being lost, we retraced our steps and returned to Fantasyland. We went into Belle’s Christmas Village which was cute with nicely themed stalls selling various Christmas items (we picked up a plastic Christmas ornament, we wanted a glass one but it was a long trip back to L.A.) and spotted a stall selling hot soup in a cup. Great idea! It was cold. I opted for a café au lait instead. It was a lot better than what Starbucks sells – I love France.
By now it was almost 4pm (excuse me, 1600) and time for the Christmas Parade. It was a lot different from any Christmas parade I’ve even seen at any American Disney park, and despite everything else in the park being in French, the song was in English. Still, Santa, I mean Father Christmas was there. I liked it.
Since we were quite close to It’s a Small World, we went on it next. I’ll be nice and say that it was as saccharine as it is in any other Disney park. The music was the same only they sang it in French. The rain didn’t matter as every part of the ride that is outside has a roof over it.
Casey Jr – le Petit Train du Cirque was up and running so off we went. Cute. Very similar to DL and the track encircled the Storybook Land boats (or as they call it, Le Pays des Comtes de Fees) but they were closed, my guess is due to the weather. I was so bummed, I’ve loved that ride since I was a child.
At last, into Discoveryland (aka Tomorrowland) it was just like at DL; almost deserted but, unlike DL, Space Mountain was operating. As for the ride itself, we’ll never know. I backed out at the last minute even though Mike was ready, willing and able to go. I really don’t like doing loops anymore (sigh, I must be getting old.) and knew that it had at least one. I still feel like such a whimp.
We really wanted to get some DLP park specific merchandise to bring back to friends but, we really couldn’t find anything of acceptable quality and uniqueness. The same over-priced t-shirts made of very flimsy materials, etc. In fact, anything that said “Disneyland Resort Paris” looked identical to the stuff at DL only without the word “Paris” tacked on to it. Extremely disappointing. Picked up a few post cards and a CD of park music and that was it.
By now it was about 5pm. I would have like to have seen the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony but it wasn’t until 6pm. It just wasn’t meant to be. And so, we said Au Revoir to DLP and wandered over to the Disney Village. En route, we passed by the entrance to the new Disney Studios . . . even if it had been open, we weren’t interested. We live in L.A. and all things filming and movies is not a big deal to us and besides, we didn’t have a ticket for it.
The Disney Village . . . I’ll be nice, I won’t call it tacky but, it was very touristy. Sort of like a CityWalk wannabe. Very Americanized. We wandered into the country-western themed restaurant; but, neither of us like CW music, so we left. I would have liked to have seen the Buffalo Bill show but Mike said ‘no’. (We have an ‘agreement’ that we both have to agree on these types of things; it makes traveling together considerably easier). After wandering in and out of various eateries, we settled on King Ludwig’s Castle. Another interesting meal. I had (French, of course) onion soup and a salad (delicious) and Mike had some strange pasta dish that had in it, among other things, potatoes and olives.
It had been a long day and it was time to get back on the train and return to our warm, cozy hotel in the 17arr.
Over all impression: favorable. We liked the park and will return if the opportunity presents itself but would not make a trip to Europe specifically to go to the park. We’ve now been to 3 of the 4 Disney parks, so I guess the next trip will be to Tokyo.