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Tobias Schulz -- December 2003 -- Disneyland Paris (SL)


FIRST THINGS FIRST

I hadn’t been to Disneyland Resort Paris ever since February and I wanted to experience the beautiful Christmas celebrations there once again – so I had the idea of going back to Disney / Paris for this time of the year in the back of my mind for quite a while.

But even before I could make any serious plans for my trip, my mother started talking about how much she missed not having visited any parks this year (Disney or otherwise). So I started to think… her birthday was coming up so I talked my father into surprising her with a trip to Disney. He agreed to it, but only if this would be a “the whole family”-thing. Which meant that we had to pull some strings so that my sister could get off her work for a couple of days.

After all of this was out of the way, it was up to me to get us a room at one of the hotels. Thanks to some lucky circumstances I was able to get an absolutely great rate for Sequoia Lodge from December 4 to December 6.

Our little family is pretty seasoned when it comes to Disney vacations. Our first trip to Paris was back in ’93 and ever since then we had visited the resort numerous times. We had stayed at the SQL before in 1996… We also visited Walt Disney World together for the Millennium Celebrations in late 1999. Our last trip as a family was in the summer of 2002. I had been so lucky to experience the beautiful Christmas celebrations at Disneyland Resort Paris in 2001.

So now, my father and my mother (both in their 40’s), my little sister (16) and myself (one of those supposedly hip-and-trendy twens) were off to Disney again…

DAY ONE, December 4 (Thursday)

I’m currently at university in a small town in Germany, pretty much right in the middle between Heidelberg and Frankfurt. My family is still living in Southern Germany in a town between Stuttgart and Munich. So, to go to Paris, they had to pass through my area. My father agreed to make that small detour (adds about an hour to the drive to Paris) and to pick me up.

It was my mother’s birthday – and I’m not sure if she was all that thrilled to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get onto the road. She knew that the whole family would be going somewhere, but she wasn’t sure where.

It took them about 2 ½ hours to get to my place by car. They picked me up shortly after 9 a.m. – and off we were, heading to Paris. While we passed the Palatinate Forest we told my mother where we were going and she sure was surprised. But I think the thing that pleased her most was that the whole family was together again. (You see, I moved out about two years ago and my sister is currently doing an internship not too far away from Nuremberg.) So there we where again. On the road to Paris. My parents in the front of the car and me and my little sister in the back seats. Reminded me an awful lot of former family vacations – of which many took us to Disneyland as well….

Driving through France is not really exciting. The most interesting thing along the “autoroute” is looking at different breeds of cows… But the motorway is alright (but expensive) – the only annoyance is that you’re not allowed to drive any faster than 130km/h… oh well…

It took us about 4 ½ hours from my door to that familiar area of Marne-la-Vallée – and oh my, has that area changed. Back in the 1990’s, there was nothing but fields and me and my sister used to compete who would see the very first glimpse of Disney (usually the Newport Bay Club). But now there are hundreds of housings of Val d’Europe and the surrounding communities…

We took the off-ramp to the resort (which is quite cleverly laid out: the road to the hotels and the main parking lot is actually an extension of Main Street… so you are heading right towards the Disneyland Hotel when driving to Disneyland Resort Paris…) and were at the SQL in no time. We parked the car and went to reception where there was absolutely no line (the first “there’s no line!” of many during that trip).

It was shortly after 14:00, check-in was smooth and I got the chance to dust off my French while talking to a very charming cast member who was just “earning her ears”. We were assigned to a room at the Sierra Lodge. You see, besides the main building of the SQL, there are six smaller lodges (one houses the pool). Sierra is the furthest away from the main building and probably closer to the reception of the Santa Fé than to the one of the SQL. But we didn’t mind. The room was really nice, big enough for the four of us and sooo quiet. We didn’t hear the neighbours or people in the hall.

None of us had eaten ever since early this morning, so we went to the McDonald’s at the Disney Village. They’ve enlarged the place since my last visit with a lot more room on the second floor and wind shields for the outdoor seating area.

We were not really sure what to do next. We knew that we only had half of a day left by now and we were discussing if it was worth to buy passports to the park(s) for today… My parents wanted to go for two days. In the end we decided that because of the fact that we would be leaving at noon-ish on Saturday, it would be more fun to spend the rest of this first day in the parks. Besides, it was still my mother’s birthday and she wanted to celebrate it with a couple of rides on Rock’n’Rollercoaster. So I could hardly disagree…

We walked through Disney Village to the Walt Disney Studios. We chose to visit that park first and – thanks to the fact that you can go to Disneyland Park after 17:00 with a one-day-admission to the Studios – switch over to the old park.

I bought our tickets at the guest relations window of the Studios. It took me some while to make it clear to the CM that I wanted passports for two days but not a “Pass Partout” (the new park hopper passes for both parks).

We finally entered the Studios at about 15:30. The whole Frontlot area was beautifully decked out for Christmas. Goofy and Sully were greeting guests and holiday music was playing. My sister and my mother wanted to ride Rock’n’Rollercoaster NOW so we walked on through Studio 1, which was decked out with thousands of lights. Truly beautiful. There was also some jazzy Christmas music playing, which I enjoyed a lot.

The park was pretty much deserted at this time of the day and RnR was of course a walk-on. My father didn’t join us, because he’s not much into rollercoasters. The ride was great as ever and so smooth. I love the light effects. It really feels like a wild rock’n’roll concert.

The two girls went for one more ride while I opted to wait outside with my father. We talked for a bit until the two came back. Now my mother stayed with my father and I went on RnR with my sister.

After that, we walked past the Stunt Show arena (unfortunately, the last show had been at 15:15… put that on my list of reasons why to come back as soon as possible) to the Studios Tram Tour. They only had two trams running and even though we were seated immediately we had to wait for about 10 minutes ‘till the ride started… The tour was good as always (Catastrophe Canyon is still amazing and the “Reign of Fire”-set did its part to warm us up a bit).

Next up was CinéMagique, which has to be one of my favourite Disney attractions ever. I just love that little movie. It’s incredible how they’ve managed to put almost every emotion you get while watching a movie into 25 minutes… It’s so beautiful and, well, has that kind of “innocence” (I can’t explain it any better) that most of the great movies have.

The girls wanted to do Rock’n’Rollercoaster one more time. I wasn’t in the mood for that one… I had the “pleasure” of a nice cold earlier that week and was still recovering. While the rest of the family walked off towards the rollercoaster I walked to Studio 1, where I enjoyed the atmosphere and browsed a bit through the Legends d’Hollywood-store. I saw a couple of pins that interested me and that I wanted to buy later.

There was also tons and tons of “Nemo”-merchandise. Actually, I think there’s more “Nemo”-stuff right now on sale than Christmas-merchandise. And people are nuts for that (including my sister…). For your information: “Finding Nemo” just had hit European movie theatres a couple of weeks earlier (and I actually didn’t see it until the night before we left for Disney).

My parents and my sister caught up with me and we decided to leave the Studios (which were closing anyway) and to go to Disneyland Park.

We entered Disneyland Park at 18:00 – right in time for the Tree Lighting. Main Street is an amazing sight during Christmas season: the huge Christmas tree, the “Lights of Winter”-arches and the wonderful music… But I was a bit disappointed with the re-worked version of the Tree Lighting Ceremony. See, I LOVED the old one. I think it was one of the most magical Disney / Christmas moments ever. The new ceremony, well, it’s not bad. But it lacks that special “pixy dust” that made the old one so plain wonderful.

Now, Father Christmas is standing on a (very nice) pedestal on Central Plaza to light up the tree together with a child and Mickey Mouse. The way the tree and the arches light up is still amazing. And the nicest touch: at the end of the ceremony, it started to snow. (This happens several times a day, actually.)

It was a nice show, but it can’t hold a candle to the old ceremony and I deeply hope they bring it back next year…

The girls were still in the mood for thrills, so we walked over to Space Mountain, which unfortunately was on 101 (Disney speak for “out of order”). No big deal… we turned around and were heading towards Frontierland when my sister decided that she wanted some popcorn. We bought a small box of it on Central Plaza and managed to empty it ‘till we reached Big Thunder Mountain. There was hardly a line… It always takes you at least five minutes to get through that enormous queue. We rode BTM twice and enjoyed how great it looks after nightfall. Naturally, we were freezing afterwards and I proposed to warm up a bit at Phantom Manor. Once again, there was no one in line – which was quite eerily walking up the stairs to the old manor with no one around you… just cold evening fog and the PM-music in the background…

It was now a few minutes after 19:00 and I wanted to see the Fantillusion Parade for the very first time. We picked a spot right in front of the Frontierland entrance to watch the parade.

Fantillusion is a nice parade. The floats are amazing and the costumes of the dancers and characters are great. I especially enjoyed the Nazgul-like folks who walked alongside the villain floats (and to watch the children standing at the curb who slowly took a step or two back when they saw these guys).But overall I don’t think that Fantillusion is a major improvement over the Main Street Electrical Parade. I think it’s the show stops that I just don’t like. For me, a show should be a show and a parade a parade, I guess… Oh, the show stops were certainly great with the transforming floats (we got to see the show stops for the Three Fairies float, Ursula and Aladdin). But it just slowed the whole thing down too much. I will definitely watch Fantillusion again… I’m just not raving about it.

Afterwards, we browsed through the Main Street stores for a bit to get out of the cold until the fireworks started. The fireworks were the very same as two years ago. It’s a short, but very good show over the chateau. It features mostly white and golden fireworks synchronised to some big band Christmas songs.

The day had been very long so far and we were pretty cold. We wanted to avoid the rush on the restaurants at Disney Village that follows park closing. So we walked back to our hotel room to rest and get warm again.

It wasn’t until 21:00-ish that we got out of the room again. First, we checked out what the SQL’s restaurants (The Hunter’s Grill and the Beaver Creek Tavern) had to offer, but nothing really appealed to us.

So we went to the Village instead. Café Mickey was being refurbished, so that was out of the question. We had been to the Rainforest Café before and wanted to try something new, the Steakhouse didn’t appeal to my sister who isn’t that much of a carnivore and King Ludwig’s Castle (the new German restaurant) seemed to be a bit too expensive for what they’re offering (mind you, it’s probably good and compared to other restaurants at Disney not that expensive – but when you can get the very same food back at home for 1/3 of the price at Ludwig’s, you don’t feel the need the visit that place). My sister wanted to give Planet Hollywood a try (even though I’m not a fan of that restaurant), so we walked up the stairs to their entrance. Unfortunately (well, more or less…), they didn’t have a table for at least another 30 minutes. But it was already 21:30 and none of us wanted to wait that long for dinner. We turned around and finally decided to get something to eat at Annette’s Diner. I for one, love that place. It’s one of my favourite restaurants anywhere. I love the food, the ambience, everything. We were seated in five minutes and service was quick and very, very friendly. My father and my sister got a Rock’n’Roll Burger, my mother the Chicken Fajitas and I had the Chubby Checker Sandwich (with chicken and cheese). The food was delicious and plenty. My mother’s coke tasted pretty stale, so I talked to one of our servers (I never figure out how many servers I actually had when eating at Annette’s… I think this time it was three… or was it four? … Anyway) and they replaced the coke immediately.

The dinner was wonderful and once more a prove of why I love that place. The only thing that I really regretted was that all of us were so stuffed after we had finished our plates that we couldn’t get around to ordering deserts (which are amazing at Annette’s, by the way). I took over the bill (with my 10% discount as shareholder of Euro Disney) and made this dinner my gift to my mother.

Stuffed as we were, we trotted back through the Village, browsed through the stores and walked to our hotel room.

We all just crashed on our beds and were well asleep shortly after midnight…

DAY TWO, December 5 (Friday)

We took the liberty of having a lazy start this morning. Actually, the hotel gave us this liberty due to the fact that I only got a breakfast seating at 9:45. (I think at Hotel New York you can go to breakfast at anytime in the morning, but not so at the 2- and 3-star hotels.) My mother got up first, and I was up at 8:30 and took a shower. While my father and my sister tried getting out of bed, my mother and I decided to take a short stroll around the hotel.

Sequoia Lodge has an awesome setting. The illusion of being out there in the wilderness is really convincing (well, except for those few spots where you can spot Hotel New York…). There’s a little river and a pond with a beaver dam and a couple of beaver figurines. And then there’s a nice gazebo… and somewhere there’s supposed to be a redwood tree, but I suck when it comes to biology so I never could make out which of the many trees that one was…

We walked into the main building, browsed through the boutique and got something to drink.When we got back to our room, the other two were dressed and ready to go. We grabbed our stuff for the day and left.

First, we stopped at reception, because my mother had decided that we should try to get a later breakfast-seating for the next day. Originally, our seating was at 8:45, but because we wouldn’t go into the parks the next day before we’d left, she thought it would be good to have a late start as well. I, being the only one who speaks French did almost all of the talking this trip (but don’t worry: you get along perfectly with English – I just think that it’s a bit more polite to speak the language of the country your in… but it’s certainly not a necessity! Besides, I wanted to practice my French.), went again to these nice CMs at the SQL’s front desk and managed to change our seating-time to 9:45. And I was lucky: except for 7:30 all other times were already taken.

The SQL’s restaurants are on the floor below the reception and the boutique. There, it doesn’t make a difference for breakfast which of the two you choose. We walked into the Hunter’s Grill. We were welcomed by a cast member at the entrance, had to wait 30 seconds and were led to a table right next to the buffet. You see, the breakfast you get (included in the price for your room) is a buffet of continental breakfast treats – and a very fine one indeed! They offered croissants, breads, all kinds of cereals, ham, jams, honey, fruit salad, yoghurts and my favourite: pain au chocolat. Yummy. For an extra charge, you can also order scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages. But we all were very satisfied with what the buffet had to offer. The cast members were also really great and kept everything tidy and constantly re-filled what was missing at the buffet.

After we had stuffed ourselves on this great breakfast, we walked over to Disneyland Park. There, I surprised my family with one more special treat: Salon Mickey. They weren’t aware of this place at all. One of the very few pleasures these days with the Euro Disney shares is the Shareholder’s Club. As a member you are entitled to certain discounts, perks – and Salon Mickey. That’s a very, very nice V.I.P. lounge next to the park’s entrance. I knocked at the door and we were led into the salon by a cast member. She asked us if we wanted to visit Parc Disneyland that day, I said yes and handed her our tickets, which she then validated at the park gate for us, while we took a seat in this beautiful and posh lounge. The salon fits perfectly to the theme and time of Main Street, U.S.A.. Several black-and-white photographs depict important milestones in Walt Disney’s life like the Oscars he got for “Snow White” or the premiere of “Mary Poppins”. Besides the luxury of the salon itself, you also get some pastries and drinks here. Even though we were still pretty full after that breakfast, we managed to taste a bit of the cookies, brownies and muffins they are offering. And let me tell: these sweets here at Disneyland Paris are just amazing! Really tasty! I also had a hot chocolate (the good nesquick-stuff) to warm up before spending the whole day outside.

We then entered the park through a door, which leads you directly to Main Street Station. What an entrance to Disneyland. My family was truly impressed with this start of the day and my sister had left a few words in the golden book at Salon Mickey. It was now 11:00 already and we were eager to experience the park. But we had a few problems with my mother’s digital camera and the batteries, so our first stop was the Town Square Photography store were we got new batteries in the hope, that the camera would now work without any glitches. And it did… for the moment.

We walked down Main Street underneath the Lights of Winter arches and checked out the information board at Central Plaza. Space Mountain was closed again (like the night before), so once more we turned towards Big Thunder Mountain. The ride was yet another walk-on. Attendance was very light the whole day, but that was to be expected on a week-day in December.

We kept on strolling through Frontierland and walked by the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue (where my parents checked the menu – something they do on each and every holiday: checking the menus at EVERY restaurant they see). We thought about seeing “Mickey’s Winterwonderland”, which is a very cute show, but it was yet another half an hour ‘till show time and so we decided to take a ride around the park with the Disneyland Railroad. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the next train (the W.F. Cody, if anyone’s interested…). We had just sat down, when I spotted a cast member that I knew. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see this guy again and I was able to exchange a few words with him before the train departed the station.

After the full round-trip, we chose to go on a bit further to get off at Fantasyland. There, they were just letting people in for the “Le Noel de Mickey”-show, but after having seen that one once I have no desire to see it again (I’d say the show is more for the really young mouseketeers…). The entrance sign at Peter Pan’s Flight read that the wait for this ride was just 10 minutes, which caught me by much surprise, because even on very slow days the line is rarely ever below 45 minutes. We went into the standby line (which I haven’t down at Peter Pan for years). In the end, we waited about 20 minutes, which is still okay for Pan. At the loading station, the cast member asked us where we’d be from. After I had answered “Germany”, he surprised us with his profound knowledge of the German language: “Prost!” – which amused us quite a bit.

After the flight above the rooftops of London and the peaks of Neverland, I wanted to watch “Belle’s Musical Medley”. That’s a little holiday show next to the Old Mill. The whole area is actually themed to Belle’s village, with several kiosks selling Christmas stuff and sweet treats (but no mulled wine… bummer). The show is cute, but nothing more than just dancing. The songs are actually playback and all in French. You see a few townspeople and the blonde triplets that are after Gaston – who appears as well, of course. After “Be Our Guest” Belle arrives with her book in hands and sings about “Our Town”… The show ends with a song which I think is from “Beauty & the Beast: Enchanted Christmas” (even though I never watched that video and stay away from “cheapquels” in general) and snowfall. Nice touch. The villagers remain for picture taking with the guests. I wanted to take several more photos of the village, but the camera broke down completely and refused to be turned on. I had my digital camera with me on this trip as well… but that one was now back in our room at SQL (usually, my mother’s camera takes better pictures and I didn’t think it was necessary to bring two… boy, was I wrong). I had no other choice but to go back to the room and get the camera. But before, I wanted to go on “it’s a small world”. We walked right on (what a surprise…) and floated through this small world. They had holiday decorations from fitting to each country and some truly stunning costumes for these little dolls. But I missed hearing any Christmas songs… I had visited the holiday-makeover of small world two years ago and I could have sworn that they had Christmas songs playing …

But now it was time for me to get back to the room. The rest of my family remained in the park (who did Pirates, BTM and some browsing in shops) while I headed towards the exit. A friend from Germany, who is now working at Hotel Cheyenne, sent me a text message on my mobile phone that she was now in the park and wanted to meet up with me. I called her and met her then at the Christmas Tree on Town Square. She had to be at work in an hour, so we didn’t have much time to chit-chat. She accompanied me to our room and back and we talked for a while.

I met my folks on Central Plaza again, they wanted to go to Space Mountain. I told them that I would catch up with them in a minute. I said good-bye to my friend and followed the rest of my gang to Discoveryland. It was now about 14:30. When I got to Space Mountain, the girls were already on the ride. I waited with my father at the exit for them to return from their trip to the moon. I then went with my sister on the ride via standby-line. Another walk-on. Space Mountain is a wonderful ride. Even in its current state. It’s still very rough, especially compared to Rock’n’Rollercoaster next door. But not as rough as last year, I thought. I guess they got new padding for the headrests.

I only wish the ride would return to its former glory. I miss all of the outside effects like the steam coming from the canon, the loud blast and the recoiling of the canon. All in all, Discoveryland is in a very bad shape. While the rest of the park is in a very good condition (okay, a paint-job here or there…), the tribute to the genius of Jules Verne is slowly deteriorating. What a pity…

We had Fast Passes for yet another ride on Space Mountain, but they were absolutely unnecessary. We didn’t see a single soul until we reached the attraction’s station. My father and my sister were a bit peckish and so we went to the Café Hyperion to grab something to eat. While they had a few burgers and some surprisingly good fries, I watched cartoons on the big video screens of Videopolis. I think they’ve added a few new cartoons to their mix, but I’m not certain of that…

Now it was time to get a spot for the Christmas Parade, which started at 16:00. We stood on Central Place, le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant right in front of us. The parade was very good. The new Christmas song is great and gives the whole parade some much needed tempo compared to the previous Parade de Noel. There were plenty of performers, who obviously had fun doing what they were doing. And the new costumes for all of them were simply stunning. We all enjoyed the parade very much, even more than we had enjoyed Fantillusion the night before (show-stops, I’m telling you…). Besides, the new Christmas song, that has been written for the parade, is really catchy.

After the parade, my sister wanted to do Indiana Jones. Not because she likes the ride, but because she just wanted to cross that off her list. All right. So I went with her, while my parents opted to not enter the Temple du Péril. The ride was a lot more fun than I remembered. And, a big plus, thanks to riding backwards you don’t get the ice-cold wind right into your face like on BTM.

But after being outside for almost an hour now, we were in the need for a warm-up. And so walked to Pirates of the Caribbean, which is always nicely temperatured at +24° celsius (or even more, I’m not that sure). I think they’ve increased the lighting level in the queue line… which is not the worst idea (last time I went, you could hardly see your feet in front of you), but they could dim the lights just a tiny bit to enhance the atmosphere.

The ride was fantastic as always and I’m amazed that even after all these years I still spot yet another detail every time I ride.

We all were in the mood for dinner and walked back to the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue. But before, we wanted to do Big Thunder Mountain one more time (the mountain looks just awesome after sunset). We then had dinner at that barn. And even though it was fast food (and that was never DLRP’s strong side), it was quite good! Yet another surprise… My sister had a Far West salad (with ham and eggs), my mother a bowl of chili and my father had spare-rips. I went for something simpler and ordered just a Salade Fraicheur and a cheeseburger. And indeed, as the menu said, this probably was the “best grub in the west”… (Besides, the restaurant was nicely decorated for Christmas – as all the restaurants at DLRP are).

After dinner, we walked through the nightly Frontierland, crossed Central Plaza and went into Discoveryland once more. My mother and my sister – who are turning into true thrill-seekers, I’m afraid – went on Space Mountain for the last time. We met up with them again in front of Star Tours. We walked into that attraction and well… what shall I say? This once-wonderful ride is in a terrible condition. Truly horrible. I could live with the spots of missing paint in the queue. But even the simulators look deteriorating. The arm-rests of the seats were missing parts of their plastic coverings. In addition to that, the projector of the film was out of position and missed the movie-screen by a couple of centimetres. I was really disappointed by that. I really love Star Tours. Even after all these years it’s a great simulator with cool effects and thrills. I don’t think it’s dated at all. But it’s sooo much in need for an extensive refurbishment. NOW.

After this disappointing experience I was desperately in the need for some Disney magic (“Need Magic?”, anyone?).

My sister and my mother felt like getting waffles and so we went into the Gibson Girl Ice-Cream Parlour on Main Street. My sister looked at her waffle and was really startled: the whipped cream on top of it was a hidden Mickey!!! How cute…

We then took the time to browse through the Emporium. I wanted to give Fantillusion one more chance, while the rest of the family wanted to get some shopping done.

As I was standing there on Main Street, watching all these people (amazingly, there hadn’t been that many people in the park all day, but the parade route was pretty well crowded…) and how the cast members interacted with them…. plus the Christmas music, well, I felt that Disney magic again. Just watching. I was back. … sigh…

The parade started and I thought it was a bit better. Probably because I only got to see two stops instead of the three the night before. This time I was standing next to Casey’s Corner and I saw the Jafar float and the Little Mermaid float stopping in front of me. I think I like the last act of the parade the best. The princesses’ floats are just beautiful and that very simple effect with these disco-ball-lights is actually really magical. … But I guess the Electrical Parade, even though it was technologically dated, was just a bit more fun to watch than Fantillusion… I can’t help it.

I met up with my parents again right there on Main Street, while my sister went to the next public phone to phone her boyfriend back home. The three of us enjoyed the atmosphere of the brightly lit Main Street and waited for the fireworks to begin. This spot, between Casey’s Corner and the Gibson Girl was much better than the spot the night before (next to the Discovery Arcade) and the show was great to watch. People were starting to sing along to the music (well, actually, when I’m saying “people” I mean my mother and myself ;-)) and it was just a perfect ending to a fun day at Disneyland.

We had enjoyed ourselves very much and I got into this whole Christmas mood again. (Now bring on the turkey and light up the Christmas Tree for me *g*).

We all gathered around the Christmas Tree on Main Street and slowly walked out of the park. …

I had got another text message on my phone from my friend Jen. She’s working at the Walt Disney Studios and I wanted to see her. She had just watched “Le Monde de Nemo” at the Disney Village’s Gaumont Cinéma. I called her and we agreed on meeting at McDonald’s.

My parents and my sister wanted to do some more shopping at the Village, while I went to McDonald’s. I had bought a tin box filled with biscuits and gingerbread back home for Jen. But me being me, I had left it back in the hotel room. I walked into McDonald’s, which was a mad house at that time. I finally found her and her boyfriend sitting at a table on the second level. I said hello and asked her if she mind to wait another 15 minutes while I was going back to the room (once more that day) to get the gingerbread. She didn’t.

So I walked at the fastest pace I could (and I was still recovering from my cold, remember? – so every once in a while I expressed myself with a very loud and unhealthy cough) back to the hotel, got the tin out of my backpack and walked back to McDonald’s. And finally took a seat at their table… We chatted for about half an hour. Her boyfriend was pretty tired and practically fell asleep over his fries and so we decided to meet again next time (yet another reason to come back as soon as possible). I walked with them to their car and we said “au revoir”.

I then called my father on his mobile and met my folks again at the exit of Disney Village. They were pretty exhausted as well and wanted to get back to the room. I still had some shopping to do and browsed through the boutiques of the Village. I got a cute Winnie the Pooh / snowman-plush and the Christmas CD at the Buffalo Trading Company and a couple of pins (I’m not a trader, I just like having the ones that I find pretty *g*) at Hollywood Pictures. I found a cute teddy bear at the Disney Store, but had to give my wallet a rest after having put the “Euro” back into “Disneyland”. (I really love that I don’t have to worry about exchanging currency when going to Disney and that I don’t have to make any weird calculations just to know how much something costs… besides: it’s cool to get back so many different Euro coins as change… all in all: I’m a big fan of our new currency! *g*).

I got what I wanted and what I could afford and walked back towards the Sequoia Lodge, but not without stopping at the Hotel New York Boutique, where I started chatting with a cute cast member from Quebec (hey, I had to practice my French, remember? ;-)). I stopped at the Northwest Passage boutique at the SQL for one more time and finally returned to our room.

We had thought about maybe going to the Redweed Creek Bar down in the hotel’s lobby, but we all were very, very tired after that day (man, I think we’re getting old…) and crawled into our beds…

Good night…

DAY THREE, December 6 (Saturday)

Happy St. Nicolas Day! In Germany, we believe that on December 6, St. Nicolas is visiting the homes and puts nuts, fruits and sweets into the boots of those children who were good during the past year…

Well, I got up earlier that morning. My mother, sister and me wanted to check out the hotel’s pool before leaving. And while I and my sis got ready my mother turned into St. Nick and put two boxes of chocolates onto our pillows. How sweet of her…
It wasn’t that chilly that morning. Actually, the weather hadn’t been that bad that whole trip. About 7° to 10° Celsius I’d say… but the cool weather gets you when you’re out there the whole day. But for now, we just walked quickly over the quiet grounds of the Sequoia Lodge to the “Quarry Pool”. The pool is housed in one of the smaller lodges, right next to the main building. It’s nicely themed to a quarry, with a slide, a waterfall, a hot tub and a small outdoor-area, which was closed during our stay.

The pool had been refurbished during the past few days… or so they’ve said – you couldn’t see much of it. Except for the fact that the water had probably been just re-filled and was still quite chilly. The pool area could really use some extensive work and it could have been a bit cleaner. Which is a real shame, because it’s actually a very nice pool… (probably the 2nd nicest at the resort, my favourite being the one at the Davy Crockett Ranch).

We spent some time in the water and were back at the room by 9 o’clock. Meanwhile, my father had got up and dressed and so we all were ready to do the saddest of holiday-duties: pack. We quickly got our belongings together, took a look around the room if we had forgotten anything and were out of the door…

We put our bags into the trunk of our little car and went back to reception. I threw the room key cards into as well as the “Pluto-card” (on which you can express your opinion about the hotel and your vacation) – which my sister and I had filled out – into their designated boxes next to the front desk. Then, we returned to the Hunter’s Grill for breakfast and were seated almost at the exact spot as the morning before. We stuffed ourselves again on what they offered us. It seemed to be busier, and we assumed that – being Saturday – more people were staying at the SQL now. We wondered if the parks were as empty as they were the two days before. I hope – for Disney’s sake – that they weren’t (and it would be a shame if too many people missed out on the wonderful Christmas celebrations at Disney / Paris).

I’m usually not much of a breakfast person, but I loved the croissants and the pains au chocolat, so I kept on eating ‘till I felt like Winnie the Pooh, who got stuck in Rabbit’s hole… But who should blame me? *g*

The two girls went to the hotel’s boutique for a couple of minutes without telling what they were doing. They returned with a medium-sized shopping bag… will I find out what’s in there on Christmas? We’ll see ;-).I wanted to get back to Disney Village one more time, because I had seen some nice looking poster-postcards in the parks but couldn’t find them the night before. My family wanted to get going, but finally they caved in.They were thousands of people heading towards the parks and I think that day saw some longer lines than the ones that we enjoyed… I found the postcards I wanted at the Disney Gallery: they’re reproductions of posters from several classical Mickey Mouse cartoons… I bought all five I could find (in order to put them under class and hang them on the wall of my flat…).

We went back to the hotel, swimming against the stream of people happily going to Disneyland… but not us. We walked straight to our car and said “au revoir” to Sequoia Lodge.

But instead of heading to the autoroute, we were going to the Val d’Europe shopping centre first. (It just takes about 5 minutes to go there.) The whole town of Val d’Europe is actually on Disney property, with the mall being the centre of it. We parked near the “Porte de la Danube” (all entrances to the shopping centre are named after European rivers – incidentally, my hometown is actually on the Danube… but I digress…). And what would we do first thing after having left our Disney hotel? Walk right into the Disney store, of course! This is actually not a true Disney Store, but a store operated by DLRP-merchandise department called Rendez-Vous Disney. It’s probably the least-appealing shop they have in Paris, but we were surprised to find some cool stuff that we hadn’t seen at any other place in the resort. But my budget was already way over limit, so I walked out of the place without any additional shopping bag. We didn’t got very far – right next to the Disney shop are several “girl stores” in which my mother and sister disappeared for what seemed like an eternity. We finally managed to continue our stroll through the mall. Val d’Europe is the nicest shopping centre I know with a couple of cool stores (for which we did not have the time – but you can easily kill several hours browsing through the different boutiques). My sister wanted to check out the big sports store, while I walked over to FNAC to check out their DVDs and CDs. They’ve got some amazing DVD-special collections in France… you really realise that films are being much more appreciated in that country.

I found a jazz CD I was interested in and spent some time listening to it, while I waited for my folks. As I said, unfortunately I had run out of any Euros to spend so with much regret, I had to put the CD back on its shelf…

I met my family outside of the shop again. My sister was quite happy: my parents had bought her an early Christmas present – two pants and a jacket, which (according to her) were only 1/3 of what they would have cost back home.

I needed a short break, while my parents wanted to get some sodas for the long drive home at the huge supermarket.

I took my time and strolled back through the Val d’Europe shopping centre … we all met again right next to the Disney store…

We put our stuff and ourselves into the car, went for a quick stop at the gas station…

And then we were back on the autoroute (the A4, to be precise), heading back east…

4 hours later I was back at my place…

CONCLUSION

This was such a great trip which really brought our little family closer together again. I also felt so at home being back at Disney.

The Christmas celebrations are just great. I think they’re getting better at it each year. I missed the old Tree Lighting Ceremony (and the Christmas music for the Electrical Parade), but in return, the Christmas Parade is now much more lively and entertaining, they have this beautiful Christmas Village and lots of shows going on.

I missed the Carollers and I’m not sure if they are still performing (it would be a true shame if they had disappeared…).

I also didn’t have enough time to check out the Christmas stuff at the Studios. They seem to have some live entertainment going on, as well.

The park looked really good – with the dismal exception of Discoveryland and its attractions. But otherwise, I don’t have much to complain. The cast members we’ve encountered were great and friendly.

The food we had – even at the fast food places – was surprisingly good. And the breakfast at the SQL was well worth it (and I had thought about booking an extra character breakfast… silly me, good that I didn’t do so).

I was also surprised that even though I know Disneyland Resort Paris inside out, I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to. I didn’t see “Mickey’s Winterwonderland” (which is a wonderful show). I didn’t visit some old favourites like Le Visionarium, The Art of Disney Animation, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth or the Stunt Show. I also had no time at all for browsing through the shops at the parks – and the merchandise selection seemed to be quite okay compared to previous years (with the exception of the Star Traders boutique – which is just one more aspect of the whole Star Tours disaster for me…).

Sequoia Lodge is a good hotel with a very nice staff – but the pools is in desperate need of an extensive refurbishment.

What a shame that I didn’t get the chance to visit the Redwood Creek Bar – it’s really nice to sit there right next to this enormous fire place!

And to come to an end (finally): Christmas is certainly the most magical time to visit Disneyland Resort Paris. And this visit will be very dear to my heart for a very long time.

Thank you Disney for this wonderful trip and thank you for reading this unbelievably long report.A bientôt!

Tobias Schulz

tobschulz@gmx.de


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