Larry Wilmot -- July 2001 -- Disneyland Paris (HSF)
July 16th - 19th, 2001
The in depth background information. If you wish you can skip this. (Just don't tell me you did - because I will be hurt.)
This is our second trip to Disneyland Paris, the first was for New Year's Eve Day 1998/9. And a jolly fine trip it was. We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge, which was nice and rustic. The only problem being that we paid £100 extra to have a hotel with a pool, and five minutes after we entered someone noticed that some one had done a Winnie the Pooh in it. And lets face it £100 is a lot to pay for a five minute swim in a Turd Invested Swamp.
We are big Disney fans, and we have made three trips to WDW and two more are planned. One at Christmas and One next July. So this trip to Paris was a kinda -keep your hand in trip. We were on holiday for two weeks all together, but only three days were spent at Disneyland Paris. I sat and thought for ages, if I should write a play by play trip report of all the other days, and make you wade through them until you got to the Disney bit, but then I thought nah, it will only bore them. Then I thought does it matter... well no probably not. Then I decided it might be interesting to mention the other parks we went to briefly in the context of comparing them with Disneyland Paris. Coz you American chappies who hang around Radp, might fancy a European Tour and you might want to visit some other places too. Lets face it George W is on a European Tour at the moment, and if it is good enough for him...exactly.
So I'm going to break with the Wilmot Tradition and do it sorta summary style. Normally I rabbit on for ages about trivia and frankly most of it is made up designed to be as insulting as possible, especially to smokers, in a chronological order. This time I'm going to do the same thing but in the wrong order and with lots of headings.
Now not all readers will be familiar with Tesco's. Ringing any bells?? Nope thought not. Tesco's is a supermarket in Britain. They have a loyalty system called Clubcard. Which if you spend lots of dosh on your shopping, you can get freebies. The ones we got were four Madame Tussaud's Group Annual Passes, these allow you to visit wait for it, Madame Tussaud's in London, the famous Waxworks, but also three theme parks, and a castle, the London Eye, (A VERY Big Wheel.) It also allows a one day pass to Parc Asterix in France. So we thought we would have a couple of weeks away from Disney this summer. But then well we had to go to France for Parc Asterix, so we might as well pop into DLP, but then I thought, hey do the job right. I couldn't admit to my chum Sue Holland, that I had stayed "off world" even at Euro-Disney. So in for a Penny in for Four Hundred Pounds, we booked Two Nights at the Hotel Santa Fe, with a three day pass. This turned out to be a slight problem, cos with the Channel Tunnel Booking, I had not time to go to Parc Asterix, which was a bit stupid, as this was the original reason to go to France. So we re-jigged the tunnel and fitted a day for Parc Asterix as well.
One of the other influences for this trip was a promise I made a few months ago to Kevin a former cast member and winner of the Disney Trivia Challenge for 1958 (or something like that.) Anyway Kevin is the proud proprietor of one of my favourite websites. www.beansaroundtheworld.com This is a really brilliant site, where a tin of beans it taken to famous landmarks around the world. I agreed to take them to London, Paris and DLP, as a Beans Ambassador. They are photographed in situ and the photos put on Kevin's site. Go visit. It is really cool. ( Well it is if you are a sad Anorak like Kevin and I.)
One other thing we did of note was go to see two west end shows. The first was the Witches of Eastwick. You know the film- The show was much the same, but with songs. The main ingredients being The Devil, three tempted but basically nice American Girls, and some Cherries. This was a good show, expensive but great.
The next show was Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story. This is a fantastic show. We have the CD and Video, and it is the second time Jill and I have seen it, the boys were virgins at it. I think we know just about every word... If you are in London go see, tell 'em, Larry Sent you...
OK as Buddy would say...Let's Do it...
Alton Towers. (Staffordshire.)
This is billed as Britain's greatest theme park. It is in the grounds of a ruined Stately Home, and it provides a great back drop to a theme park. Let's face it Disney Parks often have a castle. This place has a real one.
It also has some meaty coasters and rides. The most notable being Oblivion. This is the worlds first vertical coaster. The ride from drop to final breaking takes just 8 seconds, mind you it is a bowel loosening 8 seconds. There is also Nemesis which is what I call a Leg Dangler like Dueling Dragons at IOA. Though it is not dueling, sadly. The most Disney Attraction is Hex, this is a well themed though not over exciting "ride". It has good pre-shows and is set in the castle which gives it great atmosphere.
However, the park basically fails to satisfy, why? There are good ingredients but it is badly cooked. They allow smoking anywhere just about, there is chewing gum everywhere. The park is seriously dirty. We went through queues, which didn't look as if they had seen a sweeping brush for months.
There are no parades, the shows are seriously low grade cheap efforts. I would love to say that we Brits took the American notion of Theme Parks, and showed you how to do it, but even with the rosiest of rose tinted specs bought from Rose City Rose Park, could I do that, we are way behind Disney, and Universal for that matter. And I have a terrible feeling we are going to get thrashed in the Ryder Cup... Oh it's just not our year.
Thorpe Park, Nr London.
Owned by The same people as Alton Towers, and it is smaller and with less rides, though they are building a Meaty Coaster with 10 inversions. That's the upside down bits, for the non technical. Or for the very non technical. A don't go on after lunch roller coaster. It has some seriously whirly rides, and an interesting 4 D Pirate Show, with Eric Idle, from Monty Python, and Honey I shrunk the Audience and JIYI fame. You get very wet on that one, so much so that the floor of the theatre is concrete and the seats thick vinyl. But the park is nothing special and in what seems to be an ex quarry.
Chessington World of Adventures. Nr London.
This is the nicest of the three Tussaud's Parks. It has better themeing and is much cleaner than the others especial Alton Towers, it can't boast much in the way of rides, but there were some nice touches such as Beanoland, and a superbly themed MacDonald's. Though I find it sad that the best themeing is to be found in the fast food franchises. Interestingly the Park was on the news today, because a ride malfunctioned and left 40 people stuck upside-down needing to be rescued. This has got to be one of my worst fears, because my spine is about 2 cms too long to fit comfortably in harness rides. (More of this later.)
This is a fantastically high large "BIG WHEEL". I believe it to be the biggest in the world. It has great views of London, Buck Palace, Westminster Palace (and Big Ben) and the river murky. We had great fun complaining about a really posh guy, who pushed into the queue and had him and his wife sent back by the staff. Oh its such fun being a socialist.
What can I say, you Americans seem for some strange reason to be happy to queue for two hours to buy a ticket for this. I don't know why, Ok it is reasonably entertaining. But it ain't cheap. (Unless you get a free pass like us, which allows you to skip the queue- Ha Ha, get down to your Local Tesco's and Buy Buy Buy.) Hey and I got a little thrill having my photo taken with Samuel L Jackson, my favourite actor. But really I wouldn't wait two hours for it. A walk in St James's Park, or a look around St Paul's is more me.
Parc Asterix North of Paris France.
Now this is the first theme park that we visited that even approached Disney Standards. The themeing is good. There were some great touches. Such as a sculpture carving exhibition. The park is broken down into clearly defined areas and has street entertainment. We saw the Four Musketeers fighting with the dark forces of evil. (No - Not George Bush on his European Tour. )
There are two serious coasters, a Steel Loopy one and the best wooden one I have been on called Zeus. This is long fast twisty and really great. There is also a really funny joke at the entrance. Zeus is throwing down a mighty thunder bolt and he looks impressive 50 foot high. A God not to be trifled with, until you realise he is wearing girls floral cotton panties.
We also stayed at the Parks only hotel, and it is Called the Three Owls Hotel, in French of course. There is little English at Parc Asterix. However, the hotel was really great, it was like a small version of the Wilderness Lodge, (Honey I shrunk the Lodge.) and it was cheaper than the cheapest Hotel at Disneyland Paris. Yet the quality of the accommodation was as high as the best hotels at Disney. The room was almost a suite, and the Kids had a separate room with Bunk Beds. We also had a balcony overlooking a very pretty lodge. The hotel had a buffet The food was very French. Snail stuffed Tomatoes, and individual Quail etc. For a buffet it was high quality and reasonably priced. Obviously there were lots of wines to be chosen. I picked a 2001 Coca Cola, mmmmm what bouquet. I would recommend that if you take the trouble to visit Disneyland Paris, you go and see how the French run a theme park, and take a day out at Parc Asterix and stay at the park hotel. Is it as good as Disney. The Park isn't, the Hotel is. ( And much better value for Money.)
I think that Disneyland Paris, still suffers in reputation from it's slightly slow and controversial start. I found the choice of Paris strange, whist reasonably central in Europe, the French have always been a little wary of English/American Culture - Language. So France is not a natural home, I would have though that the Netherlands would have been a better choice. However, I think the park has blossomed. It has great links, with a Train Station slap in the middle of the resort. Close to the Airport. It is a very pretty park, some say it is the prettiest of the Disneyland's/Magic Kingdoms. Having seen only two of the four, I can't be sure but I wouldn't bet against it.
There are no language problems for people who can't speak French most of the staff speak English and other European Languages. The attractions that relay on speech have translation. In fact it occurred to me that Disneyworld, should have translation headphones for some attractions given the number of Spanish and Portuguese speaking people who visit. I would say that for Non English Speaking people that culturally Disneyland Paris tries much harder than the American Parks - Ha a point scored for the Europeans. Yippee.
There are several hotels, of all price ranges from Expensive to Millionaire. Sorry I mean from Moderate to Luxury. We stayed in the Hotel Santa Fe, this is a TexMex theme, apart from one thing, there ain't much themeing. I am far from convinced that calling the Food Court the Cantina, and having a 20 ft high painting of Clint Eastwood constitutes themeing. In fact it reminded me of 1979 and my year in Lupton Flats Leeds. Which resulted in " this is the most expensive student accommodation I have ever stayed in. Private Message to my good friend Sue Holland -WDW1972 - I can see why DVC members can't use their points there. - It ain't posh enough for you guys. You could put your servants and chauffer up there though no problem.
This is the French Version of Downtown Disney, and whilst it has grown during the past two and a half years since we first visited. It has not got a large content. There is a large Disney Store - ( Don't faint with shock.) There is a big McDonalds. This has a bit more range of food it sells, and is nicer than most British McDonalds, and much better than the one at Downtown Disney, (Which is poor in My Opinion.) There is a night club, a wild west show, children's boat hire, a Planet Hollywood, etc. It is Ok, but we only really went in the McDonalds. Who make better burgers than Disney do in the Park.
I felt that the food Disney make and sell in Paris, is worse than at WDW. We had the most disgusting Ribs I have ever eaten at he BBQ Cook house at Frontierland. The burgers at the fast food outlet where they hold the Moulan show were also poor, so If you want junk food I would go to Macdonald's in the Village. If you want Nice food, I would go into Paris.
Main Street is very very nice. I think I like it better than the one at Magic Kingdom. Sue Holland won't though, coz they don't sell Banana Bread at the Bakery, (Cancel that Trip Sue - No point going.) They have arcades on each side, which are fantastic for escaping from the park after parades. ( They have three different types of Parade at Disneyland Paris... Yippee another point to the Europeans.) There is an interesting... Well slightly interesting, sort of ... display in one of them about the gift of the Statue of Liberty to America, but I might be over inflating its fun value coz I found a Hidden Mickey in it, always guaranteed to impress me, so I can add to my score in the comp with Greg.
I also noticed Walt's window, which was on Main Street it'sself not overlooking the castle as it is in Florida. I was also interested that one window had Michel Eisner as band leader of the Main Street Band Corp. Ironic seeing he abolished it in Florida.
The Castle is great, very pretty. It has no restaurant inside, but it does have a fantastic animatronic Dragon in the dungeon. Quite realistic for little ones, up to 42 year olds.
Again this is a pretty fantasyland, it has most of the rides that Florida has. For some reason Peter Pan, is mobbed all day, this is really popular, so much that they have Fastpass for it. (By the way, the old Fastpass scams, don't work in Paris now either.) They have a couple of extra attractions as well. There is a maze based on the Queen of Hearts. There is a kiddie's coaster based on a Circus Train. There is also a Canal Boat trip based on fairy tails. Of course you can visit It's a Small World and you can get the dreaded song in your head. There is a fantastically carved Carousel, with the most ornate horses. There is a snow white, which has lots of scary bits and not much Snow White.
This is my favourite land at Paris. We went on Big Thunder Mountain about 10 times in the there days. We used Fastpass for this. It had big queues, like it does in Florida, and most people seem unaware of the benefits of Fastpass preferring to wait in the dummy line, which makes it all the better for the more aware. I have never understood this. But I don't profess to be over brainy, so I won't waste precious time thinking about it.
There is a nice and spooky Phantom Manor which is much the same as the Haunted Mansion, but has a more spooky soundtrack, mainly in French. It is in a spooky house on the hill.
The Tarzan show is quite good. It is similar to Tarzan Rocks. Except that there is no Band, or Roller Bladers, and it follows the story more than Tarzan Rocks. Actually it must be quite different. Phill Collins has re made the soundtrack and sings the songs in English and French, and there might be a smattering of German in it too, which is fun to listen to. Like Tarzan Rocks the acrobatics are very exciting. It was good we saw it twice, and there is a nice bit of Audience Participation for the kids.
There is a kids petting area which Ed really enjoyed, called the Critter Coral. Baaaa Baaaaa Baaaaaa.
This is really good much bigger than the one in Florida, despite no Jungle Cruise. There is a great Pirates of the Caribbean. It is longer than the Florida one, with Two drops. I also think the story is in a better sequence too, with the spooky bit at the end. There is a skeleton sat on a pile of treasure, and it says to me, material possessions don't count for much when you are dead. Yo Ho.
There is a short and scary coaster - Indiana Jones et the Temple du Peril. This now goes backwards, and the loop is more scary that way, (Having ridden it in both forms, I find myself uniquely able to comment with authority, so there... It has a nice queuing area, but uses Fastpass. Interestingly the two queues join together without and cast member supervision, so I think there is potential for punch ups there. It wouldn't work like that In England. There would be riots.
There is a great kids play area with suspension bridges, and two galleons, caves and a skull rock, called Adventure... errrrr. ... Something. Anyway, I loved jumping up and down on the big suspension bridge to scare people... Ha ha. I had to give up because I scared myself.
This is like Tommorrowland, in Florida, but it is set fifty years earlier, and is themed on H G Wells, and That other guy, who is in Timekeeper, whose name suddenly alludes me...Jules Vern - I remember now.
There is a Space Mountain which looks great. However, it is very bumpy, with lots of lateral forces. I hurt my neck on the harness and had to stop going on it. I am too big for harness rides. I prefer no harness coasters, such as Zeus at Parc Asterix and Space Mountain at WDW.
There is a Honey I Shrunk the Audience. This seems to be shown alternately in French and English with translation headphones for other languages. It is exactly the same as at Epcot. Though the theatres seems fresher and has better lighting effects during the film.
It is fun to walk out of Epcot, move 60 meters into MGM Studios and go on Star Wars. This is funny because the R2D2 and that dustbin student Pilot speak French but the film is still in English, they were too cheap to dub it. Anyway, it would be much the same if it was in Chinese.
There is an Autopia, which is like the Tommorrowland Speedway, except much longer, about twice the length I would guess. Jill had an argument with some line pushers in, and she thought the park was a little more rowdy than the Magic Kingdom late at night.
Interestingly Disneyland Paris opens until 11pm in July beating the Magic Kingdom by an hour... Another point...ha ha.
Parades and Stuff.
Disneyland Paris has three parades, Toon Circus which is fun, the 3 o'clock parade which is a Disney parade, with a song, that goes like... lets have a Disney parade... hmmmmm. And wait for it wait for it... MSEP... Is there no escape... I can't wait for Spectromagic at Christmas.
Still, this three parade impressed me, it isn't cheap at Disney, but I still think you get fantastic value for money. No complaints from me about Disney Magic being diluted. Go visit Alton Towers, if you think Disney Standards are falling.
Ok folks, Short and sweet, but then I said I would never write a Trip Report. Next Disney Trip Dec 19th - 2nd Jan, Animal Kingdom Lodge, I am really looking forward to the trip. Lots of time with My friends, Sue, Tom, Leanne and their families, and Hopefully my friend from Texas Kathy.
Hope to share it with you with a Trip Report in January.
Have a Disney Day,
Larry (Your Friend in Scotland) Wilmot