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|Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor|
|Shopping the Parks: Disneyland Paris, Part 1|
When my husband and I visited Europe last month, we had a number of reasons to go: Tony and I had been trying to visit our in-laws ever since they moved overseas a few months after our wedding; Tony wanted to show me his old stomping grounds from the time he lived in France and Brussels; and of course, all of this was just a convenient excuse to get to our real destination -- Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Paris held a lot of appeal for me. Everyone I knew who had visited just raved about all there was to see and do. Space Mountain with a loop, an Indiana Jones roller coaster, the Alice Hedge Maze the list goes on. And, don't forget: shopping! Lots and lots of shopping. Of course, we didn't spend the entire trip in the stores, but, for the purpose of these articles, I'm just going to concentrate on the shops and merchandise. Today's column focuses on the stores themselves: their architecture, decorations and theme. My next column give you a look at the best of the merchandise we found at Disneyland Paris.
Like most of Disneyland Paris, the stores are monuments to what Imagineers can create when given a realistic budget. If you think the stores at Disney's California Adventure are drop-dead gorgeous the DLP shops are even more so. In the Disneyland Paris shops, stained glass and polished brass abound, painted murals cover ceilings and walls, and accent pieces and trim are used lavishly, but tastefully.
The store that any Disney Park veteran recognizes is the Emporium. Every Magic Kingdom has one, right on Main Street USA. The Paris version is notable for its surrounding tall, white columns. Each Emporium store is known for the lavish window displays, and the Paris store did not disappoint. When we visited, its windows were merchandised to reflect the Toon Circus theme seen throughout Main Street.
Once inside the Emporium, you can't miss these two wall murals. One advertises "The Original Emporium Department Store," established in Los Angeles in 1855. Of course, that's 100 years before the DL Emporium really opened its doors, but this keeps the 1800s theme intact. On an adjacent wall, you find a similar mural for the Orlando, Florida store, established in 1871.
Be sure to look up when you get to the cash register. Above the main counter rises this stained glass dome. When we were there, a display of rope ladders and trapezes had been erected to play off the Toon Circus theme. I hope those come down soon though, since they looked so tacky next to the elegant dome and lighting fixture.
Do you see the painting of Walt Disney in the Emporium Mural? That's just one of the many, many places you find such tributes to the man who drew the Mouse that began it all. Right next to Walt's Restaurant, which was unfortunately closed during our visit, is Lilly's Boutique, named after Walt's wife, Lillian. Inside Lilly's are dozens of photos of Walt and Lillian. The boutique is divided into smaller rooms, each with a unique decor theme. My favorite was the ocean room, with its thousands of shells used to decorate it. The mirror above is covered in them, and the border around the top of the made completely of shells. Even the light fixtures are made of driftwood.
Next to City Hall stands the Storybook shop, a catchall location for Disney books, videos, music CDs, posters and souvenirs. The store looks like a library or bookstore. As you enter, a life-sized Tigger greets you from inside a banker's cage.
Again, be sure to look up at the "second story" of the building, where you can see a collection of Disney characters climbing around the bookcases upstairs.
You can find a larger collection of CDs across the street at the Paris version of the Camera Shop. You can even sample the CDs in a listening station before you buy them, which is very convenient if you've ever taken a CD home only to find that you got a different version of a song you wanted.
The Disneyana Shop on Main Street is another must-see. Faux-marble columns surround the center of the store, and above each cabinet are gilded bas-relief laurels. Display tables are made with marble tops, and have carved, gilded bases and legs. The carpet is a rich tapestry of blues, greens and mauve.
Most striking is the giant, pumpkin-like cloche , the store's centerpiece. Inside the cloche is a blown-glass replica of the Disneyland Paris Castle. Soft internal lighting rises at intervals to highlight the sculpture. Another of the amazing stained-glass domes rises above you, and a crystal chandelier hangs in the center. All of the light fixtures in the room coordinate with this gorgeous chandelier.
If it seems that all the good stores are on Main Street, guess again. The castle itself holds two shops within it that put anything at Disneyland to shame. On one side is the Seven Dwarfs shop, built within a forest inside the castle itself. Utterly charming, you reach by crossing over a bridge and entering into a replica of the Dwarfs house. On the other side of the Castle is the Christmas shop, open year-round. During our spring visit, we were astounded at how very pretty the shop was. The Cast Member looked amused, and told us we should see it in December.
Over in Discoveryland, be sure to stop into the Star Traders. Although the merchandise isn't anything to write about, the store itself is perfectly themed to the Star Wars world, and serves as a great example of how seriously the Park park takes its movie tie-ins.
Outside the park in the Disney Village is an early version of the World of Disney store. Three separate shops -- Team Mickey, World of Toys, and the Disney Store -- form a giant shopping complex along one side of the walk. Stuck amid this complex is the Disney Gallery. A trip up its winding staircase gives you a view of the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty, and a scale model of the Paris castle. Sadly, the upper floor of this store is no longer used, so you find yourself on a stairway to nowhere. A mixture of gallaery prints and concept art for the park line its walls.
Although I know people who have gone all the way to Paris and never left Disney property during their stay, we had to carve out a day to absorb some French culture. Of course, Disney has a way of following us. As we walked up the Champs-Elysˇes from the Arc de Triomphe, we came across, what else? A Disney Store! It's a pretty store, built, like many other shops on that street, on two floors.
It seems the European Disney Stores are experiencing the same problems as the domestic outlets. The first thing I noticed was a window banner offering a free plush with a minimum purchase of two items totaling 300 French francs. Reading the fine print, it turns out you must return another day to redeem your free toy. What a great way to ensure repeat traffic. Inside, we found racks and racks of sale merchandise.
The store itself was beautifully decorated in a Sorcerer's Apprentice theme. Again, we found a great mural on the ceiling. I'm trying to figure out why so much attention is paid to the ceilings of the stores in Paris. We're lucky to get paint on our walls, while they are covering their ceilings with artwork! C'est la vie .
Shopping patterns of Disneyland Paris guests differ from those in the states. We know that although people tend to shop at night on their way out of the park, you still find people in the stores throughout the day. At DLP, it seems that nobody buys anything until the afternoon. We found ourselves nearly alone in the deserted stores as we wandered the shops in themorning. Even the CMs didn't seem to be fully awake.
Later that night, it was a totally different story. About two hours before park closing, the stores were crammed with people. You may have read that Disneyland Paris has two "arcades," or passageways that run behind the stores on either side of Main Street. Whoever designed them was a genius, because it really helps to facilitate traffic flow during parades. Unfortunately, the space needed to create those walkways was taken directly out of the stores. As a result, the Main Street shops are smaller than their US counterparts. If you think it's tough to walk through the Emporium in Disneyland or Walt Disney World at closing, you won't believe what it's like in Paris.
The moral of the story -- shop early! Disneyland Paris has two types of "Shopping Service" (what we refer to as Package Express). Some stores hold packages for you at the store, and you can pick them up whenever you want. You can also have your purchases sent to the Main Gate, where they are available starting at 5 p.m. And because there are no lockers at Disneyland Paris, the Shopping Service is your best bet. However, you must be sure to ask for it, since unlike the US parks, CMs don't usually volunteer to offer the service. On your way out of the resort at night, be sure to stop by the Clearance Center, just outside the gates, for a collection of park-logo clothing at 50% off - usually last year's lines.
Just like the rest of Disneyland Paris, I found the stores to be a visual treat. There really is no comparison to them among the stores in the U.S. parks. The merchandise though... that's another story. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about it.
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With even more to come soon!
Adrienne Vincent - Phoenix is the Super Shopper behind MouseShoppe - your Personal and unofficial Shopping Service for the Disneyland Resort.
In addition to scouring the park to find you the latest and greatest merchandise, she'll be keeping MousePlanet readers updated on all of the Merchandise Events happening in the parks.
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