Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 14 - The Happiest Place in Europe

I finally found something that the kids like to do in Paris – Disneyland. Fortunately, I’m as excited to do it as they are!

We had planned on going to Parc Asterix, a more “French” park based on French comic book characters Asterix and Obelix. But when push came to shove, the prices for both parks were similar and Disneyland was only an hour by one train, while Parc Asterix was at least 2 hours by two trains and a bus. We got a late start, so we weren’t even getting there until 12 or 1 pm, and with closing times at both 6:00, we had to go with what was closer.

I’m so glad we did! I don’t do fast rides, so I wasn’t even going to go to Parc Asterix, but I knew Disneyland had enough atmosphere to make up for it. And when we rolled in at 1 pm (the metro stops right at the front gate! Take that, Anaheim!) it turns out that the park didn’t close until 8! We got two more hours than we planned, and I was in good-deal heaven.

I went to Walt Disney World a few times as a kid, and Disneyland in Anaheim a pile of times as an adult, so it’s interesting to be in a Disney park for the first time. The layout is different, some of the rides (not many) are different, but the feeling is the same. The atmosphere, the buildings, they made the same feeling here somehow.

I’m sitting outside Pirates of the Caribbean listening to piratey music, yo-ho! That’s something that’s been missing during our whole trip – a soundtrack. It’s amazing how much music can affect the feeling of a place. Of all the places we’ve been, only twice has there been music playing while we visited, and they were two of my favorite days. Once was in York with a guy playing Broadway tunes on a harpsichord or something, and in Milan as we strolled down a pedestrian street and listened to an accordion player. I doubt I will ever be able to hear accordion music without craving a gelato. I wonder if anyone has done a study on how much more money you spend when there is ambiance-setting music playing?

The Haunted Mansion is called Phantom Manor here, and the second half of the ride is way gorier than the Anaheim park. I forgot that Zack was only 2 when we went last time, so he didn’t experience much. 4 is a delightful age to take him here. He thinks the rides are fun but he’s fine playing at Pocahontas’s Indian Adventure playground when he’s too short for something (or too scared by Phantom Manor).

The one difference I’ve noticed is that there don’t seem to be as many gift shops. I seem to recall Anaheim being jam-packed with stalls and stores and every ride spits you out in a themed shop. Or possibly it just feels that way when your kids are asking for something every 5 minutes. I think they’re all asked-out today, they’ve done nothing else since coming to Europe. Every third sentence out of their mouth is a request to buy them
1) a drink
2) food or
3) a trinket.

(The other two sentences involve boredom and getting hurt.)

Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear were exactly the same, just in French. Buzz was Zack’s favorite ride. Ryan and Tim both liked Pirates (which had much gentler drops than the Anaheim one, for us weenies), Noah and Brad both liked Big Thunder Railroad, and I liked It’s a Small World. The colors were so vibrant and even though it was a similar concept, it felt new and more modern. I also liked this: Star Tours didn’t have a gift shop exit and Pirates had an obvious gift shop bypass lane. I love this place!

Everyone loved that under Sleeping Beauty’s castle there was a dragon lair with a real live dragon in it! Okay, so not really a real live dragon, but it looked so realistic you could have sworn that it was. That’s one of those random cool things about Disneyland – finding that hidden-ish entrance, the spooky cave interior – I love that. You feel like no one else even knows about it, like you discovered it yourself. We also found the Liberty Arcade, essentially a long hallway filled with store entrances that parallels Main Street but with almost no crowd, even with Main Street jam-packed with thousands leaving at closing time.

This park seems a lot smaller, and walking from one land to the next is really fast. We hit all of the major attractions in the 7 hours we had, doing almost everything twice because the lines were so short (5-10 minutes average, some were closer to 20 or 30). We knocked out Fantasyland in the last thirty minutes, scooting from one ride to the next and walking right on each, and ending with a short wait in line for Peter Pan right at closing time. It was beautifully orchestrated.

The casualties for the day:
Zack lost his binky on the train on the way there
Brad got lost once, coming off a baby switch at Buzz Lightyear’s exit area
Zack got lost twice, once in the Pirates exit area, once in the Small World exit area
Darcey lost her blankie somewhere between Adventureland and Fantasyland
Two Frisbees that we got in kids meals fell onto the tracks as we boarded the train coming home

The kids were found, the binky, blankie, and Frisbees are gone for good. Fortunately, the binky and blankie are both easily replaced, and no one cared about the Frisbees. In fact, it was bound to happen at some point that something slipped between the platform and the train, we’re just happy it was something so disposable.

Tim asked me if when I get home, if I’m going to need a vacation from our vacation. To be honest, today feels like a vacation already. I feel like we got a 2-for-1 vacation package – buy a trip to Europe, get a trip to Disneyland for only 270 euros! It’s just so different from the rest of our trip so far.

When we had eked every last bit of fun out of Disneyland, we went across the street to Disney Village for some more, free, fun. Well, not completely free, but there was no entrance fee. We ordered food from a diner to go and got a fabulous deal – burger, fries, and a drink for ten euros, compared to the café in the Tuileries where I paid 7 euros per soda. (I’m not allowed to complain about prices anymore. Ryan says it makes it harder for him to enjoy himself. But that was egregious enough that it had to be mentioned.)

It’s now 10:30 and we’re on the train, almost to our stop. Then it’s a 15 minute walk to our camp, and finally bedtime. I’m ready for it. I woke up at 6:00 with a sore throat and my sinuses aching, and now my nose is running so much you’d think it’s training for a marathon. We’re all tired – Zack has reverted to his bad habit of waking everyone up by screaming and getting into fights with Noah. This morning he took his show on the road and attempted to wake the whole campground when Noah sat in the seat he wanted.

But the kids are being great. Noah is chatting amiably with Tim, Brad is sitting next to me, proofreading my blog, and Zack is with Ryan, playing with his new Mickey Indiana Jones doll (and Darcey’s Minnie doll). I attempted to make a deal with Noah, when he thanked me for taking him to Disneyland, I said, “Show me how grateful you are by not complaining when I take you to places I want to go, like cathedrals and museums and whatever.” He agreed, but I doubt he’ll stick to it. We’ll have to see. I’m glad to have done something so fun together, even if it’s not a cathedral.

No comments: