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Published: January 15th 2017
Life is like a toilet roll. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.
I’m now of an age where it’s time to say thank-you to a few friends from the past for their part in my wondrous journey through life. To that end I recently visited Archie, a work colleague from the ‘60’s, who set me on the management trail. He proudly professed to being ninety-and-a-half. My grandson, Fred, pretty much at the other, thick end, of the toilet roll, would likely be just as proud to tell me he’s nine-and-a-half, still with a hundred sheets of delightfully soft white tissue waiting to plot his future. It’s that old master of fate, the bell curve. Some of you might know it well.
Fractions of the year are at their most important when we're either very young or 'getting on in years' it seems, a reminder that we should treasure every moment whilst we can. It’s about time then, to take Fred to Disney, Paris. Fred lives with his mum, Sonia (my middle daughter), in France, a five-hour drive from Paris. But please don't tell him we're going to
Disney - he thinks we're going to the zoo.
It’s unusual for us to be anywhere near France in August. France closes for the month: hotels in the north in particular and many restaurants, where the owners choose to take their own holiday somewhere else. Additionally, it’s also generally far too hot; it topped 39.7C as we headed south from Calais in our motorhome. That said, there’s rarely a bad time to visit France, to savour the space with the ubiquitous white cows, vast hedge-less fields, endless tree-lined roads, baguettes, shuttered windows, flower-bedecked roundabouts, tranquil canals, traffic calming gone crazy, garlic, cheese and delicious wine, ridiculous diversions, outrageous motorway tolls, fields alive with sunflowers, shops closed for two hours for lunch, and dreamy villages mellow with age.
It's also unusual for visitors who stay in Disney hotels to arrive by motorhome. Perhaps it was that which prompted the same frosty reception we had experienced in Florida back in 2007 when we queued for half an hour at the entrance to be greeted rather grumpily by frustrated staff. Disney Paris demanded a thorough search of the vehicle by an unsmiling official to establish there were
Disney - Paris!
With Fred, nine and a half, and D, eighty-one and a half and still counting!
no illegal immigrants on board. Just doing his job.
We eventually parked at the entrance to the Disney Cheyenne Hotel and stood in line with our luggage at reception awaiting the attention of an equally unsmiling receptionist. Form filling completed we were dismissed, trailing our baggage and a leaflet in French, back to the motorhome to find our own way to the car park at the cowboy-themed Calamity Jane block some 400m beyond, with little or no information on where to go or what to expect from our stay.
It was around this time that the penny dropped. 'Where do you think we are, Fred?" I asked. "We're in Disney!" came the response, and his eyes shone bright with excitement.
This is Janice’s third visit to Disney and her detailed planning and prior research set us off on the first available bus for the ten-minute ride to the park entrance by mid-afternoon. ‘Welcome to Disney’ it says. All frustration evaporates and from then on it is indeed another glorious world of make believe, as piped music fills the air, smiles alight on every face, kids skip excitedly with delight, fountains dance to turquoise pools.…. and there, way
Disney - Paris!
Fred takes on Darth Vader!
in the distance at the end of Main Street USA, is Cinderella’s Castle!
Yes, welcome to Disney. Little Princesses in frilly dresses walk hand-in-hand with proud parents and everywhere deliriously happy girls of all ages wear their new Minnie Mouse ears with outrageous pride. Most boys are not quite daft enough for all that, but a few pirates were in evidence, whacking their mums and dads with cutlasses and stuffed parrots. There are massive souvenir shops on Main Street, all piled high with everything Disney and all outrageously overpriced - along with most of the food outlets. Half price would still be too much for any of it, but the punters fall head over heals for the romance of Disney in sufficient numbers to keep the tills ringing.
A little too late for the afternoon parade, we took to the rides with Fred: Pirates of the Caribbean, Mad Hatter’s tea cups, Adventures of Pinocchio and Lancelot’s carousel amongst others. A gentle start for Fred's induction but the delight on his face said it all and it was after 10pm before we returned to our room, totally exhausted!
Day two saw us
Disney - Paris
Main Street USA
heading for more serious stuff, starting with Dumbo the flying elephant, Autopia, Sleeping Beauty, and Nautilus, Orbitron and Buzz lightyear, Alladin and Haunted Mansion. If I’m honest I’ll admit to managing most things suitable for persons over five years of age, more than one metre tall, not suffering from high blood pressure, heart problems, or about to get pregnant, but Janice wouldn't allow me anywhere near Space Mountain. Spoilsport. Much to Fred's delight, we managed to meet most of the characters: Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Chip and Dale, Donald Duck, Woody, Jessie, Winnie-the-Pooh, Pinocchio, Buzz …. despite some long queues and the stifling heat. For kids it must feel a bit like us grown-ups meeting the queen!
However, there are much more important people to meet here at Disney, Paris.
After a snack lunch at the Jedi Training Academy, Fred departed for the training room in preparation for a fight with Darth Vader! He didn’t need asking twice. Within the hour he was back, fully robed, fully trained and on-stage, prepared to take on the deadly warrior in front of a huge audience! Now, that’s something he won’t forget in a hurry.
Disney - Paris
Fred with Jessie!
The whole Disney experience is infectious whatever your age – and at 81 I could well have been the oldest grandad there, with an everlasting grin from ear-to-ear. I found myself singing ‘Let it go’ from Frozen, on the bus back to our room in Calamity Jane, much to the amusement of all the other passengers I hasten to add. I wish I’d gone to the Frozen sing along with Fred and Sonia.
It’s all so terribly exhausting this Disney lark. If you don’t mind we’re going to drag ourselves back to the hotel now for something to eat and a good night’s sleep before taking to the streets again tomorrow. Perhaps when you’ve had a rest and a cup of tea, we’ll take you with us to see the lightshow, the fireworks, the parade, and Walt Disney Studios.
6.30am. It's breakfast time in the massive self-service restaurant. It’s packed out and the crowds are pushing and shoving at all the counters to get to the morning’s very mediocre offerings of canned fruit, cereals, meats, yoghurt and cheese, DIY toast and bread rolls, fruit juice, coffee and
Disney - Paris
tea each day. But this early start offers shorter queues in the Park as hotel guests can benefit from the ‘Magic Hour’ and ‘fast passes’ before the gates open to the masses.
Today we’re off to Walt Disney Studios – so it's a quick hop on the bus and turn left at the park entrance. The early Studio Tram Tour provided the requisite wake-up call for our first ride, with earthquakes, fire and flood, torrential rain, loud banging and lightning flashing, sufficient to cause much screaming, knee knocking and heart thumping amongst the passengers. To cap it all the doors wouldn’t open when we arrived back at the platform and it took a dozen strong men to hold open the doors whilst a hundred people climbed out through the sides. All good fun though not exactly in the script!
There are some rides in Walt Disney Studios reserved strictly for the brave. Our personal favourite was Crush’s Coaster, a hair-raising roller coaster supreme, strapped in and trapped in a turtle shell, twisting and turning, nose up and nose down at lightning speed - and all in the dark; serious stuff and surely the most
Disney - Paris!
Fireworks and light-show - Disney fashion!
frightening of all the rides in the park. A close second would be Ratatouille, a fun rollercoaster 3D show that will send a reverberating shiver down your spine and guaranteed to bring on a severe case of wobbly knees as rats run riot in the kitchen. Fred loved this one too! These two are not to be missed, but leave it for a while after breakfast! For a fast and furious show there's also the Moteurs Action stunt show to get you stuck to your seat for forty minutes and more, with rapid-fire car and motorbike stunts that will knock your hat off - but be sure to get there early for a front seat to bag all the action.
Should you have an hour to spare you might think about joining us perched on the kerb waiting for the evening parade back in the Disneyland Park. We did this on an earlier night to watch the spectacular twenty-minute light and fireworks show over the castle. That was a pretty good ‘Wow’ too! I’ll hunt out a picture for you. It’s a bit tough and cold on the backside, but well worth the wait to get the
Disney - Paris!
Moteurs Action stunt show!
best from every moment amongst the enormous crowds lining the street – and there’s a bonus – a ton of people-watching. Great fun! Suffice to say, the parade is a spectacle not to be missed for the fun, the music, the characters you’re sure to recognise and a bucket-load of happiness. It’s impossible to find an unhappy face here in Disney. There are a million smiles to share here every day.
I recall a saying you might wish to take home with you. ‘If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.’
Regrets? If we were to venture to Disney again we might opt for a little more luxury; at the Santa Fe Hotel perhaps, Sequoia Lodge, Newport Bay or New York hotel, and the bright lights and vitality of Disney Village. You get what you pay for. Big Thunder Mountain and Riverboat Landing were among those attractions closed for renovation, but there's no shortage of fun to be had elsewhere, and better safe than sorry, as the saying goes.
The Disney Park concept is clearly a commercial nightmare: totally dependent on packing 'em in and making 'em queue for everything, for
it to make sense. So expect to queue - something we're quite good at in the UK. There was a queue a mile long for food at a restaurant in the park late one evening. Most outlets were closed or full and we ended up with a long wait for a takeaway that appeared to be chicken dropped in a large brown cow-pat in a polystyrene pack. It was remarkably tasty for all that! (must be a secret recipe)
I’m in danger of getting crotchety in my old age, so you’ll have to take some of my ramblings with a pinch of salt and be thankful that your life, like mine, has been blessed with the positivity and happiness of Disney. It’s truly a tonic and we wouldn’t have missed this for the world. You had best ask Fred what he thinks.
That’s all folks!
(Check out the panoramas at the top and more pics below!)
David and Janice
The Grey haired nomads
and Sonia & Fred came too!
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