Warning: I haven't had any time to get a video together for this post. On the rather ego-driven assumption that people like grainy home movies showing other people doing interesting things (or what's a Youtube for?), I'll have an update to this post within a day or two. In the meantime, you may proceed....
Update: Okay, there's video goodness below. Just scroll to the end. And don't say I didn't warn you.
Friday, July 20, 2007 - our last full day in France. It was inevitable that there would be a sense of melancholy at the end of our Adventure by Disney. We planned for this by adding an extra day to our itinerary (ABD offers an extra night accommodations before or after the tour). Disneyland Paris - or DLP for those hip to the lingo - would be the salve to ease our pains. We had originally planned to add a few extra days to our vacation and stay at DLP. In fact, many of The Gang did just that. DLP sticker-shock (and some iffy logistics) ratcheted those plans down to a day-trip to DLP. For those Intrepid Readers who've emptied their wallets at the venerable DisneyWorld - understand that DLP is in a whole different universe of 'spending'. Europe is expensive. DLP can be breathtakingly expensive.
The day started with another Hilton breakfast buffet, and a chance to say some more goodbyes. Faces that were strange just a week before were now familiar, and we were sad to see the last of them. Our plan: be at DLP somewhere near 10am when the gates open and the rope drops. Since we only had one day, we'd make the most of it with a blitzkrieg of the park highlights. DLP has many attractions that can be found at our old friend DisneyWorld, we reasoned, so we'd generally avoid those in favour of 'the new'.
DLP is easy to get to from Paris - about a 40 minute trip on the RER. We walked to the CDG Etoile metro station by the Arc. Return tickets were purchased easily and soon we were on the RER A line bound for DLP's very own station: Marne-la-Vallee-Chessy.
This merits a cautionary tale. At most Paris subway platforms you'll notice video screens hanging from the ceiling. Don't ignore these! While you might be catching the RER A train - for example - the train might not be stopping at every station on the route ahead. As each train arrives, check the video screen (your train with be obvious) and make sure it will be stopping where you want to go. We almost learned this Douglas Adams-inspired lesson the hard way.
The subway ride was uneventful and sparsely populated, and 35 minutes later we emerged from the subway car straight into DLP. It was just after 10am and the crowds were largely non-existent. It was comforting to know that our tried-and-true DisneyWorld tactic of arriving early seemed to apply half a world away at DLP.
DLP is actually 2 parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. We opted to hit Disneyland first and ride as many rides as possible before any lines materialized. Our luck continue to hold as the only barrier to riding the rides was our rumbling stomachs. By Noon we had done everything in our Disneyland plan. Before foraging for lunch, we made a point of re-visiting Pirates of the Caribbean to make dinner reservations at Blue Lagoon (more on this later).
Our lunch was found at a reasonable recreation of Toy Story's Pizza Planet. While the rather vast space was largely devoid of other organic lifeforms, the counter-service food was actually very good. This served to further deepen the mystery of how take-out food in France was so superior to the vacuum-molded styrofoam we take for granted in North America. As we exited the dimly-lit pizza joint, we noticed that - well - nothing had changed. The crowds still had not materialized. Not even a little bit. Perhaps Europeans sleep late, drink espresso at cafes, and only then saunter through the DLP gates with a faux-grimace for the bourgeois entertainment that lies ahead. Or maybe no one ever comes.
Next up was Disney Studios - a smaller, leaner avatar of the DisneyWorld version who's name escapes me since it's always changing. Yeah, that one. It turned out that the Studios park has some of the same rides and shows as its big brother. But, like Disneyland, it has a few unique wrinkles of its own such as Crush's Coaster. There were 2 rides under construction - Tower of Terror and a Cars-inspired ride (I think these are both up-and-running now). In all, there wasn't much to see and do for us, and we had pretty much 'done' the park by 6pm.
The ungodly expensive and beautiful Disneyland Hotel
has a private entrance to Disneyland Park just for its guests
(and special VIP Fastpasses for all the rides).
We hightailed back over to Disneyland for our 7pm reservation at Blue Lagoon. This restaurant had been touted as a 'must do' on a few websites, and that was our only reason for trying the place. Blue Lagoon it actually part of the Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) ride experience - a feature not found in the Florida or Anaheim versions of the ride. It overlooks a part of the ride such that patrons can watch boats float by their tables. Ultimately, it's about living inside the POTC experience, just for awhile. Since this is one of my favourite rides (I love the immersiveness of the it all), Blue Lagoon sounded fun. Sadly, the Internet naysayers were right. While the ambiance was way-cool, the service was so-so, the menu was sub-par, and the prices were too high. One more pea under my mattress: I have a strong suspicion that guests who stay on-site at DLP get preferential seating (and service) at Blue Lagoon. All things considered, avoid this place.
With our disappointing dinner behind us, we hit up some more rides. We had intended to head back into Paris by 9:30pm, but it wasn't happening. The crowds were thin and we partook of more rides than we had planned. We even ran into one of our Adventure friends (David from Philly), which meant we had to visit for a while and further press our luck time-wise. With a few souvenirs left to purchase, we made a quick trip into the Disney Village shopping area. BandGeek found her coveted French Mickey Mouse (think: beret) - and we all said a little prayer of thanks under our breaths.
From there, it was back on the RER and back into Paris with 2 sleepy kids in tow. Once at the hotel, we ever-so-sadly did the bulk of our suitcase packing. The pixie dust cloud that had surrounded us for the past few weeks seemed to thin and I swore that I could almost see the real world through the haze. Tomorrow, we were going home.
And now - mini-review time!
Disneyland Park: Beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. Very compact. Many of the rides are familar to Disney geeks, but they have their own personalities.
Disney Studios: Not very much to offer (some expansions under construction). Really feels like a sad imitation of DisneyWorld. Needs time and more attractions.
Awesome Rides: Thunder Mountain - pretty much like the original, Crush Coaster - be a turtle in the swirly ocean currents, Space Mountain: Mission 2 - it has a freakin' loop, Rockin' Roller Coaster - always a good time.
So-So Rides: Indiana Jones - just a coaster, Star Tours - like the original
Sucked Mightly Rides: Pirates of the Caribbean - felt contrived somehow, Phantom Manor - pale imitation, Pinocchio - didn't get the point.
Crowds: Disneyland was pretty devoid of crowds - and my theory is that the preponderance of rides for smaller tykes seems to keep the lines shorter for the big-kid rides. Disney Studios had longer lines for sure, and on Crush's Coaster we actually waited almost an hour in line (well worth it, I might add). On the whole, nothing like DisneyWorld in July.