Holiday Diary | Disneyland Paris

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

I'm FINALLY getting round to writing about my weekend at Disneyland Paris which was a kind of pre-hen / birthday getaway with my mum, sister, aunt and cousin.  We had such a lovely time, it's actually the first time we've all been away on holiday together and it's also the first time in years that I've been away with my mum and sister, so it was nice to spend proper time together.  I filmed the whole weekend so there's a vlog up on my Youtube channel that you can watch if you so wish.  As I was filming though I didn't actually take that many photos, so I've nicked a couple of these from my sister and cousin (hope they don't mind!).  

Anyway, as is customary, on with the (f-ing huge) holiday diary!!

Thursday 19th March

I met my mum, aunt and cousin at Edinburgh Airport bright and early in the morning, to catch our flight to Paris.  We'd arranged to meet my sister over there as she was flying from Manchester, and amusingly we found her at arrivals holding a little sign with our names on it that she'd hastily made on the back of her boarding pass.  Cute.

After getting slightly confused trying to buy train tickets from a machine we eventually got our one day travel passes and onto the first of many trains of the day.  We were staying in Val D'Europe on the outskirts of Paris, just a few minutes from Disneyland.  It's quite a bizarre place, I think the best way to describe it is that it feels more like a film set than a town with its identikit whitewash buildings and very few people.  It has a huuuuge shopping centre that you could spend absolutely hours in (it even has an aquarium!) and there's quite a few restaurants and cafes so it is a decent enough place to stay, but yeah definitely best as a base for exploring Disney as it's so close.  I don't think I'd choose to stay out here if I was visiting central Paris a lot though as it does take almost an hour on the train.

We were staying at the Hotel Elysee which is one of the Disneyland partner hotels (which means there's a free shuttle to and from the parks, woo!).  I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel actually - I wasn't sure what to expect as it had been so cheap (something like £30 a night each??) but it was really nice.  There was a lovely modern lobby with a bar and a little games area with a pool table and computer.  We stayed in a family room which was 2 adjoining rooms with 2 double beds each (so could fit a max of 8 adults), the rooms were a really good size with comfy beds and clean modern bathrooms.  Couldn't ask for more for the price really.

After checking into the hotel and dropping off our stuff we walked over the road to the shopping centre to find somewhere for lunch.  I can't remember the name of the Italian restaurant we ate at, but my caesar salad was lovely (can't say the same for the cocktails though - the bottom of my mojito was pure undisolved sugar, yum).  After lunch we got back on the train into central Paris, 2 changes later we walked out of Trocadero metro station to be greeted with the sight of the Eiffel Tower.  As this was my mum and aunt's first visit to Paris it was lovely seeing how wowed they were by seeing the tower for the first time.  Hell I still find it quite breathtaking myself despite it being my 11th (or 12th?) visit to the city.  Many many photos and selfies later we walked round the corner to the docks to get on a boat.

me and my mum

I'd booked us tickets online for the Bateaux Parisians, a one hour boat trip along the Seine.  The boat has two areas - a heated inside bit where you can listen to the commentary on handsets, and an open top where there's no commentary but the view is uninterrupted.  As it was about 6pm and pretty freezing we opted to stay inside, but about halfway the sun started to set so my sister Nik and I decided to go up top so we could get some better photos.  It was ridiculously cold, but definitely worth it as the views as the sky turned to night (with the Eiffel Tower all lit up) were beautiful.

Boat tour done we were all feeling a bit tired after a day of travelling, and wanting to get a good nights' sleep in anticipation of DISNEY DAY we headed back to Val d'Europe (on the most crowded train ever).  At the hotel we went for a quiet drink in the bar (non-alcoholic cocktail for me because sensible) before sloping off to bed.

Friday 20th March

We were up bright and early on Friday morning.  The adults (haha) decided to have breakfast at the hotel (we'd just booked a room only rate so it was €10 each) whilst me and Nik just nipped over the road to the shopping centre and found a bakery where we got some croissants which we ate whilst waiting on the Disney shuttle bus.

The bus only took like 5 minutes to get to Disneyland so we ended up getting there for it opening at 10am.  I'd done a ton of research before our trip, planning a full itinerary with all the rides we wanted to go on and when.  Man do I love a holiday itinerary.  I feel like it's pretty much a necessity if you're just doing one day at Disney though as there's so much to see and unless you know which are the rides you need to get to early, and what time the parades and stuff are on then the day will just be a shambles.  A shambles I tell you.

So, itinerary mentally programmed we headed into the parks, starting off at Walt Disney Studios as I figured most people probably start the day in Disneyland so WDS should be quiet (ish).  We made a beeline for the Ratatouille ride as my pal Roisin (Disney Expert) said it's one of the busiest rides so worth trying to get to first thing.  Unfortunately for us, literally the minute we walked up to the queue the ride closed due to technical difficulties.  Instead we nipped into the Toy Story Land bit and went on the RC Racer ride which is, as it sounds, like an RC racer car on a U shaped track so you go straight up and then reverse, and repeat.  This ended up being one of my favourite rides of the day, it had just the right amount of thrill for the first ride of the day.

Next up we went on the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop which, despite being a kids ride was actually pretty bloody high.  My thought process was basically "ahh this is fun…wow look at the view….there's the top of the castle, how cool…..oh shitting hell this is quite high isn't it….surely this bar isn't enough to keep us in…..I want off now thanks".

After Toyland we made a second attempt to go on Ratatouille which had now reopened but had somehow already amassed a queue that was estimated at over an hours wait.  God dammit!

We'd already planned on going to the Moteurs Action Stunt Show at 11.30 and had about half an hour before we needed to start queuing for that, so decided to try out the Rock n Roller Coaster as I was too chicken last time I was there a few years ago.  I ended up really enjoying it although at one point my head did rattle off the headrest so violently that I was sure I'd dislodged my brain ever so slightly.

Brain feeling a bit loose, we headed over to the stunt show which took place on a huge lot at the back of the Studios.  It was at this point that I started to regret not bringing a scarf as we were out of the sunshine and it was absolutely bloody freezing.  The stunt show was pretty cool - cars driving on their sides, jumping through fire etc - although if I'm honest I could have done with less of the chat and explanation of the stunts and more of the actual action.  But it was pretty interesting hearing how it's all done.

There were a couple of other rides we'd hoped to get on at the studios - like the Tower of Terror and Crushers Coaster, but the queues were over 30 mins long for each and knowing that we had loads to see in the Disneyland Park we decided to leave those and headed over to the home of the pink castle.

First stop, after the obligatory castle photos, was to Pizza Planet for some lunch.  My sister suggested this one as it's in a bit of hidden location (even more so now as Space Mountain and a couple of other rides in Discoveryland are closed off at the moment) so it's not as busy as some of the other restaurants. It's a buffet style place so you pay a set fee at the door (I think it was €18 each) and it's all you can eat - in this case, pizzas, pasta and salad.  You kind of have to lower your expectations when it comes to food quality at places like this as it's never going to be amazing, but I didn't have any complaints and to be honest you're more there for the setting than the food anyway (in this case - Pizza Planet from Toy Story).

Lunch done we went on our first ride in Disneyland - Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast - which we'd handily picked up Fastpasses for before lunch so we could jump the queue.  I love this ride, it's one of those where you go round shooting targets and scoring points (they have something similar at Alton Towers if I remember rightly) which appeals to my competitive side.  I was sat next to my Aunt who was hilariously bad at it, I think she ended the game with about 1000 points to my 50,000, mwahaha.

Buzz Lightyear was pretty much the only ride we fancied going on in Discoveryland (such a shame Space Mountain was closed, I'd been looking forward to it) so we went next door to Fantasyland - aka the kiddie bit aka the bit where my mum and aunt would finally go on some rides.  We went on a couple of different rides here, like It's a Small World, Le Pays de Contes de Fees (you're on a boat passing through mini storybook scenes - so cute!) and the teacups.  Much fun was had by all.

found my wedding veil then

Next we popped through to Adventureland to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, another firm favourite of mine.  I'd forgotten that there's a couple of drops in this so that was a nice little surprise!  Onwards to Frontierland where we went on our final ride of the the day - Indiana Jones.  I LOVE this roller coaster, my only beef is that it's over too quickly and the queue is always so big that I can't really justify rejoining to go on it twice.  We wanted to go on Big Thunder Mountain afterwards to finish up the day (even my mum was keen!) but unfortunately it had closed - like Ratatouille, it just wasn't meant to be.

By this point it was early evening and approaching parade time, so after a quick look around the castle we bagged ourselves a spot on Main Street.  When I've been to Disneyland before I've never stuck around for the parade so this was my first ever experience of it.  I have to say, as cheesy as it sounds, it really is magical.  I'm not a huge Disney obsessive or anything - in fact I can't remember the last time I watched a Disney film - but yeah, there's something about the parade that just brings out your inner child.  Maybe it's the incessant repetition of the music, maybe they are pumping some sort of airborne drug through Main Street, or maybe it was the new Minnie Mouse ears on my head that my cousin had just bought me.  I don't know but whatever it was, it got me good.

Still under the parade's spell, we headed over to the Disney Village for dinner at Planet Hollywood.  Now, I had expected Planet Hollywood to be of the same kind of quality as Hard Rock Cafe (which admittedly isn't AMAZING, but it's pretty decent) so was really looking forward to it.  What I ended up with though was a so-so philly cheese steak in a cold baguette, pretty average chips, and a nice frozen cocktail which was ruined slightly by the altogether unnecessary swirl of fresh cream on the top (it felt like someone confused my lovely melon daiquiri with a knickerbocker glory).  Pretty meh, but I was starving at this point so it was better than nothing.

Oh hey cream, what the fuck are you doing here?

After dinner we went back over to the Disneyland Park to watch the evening show - Disney Dreams.  This is a fireworks and lights show where characters and scenes are projected onto the castle and set to music.  It was in a word - stunning.  As I said earlier, I'm no Disney nut but this honestly brought tears to my eyes, it was just so beautifully put together.  If you can, definitely try and stay to watch this, you won't regret it.

Once the show was over we made our way back to the bus station to get our shuttle back to the hotel.  This was a bit of a shambles as the number of shuttles in the evening are quite limited, despite the fact that there's clearly a lot of demand for it.  The bus we got on was full to the brim, with lots of poor families being left on the pavement to wait for the next bus in half an hours time.

When we got back to the hotel we stayed down in the bar again for a drink to chat about the day before heading to bed.  It had been such a long and tiring day that I'm pretty sure I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Sunday 21st March

Sunday was home-time. Sad times.  We started with breakfast in the hotel which was actually really impressive - they had a hot buffet and plenty cold meats, cereals, and pastries (mmmm, warm pain au chocolats), if I stayed there again I'd definitely book a breakfast rate.  The only reason I didn't bother this time is I assumed it would be a continental breakfast, as is the norm.

After checking out and leaving our bags in the store-room we went for another wander round the big shopping centre opposite the hotel.  As we'd travelled with hand luggage only I couldn't really buy anything due to limited space in my bag, but I did buy myself a necklace in the sale at Mark One.  Hahah Mark One,  not a cool French shop that I couldn't find in the UK, just a shop that we used to have in Edinburgh.

We discovered that just behind the shopping centre was an outlet village with lots of designer store so we went for a wander round there too, stopping at Pret for a coffee halfway round as it was so cold.  I don't know why I was surprised by the fact it was chilly - it was March and France, not Morocco.

Anyway, it was soon time to get the train out to the airport so we picked our bags up from the hotel and headed to the train station.  For some reason the transport body (or whatever it's called in France) had decided to make train travel free for the day which was perfect timing for us as it meant I didn't have to struggle with a machine to try and buy our tickets.  You'd never see that happen over here would you - imagine Scotrail announcing that the trains would be free for a day……nope, can't see it!

So that brings me to the end of my holiday diary, not much to report from our time at the airport or our flight home.  We weren't able to get seats together on the flight back so I let my mum, aunt and cousin have seats together and I sat by myself.  As I travel so often I kind of have my little routine when it comes to flying so I was quite happy to just have some alone time, reading my magazines and eating my snacks.  I'm easy pleased.

I had such a lovely time in Paris and especially at Disney.  It was really special getting to go away with the family as it's actually quite rare that we all see each other.  We had such a good laugh together, and we've now got some great memories that we'll remember for years to come.  I think one of my favourite moments was actually from when we had just arrived in Paris and my mum, having just had her passport checked, thanked the man with a cheery "gracias!".  Ahhh mums.

Looking like my usual cool self
P.S.  Can I get a round of applause for getting the word "shambles" in this post 3 times (now 4).  What a word.

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