So after months of everyone waggling their know-it-all fingers at me saying – ‘enjoy the city while you can – you just wait for Winter’, I must concede. Yes it’s cold and yes after the Christmas lights have come down London can be a tad on the depressing side. Well, to be fair, it’s not London’s fault, it’s the fact that all the humans in the city are grieving for the sun, casting their own dark cloud over life and generally moping about the place (dry January may also have something to do with it). On that note, I thought I’d reminisce about a happier time…when Tom and I ventured to Disneyland Paris!
Ok so this happened back when Winter was charming and new, Christmas was on the way and everyone was permanently merry (aka a bit tipsy from mulled wine) and I have to say it’s a great time of year to go. Yes the weather was awful but this meant that most kids were either wrapped up indoors or crying to go home so the wait times were usually no longer than 30 minutes. Result.
We spent most of our first day at the Walt Disney Studios park which definitely has the best rides – I have a new love hate relationship with the RC Racer in the Toy Story bit as it nearly gave me a heart attack but the adrenaline is so worth it! Actually I could go on about the best and the worst rides but it’s totally subjective so think I’ll just roll with how much of a dream come true the whole experience was for me.
Ever since I was a little girl Disneyland has been this unattainable, unreal place that I never thought I would actually see. Sure I probably dreamed of the sunny LA version but Paris was amazing and it’s funny when I talk about it to Brits because for most of them it’s just a place they went to several times as kids. For me, seeing that castle was a real thrill and I thank old Walt for creating that nostalgia for me…even if there is something a little unsettling about what lies beneath the happy facade of the whole Disney franchise (cue disturbing sign we spotted down main street)
If you can’t make it out, it says ‘Nothing makes a child smile like a new toy‘. A bit creepy yes, but I guess because Disney is so unashamedly about consumerism that it’s OK to just look the other way and spend 20 Euros on a set of Minnie Mouse ears that you’ll wear for approximately three selfies.
Speaking of spending, there are actually a couple of tips I can give you if you’re watching the purse strings. Number one is to take your own food in – unfortunately even being in Paris, the park doesn’t have the greatest selection of French options (we found more of the British Fish and Chips/American Hot dogs and Pizza places) and of course it’s crazy expensive. Number two is to stay at Hotel L’Elysee in the nearby town of Marne-La-Vallee. It’s much cheaper than some of the other places around Disneyland but right opposite a mall with plenty of food options and has free shuttles going to and from the park all day long.
Actually I need to talk about this Marne-La-Vallee place for a second because it is weeeeird. Basically it feels like a town pretending to be a normal town as opposed to a place purpose built for tourists visiting Disneyland to sleep and eat breakfast in. It is so creepy strolling around during the day as EVERYONE empties out and goes to Disneyland. The mall there is surprisingly huge…or perhaps not so surprising considering the amount of cash families must bring…but aside from that, there ain’t much else.
In terms of dining options, if you want French food go to Cocotte and Co (slightly outside the mall). We literally couldn’t find any other traditional looking places nearby as the other restaurants all seem to be catering for American tastes but luckily this place didn’t disappoint. We went there twice and both meals were superb. They do a mean charcuterie platter and the duck is amazing. Also try the mousse if you’ve got a sweet tooth.
Back to the park though, we had a fantastic time. My only disappointment was that the characters weren’t just wandering the streets. We had to watch them in parades…
Or line up for hours at a meet and greet which we didn’t fancy. Acutally the parade was a bit of a let down too to be honest – it was Christmas theme so it was mainly full of creepily made up elves prancing about. I didn’t even see my idols Princess Jasmine or Ariel boooo! I dragged Tom along to the ‘Princess Promenade’ but this has been taken over by the Frozen fad and was just another one of those dreadful Let it go singalongs.
Another thing to avoid if you’re short on time are the ‘shows’ that they put on around the place. The ones we saw were just plain odd and our time would have been better spent queuing for another go on the Tower of Terror (amazing by the way).
I think the best way to get the feeling of being at Disneyland is to simply wander around the main street area of Disneyland Park (the main park essentially). The decorations for Christmas are incredible and I get the impression somewhat more tasteful than their American counterparts maybe?
It is so pretty when it gets dark and starts snowing as you’re wandering through the twinkling lights. You have got to hand it to Disney, they know how to make you feel like you’re really in a fairy tale.
As I’m writing this, I realise we hardly took any photos which in my mind is a sign we were having far too much fun. There is certainly something to be said for making your childhood dream come true…even when you’re an overgrown child.
So to all you grumpy Londoners battling through the final days of January, take a minute and think back to your happiest place on Earth. For me, Disneyland is certainly up there.