As someone who hadn’t a clue about Disney before we went, I found the advice of others very helpful. Here is my experience of Disney. It might be helpful, it might not but here goes.
Four a.m, the alarm clock went off. The sound was alien to me as I have kids – I don’t need an alarm clock. But this noise grated on my confused ears as I tried to open my reluctant eyes. Four a.m. Bleurgh. Best get up or we’ll miss our plane to Paris. We woke our sleepy daughters (aged four and six) and dressed them through bleary eyes. They were clueless as to where we were going. They knew we were going on holiday but didn’t know where exactly. We arrived at the airport and met my parents and sister who were coming with us. Sitting down to a breakfast that we were too tired to eat, we presented the girls with a letter from the Disney Princesses which said they were going to Disneyland Paris. My four year old looked at us and continued to stuff herself with Coco Pops, oblivious to our anticipation of her reaction. My six year old looked at us in disbelief at first and then quietly exclaimed “We’re going to Disney? Whoa!”
My rising panic about our impending flight was abated slightly not only by the Xanax I had taken, but also by the knowledge that a friend of the family who I’ve known all my life, was co-piloting our flight. He brought us up to see the cockpit which thrilled the girls. A driver from Ezyshuttle was waiting for us at arrivals and we bundled into the mini bus, Disney bound.
We stayed in the New York hotel and it didn’t disappoint. The large foyer, Manhattan-esque décor, welcomed us as did the friendly staff. We couldn’t check in until later in the day so we checked our bags in and walked out the other side of the foyer to be embraced and absorbed into the Disney Village. While not part of the park itself, it contains all of the restaurants and shops and is only a ten minute walk from both parks. Our first view was a large hot air balloon and a lake teaming with ducks and large fish (unnervingly large, especially having just seen a trailer for the movie “Piranha 3D”). We made our way through the village and our first stop was a sandwich bar which was tended by a gruff impatient woman who had little time for my Leaving Cert. French. We couldn’t pass our first Disney Store (of which there would be many, we would find out later). We treated the girls to a stuffed toy each and made our way to Disneyland Park.
Walking underneath the beautiful white washed Disneyland Hotel, we were assimilated into a magical town, with colourful shop fronts like something from the American mid-west in the 1800’s. Little miniature Buzz Lightyears and Disney Princesses were walking around, mouths open, shrieking and pointing in delight. I was glad I had brought the girls costumes so they could join in the dress up. As we were fairly exhausted, we didn’t do too much, just walked around in awe. In the distance, the brilliantly pink Disney Princess castle floats on the horizon, the focal point of the park, pointed turrets sparkling in the midday sun. When you first see it, you can’t help but gasp, no matter what age you are.
I had resigned myself to the fact that this was a holiday for the kids and I would probably not be too into the whole Disney thing but the place doesn’t allow that. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the ‘Disney-ness’ of it all. When the music starts in the ‘town centre’ and the parade comes out with the characters singing and dancing on floats, I dare any sceptical adult not to dance or at least not to hum the tune along with them.
After a ridiculously expensive coffee in Starbucks back at the village, we made our way to the hotel to get our room keys and freshen up. Our room, overlooking the ice rink and lake, was lovely. Clean, modern and comfortable and very much nicer than I was expecting. There was no time for a snooze, however, as the kids were already stripped and looking for their swimming suits, itching for a long promised swim. The pool itself was deep but they provided plenty of safety equipment, arm bands, floaty belts and swimming boards.
Dinner that night was booked for the Manhattan restaurant in the hotel. We were taken aback on arrival to see the price of it. It was very expensive. The food was amazing however but in truth, we were too tired to enjoy it. It was lost on our four year old who fell fast asleep at the table, waking only for a mouthful of pizza, then falling back to sleep again. We admitted defeat, retired to our rooms and fell into bed.
Heading down to breakfast, we noticed Disney characters doing a meet and greet in the hotel foyer. We decided to eat first. The breakfast was amazing, continental food, fried breakfast, all kinds of everything. We stuffed ourselves and headed out to meet Chip and Dale, then Minnie Mouse. We hadn’t brought autograph books so bought some in the shop.
Then, we were park bound: ‘It’s a Small World and the ‘Mad Hatter Tea Cups’, both of which the girls loved. Then to Auberge de Cendrillon for lunch with the princesses. Suzy and Perla (mice from Cinderella, I think) met us at the table and chatted to the girls. Then, as soon as we were seated, Cinderella and Prince Charming arrived, dancing around, then went table to table to meet everyone, along with Snow White and Aurora who came around later. The girls were mesmerised and star struck by it all. While it is expensive and the food isn’t exactly amazing, the looks on the kid’s faces alone made it worthwhile.
We’d heard horror stories about queuing for hours for rides but the longest queue we encountered was for the train ride around the park, a forty five minute wait. I wouldn’t do it again as it was akin to being on the Sligo-Dublin commuter train: not much to see and stops four hundred times. However, it was a good way to get your bearings in the park if nothing else.
Back to the hotel to freshen up and then out for dinner in McDonalds. (Yuk!). We made our way to the roundabout on the Park (as recommended by the hotel concierge as the best viewing point) to watch the Disney Dreams show. At ten thirty, it was on late and I was worried the kids wouldn’t last, it being on three hours after their normal bedtime. I needn’t have worried. They were open eyed and open mouthed in amazement. The show focuses on the castle itself: fireworks, lasers and projections. But no description could do it justice. It was simply…… magical.
We asked the girls what they wanted to do that morning and the resounding response was to see the Eiffel Tower. So we boarded the train at the station located outside Disney village to Etoile and then hopped on a metro, neither of which was a pleasant experience but hey ho. I smelled Paris before we emerged out from the metro station: it smelled like bread, steel and the Seine. The first glimpse of the tower looming over us like an old friend was wonderful, the girls gasped at its size. The only Eiffel tower they knew of was the key ring on my car key and the hazy view they got of it out the plane window as we approached CDG. We found a quintessential Parisian café that served Sancerre and Croque Monsieur made with …..Pain de Poilane! As an avid fan of Ina Garten, I have in the past watched, mouth-watering, as she slices the Poilane sour dough loaf and serves it to her friends adorned with various toppings. My last trip to Paris, I dragged my poor unfortunate husband around trying to find the bakery, but failed. But here it was, on the menu of this unassuming little café. After savouring my last delicious mouthful, I asked the waiter where I might find the bakery that supplied the bread and much to my excitement, he told me it was only around the corner! Off we set to find it and suddenly, there it was, in all its glory, crusty loaves adorned with the famous P, lined the ‘fenetre’. While locals came in and ordered modest quarter loaves, I over exuberantly ordered two full loaves, not realising how big, or indeed, how heavy they were. Carrying them back to the hotel on a metro and train was no easy feat, but it didn’t matter. J’ai Pain the Poilane! So excited!
Back to the hotel and dinner was in the all you can eat American Diner. It, again, was pricey but it was all you can eat and wasn’t burgers and chips so happy days. Into the bar for a drink and then we were spent for the day.
We woke late, had breakfast and then went shopping for our last few hours in Disney. Bought a rake of souvenirs and useless hats that were destined to live out the rest of their days at the bottom of the wardrobe and went to meet our transfer to the airport. More shopping in CDG and then got onto the plane to go home. 🙁
To sum up Disney:
Magical, expensive, busy, fun, and magical some more.