Wow, time has really flown by since I started setting up this site. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is that has taken up my time either. Don’t you find that?
I have been writing, but only the start of things – new ideas jotted on a notebook (I am a fan of all notebooks, real physical handwritten notes and digital notes on one note). I have nothing I am ready to share, so I am going to review some of the previous pieces I have written and pop a couple of short and varied pieces up.
The new academic year starts today and classes for me begin tomorrow, so this last weekend my lovely husband and I went on a mini adventure – to Disneyland Paris. Interesting and amusing to find ourselves at the gates of the Disney parks after just a couple of train rides, no planes, no taxis, just 3 trains.
This was our first Eurostar journey and we were impressed by the easy check-in. There is a lack of seating post check-in, but not a show stopper for us. The positives continued on the comfy train, which was quiet and quick. Mr T fell asleep just outside London and woke up an hour later just in time to change at Lille d’Europe.
The first sign we’d left the UK were the headlines on the directional boards being in French, but directly underneath everything was translated for us. Feeling slightly disappointed and mildly embarrassed that us Brits need to have this mollycoddling when just 21 miles from homes (the channel is after-all just a stretch of water 21 mile wide). This disappointment was soon extinguished by a warm feeling that we’d arrived in France almost as fast as if we’d taken a Great Northern train out of London home to Hertfordshire!
Just one escalator up and another back down to the same platform saw us joining an SNCF double-decker train to Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy. An hour later we were standing outside the gates to Disneyland, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
Where did I put that hotel?
Finding our way to our hotel took us about as long as getting from Lille d’Europe. That was my fault, I’d seen on the web in the hotel facilities listing that they had free shuttles to the parks, and other guest reviews saying you can walk it in 20 minutes. Of course when you try to follow Google maps, which appears to want to take you through Disneyland, and the shuttle is nowhere to be seen it takes a few more minutes than advertised! Tourist information right there between the station (10m) and the parks (20m) are amazing, incredibly helpful. Biggest tip from me is to go straight there if you are in any doubt about anything, and especially if you need tickets for the RER to travel to Val d’Europe or into Paris – the ticket machines in the station have immense queues – worse than for some rides! But tickets are available with a personal service in the tourist info centre which has little to no queue!
Our hotel was just 5 mins away on the RER plus another 5 mins walk from there, perfect for us. We stayed at the Relais Spa Val d’Europe, Chessy. It was cheap, (2 nights £121 from Travel Republic) especially in comparison to anything Disney offered and I was genuinely surprised how very nice it was. Somewhere between a 3 and 4 star hotel. Our room had a nice little galley kitchen, firm but comfortable bed, marble or composite stone surfaces in the spacious bathroom and we had a balcony.
As the hotel name suggests there is also a spa. We didn’t use it, but we saw quite a few guests in their complimentary fluffy robes and slippers heading to the spa level in the lift.
The location was as I said perfect for us, quiet and away from the parks but a very short and easy free shuttle, or as we preferred train ride away (c.£1.20 each way). It was also 5 mins walk (towards the train station) from the big shopping mall of Val d’Europe, we didn’t go in but judging by the bulging shopping bags of the people getting on the train as we alighted after our first day in the park it must be a good one!
The first evening we ventured back down towards the station and mall in search of food. We found a very good Korean place, well priced, varied menu and lovely service. After grabbing a bottle of wine and teaching the local minimart owner the English for un tire-bouchon (corkscrew) we headed back to the hotel for night.
Day one voucher exchange, tickets and great customer service
I had purchased our park tickets from a UK discount site Attractiontix, so first thing on arriving at Disneyland the next morning we looked for guest relations to exchange the vouchers for tickets. We didn’t find it but instead found the queue-less ‘voucher exchange machines’ near the entrance.
Having scanned the barcode, retrieved the tickets, got confused by there only being two and then un-confused by the cast member standing by to help the likes of us. Our first taste of the exemplary Disney service, the cast member knew exactly why we were confused, and he immediately and very happily explained our tickets; one ticket each which would work for both parks on both days (and for the fast pass booths too). A lovely caring attitude despite it probably being the millionth time that day he’d already helped idiots like us out!
As it was still early and the parks don’t open until 10am, we went in search of breakfast. Heading up through the Disney Village, we found the stores and restaurants also seemed to be closed until 10am. Our tummies grumbling we carried on all of another 2 minutes through the village towards the balloon and found a place serving express breakfast and a Starbucks.
Refuelled and ready for fun we hit our first park, Disneyland Park the original and most similar to Magic Kingdom in Florida. After a short wait to get through the turnstiles (behind people who didn’t understand how to scan a barcode to release the gate) we were in. Obligatory selfie with the castle posted on social media and our grins stayed in place for the rest of the day.
Closed rides and disappointing pirates
Not even the unexpected unavailability of Phantom Manor, or the technical issues closing Thunder Mountain each time we tried to join the queue could dampen the fun. Without those two rides we did only experience 6 attractions, and one of those was the Nautilus, not exactly a ride it was a walk through a submarine set and back out the same-way. Biggest queue of the day was Pirates and personally I was disappointed in it; the Florida one is not markedly better but the queue was too much for such a gentle, nothing ride. I am not sure what the attraction is that makes the queue so long.
Best ride in Disneyland park? For me either Star Tours or Space-mountain. Indiana Jones was good too, but a definite 3rd.
Worst part of Disneyland Park for us were the food outlets. MacDonald’s style counter served food, but with queues which literally didn’t move. We held fast passes for Space Mountain for 14:20 and thought, even though the queues were long (and having already walked back through main street searching for an alternative) we would be able to get food before the ride window. We joined the queue at 13:40 and gave up at 14:10 having only moved 1m forward, it wasn’t isolated to our queue none of the queues moved. (I would estimate at 12 queues c.10m each in length).
As poor taste as it would have been to have a MacDonald’s (insert any fast food chain) there, I am certain they would have served everyone in that food hall twice over in the time we were stood there.
We finally found food in Frontierland at a Mexican style food outlet, same type of counter service setup and just as painfully slow, but by that time, after 3pm there were slightly less people wanting meals. Food was surprisingly tasty and not extortionately expensive so there is positive in that!
End of the first day and another voucher
As part of the Attractiontix offer I had a voucher for 15% off at Planet Hollywood just outside the park in the village so we headed over there when we’d just about run out of energy. Service was quicker and food was as expected from such a chain.
Once we returned to the hotel, feet washing and a lovely peppermint footrub I bought over from Boots was the order of the evening. That along with a glass of the wine from the previous evening and plenty of sleep.
With the food debacle of the previous day in mind, after checking out of the hotel and making use of the luggage lockers facility at the train station – very good, easy and value for money, 5.50 for the day for a ‘small’ locker which would take a cabin bag size suitcase and more – they have bigger ones too. top facility – we headed through the Disney Village to Planet Hollywood’s sister restaurant, ‘The Earl of Sandwich’ for a hearty breakfast and much needed coffee (we are not morning people really).
Walt Disney Studios Park
On to Walt Disney Studios Park. Having devised a plan of action for this park and discovered the Disneyland Paris app we headed straight for the tower of terror, thinking to collect a fast pass and then head over to shorter queue ride before doing the same with the Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Fast passes were not needed at the Tower of Terror, with just a 30 minute wait we plunged straight in. The previous day I rediscovered the absolute pleasure of hearing my husband laugh, and this ride extracted more laughs so we were off to a great start.
Two fast passes, a second trip up the tower of terror, a successful quicker lunch and 5 further rides, we had time for one last trip up the tower, (yes our 3rd of the day!) a quick browse through the stores in studio 1, a farewell photo and it was time to head for the train at 18:52.
A moment (or two) of panic trying to workout if we should have checked in to Eurostar there at Disney, and if not would we really have enough time to check-in at Lille, and we decided check-in for us would be at Lille d’Europe. A quick online chat with Eurostar didn’t help much with my (unnecessary) panic about not being in Lille d’Europe with enough time to check-in, hubby’s reassurance and calm was contagious enough though. It was tight at Lille, but absolutely fine despite our TGV delivering us 5 mins late.
The only real delay to our getting home before ‘bedtime’ was of course Great Northern, delays and cancellations because they simply can’t run a train company 🙁 Still for once I don’t care. Great weekend away, lots of laughter and getting to hang out with my hubby is always awesome.