It isn’t often that you come across a 20 year old girl who has never even been near to Disneyland… Well, hello! My name is Katie, lovely to meet you! Yes, that’s right: with a handful of days left before turning 21, my dream of visiting Disneyland became a reality. A dream come true it was. However, the day did not quite start off to plan…
A bumpy start
Waking up at the crack of dawn was not a problem this past Sunday. Nor was catching a bus in a random area of Reims, with the tranquil company of around 10 strangers. I was on my way to Disneyland Paris, to meet my good friend Alain for a day of adventure, nostalgia and excitement. Filled with anticipation, I could not wait to be let loose in the park, ready to take in all of its scenery and meet an array of my favourite Disney characters (excuse me for sounding like a child; it was my first time, okay?)
Dozing on and off during the journey, I was quickly and abruptly awoken on reaching the park. For some unknown reason, the jolly bus driver had decided to drop passengers off at an Esso petrol station (???), touching the very peripheries of the resort. Confused and faced with the Cars-themed Santa Fe hotel (which looked great, but felt like more than a million miles away from Disneyland, itself), I made my way down the most reassuring road I could find. After several wrong turns, 3 calls with Alain and all of this compounded by the fact that I had no mobile data left to access Google Maps (story of my life), I finally reached the park gates, to be met with exactly what I expected: a dreamlike, jovial resort that I already wished I had visited a lot sooner.
Now, it is not hard to guess that Disneyland isn’t cheap: 99 euros for on the door entry to both parks (Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios) served as a bit of a blow to my bank account, but the day ahead was certainly worth it.
Walt Disney Studios: a celebration of success
Starting off at Walt Disney Studios provided a real adventure, an exploration of the conglomerate’s biggest hits through a series of rides and attractions. This was, indeed, less of the generic ‘fantasyland’, one tends to expect from Disney, instead more of a corporate sweep through the company’s successes.
As a disclaimer, I simply refused to go on the renowned Tower of Terror. Yes, I know, what a spoil sport! It has great reviews, I am aware of this. However, the most horrifying elevator ride to ever be encountered proved to be too much of a fright for me, somebody who was brave enough only last year to start going on ‘adult’ roller coasters. To compensate for this, I promised to face all of the other adrenaline-inducing, edge of your seat attractions the park would offer.
Thrill seeker Spoilers
Now, first on the agenda was to collect a fast pass for the Rock n Roller Coaster. Little did I know that if you plan ahead and collect free fast passes at a given Disney ride to return later during a designated half hour, you can effectively skip the queue of said attraction, saving precious time to enjoy the rest of the resort. Sensational!
So, after some savvy logistical planning, we decided to embark upon our first ride: Crush’s Coaster! Fun fact: I love the rapids and log flumes, for that matter. Knowing this, my good friend Alain convinced me that, since this Coaster was Finding Nemo-inspired, we would be queuing for approximately 2 hours (yes, the queues are insane) to enjoy some rapid-ripping fun. Finally arriving at the front of the line, this turned out to be far from the case. Instead, we were presented with a crazy indoor roller coaster, consisting of sudden drops and dizzying effects. Although my eyes were closed for most of the ride, as a result of pure shock and disarray, I do recall opening them at one point to find myself inside a dark cave filled with glowing, psychedelic jellyfish… Confused does not even begin to cover how I felt. So, be aware: this ride is definitely for thrill seekers and not, as originally thought, a casual raft being bandied about over bumpy waves.
A brief recovery from Crush’s Coaster meant that it was time to put our fast passes to use on the Rock n Roller Coaster, a high-speed, Aerosmith-themed adventure with 360-degree loops, sudden drops and tense stops. This was perhaps the biggest thrill of the day. Walking through a mock-recording studio, complete with a pre-recorded video of the band, my stomach had never played host to more butterflies. My fears, however, disappeared as the ride commenced. An adrenaline-inducing journey, my screams gradually turned to giggles as I realised that Walk this Way was blaring out for riders to enjoy, amongst the chaos. Yes, I still have absolutely no idea as to why there is an Aerosmith-themed ride in the park, but I’m not complaining: it was pretty fantastic in the end.
Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia
Following two heart-racing encounters, we needed to catch our breath, making the decision to explore the more tranquil Disneyland Park. On entering the second half of the resort, I was met with exactly what I had expected of Disneyland: a surreal fairytale kingdom, ripe with imagination and nostalgia. Walking down Main Street, I could not believe my eyes: each and every store or restaurant was intricately and creatively themed, the vision behind it executed to a tee. In the distance, the park’s landmark, pastel pink castle was the centre of focus, towering above for all to see.
When I was only a small child, my Great-Grandparents, avid fans of Disney and frequent visitors to the Florida resort, would show me videos of the fantasyland that I one day hoped to visit. Without any kind of exaggeration, it was simply as though I was now starring in one of those treasured VHS tapes. They always used to tell me about the jovial boat ride It’s A Small World and so visiting that attraction was a priority.
After waiting in another long queue (there seems to be a pattern emerging here, no?), accompanied by the rhythm of a deafening clock’s ticking, we climbed into a small boat to see if it really was a small world, after all. The ride was adorable. With little dolls representing a spectrum of nationalities in very stereotypical settings (of course, we, the Brits, were represented by soldiers and London’s Tower Bridge) our microcosmic tour of the world was very pleasant and, for me, reminiscent of childhood memories.
An obligatory carousel ride (if not for the experience, just for the selfies) was followed by some much needed nourishment. Spending over an hour deciding where to eat, we settled on Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost, a cute, little Italian restaurant hidden away in Adventureland. My star-shaped, 10 euro pizza was surprisingly filling and tasty, meaning that I passed up on the opportunity to indulge in one of the many desserts the restaurant offered. A special mention also goes out to the neighbouring Hakuna Matata restaurant. Whilst its spicy meatballs, kebabs, burgers and Lion King-esque atmosphere all seemed appealing, they could not quell my appetite for Italian cuisine, or, frankly, just any form of pizza.
A spectacular disappointment
Our energies revived, we then proceeded to waste a grand total of nearly two hours queuing for the park’s Indiana Jones roller coaster. After watching the coaster pass by approximately 1,567 times, we were greeted with the message that, due to technical difficulties, the ride would be taking a little operation break. Observing stranded passengers getting evacuated by staff, we decided to move on to bigger, better and what we hoped would be well-functioning attractions.
Ending the day in style
The frustration of waiting for a defunct ride’s revival to no avail could only be tempered by one solution: retail therapy. Purchasing a pair of obligatory Minnie Mouse ears with an enormous Minnie shaped lollipop, the inner child in me was restored. Exploring Aladdin’s hidden cave and Sleeping Beauty’s iconic castle itself, the disappointment of Indiana Jones soon felt like a distant memory.
We were even lucky enough to watch the park’s epic parade! Initially surprised by the resort’s apparent lack of our favourite costumed-characters, I soon realised that this vibrant carnival was what they had all been preparing for. Everybody from Peter Pan to Donald Duck took to the streets, putting on an unforgettable spectacle which attracted vast crowds of all ages.
Before heading home, there was one thing left to do: be brave and face the infamous Hyperspace Mountain. Fast passes in hand, we quickly made it on to the Star-Wars themed shuttle. A high-speed, bumpy adventure left me a little underwhelmed and with a slight blow to the head. Nonetheless, travelling through another galaxy was an exciting way to end the day.
Back to reality
En route back to the Santa Fe, in a bid to successfully reunite with my bus, I did not want to leave. There was still so much more to do, to see… Of course, in the future I intend to return and stay in one of the resort’s abundant ‘themed’ hotels. Until that day, I guess I’ll have to just re-watch all of my favourite Disney movies; I mean, they never get old…