This past weekend I braved the known. It wasn’t the unknown, because I already knew the horrors of traveling to Paris. Catching buses. Hours on trains. Dozens and dozens of euros floating off into the distance…Overnight trains.
It took courage, it took strength, it took the resolution and the fortitude to withstand the sufferings of the moment for the ultimate good; and that, of course, was going to Paris Disneyland.
Did I want to face the metro of Paris again, and figure out the green and yellow and blue and A, B, C, D, and the 1 through some-teen lines? Did I want to sit in a 8 by 8 foot train car, with six people in it, from 11 o’clock at night to 7 in the morning? Did I want to eat nothing but dried crackers and peanuts, and when I did buy food have it cost what meals in a full service sit down restaurant with free water would cost, but only be a sandwich or enough to feed a small child? Did I want to wander around in a country whose language I did not speak, where the only words I remembered were some broken syllables that I hoped sounded out “Do you speak English?” but in French?
The answer of course, to all of these questions, is a solemn and repeated “No”. No, I did not want to do any of these things. But I did want to go to Disneyland, Disneyland in Paris. So I paid for the buses, hopped on the trains, starved and was swindled out of money, did not sleep, muttered broken French, and finally arrived at Disneyland.
Well, actually, Friday was the arrival in Paris, and the travel to Normandy. Normandy was…depressing, thought-provoking, historical, and respectful. The beach was beautiful and hallowed with the deaths of so many men. I could not help but think of how such a naturally beautiful place had seen so much death, and I admired the selflessness of the men who gave their lives for freedom. I prayed at the cemetery, I touched the water, I felt the sand, then I left Normandy.
There is no segue between that experience and me beginning a speech about Disneyland. I suppose I can mention how they are both parts of America, sitting in the middle of France, how both are memories of my home and country. I can be matter-of-fact and mention how in both places they had water fountains and free public restrooms. How in both places people spoke English. But I don’t know that I can respectfully shift from speaking of a place where soldiers fought and died to talking about an amusement park…
We had to wait at the Normandy train station for an hour and a half for the next train to Caen, and then to Paris. We had small, expensive lunches, and the place mats had cartoon depictions of the battle of Normandy to color in. My friend folded hers up and got 3 more from our waitress to take with her. We finally got back to Paris around 6 in the evening, and spent the next hour and a half making sure we actually had a route home on Saturday. We then hopped on the metro to get to our hostel, and eventually found it and went to sleep at 10pm, with the plan of leaving at 6am so that we could see the Eiffle tower before heading to Disneyland.
We left around 6 am, saw the Eiffle tower at a perfect time when nobody else was there except joggers and some street cleaners (and maybe one or two other straggling tourists), and finally started to head directly to Disneyland. It took us 45 minutes from Paris, around that, to get to the Marne-la-Vallee-Chessy train stop, which was the last of the line, and literally stopped within yards of Disneyland.
It was nice to get off a train and actually be at your destination, to not have to walk through crowded city streets and follow street signs and sidewalks to get to where you wanted to be. We walked through the gates, and went through the security line to get our bags searched, and then walked into the park (with our tickets).
It was decorated for Christmas and Christmas music was playing. We then tried to find storage for our back packs, but the lockers were closed, so we spoke went to city hall and waited in line, and finally were told that guest storage was outside the park, so then we had to go outside (getting our hands stamped on the way), store our bags (at 3 euros a bag), and then come back into Disneyland. Then we were ready.
We headed to Adventureland first, to get fastpasses for the rides that my informed brother told me were most important because fastpasses would run out and the rides would be busy. We ended up walking onto the Indiana Jones Ride, which was simply a roller coaster with a partially themed queue, and then puzzling over what to do next. My memory is a little fuzzy, perhaps due to the overall lack of sleep and food that weekend, but we ultimately went on Pirates of the Caribean and Phantom Manor, and then we got fast passes for Big Thunder, ate a lunch of Kebabs at Hakuna Matata restaurant, and then headed over to Walt Disney Studios (or we did some of this in a different order, but it all happened, at some point).
At Walt Disney Studios we went on the ROCKIN ROLLER COASTER, featuring Aerosmith, which was pretty cool, it was a roller coaster with lights and music…Then we went on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which was pretty much identical to Disneyland in California, except it was in French, and when the windows open before you drop, you see France and Paris Disneyland, instead of California. Finally we went on the Studio Tours Tram ride, which basically showed us set pieces and then two sets with flames, and one of them had water rushing at us and made our tram move like there was an earthquake.
Back in Disneyland, we went on Star Tours, Space Mountain (which had 3-D comets that looked similar in effect to the projecting images on fog that I had seen in California Pirates and Indiana Jones), and walked through the Nautilus. We accidentally went on the story book canals, much to the despair of my friends and my secret delight. We went on the teacups and “it’s a small world”, we took pictures in the cool themed lands, and we went on Peter Pan’s flight. We explored a bit of Adventure Isle, walked passed the Liberty arcade, and took a double-decker bus back to the main entrance of the park.
Overall I could not do the park justice in just the 8 hours I had there (we arrived at 9:30 and had to leave at 5:45 to catch our train), and feel that if I had had more time, I might have been able to savor and enjoy the experience more. I did manage to go on basically all of the major rides in the park, and basically discovered that Disneyland in California dominates in the realm of rides that are entertaining and fun for the whole family. The roller coaster rides in Paris Disneyland were great, but the Phantom manor and Pirates just didn’t live up to my expectations of Disney rides. Of course, they were in French and I had no idea what they were saying, but I still missed the graveyard scene of the Haunted Mansion, and didn’t feel like I needed to see quite as many skeletons as the Phantom Manor had. It was certainly different, and at times funny, because Disneyland in France did seem to have more of an Adventure, wild quality to it (the skeletons in the Phantom manor for example, that were right next to the Wild West scene- which included a Saloon and dancing cowboys. Might I mention the strong theme of the American Wild West in Paris Disneyland, and the Bonanza outfitters?) But perhaps I only noticed it because I am from America…and because the two of the five lands are American (Main Street USA, and Frontierland, [the others being Adventurland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland]).
All and all, I am glad I went to Paris Disneyland, and am quite happy that there are Disney parks even in the middle of Europe, so that, even though I am thousands and thousands of miles away from home, I can be reminded of it; and perhaps even pretend that I am not that far away at all.
Love you all, and have a good night.
I have to go do schoolwork now.