Monday, June 11, 2012

[Disney] [Travel] Day 25: Disneyland Paris and Hotel l'Elysee Val d'Europe

I didn't even bother to set the alarm because really why bother now? Up at 5 and off for the day. There was absolutely no water pressure in the shower - it was practically coming out as a sprinkle. But I was only there for a night so I made due and got on with breakfast in the Executive Lounge:
A respectable spread

Ugh. Croissant.
It's time for a story, boys and girls. When I was in tenth grade I came to Europe on a school trip. Not the greatest expenditure of my funds as I barely remember anything and I didn't care for virtually everyone else on the trip. But try telling that to a fifteen year old?

Trip was going fine enough for much of it until we got to France. We had been in Nice for one night and then it happened. That morning I was walking down the stairs to breakfast, missed the bottom stair, and broke my ankle. How did this happen? Well in France apparently they don't believe in lights in their #*&ing stairwells. For years I thought it was just that hotel, but having been back now it seems a bit more widespread. What could have made a broken ankle worse? The story that caught on was that it happened because I was running for the last croissant at breakfast as if any place in France would ever run out of freaking croissants. So that's the story that followed me throughout high school. Not a good start to our relationship, France.

I do <3 bacon

I was up a bit earlier than I'd thought I'd have been while planning the trip and so I had far too long before my pre-booked TGV 13-minute ride from the airport to Disneyland Paris. If I could get on an earlier train I could probably make the park just as it was opening. I headed over to the TGV station and for a fee (naturally) they moved me up an hour. Excellent. I had no idea whether there was assigned seating on the train but as it pulled up it turned out it was standing room only so no worries there. Quick enough ride so no harm, no foul.

I emerged from the train station completely lost. I knew that the hotel was a 20 minute walk from the parks but had no idea where to go. My first inclination was to drop my luggage off in a locker at the park and then enjoy my day there. Well...not so much. I got through security and went to find the left luggage area and it turned out it was inside Disneyland Park, which didn't open for 30 minutes. I didn't feel like waiting 30 minutes to leave my luggage when I could probably have made the hotel and back in less than an hour. So it was now time to find the hotel.

After wandering for about 15 minutes and losing precious time, I found a cab. The cab driver was the biggest asshole I've met on this trip. I can understand why in retrospect. The fare was only 7 euros and he lost his place in line, but he could have always instructed me to get back on the train and go one stop where the station was right next to the hotel. Instead he spent the entire time mumbling angrily to himself. Great welcome to Paris!

The hotel let me check in very early, which was much appreciated. This was at the Hotel L'Elysee Val d'Europe, a Disney partner hotel. I thought it nice enough and would stay there again. I dropped off my luggage and caught a bus to the parks. I found myself whistling the Sinbad song all day, which was quite enjoyable.
I already feel like I'm not classy enough to be staying here

Oh wait, there's a pool table in the lobby? Alright, we're cool.

Bed. Very logical.

Smaller bed perpendicular to other bed? Less logical.

My original plan was to spend the day in the smaller second park - Walt Disney Studios. Yeah, that didn't quite happen. The park is tiny and absolutely disappointing piece of crap. The theming in many areas is non-existent. The rides, with basically a few exceptions, are repeats from other parks. I suppose if I didn't live in Florida I might have found the park a little nicer as things like Tower of Terror and Rock n'Roller Coaster would have seemed more fresh. Anyway, I did the whole park in an hour as one of the two things I wanted to do (Armageddon) was down for the week. Here's the Studios in a nutshell:

I know that water tower!

The quest continues that the entrance to a Disney park or a warehouse?

Ugh. Guess it's the entrance.

Still not convinced it's not a warehouse

Not the most inspiring of scenery

This is probably the only ride worth going out of your way for in the park - that being said, it is fantastic
The one ride that fills quickly and stays busy all day is Crush's Coaster. Imagine something like Space Mountain except instead of sitting in an enclosed vehicle, you are sitting in a turtle shell that rotates 360 degrees as you're hurtling around. It was very, very fun. It's also very low capacity and slow to load so the line gets long quick and stays long all day with no FP option. I did enjoy my one ride. I also enjoyed hearing Crush in French - the guy who does his voice is way less annoying than the English Crush.

Look, I already feel like a fat American as it is; no need to rub it in!

Hard to see, but this is the ride vehicle

Mine? Mine?

That's an awfully personal question, Jacques.

Hopefully Carsland in DCA looks better than this

I feel like I've been here before. But where are the mountains?

It's hard to go back to this version of ToT after DisneySea

5 minute wait? Really? Does anyone even visit this park?

For Kyle

I heard this was neat, but of course I'll never know since it was down for refurbishment

What happened to Aerosmith?

Biggest douchebag in Hollywood? I say yes.

Is the rockwork peeling? Ugh.
Yeah. So. That was the Studios. It was barely 10 by this point so I thought "well, might as well do DLP too". Wasn't the plan, but it worked well enough. By stepping foot in Disneyland Paris I had successfully been to the last of the 11 Disney parks in the world and, as an added bonus (having gone to WDW the Sunday before I'd left) I had the dubious distinction of having visited all five Disneyland Resorts in the world in 30 days. Put it on my tombstone, folks. Onward to DLP:

Now that's an entrance to a Disney theme park!

On my account? Awww, you shouldn't have. Oh, you didn't? well then.

Other than Big Thunder Mountain the wait times were reasonable at this point
The list of must-dos at DLP was significant, with Space Mountain 2 and Big Thunder Mountain the most likely to have waits. I headed straight for Space Mountain 2 and it was a walk-on.

It's not Tomorrowland; it's Discoveryland. Yup. And these are freedom fries I'm eating.

Space Mountain looks way, way cooler in Paris than anywhere else. I'm not a huge fan of the classic white SM, but this is fantastic. It would fit in well visually (if not thematically) in Port Discovery in TDS.
SM2 is a great ride. It bears virtually no resemblance to the original except that it takes place in the dark (though with some outdoor bits) and is vaguely space themed. It was fast and exciting and everyone on it had a great time. Plus it was a walk-on. Fantastic!

Walk on? Don't mind if I do.

I have no idea how Light Speed Photography translates to Photo Magique

I walked over to Big Thunder Mountain but the wait was already significant. I grabbed a Fastpass and decided to check out Phantom Manor, aka the Haunted Mansion.

Whoa. Whoa. WHOA. Is that the Haunted Mansion?

It is! It is the Haunted Mansion. That is what I always pictured it looking like, despite what WDW/DL say. Fantastic!

Phantom Manor has some substantial differences from the other Haunted Mansion rides. First of all it's located in Frontierland. The Imagineers carry this through by adding an entire (awesome) final scene in a Western town. There is supposed to be a coherent story about a bride or some crap, but I could barely follow it. Still, many of the rooms were very similar. Sadly the lack of maintenance showed here as well and was quite painful. The last room there were no hitchhiking ghosts - just mirrors. And at one point on my first ride through there was a bright light that was peaking through some curtains and completely ruined the room. Not good, DLP, not good.
Hell, you call it whatever you want Paris, I don't give a damn. It looks amazing.

Well, except for this. Why is this open? If Walt was still walking the parks someone's head would roll for that.

I guess Ben & Jerry's is really big outside the US?

Not as cool as the pre-show area in the US

Some very cool theming in Frontierland. The entire area hangs together really well.

Next up: Pirates of the Caribbean. The entire area is Pirates themed, which is awesome.

This ATM? Not so great on the theming.

Of course you're closed, Indy. Why did I even bother walking over here? At least you'll be open at noon today, at which point I will have forgotten you exist.


By this point I was very, very excited to ride. Why can't the US parks have a Pirates area?
The queue to get to the ride vehicle took ten minutes just to walk through. The ride must get absolutely packed during peak season. The ride itself was great - probably my favorite Pirates. It added a few extra things here and there and it had a much more logical story structure than in the traditional set-up.

Not the most graceful of transitions between areas

At this point I went into three different stores trying to find someone who would give me a plastic bag to hold my jacket in. This has never been a problem at any other Disney park. Well, not happening in France. Three stores; three "no"s. Nice.

No worries - time for lunch. Where to go? Only one choice, really:
This was the happiest moment of my life

No wait, this was.

That's right, folks. No Mr. Toad ride, but there sure as heck is a Toad themed restaurant located in the friendly confines of Toad Hall. Greatest day of my life? Possibly!

No this. Well, you get the idea.

Fish and chips were fine enough. Nothing to compare to even a decent British pub but I'll take it for the surroundings.

Sometimes the jokes, they write themselves

Ah, freedom fries.

Never really saw Toad as the mountain climbing type

A prop I could have done without, but still cool.

Right outside Toad Hall is an Alice in Wonderland-themed labyrinth. It's part maze, part play area, part full of surprises. It's all Alice though, so you know I was down with it. Here are some photos:

I see you over there, Toad Hall

Cheshire Cat: Creepy or cool? I say both.

At this point I still had the will to live, so I decided to check out the castle. DLP actually does stuff with their castle other than a shop or a restaurant. There's a Sleeping Beauty themed walk through with some nice tapestries and stained glass. Very fitting of Paris.

I am a sucker for stained glass.

I really liked this one. I think it captured her perfectly.

Even better, though, is what waits for you under the castle...
Of all the castles, this is probably my favorite.

It's a giant animatronic dragon under the castle. Why doesn't every park have this? Well, every park with a real castle. I think the dragon might be bigger than the "castles" in Disneyland and HKDL.

Is it creepy to take a photo of someone else's kid? Yeah, pretty much. But come on this is adorable and it's melting your icy, icy heart.

My fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain was coming due so I took the long way there through Adventureland.

This was the moment when I realized that DLP was the closest Disney park to Africa

This was one of my first hints that Paris is a filthy place

Big Thunder Mountain was, err, how did Kanye put it? Harder, better, faster, stronger? Well, it was at least longer and more interesting. Plus it had much better views. I think Mr. West would appreciate that.

This cart immediately put me in mind of one of my favorite music videos of all time: this

One more run through Haunted Mansion? Sure!
I could go for a knocker like that on my front door

The central figure in the pseudo-coherent HM storyline

I wish my work uniform included that kind of hat
Outside Phantom Manor is a little area called Boot Hill which is full of the usual tombstones you see outside HM. I liked it.

Definitely liked the Boot Hill area

Poor Shorty

After riding Phantom Manor again I decided to do a little shopping on Main St.

Do the French play baseball?

No Chandu :(


I really wanted a haircut

But they weren't open

A DLP exclusive shirt

I've been to Atlantic City many times. It looks nothing like that.

So creepy

Am I in America again?
There were still a few things left undone, including a certain wishing well.

Damn straight I made a wish here

Hate to admit this, but when I saw this sign I thought "oh, they must have a French-themed wait, I'm just in France. D'oh".

At that point I decided it was time to die yet a little bit more inside. It's time for...It's a Small World. Well hell.

The only thing worse than working at It's a Small World? Having to wear that uniform.

I can't believe I'm going to say this but I really enjoyed this ride through. The DLP IaSW is really, really well done. There are some great animatronics I've not seen elsewhere and there's just more color and more going on to watch. If the WDW one was anything like this I might ride it on every visit. Either that or I've just snapped and lost it. I leave the final decision up to you.

Who would ever wait two hours for that?!
The other two rides I wanted to try out were the Circus Train and the Storybook Canal Boats. The train had an awful wait (60 minutes? Really?) so I gave the boats a try. Very nice. I liked them better than the equivalent at DL. There were a few different stories, too, which was great to see.

Peter and the Wolf. Cool!

Someone identify this for me? I doubt it's 90's cartoon Gargoyles.

Definitely not Chandu

Very cool!

60 minute wait? Pass.

I don't think they even have these in America

On my way out the park I wandered back through Discoveryland and remembered that there was still the old, pre-refurb version of Star Tours here. Sure it was in French but why not give it a go for old time's sake. It was literally the last chance I'd likely ever have to try out the old version.

5 minutes for the old Star Tours? Color me not surprised.

I really liked these arcades!

Why isn't it still called Euro Disneyland?

I'll be the judge of that

On second though, no I won't
Having done much of what I wanted to in Disneyland Park, I made a quick walk through the tiny Downtown Disney/Disneyland Village area. I stopped for a bite at one of my favorite restaurants too.

None of the other Disneylands have people selling cheap crap right outside the gate

Nor do they have security checks for Downtown Disney

Probably my favorite counter service type restaurant in the world

My go to order - not as good as in the States, mostly due to not enough condimentage. Condimentage is too a word, Blogger.

By that time I was tired and ready to head back to the hotel. Despite having a multi-day pass I was content that I'd done what I wanted to at DLP. I could guess that I'd be back in the future so I thought it best to spend some extra time in Paris proper, having never been there before. Come back tomorrow to see how that went.


  1. Chernabog from Fantasia

    He was also featured in Spectromagic.

    Loving the trip report! I have spent the past two days reading it. It is a nice mix of Disney and the surrounding areas.

  2. Ah - thank you! Glad you are enjoying it. It was a bit of a hassle to write but I'm glad I did and that so many are having the chance to share the trip with me.

  3. Hey its Kris Angel disneyland Paris looking awesome...