We got up to catch an early morning train from Paris to Chessy where the train station is just at the entrance to Disneyland Paris. From the Les Halles metro station right at our hotel, we caught a direct train, lots of stops along the way but no change of trains. It was about a 45 minute ride and cost about 6 euros. We take our Disneybounding seriously, so we have big duffle bags full of outfits for our visit and all of Maggie’s things for her internship at the Hague.
These trains have been operating since the park opened. We rode a train out to the park in 1995 as well. There is also bus service from the airport. Unlike Florida and its Magical Express, none of these services are complimentary. Our train car was double-decked, probably for all the commuters who use them on a daily during the business week. This means you will have to go up and down stairs with your luggage. We were still pretty tired, so we dozed a bit during the ride on this rainy Sunday morning.
We are staying at Hotel Santa Fe, a Disney hotel. There are several Disney hotels to choose from, although there are no Disney Vacation Club (timeshare) properties at this park. We got off the train and walked over to the bus that will take us directly to our hotel. Hotel Santa Fe is one of the lower cost properties themed after the Disney Cars movies. As you pull in, the entrance looks like a drive-in movie.
The lobby was packed and check-in did not move as smoothly as it does at the US properties. They is also paperwork to sign. Emma arranged a resort package for us, so we picked up our park tickets at the hotel. The card was pretty plain for a Disney ticket. Not surprisingly as it is still early morning, our room was not ready.
Next we had to stand in a ridiculously long line to check our luggage until we could get into our room. People who were checking out of their rooms were also in line to store luggage while they visited the parks on their last day. This system was not run very efficiently, although the cast members were doing their best. If you arrive in the morning like we did, I recommend one member of the group checks in, while another stands in line to check in the luggage. Also, the luggage check-in/out closes at 10 pm, so you may need to come back and move your luggage to your room before the park closes.
We took the bus back to the parks. When I visited in 1995, there was only the Disneyland Park. Now there is a a second park, Walt Disney Studio Park, which opened in 2002. You first go through security which covers both parks, then clear the ticket entrance separately for each park. The Disneyland Hotel is within the secured area. Another deluxe property, the New York Hotel, is currently under renovation being re-imagined with a Marvel theme.
We started at Disneyland Park. There were familiar parts and others that were added after my first visit. We went straight to my favorite ride, Big Thunder Mountain railroad. The queue is along the main pathway, but you go under the water after boarding to go to the mountain. It may be that I have the one in Florida memorized so I don’t get the surprise element anymore, but I thought this Parisian version was just terrific. The Florida version is definitely better than California, but the ride at Disneyland Paris is by far the best in the use of the theme and the most exciting ride. The one section I really don’t like in Florida-the jerky section through the western town-has been eliminated here. The ride is faster and more thrilling and the return through the underwater tunnel at the end is really fast. We all loved it!
Next we headed over to Phantom Manor (their version of the Haunted Mansion as it is called in the US parks). It has just reopened after a renovation. There was no line. They worked to incorporate the US old west theme into this ride so it works better than its Florida counterpart given its location in the park in Frontierland. There are some elements that have carried over from the US parks, but the story is entirely different and its a little scarier. We really liked it. Just before you head in there is also a pavilion where you can meet Phantom Mikey; this is the only park where he appears. We plan on getting that picture on the last day. There is generally a line for that photo.
We tried a newer ride, Indiana Jones’ Temple of Peril. This is a short outdoor roller coaster, completely different from the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland in California. They did a great job with the theme elements and setting the mood, but the ride itself is short and jerky. We didn’t have any interest in going again, in spite of the fact that you could walk right on. No crowd at all. Anyone who had been there before apparently avoided it.
We decided it was time for a great roller coaster, so we headed over to Hyperspace Mountain. When I visited in 1995 there were long lines and the ride had a Jules Vern theme. This time we walked right on. I couldn’t believe it. Arguably it is the best version of Space Mountain. They added a Star Wars theme on a temporary basis, but it proved popular so the star wars elements are being left in place. In fact on the Disney website it is referred to as Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain.
Hyperspace Mountain was the location that Boris abandoned me on our first visit. He and Rocky said they would look around a little and then wait at the exit while I rode-Rocky was too young and Boris doesn’t like rollercoasters (well, most rides actually). But they took off and didn’t return for over 2 hours; they showed up 45 minutes after I got off. I was pretty panicked by then. It had gotten dark, was freezing cold, and I was in a country where I did not speak the language. Yes, I still remember it (vividly) and no, I wasn’t happy about it.
We decided we would get some lunch before the afternoon parade, having rode the big/busy rides in this park. We went back to Adventureland and tried Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost; Colonel Hathi is the elephant herd leader in The Jungle Book. It was a charming building with lovely flowers that offers both in and outside dining. However, the service at this counter service restaurant was horrible-long lines and extremely slow response times. This was the worst I had ever experienced at any Disney park and this is the the low season. The food was not great either. The best part was the building and the live entertainment.
After lunch we slipped in to see one of special and unique elements at Disneyland Paris. The castle here is Sleeping Beauty’s and it comes complete with a chained dragon in the dungeon. There are several entrances, but from each you can see the dragon move and take a look around. Definitely worth a stop.
We entered from the side of the castle, but you can also go in and out through a giftshop in the castle interior. The shop features lovely Christmas decorations as well as dragon-themed items. The interior detail was quite impressive including the light fixtures and the stone-looking fireplace.
Afterwards, we stepped out of the castle and saw the parade. It was great character watching. It is similar, yet different from other Disney parades. I think this is the only parade that they do at either of the two Disneyland Paris parks.
We went back to the hotel so we could move our luggage to our room. Maggie changed into one of her Disneybounding outfits. She was inspired by Ariel and made a unique skirt and added other clothing pieces to complete the outfit. Maggie designs and sews all of her outfits. She has even made ones for Emma and I and a Star Wars themed hat for Rocky.
We selected several of the unique dining venues at the parks to try during our trip. Tonight we are going to the restaurant in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Auberge de Cendrillon. It may be Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but this is Cinderella’s Royal Table. No worries on how she gets there each day; her coach is parked outside.
This is character dining with some of the Disney princesses. I give the entertainment staff a lot of credit. This is not a rushed interaction; the princesses stay and talk to you quite a while. It was also a much better dining experience than lunch. However, you pay dearly for it. The fixed-price menu is not cheap. In addition to the traditional Princesses you find at Disney castle dining, two of the sewing mice from Cinderella, Suzy and Perla, also circulated among the diners. What a treat to see these rarely seen characters. The big surprise was the conversation with the princesses, some of them almost broke character at times. Sleeping Beauty even asked if we knew who she was; apparently most guests do not.
After dinner, we walked through Fantasyland. This is one of the original sections of the park. Afterwards, we decided to ride Its a Small World, a traditional favorite. Some of the displays were different from the the US parks. The surprise was that they had several displays depicting American and Canadian culture.
Before the evening show, we walked around and even rode a few rides that we loved again-like Big Thunder Mountain. The nighttime castle show was a combination of Illumination-like lasers, the castle light show, and fireworks. It was a great show in the true Disney standard, but I did not like it as much as the Florida show. We were glad we stayed to see it, but I didn’t feel that I needed a repeat showing. Tomorrow our plan is to take advantage of early entry at the Walt Disney Studio Park.