Disneyland Paris with a toddler

There is a moment before you go in which is even better than going in...

There is a moment before you go in which is even better than going in…

I couldn’t help it – my throat blocked and a tear escaped down my cheek. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses and no one noticed. The brass band was playing “Kiss the Girl” from the Little Mermaid, the wee man was running from Mickey-stuffed shop window to immaculate flowerbed to beaming Daddy and all I could do was gape at a scene so familiar and try to hold myself together.

12 years ago my now husband took me to Disneyland Paris, we bought my ‘engaged-to-be-engaged’ ring and planned our future. Now here we were with a two year old and it was all too much for this marshmallow.

Later, telling my friends Jenny and Al, I was gently ridiculed. It was Al’s idea of hell to spend five days in a place so cheesy, so false and so American. Well I am proud to say I embraced every last exit-through-the-giftshop. Disney was a huge part of my childhood and it means the world to me to be able to share it with my own wee boy. And let me tell you – anyone who said ‘why are you bothering? he won’t remember it’ totally missed the point. For five days the wee man was in sensory overload. The music, the characters, the rides, the colours, the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere, the two totally de-stressed parents – what’s not to love? So, if you are considering taking your little one to Disneyland Paris, here’s my “DO IT” report:

Daddy I want that one!

Daddy I want that one!

Accommodation:

We stayed in the New York hotel, just outside the Disney Village, so within walking distance from both parks. Our room was large with a great view across the lake, the staff were really helpful and the breakfasts were pretty good. The highlight was definitely the morning we walked out of the elevator to come face to face with Mickey Mouse in the lobby. We queued for about 3 minutes and got some great pics (which we forgot to go and get printed). Compare this to the 45 mins plus you’d have to wait in the park and it’s a pretty sweet deal. There was free wifi in the lobby (and occasionally accessible in the 8th floor room) and a fantastic bar with great cocktails. When the wee man’s cough wouldn’t let up, we called a doctor who came to the room within 15 minutes and prescribed antibiotics, which were delivered to the hotel within the hour. Now that’s good service.

Even the lobby feels like a celebration

Entertainment:

Man – where do I start? From Aladdin’s comment, “Oh, you’re so cheeky, just like Abu” to the nightly fireworks, there wasn’t a second of boredom. Watching the wee man experiencing It’s a Small World, the Teacups ride, Dumbo and the Flying Elephants, Pinocchio, Snow White and all the rest was even more fun than doing the rides ourselves. He was dumbstruck. Even the hormonal teenage Germans stopped their irritatingly loud flirting to melt at the wee man’s wee face. Then at night, when our awesome lie-flat City Mini buggy contained a sleeping toddler, Rod and I took it in turns to do all the roller coasters. I went on Space Mountain three times in a row, with a new challenge for the photo each time “OK this time grab the person beside you… NO! You didn’t do it properly, go on again!” The Walt Disney Studios park (a kind of MGM Studios next door) has several live shows, the best of which was undoubtedly Playhouse Disney. Featuring puppets from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny and Tales of Friendship with Winnie the Pooh – it was like the wee man’s TV schedule had come to life in front of him. He danced and clapped and shouted along – oblivious to the fact it was all in French.

Wave to Daddy!

Wave to Daddy!

Food and Drink

Rubbish. Expensive beyond belief and really disappointing. I mean, really, who pays 16 euros for a kid’s meal, he’s going to eat four chips and half a sandwich. We found this in Disney World Florida six years ago too – why can’t Disney get it right with their food offer? I actually cried out the day we came across Timone and Pumbaa’s banana stall – fresh fruit!!! My advice is to eat a huge breakfast and sneak a few sandwiches into the changing bag.

The characters

Outstanding. My personal highlight was Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast. He got so into the role of the arrogant, loud French hearthrob that he bellowed “ALLEZ, VIENS!” at a small child, making her jump half a foot in the air and drop her autograph book. He then flirted outrageously with her mother and winked at me. I reacted almost as badly as I did when we met Jack Sparrow. “Just one more pic, Rod, to be sure…”

So, fancy sharing a bottle of rum?

So, fancy sharing a bottle of rum?

The rides

A great mix of kids and adults’ rides with queues up to 55 mins, but usually around 20. Having been to Disney World Florida where every operator gets right into the spirit, I was disappointed with the French. They couldn’t have said: “I’m so bored pressing this button, when does my shift end?” more clearly if they printed it under their jaunty name badge. Queues practically disappeared after 8pm, hence the multiple roller coaster rides. The fireworks were at 10pm – save your spot from 9, though really there’s no need – they project images onto Cinderella’s castle so you can see what’s going on from most vantage points.

IMG_5039Getting there and back

We flew with EasyJet to Paris Charles de Gaulle then took a 9 minute train ride to Marne La Vallee. Why they insist on calling it after the town it was supposed to serve and never did seems to be to be a stubborn French quirk. Disneyland Station would make much more sense, tourists are the only people who use it. We flew back from Beauvais as the timings were better, but it involved a 75 minute taxi ride.

Five nights and four days was a little excessive, we could have done it all in four or even three days, but for once in our lives we weren’t in a rush. That in itself was a holiday. We loved every minute, the wee man loved every minute, and we savoured the Disney bubble of wishing on a star, believing in dreams, cuddling every character and wondering if life really were as simple as the dolls described in It’s a Small World.

For five days, it was.

IMG_5088

 

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