We're going to Disneyland! (Well, actually, we already did).
Okay, here's the lowdown on the next leg of our holiday: Disneyland, Paris. We left our friends in Lyon, and drove to Paris, got stuck in traffic (if you don't get stuck in traffic, then you're not in Paris) and finally ended up finding our hotel, an Ibis near the Porte d'Italie. Ibis hotels are minimal and functional, which means you get the basics for a reasonable price, but don't expect any extras of any kind (at least not without paying extra, and more than they are worth). There were cheaper hotels we could have gotten, but most of those involved things like communal bathrooms, so we decided to fork out a little extra and have the luxury of hygiene. We spent the night, and in the morning went off to Disneyland. We got one of these package deals of "Pay for 3 nights in a Disney Hotel and 3 days at the park, and get one free day at the park", which makes you think you're getting more for less, but you actually end up spending more on food (and souvenirs that the kids spend all day begging for) than the extra tickets would have cost in the first place.
Disneyland, what can I say about Disneyland? Disneyland in Paris is the same as Disneyland in L.A., sans some of the rides, and everything is in French. If you haven't been to Disneyland, all I can say is, get to your nearest one, pronto. And if you've already been, then you know what it's about. I won't bore you with the details of how many times we went on Pirates of the Caribbean, or how Jesús did the Chandler dance when he got the most points on Buzz Lightyear; let's just say we had a brilliant time, kids and adults alike. I'm not sure who had more fun, Jesús and I, or the girls. For me it was just as much fun as when I was young(er), but for the girls it was their first time, and the first time is always a memorable one. They couldn't decide what to do first, and as soon as they'd seen something interesting, they'd turn their heads, see something else and start running like mad to get there (we got dizzier chasing them than we did on the Mad Hatter's Teacups).
One thing that Vio will never forget is riding on the Aerosmith roller coaster at Disney Studios, which is just next to Disneyland. One of the afternoons we were getting a bit tired of Disneyland (and all its crowds), so we decided to check out Disney Studios, since it was included in our tickets. Vio didn't meet the height requirement for Indiana Jones or Space Mountain, but she did for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster ride. We thought, "Hey, if they let her on it can't be as wild as the other two". Were we ever wrong. Not only was it just as wild, it was even wilder, with two corkscrews and a loop, in the dark, with rock music turned up as loud as is earthly possible. Vio got off in tears, and swore never to go on any roller coaster again as long as she lives (but that didn't keep her from going on Big Thunder Mountain a few more times after that. Apparently, if it doesn't loop, it's not a roller coaster to her. Here's the picture they took of us on the ride:
But too much of a good thing is tiring. The first day we skipped up to the gates (it took us about twenty minutes to get from the car to the entrance), full of enthusiasm, and tackled the park like there was no tomorrow (even though we had 3 more tomorrows to go). Of course we took the obligatory "Here we are in front of the park" picture before going in.
The second day we stoically walked to the entrance (the twenty minutes stretched out to thirty), determined to have even more fun than the first. By the last day we were dragging ourselves to the entrance, and Vio didn't even want to go because she didn't want to walk anymore, so we humored her and rented a stroller.
Someone pinched the stroller while we were having a fantastic lunch at the Blue Lagoon (the restaurant you see from the boats in Pirates of the Caribbean - after going on the ride 6 times, and seeing all the people sipping their tropical cocktails, you can't help but end up having lunch there).
We even saw the woman who did it, she ran away as fast as she could when we asked why her stroller didn't have a name on it. Stealing a child's stroller, how low can you get? But I have to hand it to the Disney folks, they practice avoidance of conflict at all costs, and they gave us a new stroller when we complained, rather than confronting that low-down, dirty thief (o.k., I have to admit I got a bit riled up about the whole thing). There's a feeling of "there's a bluebird on my shoulder..." kind of happiness throughout the place, and even when the bird shits on you, no one seems to notice. Oh well, we did get another stroller, even if we did have to cross the entire park to get it, and on the way we ran into Jack Sparrow (Vio was mad about the stroller, so she didn't want to be in the picture). He wasn't Johnny Depp, but he cheered us up anyway.
All in all, it was a great experience, even though we figured out we spent more time walking from one place to another (especially while looking for Minnie Mouse ears with a pink bow, which Vio insisted she'd seen, but turned out not to exist), standing in line, and eating, than the time we were actually on the rides.
We stayed in a cabin at the Davy Crockett Ranch, which was the only option for five people (otherwise we'd have had to get two rooms at one of the hotels, and it wouldn't have been the next leg of our journey, it would have been the next arm and a leg).
I enjoyed the hotel almost as much as the park; it was like being out in the wilderness, surrounded by lush vegetation and fake teepees, you could hardly imagine that it was just outside the hectic bustle of Paris.
We had two rooms and a sofa-bed, with cushy feather pillows (necessary after long, exhausting days at the park), and a small kitchen. Breakfast was one of the best bits; each area had an outpost where two smiling breakfast girls (everyone here smiles, smiling is required for all the Disney employees, even the normally surly Parisians) handed out boxes filled with buttery croissants, a baguette, a carton of orange juice and a carton of milk.
We always had croissants left over, but barely enough milk, so one morning we asked if we could have an extra liter, but breakfast girl number one said, "Oh no, zer ees unly enuf for one pear cabeen," not bothering to hide the mountain of milk cartons next to her (actually she couldn't have hidden it even if both she and breakfast girl number two had stood in front of it; I guess she thought they should be prepared in case Paris ever suffers a milk shortage). We made due, and the delicious butteriness (is that even a word? Well, if it isn't it should be) of the croissants made us forget all about the milk.
At the end of the fourth day, our sore feet got us back to the car and we made our way to Douai, which lies about 200km north of Paris. Why Douai? Well, it was cheaper than sleeping in Paris, and we got past the worst part of the traffic so we could get to Holland the next day. Does Douai have anything interesting to see? Well, if it does we sure didn't see it, all we saw was the nearest McDonald's and the inside of our hotel (Campanille this time, which was quite nice and reasonably priced). Now, if I haven't completely tired you out with this very long post, why don't you hop on over to Central Snark, slip into something more comfortable, and have a good laugh, while I write the next extremely long post about our trip.