Ella and I had a great time at Euro Disney this Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather was amazing, the queues bearable (the longest we ever had to wait for a ride was 30 minutes) and the atmosphere happy and upbeat.
I had steeled myself for an onslaught of unbridled consumerism and in-your-face American-style Disney overkill but was pleasantly suprised.
I'm not denying that food and merchandise were expensive, they were. But the French are, well, French and so their Disney-ness was expressed with a smile and a 'Hello Princess' (for Ella, not me). They were charmingly free of faux enthusiasm, tending towards friendliness instead. A refreshing experience for any visitor to Paris.
The peculiar thing about Disneyland, Paris is that you can't get a decent coffee for love nor money. Not in the park, the studios, the village nor the hotels. There wasn't a Gaggia in sight.
I had to make do with Nescafe espresso or, worse, Nescafe cappuccino - the kind that started life as a dry powder and owes its foaminess to E-numbers. I'm surprised the Disney staff haven't mounted a strike in protest.
For those of you who haven't yet been, here are Ella and my recommendations for Euro Disney:
Top 5 Tips for Enjoying Disneyland Paris
1. Make it a Mini Break
We went for 1 night and 2 days. At the most, I'd recommend 2 nights and three days. Yes, there is a lot to do but it is very tiring walking around the Park's 140 acres -and the Walt Disney Studios' 50 acres.
A mini break gives you enough time to do the best rides, and see a few shows, and frees you to suck up the expense without wincing. We spent around £140 on souvenirs, food and drink over the 2 days.
2. Go Off Peak
A bit of an obvious one, this but strongly recommended. To find out the best times to go, select 'book now' on the Disneyland Paris hotels page, and click the 'arrival date' link which will bring up the calendar. The cheaper dates (shown in yellow) are the best times to go - both for your purse and for your sanity.
Don't feel guilty about pulling the little darlings out of school. Remember, you're creating mgical memories that they, and probably you, will cherish for ever. Corny but true.
3. Know your Rides
This one is tricky, but it really does pay to do your research, talk to friends and friends of freinds (thank you to MJ for her amazing itinerary), trawl the net...do whatever you can before you go to find out what your child/children are most likely to enjoy.
We made the mistake of thinking Big Thunder mountain was a family ride. Disney bill it as such, Ella exceeded the minimum height requirement and from where we were standing the ride looked fairly tame. We were wrong.
It is not a fast train ride. It is a roller coaster without the loops. We closed our eyes and screamed through the entire ride. I know that's de rigeur on roller coasters. But we were both uncomfortably scared. Although, later in the day I must admit that we looked back on the experience and felt a stoic sense of achievement.
So be warned - what Disney, or others, think is age appropriate may not be, depending on how fearless you and your child are. Els and I are fairly evenly matched. Clearly, she has a better excuse for being a wimp – she’s only five. I, on the other hand, am old enough to know better but cannot sway my strong sense of self-preservation by thinking of the impecccable safety record of most roller coasters, the laws of physics being on my side etc.
For what it's worth, our favourite rides were The Pirates of the Carribean, Buzz Lightyear Laserblast and a tame-looking but great fun Orbitron
4. Get Up Early
If you stay in any of the Disney hotels you are allowed access to the Park from 8am to 10am. That means you get two whole hours before the day tripping hoardes descend. Bliss.
They only open up two areas of the park, and not all of the rides in these areas are open, but it is a doddle to get on the rides you fancy and it is a relaxing experience wandering around an almost-deserted Park.
The first hour (8am-9am) was the best because a lot of families at the hotels clearly hadn't finished breakfasting and getting ready. Ella and I had both hit the sack at 9pm the night before, so it was easy to wake up early and make the most of our two hours.
It was a great mini break, and a fabulous Mother-Daughter bonding opportunity. We smiled and giggled and 'wowed' our way through two of the best days we have had in a long time. I highly recommend that you go.
5. Book soon. But if you're watching the pennies (and who of us isn't these days?) do hurry up and book soon. Kids under seven stay and play free until 8th November this year. If you're lucky, you may even get free travel on Eurostar for the little darlings too (very much subject to availability - we couldn't get this deal on the dates we wanted to travel).
This post was written by Anna Colette, a mum of one. You can read more at her blog, Part Mummy, Part Me.