“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”, the Tom Robbins quote is just what Disneyland Paris is all about and hence we did not let bygones be bygones, we decided to deep dive into the world which made our childhood the fantasy we dreamt about how life would become eventually. Disneyland is one such dreamlike destination just about an hour away from the city of love Paris. I have never been to the original Disneyland in USA but I grabbed the opportunity to not miss this spectacle which aroused my adolescent self. Working in Europe does give you a lot perks to explore the enticing geographies on weekends and thus Disneyland became our summer weekend destination from Belgium.
Journey to the City of Love : For starters Belgium shares border with France and Paris is 4 hours bus ride away from Belgian capital Brussels. We took the BlaBla operated Oui bus (yes thy name is funny ????) we booked the tickets 2 weeks in advance and the bus tickets cost us 9.73 euros per person for Friday evening at 7 PM, but the bus was delayed by 20 mintutes. The bus was in good condition but the only cons were the bus did not have seat numbers and waste plastic to throw waste, though they communicated (only in French) not to consume food through our journey.
The Black Friday : Those who are not familiar with Paris would find it a very difficult city (at least I find it). On the day we arrived Fri the 13th Sept 2019 there were metro strikes across the city and none of the metros were plying we just realized it on Fri morning. The city is definitely erratic in terms of it’s commute. This was my second visit to Parsi and even earlier there were metro maintenance and many of the routes were not working but probably that’s common on weekends. We reached Bercy Seine bus terminal at around 11.30 and took the nearest metro station to exit for bus 38. The police at the metro station warned us that buses may not ply or may even be overcrowded but with hopes held high we marched on to catch bus 38. I am used to overcrowding since I have travelled in Mumbai local but this was coming from a different planet. Firstly it’s Paris where pick pockets and snatchers roam around like zombies waiting to catch their prey secondly with our heavy bag packs the mere idea of finding a centimeter to place our limbs looked like a far fetched dream. We decided to take Uber pool which was thankfully reasonable in Paris even during strikes unlike India.
The stay : Hotels in Paris can be very expensive if you do not book it well in advance and ours was just the same case. Initially anxious I decided my priority for this trip, if you want to save money and you have planned on a haste then it’s best to stay on a hostel. We chose a 10 bed female dorm 400 meters from Crimee metro station in Paris named “St Christopher's Inn Canal”. Hostels are a good option if you are a fanatic traveler and you spent minimum time inside and want to explore the place you travel to on a budget. The cost for 2 nights per person was 60.84 euros. This has been my first hostel stay and necessary things you must carry incase you are already not aware are towels, slippers, padlock and body wash since you share common bathroom. The room was big enough for 10 people and most of the ladies minded their own business. The bed was clean and they already provided blankets. The toilettes were not something where you should have high expectation but they can clean enough for you to get the job done. The staffs were friendly and there is a bar on the ground floor which is the only noise source from an otherwise calm neighborhood.
Enroute Disneyland : The nearest and the fastest way to travel to Disneyland is RER, in our case RER A from Auber station whose destination stop is Chessey just outside Disneyland. The fares for one way is 7.8 euros per person and the journey time single way is nearly 45 min to an hour. A tip here is to buy the tickets once you reach Chessy station on the day you are planning to watch the Disney Castle illumination which I suggest you must do. Reason being the illumination starts from 10 PM and continues for nearly 30 min. By the time you reach the station to buy the tickets you will already see a long queue and the train frequency becomes very abrupt by then. The scheduled train for 10.37 PM delays nearly by 10 minutes to accommodate last minute passengers and an advice is to catch the same. Another tip for weekend travelers who want to do most of the rides and want food on the go, buy something from the shop inside the station as the cafes inside Disneyland are expensive.
Dream Disney : As a grown-up we all wondered how awesome childhood was, watching cartoons we realized what a beautiful world it would be for them, little did we know that dreamlands exist. Disneyland is one such dreamland, an amalgamation of the larger Disney theme park which boasts of the Disney castle of the Beauty and the Beast and a smaller Walt Disney park is surely going to enthrall you albeit a few downsides, read on to know more. If you are going on weekends and during summers make up your mind to find the parks teeming with people. The Disneyland Park main entrance opens up at 9 AM on summer weekday and an advice to cover visit it on Sat since it takes a lot of time and energy both. We bought our tickets online at 365tickets.co.uk at 125.20 euros per person for 2 days and 2 parks wherein 1 day is reserved for 1 park only. The other options costs more.
Disneyland Park : The exit to the right of Chessy Station is the Disneyland park wherein the queues start for entry before 9. Once your bags are scanned you take the right again and you see the main Disneyland at the entrance which has the Main street USA, adorned with beautiful flowers, gardens and fountain. The mere sight of it made me jump with joy and I asked my friend to click my pictures but the place was loaded with families and beautifully dressed children everywhere. Just before main Street USA entrance are the scanner machines wherein you can scan your tickets and enter to the dreamland. The Disneyland Park is divided into 4 regions Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland after you cross the Main street USA. Right through the entrance you see what you have dreamt of since childhood, the Beauty and the Beast castle and surely your eyes will be glued to it since the beginning as you reminisce all your favorite cartoon characters from childhood.
Frontierland : To complete all the rides in Disneyland will take more than a day and a lot of effort hence we did the rides which were a must do. Grab a map at the entrance and ask the person sitting at information desk about which are the not to be missed rides and special parades happening on the day you arrive. With just few minutes’ walk from main street USA arrives the Frontierland on your left wherein we did 2 rides which were on the list of Must do – Big Thunder mountain and Phantom Manor. At first we did the Phantom Manor which basically narrates how a phantom jeopardized the life of a princess. The ride was not spooky but is good for kids and since this was our first so we liked our rendezvous with spookiness. Next up we waited in the queue for picture with Mickey Mouse, now this is a standby Mickey in the sense that the original had longer queue and is in the Fantasyland but people short of time can definitely get warm welcome from Mickey here : Afterall Mickey is Mickey period. Since the Big thunder mountain had painstakingly long queue so we took a Fast pass (in case you see unnecessarily long queue) for this ride for 2 PM. The Frontierland is good for clicking quirky pictures and once we were done with our share we headed to Adventureland.
Adventureland : Adjoining Frontierland is this relatively small area wherein there were again only 2 famous rides – Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones, the later unfortunately was closed. But Pirates of the Caribbean was overwhelming. The enjoyable ride which concluded to a very real rendition of our very own Capt. Jack Sparrow but more breathtaking was the restaurant which had guests inside the periphery of the ride. It was romantic and out of the world. Couple travelers having time must surely try the restaurant just for its thrilling ambience. We also did a tour of the Aladdin passage which is again as the name suggest a walkable pathway depicting Arabian nights on both sides of the walls. You can give it a miss though if you are short of time.
Fantasyland : Just adjoining the Adventureland is the Fantasyland. The name rightly justifies this region of the park. We did 3 rides here – It’s a small world, Peter Pan Flight and Alice Labyrinth. I must confess even as an adult I was reacting the same way as the kid in front of me. I screamed, laughed and was amazed just like I would have been had I been 6 years old and after those rides I would say you are always too young for a tour of Disneyland. The rides were straight out of a fairy tale and beyond mesmerizing. Except the Alice labyrinth all the rides had queues and I suggest buy a fast pass for one while in the queue for other. Also there are queues for ice-creams and water as well so in case you do not want to waste time just have food at handy to fill in your stomach. I would also recommend you watch the parade that happens at 5 and 1. The 1 PM parade was themed at Jungle Book and we caught Goofy doing Bhangra which was a treat to he eyes.
Discoveryland : This place is not for fainthearted. There were 3 must do rides among which we did only one and that was enough for me. Even though for the adventure junkie it would be a cakewalk. The rides here are not for people with motion sickness (I ma one of them) hence the only one we tried was Space mountain mission 2 and man what a whirlwind it was. The rollercoaster which rotated, revolved, overturned and defied gravity. Keep your head absolutely on the back to avoid headaches and keep your eyes open ( I closed at times out of fear), this is science defying gravity.
The show of Might : The whole place till now was beyond beautiful and beyond anything you would ever see. But Europe is a place which can stump you always when it comes to beauty. When the clock strikes 10 at night the sight of the beauty and the beast castle is nothing short of heavenly. You fail to fathom that the light show in front of you is real or straight out of heaven. You are mesmerized at human intellect as to how we could bring life to figments of our imagination. The next 25 minutes you did not see the light show, you marveled like a 10 year old believing that magic could happen and there is nothing called unreal. Yes Day 1 ended with a memory that you would never in your life ever forget.
Walt Disney Studio : There is no denying the fact that after day 1 your expectation level reach the summit of a dream being true, however this park would be a bit disappointing but just a bit only. The Walt Disney studio is smaller compared to its giant counterpart and can be completed in 5 to 6 hours. The rides we did were – Ratatouille, House of terror, Crush Coaster, Flying Carpet over Agrabah, and Animagic. Amongst these House of terror is like a free fall lift and it is splendid even after the long queue. For the first time I experienced the feeling of my intestines pushing up during the free fall. Ratatouille again was mesmerizing based on the French movie. It’s a 3D concept where the riders are seated on a cup and given a virtual experience of the movie though in 4 to 5 minutes again a ride that demanded long queue. A tip here to avoid queue is to go as a single rider where in you will be entertained one by one instead of the group you are with. The crush Coaster again was more or less similar to the Space mountain albeit less fearsome. The Animagic theatre shows a 20 minutes show of the Mickey the magician and is definitely worth every second if accompanying a baby. If you are an adult then watch it just for the efforts the actors put in.
We exited the Walt Disney Studio to catch our bus back from Bercy Siene at 9 in the night. Although Disneyland was breathtakingly beautiful, it also reminded me of the Durga Puja pandal lines probably Durga Puja lines are shorter. So in case you want to chill and relax at Disneyland probably summer weekends are not your day. You will never be able to avoid queues or crowd for that matter once you step feet in Chessy but what’s beauty without few hiccups. I am sure you would never regret visiting the Disneyland Park whatever age you are at. Happy journey to childhood until next tour.