Friday, August 27, 2010

Disneyland Paris Review

Hello everyone, we arrived safely in Paris at about 3AM PST, local time just before noon, with about as much sleep as you can get on a plane. We had the option of waiting around for two hours in CDG for a TGV train or hopping on a train immediately for a two hour train ride which would have taken us completely out of the way into downtown Paris and we could change trains and come back. After walking for a mile through the airport we made it to the train ticket counter where we decided to wait around for the quick ride, since the price difference wasn't that significant, and we were done traveling. As we attempted to make our purchase, my credit card didn't work. The French girl handed it back impatiently "it doesn't work." Luckily I had a second credit card with me, which I almost didn't bring. Thankfully Gregory convinced me otherwise.

After the nine minute train ride on one of the fastest trains in the world (and smooooth!) we arrived at the Marne station and walked another mile or two through the Disney Village, a dilapidated sad version of Downtown Disney, to our hotel, not realizing there was a shuttle stop next to the station.

Our hotel was one of the lower priced, but not the cheapest. Thankfully we didn't settle for any less. I believe the bed was mostly cinder block. There was a fan in the shower that remained constantly on and pumped in the scent of recently and also non-recently smoked cigarettes. The scent mostly disappeared when the shower was on or when the windows were open. There was also no internet available, hence the delayed contact. We could buy an internet connection for 30 days at 20 euros or 1 day for 10 euros. We decided we could just wait until it was free.

I have yet to find out about the rest of the city, but the weather at Disneyland Paris between the fast moving cloud cover, occasional cloudbursts, and pervasive mugginess somehow manages to be hot and cold at the same time. So you can slowly sunburn to a delicious crisp as hypothermia sets in.

Now Disneyland Paris is similar to Disneyland the original. I am by no means a connoisseur, but I have experienced some great and not so great Disney magic, probably more than the average bear, and therefore feel qualified to dub Disneyland Paris as not the worst park in existence. That honor goes to the adjacent Disney Studios park modeled after MGM Studios theme park in Disney World. It was just embarrassing. It makes California Adventure look like genius. Everything was so no-assed (I at least consider California adventure half-assed). Rides would close due to problems and people waiting in line weren't notified. Upkeep was shoddy to say the least. Their idea of Hollywood Boulevard consisted of a neon sign and a store window with a mannequin couple in black tie formal. Where were the hookers? We rode their version of a tram tour, which included these five minute pauses in the ride where there was nothing. We just sat there I suppose we were waiting for the next car. I believe there were supposed to be supplemental videos but the monitors on our vehicle were out. American Disney would have removed the car without anyone noticing. There's a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to preserving the illusion. While on the rail road trip around the park there were service vans parked right next to the track in fantasy land. Strange to imagine that we are practically militant by comparison.

Now I know I tend to be harsh on the Magic Kingdom park at Disney World since it is just a carbon copy of the charming original magnified twice over to increase flow of people and cash, and if I had to choose between it and Disneyland Paris, I would definitely choose the latter. Phantom Manor is a fairly terrifying and dramatic take on the otherwise whimsical Haunted Mansion. Snow White also lives up to the subtitle of "scary adventures." as the trees tilt menacingly toward the ride vehicles and the skeletons look a little more tortured (though fear not purists, the ridiculous abrupt ending is still in place).

The castle is more to my personal liking than the original, I feel it is much more grand but although Gregory disagrees with me on that, we both agree it features the best thing at the entire park: a cave below the castle with a sleeping dragon, complete with smoke that trails from its nostrils. It occasionally raises it's head from slumber and roars sending at least one child running in screaming terror from the caves. Hilarious! The dragon is large with a mouthful of sharp teeth and glowing mean eyes. There's not that usual Disney wink that sometimes invades its more serious installations, and I'm quite thankful for that.

While the lack of upkeep is a little disappointing there is a rustic charm to it, a uniqueness which sets it apart. Theres a kind of palpable irony in that so much of the construct of Disneyland is based on nostalgia for early America, centuries for us, but last week for France. Perhaps that's why they don't care as much;. While Europe in my thus far limited experience seems to be a lived in sort of place and this a very comfy pair of trousers... that also smells like balls.

If you want to experience Disney magic on foreign soil, go to Japan. They have done so much right in terms of construction and theming and having a culture centered around rules and politeness has its benefits when they fall over themselves to provide good customer service. Not that everyone we encountered at Paris Disney wasn't kind, many speaking not only fluent French and serviceable if not fluent English but often German, Norwegian, Italian, Portuguese et al. since many of the cast members are from all over the world.

More to come!

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