Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey
This would be my fourth Disney park, after Anaheim, Orlando, and Tokyo, so I didn't expect any real mysteries in our visit. But I discovered that there are differences, enough to make the day interesting and fun. We went with our son and his family, and at our age, the fun is not so much us riding rides, but watching our grandchildren have the time of their lives.
It began as Euro Disney, but eventually became its current moniker, Paris Disneyland. The park opened in 1992 to less than rave reviews. Attendance was very low, but in all fairness opening something like this in the middle of one of the biggest recessions in recent history didn't help. In 1995, the park opened Space Mountain, that iconic roller coaster ride. It was an immediate hit, and by the end of that year, the park showed a profit for the first time. By 2006, Disney Paris was the leading tourist draw in France, outselling the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. The French, at least the intellectual community, had little good to say about the place until the government announced that the park had generated over 37 billion Euros in economic benefits to France. After that, smiles all around.
Still on US east coast time, we didn't get up until almost 11am. But fortunately, the shuttle bus picked us up right outside the hotel, and in about 10 minutes, we were at the park.
There are two facilities, Disneyland itself, and Disney Studios. The Studios portion is vaguely like the California Adventure part of the Anaheim park, although somewhat truncated. But it was the first place to visit, since it had shorter operating hours than the main park. We found Robbie and family eating a late lunch. We visited the Studios, and then crossed over to the main park.
The park entrance is styled after the palace from Beauty and the Beast, which as you recall did take place in France, so it was an appropriate way to entre vous, as it were. Once inside, we passed under the trestle for the train, and found ourselves on Main Street, USA. Same...but still somehow different.
The three parks I had been to were all laid out the same. Standing on Main Street, Adventureland was off to the left, then going to the right, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Not so here. Tomorrowland is called Discoveryland. I guess tomorrow arrives too fast these days. It took a bit of exploration to locate where we wanted to go. The only scheduled event for us was a reservation at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So, off we went.
Couple of classics.
Celebrating Disney's appropriation of the Star Wars franchise
was this magnificent X-Wing at the entrance to Tomorrowland -- er, Discoveryland.
The grandkids had a terrific time. And we had a grand time watching them have a terrific time.
A different take on New Orleans Square.
Perhaps for the family, one of the most interesting places was a shop outside the park where you could build your own lightsaber. It was fun to watch not only the kids, but their Dad "complete their Jedi training."
Ian meets Buzz.
Diana and Ian climbing on Wall-ee.
Obi Rob de Couey...
...and his Padawan.
(Ian is doing the Han Solo thing
with the gun off-screen to the left.)
Ian's Jedi game face.
(Note the mouse ears on the Vader helmet)
This was taken at 9:50 pm.
A nice dinner to end a very full day.
We ended up closing the Park at eleven, but extended goodbyes made necessary by their departure for Korea the next day, almost made us late for the shuttle bus for their last run at 11:30.
It was a great experience. Disney Paris manages to stamp a very French feel to itself without unduly altering the basic DNA. For us, this was bittersweet, as we would continue our French visit without the rest of our family. It figured to be a bit lonely.
But not as lonely as that empty house waiting for us back in Virginia.