Saturday, 3 August 2013

Disneyland Paris - Big Swinging Mickey*.

The Sleeping Beauty Castle in the rain.
First things first, I have a confession to make.  I hate Mickey Mouse.  And so does my husband.  We are definitely more "Looney Tunes" type people. I didn't even like Mickey Mouse as a kid. Instead I grew up watching Elmer Fudd chase Bugs Bunny with a shotgun singing "Kill the Wabbit!" Daffy Duck was a personal favourite - a selfish, mean spirited duck who you rooted for all the same. There was something 'real' about Warner Bros. cartoon characters that Mickey Mouse et al just didn't seem to emulate.  Disney characters were too white washed, too wholesome. Too boring.

So you might ask - "Why the hell did you go to DISNEYland?"  And to be honest, it's a questions I ask myself now.  Why did we go to Disneyland?  The best I can come up with is because of the funfair rides. The year before we spent a day at Alton Towers and just loved it. Rollercoaster after rollercaoster, it never got old so we thought maybe Disneyland would be the same.  And in some ways it was.  Disney has some great fairground rides.  But it's just... Well, the amount of cute, colourful and shiny ribbon clad crap you have to wade through to get to the rides.  That is what made Disneyland Paris one of the great disappointments of my life.
And in the sun, fabulous!

The queue at the hotel was the first slice of reality served to us in this "land of imagination".We had to wait an hour to check in. This was after getting up at four in the morning and travelling by plane and coach for the past ten hours. We were exhausted by the time we finally collapsed onto our itchy polyester lined Lightning McQueen style beds. We had a quick sleep before leaving for the big D.

Before you reach the parks you have to walk through Disney Village. This is just shops and restaurants. Although each store has a different name, they are essentially the exact same. They sell Disney stuff. You immediately notice the prices. Disneyland is bloody expensive. We checked menus outside the restaurants/fast food places/sandwich bars; all of them are hugely overpriced. You pay €3.50 for a can of coke, a large coffee will set you back €5.75. The next thing you notice is how many people don't seem to care about the prices. Children wave their new Tinkerbell Fairy Wands, while their parents prance around in velour Mickey Mouse Ears. Little girls pose in sparkly Cinderellla dresses and boys twirl bright Star Wars Keychains on their fingers. You can hear the chorus of "I want, I want" at each shop door you pass.  Mammies and Daddies trudge past, pushing buggies that creak with the weight of countless shopping bags; stuffed to the brim with every piece of conceivable Disney merchandise you can imagine.

What are you smiling about? That cost €5.75!
By the time we reached the actual park we were losing faith. But the sight of Sleeping Beauty's Castle restored our excitement and we began to run towards the entrance. Once in we looked around, taking it all in and wondering what we should do first.  It looked great. Disneyland Park is set like a village in the "Old West".  Lots of old style buildings but with a cartoonish feel that makes it kind of surreal. But as we inspected further we realised this was just like any ordinary street. Yeah, you guessed it - loads of shops. We couldn't believe it - having just escaped from Disney Village with our wallets intact, we were now affronted by this; shop after shop after shop.  Each one filled with the same candy coated, sweet as pie, rhinestone decorated crap as the next.

You have to pass two streets before finally reaching something that isn't a shop.  The first ride we wanted to go on was "Big Thunder Mountain." We found it only to realise it was closed down for repairs - or as Disney like to put it "refurbished for our future enjoyment." It wasn't that big of a deal - we found other rides and they were surprisingly good. "Space
Mountain" was seriously fast and scary.  The Tower of Terror (In Disneyland Studios) had us screeching with fright, leaving out hearts in our mouths as we stepped off the haunted elevator.  The Aerosmith Rollercoaster was also very fast with loads of twist and turns, making it unpredictable and great fun.  There were a couple of other rides marked as "thrilling" and all of them were good but overall there just wasn't enough to keep us entertained for more than a few hours.  The majority of rides at Disneyland are for little kids.  We did have fun just walking around but Disneyland is very small and it's not long before you've covered everything.  The highlight of the three day trip was The Light Show.  It took place near midnight in the park. Laser images were projected onto the Sleeping Beauty castle and we were treated to a show piece of Disney's "best bits" - lots of singing, music, popular characters and amazing effects.  It took us by surprise how much we enjoyed it. I would highly recommend anyone who is going to stay for this dazzling spectacle, thoroughly enjoyable!  That's enough niceties now, back to the giving out. This is supposed to be a moany blog after all.

Now, that's one big Mickey!
It wasn't just the lack of rides that left us feeling hard done by. Everything about Disney was annoying. The staff were surly and abrupt, the food was disgusting slop, (the breakfast buffet was a particular stomach churner) the queues were long (and this was during school term time!) and the weather was terrible (not Disney's fault but the leaflet told us Disneyland was 80% covered so we needn't worry about the rain, a load of bollox).

People are probably reading this thinking: What a moany old cow. And I get that, I really do. Why couldn't we just get into the Disney buzz and enjoy the place for what it was? The reason being what I found Disney to be was a commercial, money obsessed, materialised, over priced, carnival. That might sound naive of me. I mean, surely I know that all Theme Parks are commercial, money obsessed etc. Of course I do. It's just that Disneyland Paris was so unashamed about it's greed . It didn't hide the fact that it was just out to line its pockets. In fact, Disneyland's mantra was plastered on posters everywhere for all to see: "Nothing brings a smile to child's face more than a new toy."  It fed on the desires of children and the guilt of their parents. It encouraged the tears and tantrums that led to the wallet being emptied. We watched parents crumble as they passed shop after shop.  You can only say no so many times...

Kieran gets his Disney on, boo ya!
I found that we couldn't just have fun. If we wanted an ice-cream we had to justify handing over €5.00 for what would cost  €2.00 in Ireland. If we wanted to much on popcorn it was again €5.00 - for the tiniest cup. You're thirsty, a bottle of water is €3.50.  It just ruined everything for us. It was the first holiday I had been on where I was checking the prices of everything and making sure we'd have enough to pay for our overpriced and undercooked, burger and chips in the (in)appropriatly named Café Mickey that evening.

After three days, during which we visited Paris as well as Disneyland, we left for home. I can't say I was sad to go. In fact, after an incident whereby the latch in our room took it upon itself to lock us out, we were just sick of the place and couldn't wait to leave.

I dreamt of plain white cotton sheets on the flight home.

*In Ireland Mickey is a colloquial term for a penis.

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