15 Jan 2008

Disneyland Paris 26th Dec Day 3

A quick update for the blog itself. I have managed from this entry forward to fix the picture links so they will now expand properly on clicking. And so on with Day 3...
I think we deserve a gentle and relaxing lie in. Don't let those words cross my lips again. Even at the late hour of 8.30am the restaurant for le petit déjeuner has either been stormed by a division of the riot police or its full of children; looking at the carnage around its hard to decide which but there are a lot of small princesses running around. Wow! Belle really should have tried wearing salopettes under her dress before she set off looking for the old guy. We eat quickly and beat a retreat leaving the destruction behind. A bus arrives promptly and we head off into the fog.

Heading straight for the transformed Studios, which have opened a little earlier than the gate time, we are quickly through Studio 1 and make a right turn towards Crush. It's already beginning to generate a queue despite the fact it has not yet opened and this tends to be the story all day. It's not what you would call the highest capacity ride in the world, nor the fastest loader which makes Fast Pass a bit of a non starter for it, so arrive early and don't leave the queue no matter what story the CM comes up with to try to move you to another attraction. Once inside and at the front of the boarding area the house lights come on and the attraction is declared to be broken down. I eventually start to develop a theory about this; once a queue reaches back to the park entrance, pretend Crush has broken down for 5mins and disperse the queue. Finally we ride again and once again it's as crazy as ever and we still don't know which way is up. We love it.

After riding and re riding ToT on a FP we grabbed earlier and then taking the customary cup of hot water and a tea bag in the studio 1 cafe its time to head back over to the MK. The parks seem busier today than the previous days but all the gates are open and I have yet to see any major queues at the entrance barriers; apart from the central gates which people seem to flock to like sheep, ignoring the fact those on the left and right are often empty. We have a lunch booking today at the newly re opened Agrabah restaurant. We are about to take the customary short cut through the enclosed arcades at the back of Main street when a small parade takes place however so we stop to watch watch as the character express glides past.

Lunch in the Agrabah after another ride on BTM and POC is a nice enough affair, a few teething problems seem to be affecting the efficiency of its operation but its a hidden delight and the theming is exquisite, the food is fine as well and I'll cover the restaurant in more detail soon. After lunch we decide to wander over to the far reaches of Frontierland passing the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue, a building I have somehow missed previously. In fact this whole area is one I'm not over familiar with. It seems quite an empty area, indeed the area is earmarked for a future as yet undisclosed attraction. The biggest name on everyones' lips is Splash Mountain which would fit in thematically. Personally if that rumour is true it will have to be "You are guaranteed to keep dry" water ride to have any hope of attracting guests in the freezing winter months. Hopefully the park will get something totally new along the lines of the new developments currently earmarked for CA and WDW.

As it is this area is rather open and in some ways quite attractive, the Frontierland Depot Station looks very effective in its detached lonesome position, especially surrounded by the bleak yet bright colours of the fallen leaves. There's also a small western themed corral which has currently been turned into Sherrif Woody's round up Village and a place for Father Christmas to meet and greet. Just hidden down a small path as you approach this area of the park, and I note unmentioned on the guide map, is a small landing stage where the Keel boats dock. Even today at a relatively busy time there is hardly a queue at all. So we board for a sedate trip around the lake weaving around the Mark Twain and Big Thunder Mountain Island. The Keel boats only run on days when CMs with boat piloting licences are working so its hard to guarantee when they are operating; if they are though take a trip if only for a short break from the crowds.

Whilst in this area on arrival back from our sojourn around the lake its good timing to take in the show that Frontierland has to offer. Yes it's "Mickey's Winter Wonderland" in The Chaparral Theater, described in the guide as "A musical comedy full of wit and magic". I'm already beginning to question the sanity of the Imagineer who thought it would be a good idea to have a ice skating show set in the icy wonderland actually in an outdoor theatre in the icy french winter; but its all good fun even if we appear to have frozen to the bench by the end of the show and can no longer feel our toes. We head across to the Cookout Barn for hot drinks to warm up, actually this looks like quite a nice cheap and cheerful place to eat serving rather good looking (and smelling) ribs rather than the obligatory burgers most of these self service places seem to specialize in and its quite well themed inside as well as out.

After riding more of our favourites on the Fast Passes we had collected earlier and a little more shopping to pass the time we take in the parade and have a dinner appointment at one of our old favourites upstairs on Main Street "Walts". It's the final sitting and we have the place almost to ourselves and once again enjoy a long slow dinner looking down from the window onto the crowds on Main Street getting snowed on at regular intervals. Then its time to head back and set the alarm clock a little earlier to avoid the scrum tomorrow morning and hit the early entry for the MK as well.

3 Jan 2008

Disneyland Paris 25th December Day 2

We certainly get a full nights deep sleep in our room, free from any corridor or adjoining room noise which is a plus. What I am not so keen on is the sparsity of this room which is large but very empty, there is very little decoration or furnishing. The laundry is thin and rather limited, no face flannels are provided at all. There is a safe which is great but the lack of basics such as a kettle or any tea and coffee making facilities does make you wonder why on earth this is regarded on some web sites as a higher starred facility than some of its competitors. To be honest it was not be our first choice and the initial plan this year had been to return to WDW Florida for Christmas, however with news of ToT opening early we just could not resist and had to take what was available in the resort. Breakfast is basic and rather unappealing though the restaurant staff are extremely friendly and courteous it must be said. We take the hotel bus after a small breakfast across to the MK and enter the bag check. Masses of people are congregating around this area in some confusion as they are turned away for not having the correct Annual Pass or Disney Hotel ID to gain Early Admission. Once inside the park we head under the railway station and walk slowly up Main Street in the cool morning air. As we approach the castle the early morning orange sunlight is darting in and out of the clouds creating fantastic strokes of light and shadow on the buildings, a most magical effect that's difficult to capture on camera but highlights beautifully the new gold detail which has been added for the 15th anniversary.

Then we pass under the Parisian MK Castle, always special and unique with its dungeons (and the guest that lurks within) and galleries for guests to explore. The first ride we walk on to with no queue whatsoever is Snow White's house of horrors as I fondly call it. We love this ride for rather odd reasons, I think there's something fantastic in the storytelling of the Imagineers design that take you from the sublime fairytale opening to the dark horrors to come. The forest scene is a classic vintage dark ride experience. We share the car with a Mother and her young daughter who leaves the ride rather unsuitably traumatised for her first morning in Fantasyland, oh dear, hope she recovers quickly. Next its time for Peter Pan: another walk on and another classic ride first developed by Walt for Anaheim in 1955. It has changed a lot since then (most noticeably the fact that Peter Pan now appears in some form in the ride) and a lot of touches now differentiate each version in each park. Amazingly despite its age and roots this ride is proof positive that a classic will endure; just check out the queue times later in the day.

Next its time for (hold your breath) a spin on the carousel, in all the years of visiting Disneylands and Worlds this is actually the first time we have actually been on this old piece of nostalgia, but once again its another Christmas Day morning walk on as are the tea cups. After a quick ride on Pinocchio (no queue again) I then force Jackie to go and climb up inside the balcony of the castle and appear outside to wave for a picture before we head back to the hub and across to Videopolis in search of a warm drink. Unfortunately everything is still shut so we head back to the hub just in time for the rope drop, the trouble is we're on the wrong side of the rope drop. Feeling like Moses trying to part the red sea we head towards Frontierland, two lonesome figures heading west against a sea of charging Discoveryland fans.

We cross sides, passing the Indian village before entering Frontierland, there's no sign of Pocahontas in the camp this morning, hardly surprising though, I estimate the temperature to be just above zero. The lake itself is actually frozen, the Mark Twain paddle cruiser appears crunching its way forward as it cuts a path through the water like some Ice breaking vessel negotiating the Northwest Passage. The Keel boats are also out which we have never seen before; these boats were retired sometime ago as a cost cutting exercise so its great to see them back. Also waiting at the other side of the lake is the Molly Brown, the second paddle steamer, however she uses a central driving paddle instead of the more traditional rear system of the Mark Twain. On reaching BTM we grab a fastpass to return in an hour or so and set off across to POC.

One of our favourite POC rides it has the length and structure of Anaheim, all be it in a slightly different order, yet lacking the utter ludicrous "half the rides missing" experience that Florida "treats" you with. In fact it certainly has a much better themed queueing area than both those parks. However Anaheim still wins by having the proper space and scale in the out at sea section, in Paris, as in Florida, this set seems just slightly too small and cramped. Then its time to pick up our slot for BTM. I think its pretty universally accepted already even by the imagineers themselves that this is a special version of BTM, sitting on an island in the middle of the lake yet boarded as usual on the mainland, the trains first rush off through pitch black tunnels under the lake before emerging onto the island itself. The only thing that is missing is the theming of the ghost town which exists in Anaheim in the final braking section though this is recreated in Paris and given a total twist in Phantom Manor when you descend into the catacombs. And its to Phantom Manor we head too next, first picking up another FP for BTM which should just fit in nicely before lunch. despite a visible queue its pretty much straight onto this efficient loader.

Before taking our second BTM ride we refresh and reheat a little with a cup of tea from the Fuente del Oro Restaurante. I do wish the Americans and the French will join the civilised world one day and realise that tea is not a cup of hot water with a tea bag on the side, and what gives with the hot milk :) Refreshed and warmed it's soon time though to take that next BTM ride, we should just fit it in before lunch at the Blue Lagoon. One thing I wish they would sort out here is the roof of the BTM building that is below the queue area of the fastpass line. Its always constantly littered every time we visit, surely it could be added to a night time cleaning schedule. BTM ridden again, and my hands blue from waving them in the air but forgetting to wear gloves (DOH) we head back over to Adventureland passing La Cabane des Robinson and Adventure Isle on the way.

The entrance to the Blue Lagoon is tucked away in the corner of the fort that creates the facade of the entrance to the POC. The theming and landscaping in this area is superb, for instance we can hear as we walked to this location the roar of the ride from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, but the lush landscaping keeps it out of sight and you realise there's still a whole area of the park yet to be explored. Like in Anaheim the restaurant itself is actually inside part of the ride, and is highly themed and extremely atmospheric. A major plus here though is the food is superb as is the wine. Its tropically warm as well which is nice and glorious amounts of shellfish, seafood and fine wines are consumed over a long relaxing lunch. The afternoon is then spent watching the shows starting with a rather surreal multi language experience involving a rather bemused looking Pooh and Friends at the Fantasy Festival Stage. Then its straight to the Videopolis theatre for the superb production Of Lion King, which I'm startled to find was choreographed by Strictlys very own darling, Craig Revel Horwood. A more straight theatre adaptation than the Florida and HK versions, this has masses of quality oozing from it. The production values are superb with better lighting and effects than even the West End version had. What is not up to scratch though is the sound which is unfortunately muffled and out of phase at times.

Its impossible to resist but with a parade time approaching we once again just have to take advantage and head over to the Studios, first refreshing in the Studio1 with more cups of hot water and tea bags. ToT has litttle queue again though crush is out of the question with times approaching 120mins. We ride the ToT repeatedly before making our way around to the Aerosmith RnR Coaster. The contrast as you enter this area of the Studios, which has not yet been touched by the new theming is quite startling; fingers crossed it changes soon. A little retail therapy then takes place, Jackie treating herself to a beautiful new watch, then its time to make our way to the Disneyland Hotel again for Christmas Dinner at the California Grill. Keep watching for the reviews.

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