It’s not often that you get invited by Disney to go to a special exhibition in Paris, so I was really excited this week to head to St Pancras to be whisked to the beautiful City of Lights. Unfortunately, being the travel professional that I am, I turned up without my passport. My heart sank and I was absolutely convinced that I would have to miss this wonderful opportunity. Happily, my amazing family came rushing to the rescue and managed to deliver my passport to me at Euston, allowing me to hop on the next Eurostar and arrive just in time for lunch (always my favourite bit). Anyhoo, after all that drama, it was time to immerse myself into the wonderful world of Marvel Superheroes and find out all about the plans for Marvel Summer of Superheroes at a special exhibition, live from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
So I don’t know if you remember, but a while back, I set Sam a little challenge: head to Paris using the Eurostar’s offer of a day trip to Paris and Brussels for just £58 return, and go and do exciting things without spending any money (we gave him money for lunch and metro/bus tickets). Here’s how he and Georgie (a girl he really likes) got on:
How are your summer holidays going? Apparently there’s going to be a little mini heatwave next week. Got anything planned? Want to win a family day trip to Paris with Eurostar? Or how about a day trip to Brussels? The lovely chaps at Eurostar are encouraging us Brits to head off and explore Europe. I’ve challenged Sam to spend a day in Paris next week doing as many free things as he possibly can – update coming very soon, but until then, fancy doing the same? Throughout August, you can jump on board Eurostar for a day trip to Paris and Brussels for just £58 return, spend 8 hours exploring and then hop back on the train and be home before bedtime. Kids under 4 even travel for free! To celebrate, I’ve got a family ticket to give away!
Setting sail on April 14th, Ovation of the Seas, the third in Royal Caribbean’s ground-breaking Quantum Class fleet, will bring Royal Caribbean’s typical sense of fun and adventure to the shores of Europe before she heads to Asia. Along with bionic bartenders, the fabulous FlowRider and the incredible North Star observation capsule, which soars over 300ft in the air and over the side of the ship, guests can do everything from skydiving in the spectactular RipCord by iFLY simulator to driving bumper cars and high wire circus training at SeaPlex, the largest entertainment complex at sea.
Recently, I was lucky enough to take a special, if rather cold and rainy, trip to Disneyland Paris for a sneaky peek behind the scenes of the brand new show, ‘Disney’s Forest of Enchantment: A Disney Musical Adventure’. You’ll probably remember that this summer, the boys and I were at the park to watch the Frozen Summer Sing-along, and this brand new show will take over at the Chaparral Theatre until 8th May, when Frozen Summer Fun will return.
So last time I was telling you about our luxe short break in Paris: our stay at Le Bristol and a spot of sightseeing. After this, we made our way to our second hotel. The stunning Hilton Paris Opera, which is centrally located on Rue Saint-Lazare, right next to the station of the same name – the perfect base for a bit of exploring!
We have these moments, usually when we’re walking the dog and talking rubbish, when we go ‘we MUST go on a break to Paris’. We both adore France, but have never actually been to Paris together, unless you count Disneyland, and it’s been on our to do list for ages. Finally, this summer, we got to plan our trip together, and we decided to go all out: a wonderful, romantic, luxe short break – just the two of us. Here’s how we got on.
It’s lovely to get away for a weekend, and Paris, especially at this time of year, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So why visit this ravishing place, then stay in a bland hotel? I’m always tearing out bits and bobs from travel magazines and scribbling details about hotels I’m dying to stay in. Here are three of my favourites:
This hotel (above) has been on my wishlist since I tore an article about it out of a magazine when it first opened. The rooms are just incredible (and slightly barking), with space age details, amazing lighting, ‘floating’ beds… there’s even a 007 room.
Located on Rue Berthollet in Paris’ bohemian 5th arrondissement Latin Quarter, there’s all sorts to discover locally (take a wander along Boulevard St Michel – fab for people watching. In fact, keep going and visit the Pantheon, the Luxembourg Gardens and the gobsmacking Palais de Luxembourg).
It may well be a chain hotel, but there’s absolutely nothing bland about Le Dokhan’s. Quite apart from the fabulous location (it’s a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées, and right by the Trocadéro metro stop) this hotel is beautifully decorated, with sumptuous soft furnishings and marble bathrooms. There is even one suite with a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower: perfect for a romantic weekend away.
This seven storey Art Deco monster boasts a fabulous location on rue de Courcelles, just (as the name suggests) minutes from L’Arc de Triomphe. Not your budget option, admittedly, but one look at the incredible tropical garden at the centre of the building, and your credit card bill will be forgotten. The lobby of this hotel is just incredible – there’s nothing like a ‘take your breath away’ reception area to start your holiday in the right frame of mind!
You can find these hotels, and many more, on Holidaycheck, where you can also find more reviews if you need more insights into any of these amazing hotels.
The Death Wish Dude and I arrived at St Pancras (in sizzling sunshine – don’t you just love London when the sun’s out?) to board the Eurostar. We’d been invited to join the great and good of the world’s media to celebrate Disneyland Paris’ 20th anniversary and to get a sneaky preview at some of the new parades and shows especially created to mark this incredible birthday.
Disneyland Paris opened on 12th April 1992, adding Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002. It’s within easy walking distance of its very own Eurostar station and there are seven hotels located near the site too. It’s a real ‘one stop shop’ as far as entertainment goes, and we love it.
The Eurostar journey is another favourite of mine. I love being able to walk about, chat, eat and relax while being whizzed towards France. It’s such a relaxed journey. The Dude hadn’t experienced it as a foot passenger before and thoroughly enjoyed being fussed over by the Eurostar staff!
On arrival, we dumped our bags at the hotel (The Hotel New York, one of my favourites) and rushed straight to the park. I decided to give the Dude the same introduction to rollercoasters as I’d received myself back at Walt Disney World, the amazing Rock’n’Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith – one of the fastest rides of all the Disney parks and, so I’m told, with acceleration akin to that of a Formula One car. The dude was hooked and we headed straight back to the front for another go. This ended up setting the scene for most of our weekend – a veritable orgy of thrill rides, maximum velocity and loop the loops, with a lot of Disney magic thrown in!
I wanted to head over to the the Toy Story Playland at the Walt Disney Studios Park as it was just being opened the last time I was there. We weren’t disappointed. The Toy Story themed area is packed full of amazing rides – we loved the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, and the AMAZING RC Racer (don’t go on this one if you like the feeling of being dangled in mid air before rocketing backwards and forwards at very high speed – we loved it!). Carrying on the maximum velocity theme, we headed back over to the Disneyland Park (we weren’t very good at planning our route – too darn excited) for Discoveryland’s Space Mountain and Star Tours. Both with puke-making potential, but loved equally by the Dude.
We headed back to our lovely hotel for a dip in the pool (the outside bit was completely deserted and we swam and sunbathed – blissful) before heading back out to the park to enjoy a private dinner in the (now closed) Walt Disney Studios, catching up with a few of our favourite characters too. After a quick scream on the Tower of Terror with our favourite Disney Dave, we had several whizzes around Crush’s Coaster – another amazing indoor/outdoor thrill ride before retiring, somewhat giddily, for the night.
After a late start (another thing I love – breakfast served until 11am!) and mountains of pancakes and maple syrup later (you can’t visit a Disney resort without eating a pancake mountain or two), we headed straight for the Disneyland Park for a duel on one of my favourite Disney attractions, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (for some reason it really tickles me that his French name is ‘Buzz L’Eclair’). I decided to share some of my favourite rides with the Dude: the wonderfully themed and bone-shakingly brilliant ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril’ coaster, and the beautiful, gentle and atmospheric classic, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.
Disney Magic on Parade!
Next it was time for the first showing of the brand new ‘Disney Magic on Parade’, a riot of colourful characters on amazing floats (I’m still singing the fab new music!) celebrating Disneyland Paris’ 20th birthday. I love Disney parades (I always have a little cry) and was ridiculously pleased to see that the Death Wish Dude was entranced as well. Look out for the Toy Story float (one of my favourites) and the lovely Rapunzel too. Watch out for the fabulous bumblebees floating around Winnie the Pooh.
On Saturday evening we were invited to the 20th anniversary celebration gala dinner. The venue was like nothing I’d ever seen before. We were led along a path lit by glowing orbs into a massive marquee (the word ‘marquee’ doesn’t really do it, but it’s the best I can do), lit by chandeliers and sparkling with glitter and glass:
I’m going to have to do a separate piece about the food because it was SO fantastic I can’t possibly elaborate enough here! We had our faces painted by amazingly talented artists, and were all given glow sticks while clouds of smoke billowed out into the venue from hidden smoke machines. The atmosphere was just incredible – here’s one for the family album:
After the gala dinner, we were led to the park (by a man in a suit with a giant balloon strapped to his back) past amazing street performers on stilts and in spectacular inflated and illuminated costumes, to the park, which was lit with a million lights and looked spectacular.
As we entered, all the cast members were lined up, waving huge glowing light sticks and calling out ‘bienvenues!’ and ‘bon anniversaire!’. It was absolutely magical and strangely emotional too. We listened to speeches by the CEO of Disneyland Paris and Zinedine Zidane before walking down Main Street USA with huge confetti cannons going off all around us, blasting little golden ’20’ letters into the sky which was awash with colour and sparkles.
Next up was the new sound and light spectacular that will be performed at Disneyland Paris from now on in the evenings (always check the schedule for timings). This show was SO amazing that we sat next to Jonathan Ross and didn’t look at him once. Yup, THAT amazing.
I can’t even begin to describe the show, but with the aid of clever lighting, the castle was transformed into jungle scenes, Notre Dame and even a huge waterfall. Images were somehow played on walls of water, and massive flame throwers whooshed into the sky. Just. Incredible.
After the amazing show, we were interviewed by Channel 5 (everything was so surreal this weekend, even THAT seemed normal). Here’s the Dude who was, apparently, a ‘natural’:
After a final day in the parks, whizzing around on Space Mountain, getting competitive on Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast and screaming our lungs out on the Tower of Terror, we headed, knackered, to the Eurostar station. What a thoroughly amazing weekend – I have to say it’s probably my favourite ever Disney visit, and that takes some beating.
A MASSIVE thank you to the very lovely and incredibly hard-working Disney team and a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Disneyland Paris too. For all the rest of the photos from this trip, go to my Facebook page: facebook.com/englishmumdotcom
During the 20th anniversary celebrations at Disneyland Park, prices for a two-night, three-day package including return travel with Eurostar in April 2012 start from £856 for a family of two adults and two children (aged 4-6 years). Price includes return travel with Eurostar, two nights’ accommodation at the Hotel Santa Fe and three day hopper tickets with unlimited access to the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park and is based on two adults sharing.
For longer stays, Disneyland Paris is offering guests up to 40% off Disney Hotels and park tickets as well as kids under 7 visiting for free. For more info call 08448 008 111 or visit www.disneylandparis.com.
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