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’.
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.