Grab Shell, Dude!
Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
42Trip End Feb 24, 2008
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The sun gradually rose as we sped through France and everything was going to plan until just before Lille. An announcement through the train woke up several passengers, and just as well, because it detailed arrangments for us to change trains at Lille due to a defective Eurostar set running toward London. In Lille we were to swap to the problem train from Paris while our set returned to London with the passengers from the other train. This swap went off without any major hassles and the somehow defective train appeared to function normally into Paris
Arrival into Paris was about 30 minutes late due to our swap and so by the time we had queued to buy RER tickets back out to Disneyland Paris (the ticket machines only take local credit cards and coins!) and managed to get onboard the train it was looking doubtful that we would be able to make our complementary breakfast at the Sequoia. Our allocated time had been 10:30am but we knew we would not be arriving until 10:50am at the earliest, desperate to have a proper breakfast as the snacks on the Eurostar weren't going to cut it until lunch.
Thankfully when we did get back to Disney's Sequoia Lodge at 11am the staff let us have a breakfast with the last few stragglers who were still at their tables. This was a pretty simple affair; just croissants, bread, cereal, fruit salad and the usual freaky cold meats selection. Sadly nothing like the fantastic breakfast buffet one can expect at the Hollywood Hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland.
With our tanks now full it was back to the untouched room for a shower and quick rechrge before hitting the Walt Disney Studios Park for the day
To our surprise we filled the whole of Monday afternoon in the Studios, enjoying the brand-new (only open a few weeks) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Crush's Coaster (openned March) as well as the Moteurs Action Stunt Show, the Rock'n Roller Coaster and the Studio Tram Tour.
I really enjoyed Crush's Coaster, themed as though guests are riding on a turtle shell as the turtle rides the East Australian Current as happens in the Pixar movie Finding Nemo. This ride consistently had the longest queues in the resort during our stay but we braved the 25 minute wait to see what it was like. The queue area is lame in that the "Australian" theming is highly inaccurate; is the beach just covered in Stratco sheds and who says "shrimps" anyway? We ended up being stuck in said queue for an extended period as the ride broke down as we were just getting close to riding
The ride itself is great fun; a nice outside drop to begin with before a few specy show scenes passed at varying slow speeds and then the great free spinning "yee ha!" and "woo hoo" of surfing the East Australian Current - Grab shell, dude!
The Tower of Terror ended up as Belinda's favourite ride at Disneyland Resort Paris, with its enticing story, neat "how did they do that?" effects and thrilling finale earning her vote. Indeed over the course of our stay it was probably our most ridden attraction; you just can't beat a cool ride with no queues! A bit of context: Guests are visitors to the haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel, where 5 people mysteriously vanished in a freak storm in 1939. A still-working service elevator takes guests through the hotel to explore and investigate as the crossover into the Twilight Zone. How cool is it? So cool that it pulls the lifts down faster than gravity, so cool that at one point you can't tell whether you're travelling down or up, so cool that we bought T-shirts (although, not for a few days yet)!
As the Studios closed at 6pm we thought we'd pop over to Disneyland Park next door for the rest of the evening, only to find that it too closed at 6pm! This is typical European winter defeatism and it was a real annoyance because you can't really have dinner in the park if it closes at 6pm, can you?
Under a spattering of rain we walked back through the Disney Village (shopping and entertainment precinct) from the parks to our hotel, ready for some dinner to cap off the day. We were able to use our pre-paid Half Board Plus meal vouchers at the hotel's buffet (normally a staggering €27 each, without drinks) to get the buffet and a 500ml drink without paying a cent. Calculations indicated that with the plan we saved up to €10 a day, each.
Not surprisingly it was an early night for us, going to bed just after we had checked to see that there was no wireless internet in our room, hence the lack of updates during our stay at the resort.
We woke in time for our allocated 9am breakfast, in the buffet where we had dined the previous night. Equipped for the day we headed off to the parks, commenting to each other at the absurdity of a family-friendly remake of 'Gangsta's Paradise' being played at Disney Village as we passed through
Our first stop was the Studios once again, with the intention of riding Crush's Coaster as we had declined to ride more than once on the previous day due to a relatively hefty 25 minute queue. When we arrived at the park the coaster was down due to "technical problems" and the weather was particularly sour so we were left sheltering around a closed merchandise stand hoping the ride would open soon. When it didn't look as though it would reopen we continued with our plan, going to see the first show of the day, Animagique. It was nice enough, the best part about it being the cool black-light effects that you don't see in normal shows.
There was then time for another quick ride on the Tower of Terror before we took in a session of Cinemagique, a somewhat interactive and funny film with a story that travels through the history of cinema. Worth watching but not high on the repeatability list.
For the rest of Tuesday we were in the Disneyland Park, revisiting some classic favourite attractions. To my surprise Belinda's previous visits to the park had omitted some important attractions such as the Disneyland Railroad, Adventure Isle and Pirates of the Caribbean
Lunch consisted of some DIY burgers in Discoveryland, which we decided never to eat again because of the relatively cheap but generally expensive prices.
The weather on Tuesday was the worst of the trip with strong winds and constant drizzle turning to semi-proper rain in the evening. Despite this it was probably the busiest day of our stay for crowds. Go figure.
We did our first little bit of shopping on this day, at Belinda's insistance. In a move that harks back to our Hong Kong trip she decided that we needed headwear, so with much deliberation inside Main Street's Emporium we ended up with some character ears. I got Pluto (Mickey's dog) ears and Belinda grabbed some Tigger ones.
It had been decided that since we were in Disneyland Park we would stay to watch the Candleabration ceremony at the hub. With the resort, and thus Disneyland Park, celebrating its 15th anniversary Sleeping Beauty's Castle has been decorated with characters on its spires holding candles
Under the steadily getting heavier rain a shortened version of the ceremony was performed, which was great for us because it cut out all of the unnecessary dancing and just went straight for the lighting. The castle looked great at night with its extra lights and the ceremony made for a nice end to the day, albeit early at 6pm and us being soaked.
To acheive even better value for money and have some variety we chose to have dinner at the Cape Cod. This is a buffet restaurant inside the neighbouring Newport Bay Club hotel, which is the next one up in terms of price from our Sequoia Lodge. It is a massive place, stretching out along the Disney Village lake. It is so large that it was the biggest hotel in Europe (by rooms) when it openned in 1992. The food and atmosphere were good, a bit better than the Sequoia Lodge the previous night but it was weird having seafood variations of normal dishes, for instance caviar in potato salad.
The Sequoia Lodge does have WiFi access in the lobby although we were unable to get it to work
Wednesday was a day of Extra Magic Hours in Disneyland Park, meaning that hotel guests are able to get into the park at 8am, 2 hours before the general public. To capitalise on this opportunity we arose early and left for the park straight away. Once inside at about 8:10am it was a simple matter of walking down a deserted Main Street to Fantasyland and the Pinocchio restaurant for breakfast. This in park "Good Morning Fantasyland" breakfast was free of charge, replacing the free breakfast that we would normally have in the hotel.
A near-empty Disneyland Park is a funny place to be but we weren't going to daudle and miss out on getting on some of the rides that were open early for us. Space Mountain was running only 1 (out of 6) trains and there was no queue so this is where we spent most of the morning.
Our intentions were to use our early morning advantage to get to the Studios Park for openning at 10am and get on Crush's Coaster before the crowds arrived
The rest of the day was spent park hopping as we finished off the list of rides we wanted to visit, many with non-existant, walk-on queues, in both parks. We also made it to some shops in both of the parks, resulting in the purchase of some shirts and other goodies from the Tower of Terror shop after one of many rides that day.
We found ourselves back in Disneyland Park for their 15th anniversary parade at 4pm, much to Belinda's reluctance. We're both glad that we went to the parade because as the Winnie the Pooh float passed Tigger came out of the parade, under the rope and over to where we were standing to wiggle Belinda's Tigger ears, give her a hug and then run back to rejoin the procession! It all happened very quickly and took a while to sink in so there was no opportunity for photos or video of this bizare, yet delightful occurence.
Disatissfied with the park closing time we had booked a table at the Plaza Gardens restaurant fo 5pm, having a nice early dinner buffet. We had only snacked for lunch in preparation for the early dinner so we were both hungry by the time we got to the restaurant
We had time for a few memorable last of the day rides on Space Mountain before the park closed and we were forced to return to the hotel for the evening. The Disney Channel kept us entertained until 8pm when we were able to go up to the hotel's shop to pick up a few purchases we had made earlier in the day at the park.
Thursday was our final day at the resort and thus it began with breakfast and the dumping of our bags into the storage facility after check-out. The parks once again greeted us with open arms, the Studios being the one we chose first. The day was all about re-riding our favourites and enjoying the better, but not completely dry, weather.
By this stage in the trip we were starting to form specific relationships with castmembers on the Tower of Terror and Space Mountain, our 2 most visited attractions. On the Tower of Terror we had "why 2?" guy, who we had met on Tuesday.
"Vous etes combien?"
"Yes, but why 'Why two?'!?"
He was great fun and we saw him a few more times as we rode the attraction and he recognised us so we continued our weird exchanges.
At least he wasn't as direct as the lady at the hotel check in when I was thinking out aloud, filling in the arrival form:
"We don't have any under 15's..."
Belinda and I just had to laugh.
The other cast member was "woof, woof!" guy on Space Mountain
Our final meal vouchers were used at the Lucky Nugget Salon in Frontierland, where we enjoyed a fun character lunch buffet that normally goes for a hefty €30, without drinks. We both had a great time here with the live jazz band and characters running around mingling. Special mention must be made of Pluto and Goofy who were both great fun and went to efforts to involve everyone, even us "grown-ups". Goofy was even serving food out of the buffet at one stage, of course in a silly way, for example a single piece of pasta per plate!
When it came to 3:30pm, time to leave, it was hard to drag Belinda away. She just wanted another "last ride" on the Tower of Terror and was sad to be leaving, despite us having ridden everything that we wanted to. I suppose the worst thing was that we were leaving the Disneyland Resort and knew we were subjecting ourselves to the ghetto RER and the less than wonderful TGV...