Paul & Sue Hazelden
- Holiday Report -
Disneyland, Paris, 2004
For the February 2004 Half Term, Alan and Philip were both
booked onto a school ski trip. Ian was scheduled to take part in a
French exchange trip at Easter, and Sue decided he needed a bit
of practice at being in France, and perhaps a bit more exposure to
the French language before he went.
After various ideas were discussed and dismissed, and after we
discovered that Parc Asterix does not open until Easter, we
decided to take Ian back to Disneyland Paris. We had visited several
years earlier, but Ian was too small at the time to do many of the
rides, and this was his chance to catch up.
Sue searched around on the Internet and found us a good deal
with a hotel, le Roi du Lac in Lognes, just a few stops
down the main RER line from Disneyland, and the Eurostar tickets.
For Disneyland, we had three-day passes, which allowed us to move
between the two main parks as we liked on any of three days in the
next three years: this turned out to be just about right.
The only potential problem in the booking procedure was that
Disneyland required us to fill in a form to confirm our booking
and post it back to them before sending our tickets... presumably
too many children have discovered their parents' credit cards and
decided to book a holiday without checking first. Anyway, the
tickets arrived on the Thursday, two days before we departed -
too close for total comfort.
On the Friday, we waved Alan and Philip goodbye. On Saturday
afternoon, we drove to London to Paul's parents, via Pip and
Philip in Newbury. On Sunday we rested and visited Greenwich Park
and the Observatory there - well worth another visit. Monday
morning, Roger gave us a lift to the station, then up to Waterloo
for the Eurostar. We then had to buy another ticket for the last
stretch of the journey on the RER to Torcy, and walked to the
hotel: they had sent us directions, which were fine.
We relaxed in the hotel for the rest of the day, visited
Disneyland on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then back home
on the Friday: RER then Eurostar to Waterloo, train to Eltham,
parents picked up up from the station, gave us tea, and we drove
home arriving a little before midnight. Alan and Philip arrived
back safe and sound the next day.
Tips and Traps
A few pieces of advice for the unwary...
Take care to read what they tell you.
- At the entrance to the site, there is a sign that tells you
which attractions are not available that day. Reading
this helped us plan our route and minimise disappointment.
- If there is something you particularly want to do, check to see
if there are any warnings at the entrance to the attraction. One
item on our itinerary had a note on the welcome board saying
that the 'best' part of the tour (a virtual reality ride) would
not be available after 5:15 pm - which we only discovered too
Don't believe everything you read.
- The sign at the start telling us which attractions were
unavailable missed out at least one which was clearly
inoperative throughout the Winter.
- The waiting
times posted above the entrances to many of the attractions are
helpful, but often were significantly wrong - sometimes too long
and sometimes too short.
- The 'Fastpass' times above one ride were significantly different
from the times printed on our ticket, so we had to wait half an
hour longer than we had anticipated.
And, these may be obvious points, but here they are anyway...
Visiting in February means you risk frostbite, but the waiting
times for the attractions is much lower than at more popular
The waiting time for many attractions goes down towards the end
of the day, so it could be worth coming back later. Of course,
there is always a small risk something will go wrong, and it
won't be available later, but you can't have everything - it's a
matter of balancing how desperate you are to do this one thing
against the boredom of a long queue.
Bring a good book to read in the queues - there is generally
very little to entertain you as you wait.
I know this is blindingly obvious but... the larger
rollercoaster rides can get quite violent. You need to make
sure nothing is going to fall out of your pockets, and keep your head
firmly up against the padding or you can get knocked around a
The 'Fastpass' system is nearly brilliant. On some
attractions, you can get a ticket from a nearby machine that
allows you to come back at a specified time (usually in a
half-hour range) and go nearly to the front of the queue.
On some attractions, you by-pass more of the normal queue than
others. On Space Mountain there was something like a 15
minute queue from the point where you joined the main queue, and
a 10-minute wait to get in on the Fastpass ticket.
We did not use the Fastpass system on the Indiana Jones
ride because the advertised waiting time was only 20 minutes.
This was good because we then walked straight to the point where
the two queues merged, and only had less than 10 minutes in the
merged queue. So the Fastpass route may not be faster
than the normal one.
There is a notice above the Fastpass machines telling you when
you will be able to return for the ride. You have no choice
about this, so it does rather restrict your options about what
you do in the meantime. When we were there, it was often long
enough to snatch a quick cup of coffee, but not enough to do
Consequently, it was often faster for us to queue normally - the
choice between a 20 minute wait now, or a 10 minute wait in
minutes' time, for example. It all depends on what you can do
in those 35-65 minutes.
There are two main theme parks: the main Disneyland
Paris, and the Disney Studios. We basically spent one
day in each, and then spent the final day revisiting a few
attractions and catching up on the ones we missed the first time
around. This seems like quite a good plan if you have three days.
It all depends on whether you like Disney. For my money, The
Jungle Book is entertaining as long as you can completely
forget Rudyard Kipling, but their Winnie-the-Pooh is a
I suppose the characters wandering around in suits and signing
autograph books as 'Goofy' or 'Mickey Mouse' entertains the
younger children, but it doesn't work for me. I might enjoy
Fantasia, but I don't want to pretend I have met Mickey in
I had two basic problems with the whole experience.
- I lost count of the number of attractions in which we were lectured - I
can use no other word. For example, the train ride round the back of a 'film
set' couldn't just be entertaining, it had to be improving as
well. For some reason, we had to pretend we were on an
educational trip, learning about techniques used in film making.
If they had been really doing that, I would have enjoyed it far
more, but it was only entertainment dressed up as education.
- I know you don't go to Disneyland for authentic anything, but
the level of fakery took my breath away. In the mock-up of a
radio studio, they couldn't tell us that this is what the Disney
radio studio looks like, they had to pretend this was the real
thing. Why? I suppose it is consistent with the whole "If you
are lucky, Mickey Mouse might come round this corner in a few
minutes, children!" played-out fantasy world they have created.
Presumably, many people must find it charming, but personally,
I found it more disturbing as time went on.
But anyway, it is certainly an experience, and there are some
snippets of interesting details and facts slipped into the "Let's
pretend this is educational" bits. And Ian enjoyed himself in
France, which was the main purpose of the exercise.