Travels in France, part 1

Unlike my previous trips I had little access to the Internet while away and failed to take writing materials. Many of my observations and thoughts were lost but here’s what’s left in my mind:

Driving

Driving in France was less terrifying in my own car than in the left-hand drive rental cars I’ve used in the past. The run from St. Malo through Rennes, Le Mans and up to Paris was uneventful punctuated only by the unidentified random songs and the splatter of unfortunate insects emptying their stomachs onto my windscreen at 140kmh. I went through Paris, around the five lane ring-road several times and even drove along a section of road where I could see the fabled Arc de Triomphe, noted across Europe for being a top spot to avoid while driving because of it’s twelve avenue junction that surrounds it.

My trusty Nissan Silvia S14 (200SX) performed perfectly in the 1,426 miles I clocked in one week – impressive for somebody who lives on an island just nine miles long. The black-on-silver registration plate with it’s five numbers and no letters attracted some attention including a confused pedestrian who nearly made it the last thing he saw, and a driver at a petrol station who asked me where I was from before accidentally paying for my fuel. No doubt the confusion also saved me from the occasional horn beep when hesitating at a junction for a second or not meeting the French minimum speed of “sign-posted maximum speed + 35%”.

I actually enjoyed driving in France and Paris, but then Clarissa made a great navigator and I’d selected calming music including Magical Sound Shower

Disneyland Park

Little had changed since my previous visit, same rides, same long queues and the same blistering heat punctuated with a shower. The Maz was closed as was the center of the square and the Mexican themed restaurant. The paddlers were not in operation and looked quite decayed from the train Star Tours was either going for added realism of an olfactory nature or else somebody had recently emptied their bladder inside, either way the result was quite unpleasant. Space Mountain had been upgraded to a new 2.0 ride but alas we couldn’t ride this for our own reasons.

One new feature is the FastPass which means you can get a ticket for a ride and come back between the times it mentions, joining the shorter FastPass queue. Alas, not all rides support FastPass yet and on Thunder Mountain the FastPass queue still took 25 minutes. You can also only have one FastPass active at any one time, and the longest queue was for Peter Pan again with FastPass machines switched off. Europeans not used to the heat and it still amazes me that Disney can’t fork out a few quid to cover the queuing areas. As it was we saw one woman pass out in the queue for Peter Pan.

The parade was rather short and disappointed Clarissa who had fond memories from a trip many years ago when she stayed at the rather wonderful Bayport view.

I came away from Disney Land a little unimpressed, it was very busy and really is aimed at young children and their parents. I couldn’t help but feel suffocated in Main Street with almost every shop selling a variety of garish Disney merchandise. There are a few exceptions such as the photographic store, the hair dressers, the story shop and a couple of the food bars but would it kill Disney to try and theme the shop to what it says on the outside or stock merchandise that’s less in-your-face. Many designer brands get away with small logos and the Disney ears could be very subtle yet easily recognizable…

One pleasant surprise was the restaurant located right next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which had a wonderful atmosphere, the ride itself passing through it at one point. Through my own oversight we missed Pooh’s story time and the main indoor show.

Tips</p>
  • Avoid the big Disney ticket desk queues by getting your ticket in advance or from your hotel
  • Get your hand stamped on the way out, you’ll need it and your ticket if you want to get back in or to to go the other park
  • Movenpick, Explorers and Kyriad hotels are just a minute or two from the Disney hotels and are much cheaper, especially if you book with them direct

Walt Disney Studios

This whole park was new to Clarissa and myself and made up for my disappointments with the main park. Access was included in our three day hopper passes and everything in here was impressive from the back lot studio tour with it’s great physical effects to the Aerosmith themed indoor roller-coaster (which stopped part way through and we got to see it all with the lights on), the space-station simulation ride, a build-your-own-virtual-roller-coaster played back in a 360′ simulator, and a live stunt show.

This stunt show deserves a special mention, it was quite possibly the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in person. Five cars driving at high speed performing stunts, jumps, two-wheels, simulated crashes with people being shot and falling from the top of buildings to motorbikes doing stoppies, crashing and the riders catching fire. The most amazing thing was it all worked perfectly and that these guys perform all this twice a day… Wow!

Queues were very short, about 5-10 minutes maximum and there were very few shops instead there were many things to look at such as the Disney history and the tour of Disney Europe’s actual TV studio which is hosted here. You could learn about how a Disney character comes to life (in this case Mushu from Mulan) or enrol in a drawing class and learn how to draw the mouse himself. Most impressive!

Still to come… Versailles, the The Château of Valançay and Parc Asterix!

[)amien

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