First off, I must apologise to one person in particular – my son. At the time of this visit he was 6 months old, so we decided he would be best staying with his grandparents and us making the visit. To be frank, he wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway at that age (though my work colleagues were quite insistent he would). So sorry son, I owe you a trip to Disneyland Paris.
This trip was a strange one, and expensive. I can’t quite remember how much it was in total, but we decided to book it with just a few weeks to go. We booked the flight and hotel separately, and then all we had to do was sort out travelling from the airport to the hotel.
Basically, we wanted to do Disneyland Paris. Well, we also wanted to try to do more European cities. I’d also like to do Parc Asterix at some point, which has more in the way of thrill rides, plus I loved Asterix books as a kid. If we ever go back to France it’s on my to-do list. But we figured that Disneyland Paris has two parks. Counting in the time to get to the parks, we’d probably be able to squeeze in travelling to the area AND going into the parks on the first day, then spend a full day in the parks. And of course it’d be rude not to do a full day in Paris, followed by a day dedicated to travelling back.
And that’s more or less how it worked.
I can’t remember who we booked through for the plane there – I think it was a no-frills carrier – either easyJet or Jet2 – out of Leeds Bradford. An hour and a half, with a timezone change, meant that we’d set off at 11am GMT and get in at 1:30pm local time.
The short time there also meant we didn’t have to take much in the way of clothing, so we could avoid taking suitcases and cram as much as we could into carry-on baggage. Aside from the clothes we had on us (coats included), we each took extra jeans, t-shirts and all the necessities, sharing between bags as we needed. I also took the latest Dune book, sucker that I am for them (especially as they’re extra-large paperbacks when they come out and it JUST fits into the mid-section of my backpack).
But how to get from the airport to the parks? We’re going into Charles de Gaulle, the main airport outside Paris. There are numerous coach companies offering regular trips to Disneyland Paris, including hotel drop-off, but they take 45 minutes to get there (if not longer – this is Paris, remember), followed by dropping everyone off at their individual hotels.
Okay, probably wrong order. We’d chosen a hotel that was located in Val d’Europe, part of the new town of Marne-la-Vallée which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from Disneyland Paris (the Disneyland Park and Studios are next door to each other, as one complex). I believe it was the local Hipark – an apartment/hotel which worked out at a decent price, with all the amenities and free transport to and from the parks, as well as a big shopping centre nearby.
So with flights and hotel sorted, how to get to the parks from the airport? For that I’m quite proud of myself. The coaches seemed alright, but then we found out about the TGV – a very fast train which can make the trip from CDG to Disneyland Paris in 10 minutes! Armed with that information, directions to the station (in terminal 2 of CDG – we landed at terminal 3) and the assurance that luggage facilities are available at both the TGV station at Disneyland Paris, and at the parks themselves, we were happy.
The plan was to fly over with no suitcases – just our carry-on luggage in the shape of backpacks. Once we arrive, get through passport control as quickly as possible. Without having to wait for luggage, we’d be through like a shot. Then walk the short distance from terminal 3 to the nearest monorail station and catch the monorail over to terminal 2. The TGV station is just below that, so buy tickets there and grab the next TGV to the parks.
And everything nearly went according to plan. Needless to say, we were landing at 1:30 and the next TGV was at 2:07. We would have made it, just, if we had the tickets ready. Instead, I couldn’t figure out how to get an “open” ticket (rather than booking for a specific train) and didn’t want to risk buying a ticket for the 2:07 and missing it, so I decided I’d leave it until we got there. The result was that we would have made the 2:07 (but only just) if we had the ticket, especially as the plane ran according to schedule and we made it through passport control pretty much instantly. Instead we waited for a later one at about 3:30-ish.
I’ll be going through that in more detail on that day, but thought I’d best mention it there.
As for Paris itself, we found various regular Metro and RER train routes going into and out of Paris, as well as around the city. We planned to see the Eiffel Tower and also go on the bus tours that operate there (and in practically every other major city around the world). The Catacombs also looked interesting, as well as a trip up the Arc de Triomphe and looking around the Champs-Élysées. The Notre Dame cathedral was also on the list (the bus tour passed this), as was just seeing the Louvre. I also downloaded the wiki pages on these to my phone to swot up on them a bit.
This is where everyone needs Google Maps on their phones, because even though mine’s an ancient smartphone and I don’t use the internet on it except when I’m hooked up to wifi, it allows you to download maps straight to your phone. Consequently, I downloaded a map of the Disney area (which is a circle, incidentally) which also included our hotel and the nearby town of Marne-la-Vallée (including our hotel, shopping centre and local RER / Metro station (I can’t remember which is which – there are main French train lines and also a Paris system), and a map of the areas of Paris we wanted to visit.
I also should mention ride closures. Disneyland Paris routinely close rides in order to carry out refurbishments, maintenance etc. Fortunately they post lists of which rides are to close and when. During our visit it was Crush’s Coaster and the Indiana Jones rollercoaster, as well as Captain EO. All a bit of a loss really, as we do love our coasters, but we couldn’t really go at any other point. Having since looked at on-ride videos, Crush’s Coaster would probably have been good but Indiana Jones seems kinda poor.
With all this, we were (hopefully) most definitely ready.