The highlight of my holiday was returning to Disneyland almost 19 years since I had last visited. Yes, it had changed. It was in a different country for a start (last time we visited the magical kingdom it was Florida, it truly is magic guys!) but what surprised me was how familiar everything felt. Disneyland still smells like candy floss and dreams. The big kid (not very carefully hidden) inside of me couldn’t wait to go on some rides.
HWSNBN, doing his best Scrooge impression, did not want to go to Disney ‘Too crowded and expensive’. Instead he would drive us there and then go into Paris for an afternoon of culture with my parents. He lasted until he saw the hot air balloon flying over Disney before he folded like wet paper.
As we had pre-booked our tickets online we strolled in, while HWSNBN queued and had his personal space invaded by an over amorous couple who mistook him for a wall. It was surreal walk down this quintessentially American Main Street and hear French, Spanish and Italian voices chattering excitedly. As my sister is disabled we queued at the information office for a carte verte, which allowed her and a certain number of carers (aka us woot!) to skip almost all of the queues and get straight on the rides.
Our first stop:
Space Mountain: Mission 2 aka the scariest ride ever when you’re an overexcitable ten year old
Terror seems to have wiped all memories of this ride from my head. But I was really surprised that my big sister was up for this. As we clambered into the seats and were strapped in, I could feel apprehension begin to build in my stomach. We were blasted up the tunnel where we hovered almost vertical before descending swirling and looping as the visuals of the stars and planet bloomed around it. It lasted 45 seconds. It felt like a lot longer. It was HWSNBN’s favourite ride. As I tried to get off my safety harness locked into place. I began to panic, visions of going round and round the ride spinning in my head. Luckily the lovely Disney employee helped me out. A little shaken we stumbled onto:
Wars Tours aka the one that made my little sister cry
Call it by whatever bogus name you want Disney, we all know it’s Star Wars. This is basically a flight simulation ride where strapped into a cockpit with 20 people you are jolted, twisted and dropped complete with an ultra bored French airspace hostess. Last time we were at Disneyland as soon as the doors locked my little sister had a full on meltdown. This was her chance for redemption. Except at the cabin shuddered I almost disgraced myself by throwing up everywhere. Outside in the 30 degree heat was Chewbacca posing for pictures with the kids. Sadly it was at the end of his photography session (they are only allowed out for 20 minute increments) so all HWSNBN could do was run futilely after Chewbacca as he walked away.
Pirates of the Carribbean aka the one we all loved
In terms of bang for your buck Pirates of the Caribbean delivers. Although we weren’t queuing we couldn’t help but notice the sharp contrast between the queuing time and the ride time. Thundermountain queuing time: 1hour 20 minutes, ride time: 1 minute. Pirates of the Caribbean is a loooooong ride. In boats you float through the water seeing models jerkily animate from skeleton pirates, to the sacking of a town it was brilliant. You even pass through the restaurant at one stage. All the disabled children in our boat were completely entranced.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril aka the one that made snot fly up
I hatttttttteeeeeeeeed this ride. For some reason I thought it was going to be like Thundermountain ie some ups and down but fairly tame. Wrong. Not only was it so fast, I was stuck to my seat with the force, it wasn’t until we set off that I noticed the track went upside down. As we spun upside down in a loop my nose (blocked all week) decided to choose that moment to clear itself.
Dumbo aka the ride where they thought I was HWSNBN’s carer
Listen, scoffers at the back you are never too old for Dumbo. Yes, we may have been the only people sans children but I am not ashamed. On the Dumbo ride you ride in twos inside a flying elephant that you control via lever to decide whether you want to soar or fall, or a sickness inducing mix of the two. Last time we went me and my little sis where in one, my mum and sister in the other. We spent the whole ride giggling as the ride made my mum sick so she refused to let my big sister press the button. Cue mega tantrum. 19 years later we were on a mission to redress the injustice. Before we got on the ride we were giving a disabled badge to hand to the attendant. I sat next to HWSNBN in the elephant as he fiddled with the seatbelt. As the Disney lady came round he held up the seatbelt with a sad face. She carefully buckled him in and talking to me all the time said ‘I hope he enjoys it’. We were in hysterics throughout the ride. As our little purple elephant soared we had a perfect birds eye view of the magical kingdom.
Peter Pan aka the ride that used to be awesome… and still is
As a child this was my favourite ride and it did not disappoint. You swoop through the air above lovingly rendered models from the starlit sky (‘past the first star then straight on til morning’), Peter’s shadow on the nursery wall, to the miniature volcano, and captain hook forever poised in the crocodile’s mouth. I could have stayed on this ride all day.
Thundermountain aka the one that we made my sister go on because we are evil
This was the last ride of the day and Lauren’s and my favourite. I had never been before but I knew that it was a rollercoaster but not as scary as some of the earlier rides. But by the time we got to this ride we had been at Disneyland all day and we were hot and tired. It was so popular we had to book a slot. But by the time we got to the front my big sister decided she did not want to go on the ride. Which was as problem as we could only ride with her as her carers. After a bit of wrangling and promises of food afterwards she agreed to go on the ride. (Yes we truly are the wicked sisters, deal.) It was the perfect end to the day. In Adventureland aka Wild, Wild, West-ville you board a runaway train that jerks and careens round the track. For me this had the perfect combination of thrills and length.
As for my big sis, she hated it. She spent the whole ride looking down at her feet. Afterwards one of the staff ran up to her ‘Ca va?’ as she walked past him still in a mood. ‘Ca va bien.’ I replied and after a lolly the size of her head she was.
As an aside when we were waiting for the ride I noticed that HWSNBN wearing his customary uniform of shorts and cowboy hat blended pretty perfectly into the Thundermountain setting. As I tried to get a photo of him with the ride behind the guide was in the way so HWSNBN asked him ‘can we take a photo?’ in perfect French indicating for him to move out of shot. The guide took this to mean ‘can we take a photo with you’. So on my camera I have a couple of photos of a very confused HWSNBN and a random French guide. Awkward but very funny.
Haunted forest of Snow White: if I was 10 this would have scared the hell out of me but I’m not so meh.
Pinnochio: OK but Peter Pan is miles better.
Mad hatters tea cups: My spies say (I refused to go on this) good but probably better if you have less weight to slow your cup down!
Basically you want to predict what everybody else is doing and do the opposite. Visit on a Monday when less people go (we visited on a Saturday). Most crowds travel clockwise around the park, so walk anticlockwise. The restaurants and the fast food places are hit between 12-1.30pm so take a snack to keep you going and eat after 2pm when the rush has died down. Avoid fantasyland aka kiddie-world until the evening when most of the children have gone home. When everybody is watching the evening parade, take advantage of the lull to hit some of the rides. Or if you are watching the parade be careful about your position you don’t want to be stuck at the wrong end of Main Street if you want to make a hasty exit.
If you can’t get a carte vert take advantage of the Fastpass option on some rides. This allows you to pre-book a slot and skip the queues. Even with the carte vert we had to pre book some rides. My advice is when you get inside the park immediately book all your favourite rides, then do the ones that don’t have the Fastpass option in between.
Navigation dear Watson
Work zone to zone, but also keep an eye on the live screens with the wait times listed. If you try and hop from zone to zone just navigating the crowds takes a lot of time. For example, we started in Discoveryland, quickly did all the rides we wanted and did not go back there all day.
Travel and food
We drove and parked at the station, which was actually a lot closer and less crowded than the official car park. The plan was simple, we were going to buy food at the station and eat it inside the park. But to discourage you from picnicking there is very little green space to sit and eat. On the day we went it was in the 30’s. It was so hot that children threw themselves into fountains and parents skulked in the thin shadows cast by the buildings. We took frequent breaks in the air conditioned cafes. Our food was neither fast (45mins) nor reasonably priced but by this point we didn’t care.