By Samuel Peace
Of all the many wonders in the world today the only place children want to go to is Disneyland. I often dreamt of going when I was younger but my parents couldn’t afford such a luxury. I would boil with envy when my friends told me of their magnificent adventures with Buzz Lightyear, Indiana Jones, Mickey Mouse and more. “I’m going for the third time this summer holidays” one would say, “Oh really?” I’d reply with gritted teeth. As I grew up the child’s fantasy land became less appealing, and the thought of going to a foreign country never crossed my mind. I had many great holidays around England and was quite content with staying on home soil. However, soon after turning 18 I was on a plane heading towards Disneyland Paris.
My grandparents decided to treat me and my family to a holiday in the summer of 2009. Originally we had planned to stay at a deluxe villa in the south of Spain. The very thought of a hot tropical scene with beautiful, naturally tanned Spanish girls got my heart pounding with excitement. Seeing the pictures of the proposed villa just made it even more enticing. Therefore a sudden change of plan in order to limit travel time and to please my younger siblings left a bitter taste in my mouth. For me the Disney plane had flown into the sunset and left me behind many years ago. There was little excitement to be had except for the prospect of visiting Paris. Everything soon changed though as walking through the entrance of the park woke my inner child.
The gloriously decorated buildings, giant floats and mascots made it feel as if you were actually in a Disney cartoon. There was so much going on that I didn’t know where to start. While most theme parks are just giant fun fairs with lots of rides, this place seemed different. The magical aura of the classic childhood fairy tales was present. The park was separated into zones with each one focusing on different notable franchises. It was great to see the attention to detail with each area being designed in certain ways to make it feel like you’re in the world of that film. But while I was impressed by the aesthetics, I was still yet to be convinced by its attractions and other offerings. That was until I went on an adrenaline train they called a rollercoaster for the first time and nearly shat myself with how thrilling it was.
The first one I tried was based on Indiana Jones and saw us sitting in a mine cart whizzing in and out of caves with plenty of drops and sharp turns to keep you on your toes, so to speak. The rush I got from the ride was fantastic, I had felt as if I had been on a wild adventure. The one down side was the loop the loop part which made me feel disorientated and a bit queasy, but other than that it was great. With my excitement boiling over and my passion revitalised, I couldn’t wait to go on some more rides. Most of my family were not keen on these heart exercises, but my little sister was accustomed to them despite being 6 years younger. Another one we went on was some indoor space shuttle rollercoaster (probably Buzz Lightyear). This was even better than the Indi one as it launched nearly vertically at a phenomenal speed. It felt like someone had stuck a rocket onto it. It then began rushing through a tunnel of darkness with neon lights circling as if you were going through a time warp on Doctor Who. Although these rides lasted all of but a few minutes, the experiences live on forever in my mind.
On our travels through the fantasy worlds we encountered a variety of wonderful things, some of which weren’t even Disney. There was a set of Hollywood, a set of London, an American trailer cafe, shops with all sorts of goodies (although they didn’t allow non Disney brands so most shops were the same), the Statue of Liberty and much, much more. There were a few shows on too including a live stunt/action performance and a wild west arena spectacular. Although I’d been to stunt shows before, this one stood out because it was like watching a movie being filmed on a Hollywood set. There were crashes, fighting, shootouts and explosions galore, it was utterly exhilarating. The western show was more of a story and revolved around a person called Buffalo Bill. It had some good live animal acts, but I didn’t find it as engrossing as I’d hoped it would be.
During our visit we stayed at an offsite hotel which had a direct bus link to the park. The staff there were nice (one of the French waiters actually wanted England to beat the Netherlands in a football friendly which was on!). The rooms were basic and did the job, but the food service was excellent. Of course being in France meant I had to have Croissants and Pain Au Chocolates for breakfast, as you’d imagine such delectable food was difficult to endure. The best part was the daily hot chocolate which was divine, needless to say I have not tried one as nice since. We ate out at many places, but the most memorable was a place named Pizza Planet. This restaurant is a replica of the one found in the Toy Story films. It has the same giant logo, the same robot guarding the door, the same three-eyed aliens in space rocket grabbing machines etc. It was an awesome and surreal experience.
We stayed for a week in total, but only went to Paris once. Although it was marvellous and the Eiffel Tower was remarkable, I did not feel the same sense of joy or excitement as I did at Disneyland. Looking back now, it was not only my best holiday by far, but it was also the most fun I had in years, and to my surprise my heart was pounding again, much like with those Spanish girls who are still waiting for me.