Europe – July 2017

Day 11 – Disneyland Paris

Tuesday 8th August

Sandy didn’t sleep much last night. I woke up and found her using the toilet as a seat and the bathroom counter next to her as a desk. It’s just about the only space to sit anywhere here in this cramped room. She was busy Facebooking, uploading photos and generally doing all those other things that tether us electronically to the rest of the world. She did eventually come back to bed and we had rampant sex for the next several hours. Oh wait, hold on, that might have been a dream. Hmmm. Yes, definitely a dream. Damn that was close.

For my part, I also slept quite lightly. I eventually got up at around 8:30 a.m. Once the rest of the family had stirred, I set off to explore the breakfast options here at the hotel. We already had vouchers for breakfast but those are valid in the park only and at a specific location. We were told at check-in that we could eat here but that we would have to pay an additional €5 per person. Before deciding whether this was worth the expense, I wanted to see what sort of food it was. They begrudgingly let me in to take a look around. It was a breakfast buffet but with nothing cooked – other than toast. It was a continental breakfast only. Frankly, it didn’t seem like it was going to be worth it so we decided to chance our arm at the breakfast restaurant in the park with our vouchers instead.

We organised ourselves and made our way to the complementary shuttle bus stop, just a few metres outside the hotel entrance. We waited for just a couple of minutes before the next shuttle arrived. Once inside the main Disney park, we made our way to Discoveryland and the Hyperion restaurant. As it happened, this turned out to be where we had lunch yesterday. It was a snack-food type counter with a conveyor belt style operation going on behind the counter. They were churning out ready-made breakfast meals with very little choice. A typical meal consisted of a pastry (croissant or something similar), bottle of orange juice, cup of hot chocolate and a burger with an omelette, bacon, cheese & sauce. We were able to modify the burger to not have the cheese or sauce but that was about it. It was actually not that bad, although not great either. For the money paid, I think it was overly expensive for what it was, although we can probably say that about just about every aspect of our Disney experience.

After we’d all tucked in and polished everything off, Jennifer and I walked the short distance over to Hyperspace Mountain for our first thrill ride of the day. In fact, I was forced to endure supervising her on that ride…twice. How lovely. Both times we passed through the photo booth at the exit to have them scan my photo pass so that we would have a keepsake of the events.

Also in this section of the park was the photo with Darth Vader attraction. We decided to give this a go and put our priority passes to good use again. We were straight in and had an encounter with the man in black himself. Actually, it was done pretty well. The sound effects and [what sounded like recorded] spoken words choreographed to a few select finger and hand gestures here and there made it look and sound like we really were being admonished by Darth Vader himself for being a part of the rebel alliance. Sadly, Joey was a little out of his comfort zone and didn’t get in any of the photos but the Disney photographer did a good job of snapping a few of the rest of us with Darth. He pieced at us menacingly right up to the point that the door closed behind us. In fact, so did Darth.

Since we wanted to squeeze out as much fun as we could from this section of the park, we next wanted to have another crack at the Buzz Lightyear attraction. This is where you sit in continuously moving carriages with laser guns and try to hit as many targets as possible as your carriage moves through the course. The score is racked up on your dashboard as you go. We did go straight to the front of the line through the exit and were going to go through when someone came to tell us there was a technical issue. As far as we could tell, someone might have dropped something on the track, which evidently meant that they had to shut the ride down temporarily. The cast member estimated a 30-minute wait, so we decided to go and do something else instead. I spared a thought for the mere mortals that had been queuing for this all morning already…momentarily.

Sandy and Jennifer went off to do something and I took Joey. We both sat for a moment to study the park map and Joey found the Captain Nemo Nautilus submarine attraction that he wanted to do. It’s quite concealed. We walked past it yesterday twice without noticing it was there. Again, our priority pass got us straight in, which in this case turned out to be a lift down to the attraction level. It’s essentially a walkthrough of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine, with a few interesting things to look at, like a giant squid outside a large porthole, for example. It was a little claustrophobic – especially with the number of people walking through – and we were both glad to be back on the busy street after the 2-3 minutes we spent down there.

Today’s lunch vouchers granted us entry into the Plaza Gardens restaurant, just a few metres from the Captain Nemo exit. Joey and I sat there on the steps waiting for the girls to arrive so we could go in and have our lunch together. As we waited, Joey decided he’d have a bit of target practice with his new Ironman Hands with built-in projectile launchers toy. Fortunately, for him, I was on hand to provide a target. Ouch!

As is the case with all the lunch and dinner meals I have pre-arranged vouchers for, today’s fare was buffet-style. The restaurant was very nice and the buffet spread more than acceptable. We all enjoyed the food and, more importantly, the opportunity to relax and unwind from the exhaustive walking around in the heat of the French summer.

Lunch having been polished off, and our energy reserves once again topped up, we set off in the direction of the Disney Studios park. There was more to do here in the main Disney park but on balance, there’s probably a bit more of interest to us in the Studios park than there is in this one.

We were probably a little dehydrated and somewhat depleted of our only just topped up energy once we got there, but we made a beeline for the Ratatouille attraction once we were inside. It was by far the best attraction for us as a family unit and we wanted to make sure we got our money’s worth, so a second visit seemed a good idea. As per usual, we flashed our priority tickets and joined the shorter queue. Depending on the size of the attraction, these tickets are inspected repeatedly at several points along the way through to the actual attraction – sometimes as many as five or six times by different cast members. When we reached the last checkpoint for this attraction, the cast member insisted that our group of four be taken aside to board the special car. This was on account of us having two special needs children. Truth be told, we don’t technically have any needs with regards to Jennifer but we do with Joey. However, our passes indicate two special needs children and thus we need to be handled accordingly. In this attraction, that means boarding the special car. Instead of walking straight onto the waiting cars, which everyone else in our queue did, we were led aside. Unfortunately for us, this put us right behind two wheelchair users in separate groups. Another cast member then told us we would be waiting here for approximately 15 minutes, as there’s only a single car on the circuit that can accommodate wheelchairs. It was a little frustrating to see people being continually loaded into the normal cars – which would have been perfectly fine for us really – as we waited there. The irony is that the principal reason we had these priority passes was because Joey has a low tolerance for standing in queues and confined spaces and here we were in a confined space waiting. Fortunately, both kids occupied themselves for the duration by burying their noses in our iPhone screens. When the ride finally happened, it was every bit as good as it was yesterday and worth the wait.

When we finally emerged into daylight, we again split up with Sandy taking Joey for some of the lesser thrilling attractions and me taking Jennifer to…where else…her favourite attraction…the Tower of Terror. This time, however, there was a bit more of a crowd at the priority entrance. It was only about 10-15 people but they weren’t moving forward at all. I think it was about 15 minutes into our wait there that I contemplated whether it might have been quicker to go through the normal entrance. I checked the queue wait time indicator when we walked past on the way here and it read 20 minutes.

We did eventually manage to get in and the ride was, again, super thrilling. When we exited, we past the priority entrance and noticed there were no people waiting there this time, so we quickly registered our photo pass at the photo booth to load the photo from the ride we just did and then went straight around for another go. The second time, we went in after just a few minutes, which was great. We’re getting quite used to this ride now and we’ve taken to performing for the photo with unusual poses. It’s quite hilarious really.

Truth be told, we could have cycled around and repeated going on the Tower of Terror all day long but we decided to go and meet up with Sandy and Joey instead. We found them standing with hoards of others all enjoying an outdoor stage performance of a group of Star Wars storm troopers. We stood and watched for a bit before Jennifer and me wandered off again to explore some more.

Adjacent to where we were was the Armageddon special effects film shoot attraction, so we decided to give that a go. It was a sort of the making of type of special effects show in which we were the actors. We were aboard a Russian space station during an onslaught of flying debris that starting ripping the station apart. Between loud bangs, pieces of the scenery around us falling from the celling and flames erupting in places, it was quite dramatic. We just happened to show up as the amassed crowd of around a hundred people were just going in, so timing was perfect.

Next up for Jennifer and me was the Crush Coaster, another attraction we did yesterday. Since we were facing backwards at the start of the ride yesterday, we decided to start it this time facing the front. Either way, it’s a great ride and quite exhilarating.

We all had a great day at the parks today but it was full on again and we were by now struggling to move about quickly from all the exhaustion. As we were now approaching our dinner reservation slot, Jennifer and I meandered – slowly – towards the exit and the Disney Hotel at the main park entrance, which is where Sandy and Joey met up with us. Our dinner this evening was at the Inventions restaurant and it would be our first and only character meal. This is something we’ve also been keeping a secret from the kids, so Sandy and I were both very much looking forward to seeing how this all played out. The dinner vouchers we had didn’t pay for the entire character meal, which I already knew about, and left me with around €155 still to pay. I already had this amount in my wallet ready and waiting.

Since we had been pushing our muscles really hard over the past few days, we decided to have a bit of a sleep in tomorrow morning and to skip breakfast. This left us with the breakfast vouchers that we wouldn’t be using. Since I paid for them, and since I was led to believe they could be used towards other things instead, I wanted to arrange for them to be used as part payment of the remaining €155 towards tonight’s dinner. The Disney hotel is a 5-star hotel. It feels like it as soon as you walk in also – especially with the grandeur of the architecture. Another giveaway, sadly, is the snotty, holier-than-thou attitude we received from the staff there. That started at the concierge desk that we stopped at to ask for directions to the Inventions restaurant. I asked the man there about the vouchers and he was very dismissive, as if I had somehow offended him by even bringing the subject up. He basically just wanted to get rid of me. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t going anywhere. I was getting increasingly annoyed with his reasons for why he couldn’t help me and where else he thought I show go to resolve my issue. I’m not sure if it was my persistence or his wanting to just not deal with this situation but he went to get his supervisor. Initially, the supervisor told me I had to call central reservations. It was central reservations that told me I could use the vouchers towards other things to begin with but that’s not the point. Besides, the restaurant is here so surely someone here should be able to sort this out, right? As far as I’m concerned, it was Disney that told me how the vouchers work, it was Disney that took my money and he was wearing a Disney name badge. He insisted he was working for the hotel and that the breakfast vouchers were for another restaurant in the park – as if each individual hotel and restaurant within the Disney company are all different entities that are not related to each other. What complete bullshit is that? What the hell difference should it make either way? It’s still all Disney, right? He then asked where I was staying and I told him we were staying at a Disney hotel – the Cheyenne. Then he insisted I should speak to someone at the front desk of the Cheyenne. Again, what difference was that going to make? He is still just as much Disney as they are and there was no way I was going to spend the next half hour moving from here to that hotel just to have someone there fob me off as well. It was getting to the point that I was going to create a very loud scene. Sandy and the kids were slumped into a couple of chairs just behind me. A huge and noisy scene was the last thing they wanted to experience right now so I cut off my discussion with the concierge and we went upstairs to the restaurant.

Whilst we were waiting upstairs for the restaurant to open, I called central reservations and spoke to someone that actually empathised with the situation. She said to hold on whilst she attempted to call the restaurant directly herself to see what she could arrange. After a few minutes, she came back and said there was no reply from the restaurant. As with a few other people, we were sat in a waiting area just outside the restaurant on the second floor so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind holding the line while I tried to track someone down. She could then speak to them directly and sort something out. She very helpfully agreed and I asked a passing cast member if they could please call or locate the restaurant manager. Once again, I got a very snooty response. Apparently there was nothing they could do because the restaurant wasn’t yet open. What? What sort of comedy of errors is this? Surely you can go and locate someone or call the restaurant manager or something? I mean you’re a Disney cast member after all, aren’t you? How hard can it be? For feck’s sake, how can we go from every last cast member bending backwards to accommodate us to piss off in such a short space of time? Was it because this is a 5-star hotel? Were we somehow beneath them here? It certainly started to feel that way.

Eventually, and only after some persistence on my part, I managed to get someone to locate the restaurant manager, who came out to talk to me. He very much looked the part as a manager of a 5-star hotel restaurant and was happy to have the conversation with the patiently waiting woman on the phone from central reservations. They spoke in French for a minute or two before the restaurant manager asked whether I wanted to speak to the woman on the phone some more first. I said I was sure he could explain whatever it was they decided between them and so I hung up the phone. To his credit, the restaurant manager managed the situation very well in the way he spoke to me and in his explanation. The upshot was that there was nothing he could do. Evidently, all the restaurants are indeed separate entities and the illusion of Disney being one big organisation is exactly that – an illusion. To be honest, it was the fact that he was treating me with respect and dignity that I decided I’d pushed far enough on the issue and reluctantly accepted my fate. I thanked him graciously for taking the time to deal with me. He was very gracious and empathetic, which was nice. Such a shame the rest of the staff at the hotel were so snobbish.

The doors of the restaurant opened and we waited for a few other families to go in. Tigger showed up briefly and this put the biggest smiles on the kids’ faces. All was once again wonderful in the world. The buffet was very nice, and clearly a level above the others we’d seen to date. Several characters made their rounds to the tables and the kids just licked it all up. Joey in particular was overjoyed – almost to the point of not being able to deal with the emotion of it all. Fortunately, he kept it together.

After a very successful dinner, Joey elected to go back to the hotel with me whilst Sandy and Jennifer enjoyed some Mother & Daughter quality time inside the park doing some late shopping. Joey and I made our way back to home base and settled in for the night. A much needed shower to clean away all the gunk from the day was very welcome. Sandy and Jennifer didn’t show up back at the hotel for another three hours or so. They apparently did their shopping and then went well into the park to do a few more attractions. By the time they rolled in, Jennifer’s head hit the pillow and she was off in a matter of seconds. Sandy and me went at each other with another two-hour sex session. Or was that another dream? Actually, I think it might have been.