Ah Disneyland Paris. Where the American "how can I make your day better?" knocks up against the French "your day is of no interest to me."
It's really, really easy to be terribly world weary and cynical about Disney, Disneyland and all things princess, so I won't be. Encouraged by my neglectful parenting, the children love all that stuff, although they were distinctly underwhelmed about the idea of a trip to Disneyland. The reality of the thing was different, and they had an amazing time, and so did we. The looks on their faces when we met the actual real Belle was worth the cost of the admission alone, and the firework display was fantastic.
The place itself is nearly 25 years old and parts of it really look it now. Alice's Amazing Labyrinth is decrepit; the Queen of Hearts is supposed to jump out at you twice but doesn't, just shouts away from behind her hedge. The paintwork is, in some places, distressed, in a manner that suggests neglect rather than a planned vintage look, and the attention to detail, which is meant to be the Disney THING, is sorely lacking. There was a MASSIVE dandelion growing through Peter and Wolf's house in the Land of Fairytales, it just needed pulling out, plus why no Frozen ice palace? There was fake snow, why couldn't they knock up an Elsa and Ana castle?
The trouble is, once you notice the flaws, it's really difficult to go back to being wide-eyed and naive about the whole thing again.
Thinking about it, all this degeneration was in Fantasyland, which is the most popular area, with the princess castle and the teacups, and the inexplicably popular Dumbo ride, and the rest wasn't too bad. The Space Mountain ride properly scared both of us; it was far more extreme than we thought it would be. The children were too small, and I was very glad that they couldn't ride it. We did manage to smuggle Hattie onto the Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster, by going on it half past 10 at night when it was properly dark and no one cared anymore. She was only a centimetre or two too small, so I don't think it mattered that much.
Some tips, in case you fancy this with your children.
Wait until they are at least 3, and able to appreciate it. Hire a buggy if you don't have one; Hattie was a major pain in the bum the first day and a delight the second.
Stay in the Park hotels and buy a package; it ends up costing the same as a three day ticket.
If you stay in the Park hotels, you get access to a few of the rides early - from 8am until 10am. This is why Simon and I were able to go on Space Mountain, and why we took the children on the teacups twice in a row. We were also at the Small World ride first, and were able to have our third trip around the world in one of the first boats.
If you want to meet the Princesses, and why wouldn't you, send someone to queue up to get a time to see them, and take the children on the rides yourself. It's better if it's raining, as no one wants to go on anything, and we were able to go on the Land of Fairytales boat ride, the funny little train, Snow White's adventure and Small World in the 45 minutes Simon was queuing up. He gets 3G in France, so wasn't bored, and we were doing stuff and having a great time.
Meeting the Princesses is the best thing in the world. A tip we were given, but left too late to follow, is to use your meal vouchers to have a meal with the princesses and other characters, and then top it up with actual cash money. Apparently, this is well worth it, as Belle and Cinderella talk to everyone in the room and have photos taken and sign autographs, and it's magical for children.
Get up and going early, go back to the room for a sleep, then go back for an early meal and then a wander around the Park in the evening before the Disney Dreams Fireworks Extravaganza. This was how we walked straight onto the Phantom Manor House ride, which terrified us, but the girls weren't bothered, and the Big Thunder Mountain. Normally, both of these things have massive queues.
Try to leave your critical, adult brain at home. Yes, most of the Princess stories are massively sexist and give unrealistic expectations. Yes, Mickey Mouse isn't real. Yes, it's a massive marketing exercise designed to strip you of all your cash present and future. But it's also good fun, and if you can stand it for three days, go.
I'm not being sponsored by Disney, but wouldn't it be nice if I was?
In other news, I signed up to write for this site. Do you think I am good enough? I'm having a massive crisis of confidence about it.
PS I pinched the picture at the top from here, simply because none of my photos turned out that well.