I took my daughter to Disneyland. In the last week in August, just before La Rentrée. There are probably those of you reading this who would think that I was mad to do that. And you may even be right, but I don’t care because we had a great time!
Clearly, staying in the resort was not a possibility (I tried that, witohut success) so I had to get a hotel in Paris itself. In the end, we stayed at Itinéraires at La Défense, one metro stop down from La Grande Arche. To get to Disneyland was about an hour on the metro but straight through on one line to the Disneyland stop, Marne La Vallée / Chessy. This wasn’t a problem though because, unlike the UK, trains run often and on time.
And let’s nail another myth right now: the one about les Parisiens being a bunch of surly, rude, miserable bastards. Wrong. A couple of tips: first, take a child with you; second, speak some French. A perfect example of this came on Wednesday evening on the way back from our last day at the park. Katie had a Minnie Mouse helium balloon that I was carrying. The cord had got broken on the train back so I was carrying that (and a fair bit of other stuff). We came through the exit gates of the Metro station and the balloon came out of my hands and headed for the ceiling, where it stayed. Not surprisingly, Katie was a bit upset by this and started to cry. While I’m trying to comfort her, a metro employee came wandering out of a service door to do some job or other and saw us. He then looked up to see the balloon on the ceiling. He disappeared for a moment and came back with a grabber. He attempted to retrieve the balloon but couldn’t reach it. As he is gave us a rueful shrug as if to say, “sorry, I tried” a colleague turned up. He is a fair bit taller, but even he can’t reach with the grabber. But they haven’t given up. Oh no. The second man disappeared behind another service door and came back with a chair. Now he can reach the balloon and retrieves it. But this isn’t all. There are now three of them standing there: the first man we saw; the second, taller, man who retrieved the balloon and a woman who has come to see what’s going on. But they don’t give Katie the balloon just yet. No, they ask us to wait and then disappear behind the service door again. When they return, they have put a string on the balloon, which they now hand to Katie, who is now smiling fit to burst. I am effusive in my thanks (or as effusive as I can be in my rusty French) and, after Katie getting pats on the head and cooing from all three we wend our way back to the hotel; a lovely end to a great day. But even the girl on the hotel desk in the evenings, as well as other people we ran into were uniformly polite and friendly.
The other great thing about Disneyland is that the French haven’t utterly surrendered to American cultural imperialism. The shows are in a mix of languages and there is a definite French feel to things: a good thing too. The Animagique show is highly recommended. The only negative thing to say is that Kanga in the Winnie the Pooh show jumps around looking like whoever’s inside has a broom handle thrust up their jacksie. The impression is completed by the permanent mask of surprise on Kanga’s face. Not a good look.
There’s just too much to see to even talk about here without taking forever and writing a novel!
Other good things about France and the holiday:
- Meeting up with Sara and her son Billy, who I’d never met before. He’s lovely and he and Katie got on like a house on fire (but without the need for the intervention of emergency services, obviously). And it was nice to chat and for the kids each to have a playmate to share the experience with.
- The weather was great.
- The cab driver from CDG to the hotel on the way in was cool and got the fare bang on when I asked him. Just wish I’d asked him what music he was playing in the cab, because it was really cool.
- Music in the metro
- The one person I heard playing music on a mobile phone was playing some really nice jazzy stuff, not the happy hardcore helium chipmunk crap they do here.
- The ambiance
- The fact that getting to the airport via public transport was ridiculously easy and cheap. Hurrah for the Paris Visite ticket.
- Katie likes crèpes, whether they have chocolate sauce or sugar
- Brie and cooked meat for breakfast (though the Brie’s not for me)? Prunes? Fruit Salad? Pain au chocolat, Danish pastries, croissants? Yeah, why not.
- Katie’s slight bemusement that I was speaking French to people. She kept asking why I didn’t speak properly!
- Air France
- Passport control and security checks at CDG. Just don’t get me started. I very nearly left some of our baggage in security because of the total lack of any kind of order going through. And how can a passport queue with less than 2 dozen people take nearly 25 minutes to process, with four people on the desks?
- Piss-awful British public transport. Can someone explain why a 1730 rush hour train from Newcastle to Middlesbrough only runs with two carriages and people are crammed on like sardines in a can? Still like the Metro in Newcastle though.
So that was our holiday. There was just so much to see in so little time that we had no hope of seeing it all, or even most of it. Oh dear, it looks like we’ll have to go back sometime 🙂
Things kids say: a short series of juvenile bon mots. Last Saturday, Katie and I are walking down by the sea front at Redcar, when across the road a Muslim woman wearing full hijab walks by on the other side of the road. The outfit is all turquoise. This is clearly a bit unusual to Katie who looks across the road in interest, then turns to me and says, “Look Daddy,it’s Igglepiggle!”.