An American in Paris (Disneyland)

Even though I have a minor obsession with Disney parks, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would visit any outside of the U.S. But the last five years and a certain GEO have been very good to me. Now I have been to all the parks except Shanghai. During the holidays, I made it to Disneyland Paris (formerly known as Euro Disney) as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Similar to Disneyland in Anaheim, there are two parks connected by a village of shops and eateries. With a park hopper pass, we easily went back and forth between the two. Combined, they might equal the size of the original Disneyland, which one park is modeled after. The other park, Walt Disney Studios is similar to the one at Disney World.

While the park has a number of tried and true rides like Dumbo, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, and It’s a Small World, what sets this Disney property apart from others are two local attractions. The first is Ratatouille: A Recipe for Adventure, an awesome 4D ride found in the Disney Studios park. Guests are treated to the sights, sounds and smells of a French kitchen from Ratatouille’s perspective as he scurries around trying to avoid capture by Chef Skinner. The other unique offering is the lifelike animatronic dragon guarding Sleeping Beaty’s castle. He sleeps beneath the castle until awakened by unwanted intruders. What a cool addition he would make to Anaheim.

An interesting thing I took away from my visit is the French fascination with cowboys, the ones found in the American Wild Wild West. The first giveaway was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show… with Mickey and Friends, a dinner theatre show featuring “Texan food.” I would have loved to have partaken but it was sold out. Then there was the Phantom Manor ride, based on the Haunted Mansion, but featuring a jilted bride. Many scenes were similar to that of the American version, that is until the end, where out of nowhere appears the American frontier, land of saloons and, you guessed it, cowboys. To further support my hypotheses, the ride with the longest line was not Space Mountain or Star Tours, but Big Thunder Mountain, which if like the one at home, takes you through a gold mine. The line for this was so long we didn’t even bother.

Instead, we rode Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril twice back to back in under 20 minutes. This ride was a traditional roller coaster unlike the more immersive Indiana Jones rides we are familiar with. Although thrilling, the ride was not very imaginative. I had read somewhere that the area was originally supposed to be developed into an Indiana Jones land but the park ran out of time and money and decided to just plop in a ride that was already pre-designed by a roller coaster company. Too bad because I love the concept of an Indiana Jones land.

Like national parks, Disney does not allow traditional caches. However, between the two parks, there are two virtual caches and an Earth cache, which I tried my darnedest to find. But it was cold and wet and then just too dark for me to find the answers so I was only successful at completing GCF981 (Le Roi Arthur). The ironic part is I have never seen the sword in the stone and the sword just so happened to be missing during my visit here. Maybe it’s a sign of some kind? That I won’t become king anytime soon?

I had started listening to Mousestalgia, a great podcast about all things Disney, in order to make sure I didn’t miss any highlights. Good thing I did, because it was mentioned that this particular Disney Illuminations show alone was worth a trip to Paris to see. The evening was so bone chillingly cold, I might have otherwise given up waiting the hour for the show to start. Per the podcast, the Parisian castle is situated higher than the other Disney castles, which makes it a more visible backdrop for the video projections. This was true because for the first time, I could see nearly everything despite being near the back of the crowd and having about five rows of people in front of me. As promised, the extravaganza was a perfectly fantasmic way to honor Disney Paris’s 25th anniversary.

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