Sunday, April 8, 2012

Disneyland Paris: August 2011 Trip Report & Review - Part 1

Welcome, foolish mortals

  In honor of the 20th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris on April 12th, 2012, I thought it would make sense for me to go back and do something I never got around to doing last year; a trip report on the entire experience I had back in August of last year. With all the things that 2011 ended up throwing my way at the end last year, (Disneyland Paris, Room For 1 More/Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary, 2 Digital Download collections, etc.) I only got around to reviewing Phantom Manor, (in case you missed that, parts one, two, and three) and  Pirates, after releasing my HD tribute video back in December. Since I canceled the new Phantom Manor set, and am doubtful that I will finish it's HD tribute video by the 12th, I felt that I needed something Disneyland Pairs related to talk about since the anniversary is coming up soon (even if they have already started their official celebration, the actual anniversary is still a week or so off) and this review/report seemed like the thing to do. I doubt I would have ever gotten around to it had this opportunity not presented itself. So, let's begin, shall we?

  I'm feeling nostalgic just thinking about last August now, so excuse me for rambling on about certain things that some of you are likely to have no interest in. While the whole trip was really centered around getting to go to Disneyland Paris, the full itinerary actually covered nearly half-a-month's worth of on-the-go, non-stop traveling through both Paris and London. As exhausting as this trip was, it was one of the best vacations I've ever had, and one I'll never forget. It was my first time out of the country, and my French vocabulary could probably be counted on my fingers. That should give anyone who's been there an idea of how out-of-place I felt in France at first. Thankfully, everyone I spoke to there knew more English then I did French. We spent the first day catching up on sleep (I'll never take a flight across the Atlantic over-night ever again; I can not sleep on a plane; what a fantastic way to spend a birthday; packing all day, and on a plane all night.) and just walking around, taking in the sights. The next day, we toured the Opera Garnier, the building responsible for the infamous story of the Phantom of the Opera, and then visited a little carnival near the Louvre where I got my first amusement rides of the trip. (yes, surprisingly, Phantom Manor was not the first spook house I rode in France; that honor goes to Train Fantome) While I'm on the subject of that carnival, I wanted to point out this blatant rip-off of Marc Davis' concept artwork on one of the pirate-themed fun houses:

Now that I got that out of the way...

  The next day, we packed up, and taxied out of the city to Disneyland Paris; which is located out in the farmland to the east. If you've been to Disneyland from out of town, then you know how it is with other Disney Resorts besides Walt Disney World; where the first thing you see isn't the marquee, but a towering ride (Matterhorn, Tower of Terror) or something of that sort from the road. It's exciting. Well, looking all over the farmland around me while my fellow vacationers (My Aunt, Grandfather, younger Brother and Cousin) caught up on sleep, it took a while for me to spot anything. I had a feeling I should be looking for Tower of Terror, the tallest structure on the site. The first thing I actually spotted was the hot-air balloon, floating high above the treeline, tethered to the completely hidden Disney Village bellow. Then I spotted Tower of Terror and knew we were getting close. This was my first time in a while that I was arriving at a Disney Park during the daytime, and not at night. The excitement of getting to go into the park while we checked into the amazing Disneyland Hotel was hard to control. I knew where my first point of origin was in the park, and I'm sure you know too.Of course, you can read what I though about Phantom Manor in my 3-part review. Our group split up for a bit after that. My Brother, Grandfather and I took off for the next big attraction on my to-do list, which was...? If you guessed Pirates, your correct. Again, I have a whole post that reviews that, complete with pictures and an HD tribute video.

  Since there was still an hour or two until our reservations for Lunch Blue Lagoon, my Brother, Grandfather and I went to Fantasyland to ride some of the dark rides, which were all in French. Pinocchio, Snow White, the Carousel, and finishing off with another ride on Pirates, it was finally time for lunch. The food here was awesome. I got some sort of Chicken ka-bob with shrimp and coconut something on it. Needless to say, it was great. We also got to see the house-lights come on in the Blue Lagoon when the attraction broke down during our meal. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, the Blue Lagoon is a restaurant similar to the Blue Bayou at Disneyland, were you sit in the dark next to the opening scene of Pirates of the Caribbean, as boats drift by in the gentle lagoon. We heard cheers from a boat-full of riders somewhere off in the distance (presumably on the lift hill off near the back side of the giant show-room, or from the queuing area) as the attraction was fixed, and the boats began moving. I'd  also like to stop the report for a minute to point out a phenomena that seemed to be everywhere I looked in Disneyland Paris; the character balloons of doom.
  During my trip, me and my brother spotted several hidden Mickeys that were definitely not installed in the attraction by park officials; instead, by children with butterfingers. Several lost Mickey Balloons; as well as a Minnie and Pooh Balloon; were found in various parts of the park, including the insides of one particular attraction. A Mickey balloon was trapped against the roof of the Blue Lagoon sequence, some 40 feet above the ground; another was in the queuing are dungeons, along with a Minnie Mouse balloon. And in a tree outside of Phantom Manor, Winnie the Pooh's helium inflated visage was tangled into the branches. These lost balloons where there the entire week we spent at the resort. I really wish the Pooh one had been removed at some point, as it really got in the way of my facade photos and videos. Just wanted to mention this since I was on the topic of Blue Lagoon.

  The first day was well spent. I think we rode Pirates one or two more times, and I know I spent the last ride of the day on Phantom Manor. We ended the day with a Fireworks show, and left for the hotel. The walk couldn't have been any more convenient to get back to our room. We walked out the gates; under an archway; through a doorway into the lobby; up a few flights of steps; down the hall, and to out room. Talk about being close by. This walk made the transfer from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom look like a marathon.



  The next day was the day my Brother felt a bit sick I think. I only know this because of something that I will cover in day three. On day two, my Grandfather and I did It's a Small World, the Fantastyland Storybook Boat ride, the Train, and later that evening, Big Thunder Mountain. My Grandfather loves Big Thunder. The ride at Disneyland Paris is superior to all the other versions, being placed in the center of the river. I had heard that this version had a sharper drop then the other versions. I'm here to say this is not true at all. If anything, the drop is longer in length, but as for the steepness, it's not true. The trains descend into the final tunnel after a short outdoor segment off the third lift; this is where the bat cave scene is, and the drop is really a very gradual, but very long decline under the mountain from the far side towards the opposite side, and across the river to the station. Here's a video I took while I was there of the ride; you really won't see much in the final cave, but it's not like you'd really get a full understanding from the video. As I've said before, videos never do anything complete justice.


 
  This would bring us to the end of day two at the resort. The next morning, we all headed over to the Disneyland Park once again to ride Peter Pan's flight. I filmed this one too, but have yet to upload it, as with my video I shot of the Walt Disney World version back in January 2011. I've never been a big fan of Peter Pan; the lines it draws never seem to match up with the ride you get after waiting for an hour or more. This version looked like a slight improvement. They had pirate ships twice the size of the originals, with two benches instead of one, and a new star-field scene that looks exactly like the scene in the E.T. ride at Universal. But because the majority of it was in French, and it lasted only a tad longer then the American versions, I really didn't take to much from it. This leads us to one of the high points of the trip. I have to pause here and let you know that this will take some explaining, and thus, you need a bit of background on my love-hate relationship with roller coasters. Real roller coasters. Not the Big Thunder Mountains, and American Space Mountains, but real, fast, jarring, white-knuckle roller coasters. In fact, I think I'm going to stop here, and leave you all hanging, because I think my experience on day three deserves it's own post. So, to be continued...

I'll see you all a little later...

S&FS

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