Jeff and I were again up at the crack of dawn for our last day in Disneyland Paris. Everything hurt. My feet screamed at me every time I took a step. I actually had to sit down in the tub to take a shower. My back ached. The sciatic problem in my leg burned like a million wasps decided my tendons were the enemy. We had to walk about twenty minutes to get to the metro station we needed, then get on the train and transfer to the RER in order to get aboard the train to Disneyland.
And it was all worth it just to see that castle again.
It was palpably our final day. We managed to redo all the stuff we’d fallen in love with, especially the whole microcosm of Frontierland, stunningly the best part of either park. We rode the Molly Brown Riverboat – which seemed, indeed, to be unsinkable – and caught glimpses of the Mark Twain Riverboat in dock, which was basically a jumble of splinters held together by warp and woof. I couldn’t resist traveling through Phantom Manor once more, and it kept resonating with me: it’s not only scarier than all the other Haunted Mansions, it’s also a lot sadder. The frontier town buried beneath the house is frightening and fun … but there’s an undercurrent of despair. One of the more desolate notions about revenants is that they’re compelled to repeat the things they did in life. The nature of an attraction like Phantom Manor means that the Audio-Animatronics are repeating everything, over and over, in perpetuity. If you allow yourself into the fiction, allow yourself to be wrapped up in the story, you open up these vistas within. It seemed to me, even though the ride is set on the American frontier, that the emotions and concepts that Phantom Manor conjured are very French: ennui, isolation, and the feel of compulsive déjà vu.
Or maybe I was just sad to be leaving.
We rode the carrousel, and Jeff’s tradition of naming his favorite horse continues. I don’t remember his name, except it was obviously clever and luxurious. The name for my horse? Necromancer du Poulet Rôti. Jeff howled for hours at that one.
You want to know one of the coolest things about most of the attractions? They figure out a very interesting way to make it in French and English. Like the Ratatouille ride. At one point, Remy is trying to choose between three dishes. He mentions the first one in French, the second one in English, and then the third one is a mix. During the nighttime show, Dreams (which is a cross between World of Color in California Adventure and Wishes … sort of. There’s water projections and explosions and it’s all really fantastic.) Peter Pan and Wendy are talking; Peter asks a question in English, Wendy answers in French, Peter reiterates in English. It’s the least invasive way of being bilingual ever.
Speaking of invasive and being French: were you aware that cutting in line is actually a French thing that people just do? It’s not discouraged. But by the last day of our trip, Jeff and I were pretty dang sick of it. We got to the Studios at open, and … I mean, both Crush’s Coaster and Ratatouille were down, nobody had any information as to when they’d be open, and no one really seemed to care. Ah, Paris. Anyway, we made the best of it and made our way to the barren asphalt wasteland that surrounds Rock N Rollercoaster, got in line, and were immediately beset upon by these three underage line cutters. They were behind us and kept trying to force their way ahead. Jeff turned to me. “We’re not letting them by. This is our time!”
I agreed, and we did everything we could to passive-aggressively block their really unsubtle ruse. At one point, the younger girl and boy locked eyes with Jeff and I, and there seemed to be something of a grudging respect there. They knew they’d been bested. Also, when they saw the coaster cars take off at the speed of sound, it was obvious it was that it was their first time there. The girl, in English, shouted, “Oh, SHIT.” Jeff and I then liked them from there on out.
We didn’t want to leave, that was the thing. We eventually got to ride Ratatouille together for the first time, which was c’est magnifique (a phrase I used more often than one might deem necessary). I rode Crush’s Coaster solo and desperately wanted to go on again (but then they were closed, except they weren’t, well maybe they were, no one knows). We rode Big Thunder in the daylight, which meant that the tunnels to the island it’s on felt darker, but the ride itself just isn’t as awesome in the daylight (this is true for all Big Thunders). We discovered that the Indiana Jones coaster, which has a great queue but barely a theme on the ride itself, is a lot better in the front seat. We ate at the Golden Nugget and discovered that the food there was actually passable. Not good; heavens, no! There is no good food at Disneyland Paris, at least in our experience. We didn’t eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table yet, but maybe next time.
Our last event on our itinerary before heading back to the apartment was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. We’d heard raves and were really excited to try it out. Only when we got into the holding area did we realize that the people raving must be lunatics. For the first time, the language barrier, the crowds, and our encroaching exhaustion had begun to catch up with us. We had no idea where we were being seated – a CM in broken English explained it as, “You will have seats. The red section.” Unfamiliar with the setup, I didn’t know where the red section was. Nothing was labeled “the red section.” I was suffering under the added indignity of not always knowing what red is. When eventually we were seated, it was in these stadium seats that were so uncomfortable it was as if we were being asked to feel the simulated effects of saddlesore.
The food came intermittently. No one ever told us how we would be fed, so when half our section got dinner and we didn’t, I wanted to cry. Jeff was just over it. Eventually – an hour into the show – our ribs and chicken were doled out and we dug in, not even caring how bad the food was. But TWIST: the food was fantastic. It was without a doubt the best food I’d had in France thus far … excepting, of course, that long-ago Roquefort. Oh man, I wish I was eating that Roquefort now.
As for the show? Well, it made very little sense. It was set up like a sporting arena and there were simulated stagecoach robberies and at one point we all had to pass a soccer ball around, I THINK? Around the hour and a half mark, actual buffalo thundered out onto the field, and that was pretty cool. I don’t remember much. I was falling asleep and dreaming of Roquefort. The family next to us just stared ahead and had no expression. Jeff thought they were plants. Or robots.
Despite the drawbacks – the bad food, the almost hilarious lack of customer service at times (and I will stress that it’s at times; most of the people there were as kind and courteous as the CMs in America), the oddly shoddy paint jobs in some areas of the park – Disneyland Paris enchanted us. It was different enough, and awesome enough, for us to seriously consider returning before our annual passes are up next April.
But those are dreams for another day. Stumbling out of the parks and onto the train, the thought hit me: I’ve seen Disneyland, but now I’m going to see Paris. Leaning back into my seat and grinning at my friend, I couldn’t help but have a little thrill at what might come next.
NEXT UP: OUR RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE