Today was Thanksgivings day in the USA and I am in Paris. No turkey dinner for me. Worst! Paris was in the middle of a public transportation strike that turned getting around the City of Lights into a major exercise in patience and uncertainty. The strike was of course getting in the way of my planned day-long visit to DLP for this 15th anniversary year's Christmas Celebration. This situation compared to April 12th, 1992, when a transport strike of the RER trains prevented me from attending Euro Disneyland on it's opening day after making the trip to Paris just for that ocasion. I was horribly ticked off then and I would be, to a lesser degree today.
However.. "if there is a will, there is a way" or so they say (that's "if you dream it, you really can do it!" for those of you Disney fanatics), so I got up at 8:30am and got dressed as if it was a normal day in the City. One quick check with the Hotel's concierge, just to be told the strike was continuing and some trains were not running at all..including the RERs, which is the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get to DLP from the city if you are a tourist. I was to say the least... dismayed by the prospect of not being able to go to DLP at all. However, some Metro lines were operating a very reduced schedule, so not everything was at a stand still in regards to transportation. Better yet, what little train service was available was FREE OF CHARGE to all riders. A taxi to DLP from my hotel would cost about 80 euros..which is cost prohibitive. Still, I closed my eyes and hoped for the best... thinking that if a Metro could get me to the east edge of the city, then it would probably be cheaper to get to DLP by taxi.
Arriving at the nearest Metro station from my hotel, the TV monitors were informing travelers that some routes were either running sporadically, not running at all, or not garrantied to run. RER B for example was inop. RER A (the line that goes to DLP) was indeed running "1 sur 10" or whatever that meant. I thought they meant 1 train every 10 mins. so I was in glee! The Metro, much to my pleasure, arrived soon and 10 mins later, I arrived at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile Station for my RER connection to DLP. I arrived at the RER platform and along with dozens of other people, I sat and waited. The RER train bound for Marne-La-Valee/Chessy/Parc Disneyland arrived in about 7 minutes!! I was like "OMG!! this is a lucky break!". I boarded the train and got a seat...and finally, I was on my way to DLP with no hazzle thinking how lucky I was!! Less than 30 mins before, the possibility of cancelling my visit was very real indeed. One hour later, at 10:30am.. I arrived at DLRP.
Immediately got off the train and headed over to DLP, joining what appeared to be way too many other guests headed in the same direction.. I was like stunned because in years past, I have visited DLP at this time and the parks have been dead. Today, even with the train problems in the city, the parks appear to be quite busy... and they were indeed to some degree. Needless to say I was quite happy with that because DLP does deserve this success. On the other hand.. I was disappointed because I knew I was going to be bombarded with cigarette stink coming from every direction, since the excessive smoking in Europe does make me sick to my sinuses (sure enough caught a head cold the next morning which I am nursing as I type this), and the stink of 2nd hand smoke in DLP is constant, and it's just about everywhere you are in the park, especially now that a smoking ban indoors is in effect. Thank God! Very sad to see so many young kids picking up this habit, and worst! parents smoking over their kids heads as they push their strollers. What's wrong with that picture? Is mortality rate due to smoking in Europe lower than most other areas of the World?
I pulled out my AP and entered DLP with minimal hazzle (as opposed to being a hazzle at WDW/HKDL with their stupid finger scanning and the AP ticket not registering most of the times I visit, which has become a recurrent problem they blame on ME for stowing the ticket in my wallet. Where do they want me to stow it then?).
As I walk into the park, I immediately begin to enjoy the festive holiday decor.. the snowmen on Main Street Station, the lovely Xmas tree in Town Square, the pine trees and faux snow that covers the gardens...and the snow falling over Main Street. WAIT! Snow on Main Street??? Yes folks! DLP treats their guests to snow falls over Main Street every 30 minutes, complete with sound effects of cimes and windy/stormy sound effects. VERY COOL!! Nearby, the characters do their meet and greet sessions in colorful Holiday outfits. Mickey in particular has a line that competes with the best of them lines he gets at TDL.
I make a detour for the Emporium, and go shopping till dropping, and enjoy the festive decor and exclusive holiday merchandise with the 15th anniversary logo on them. Needless to say, my Xmas tree at home is quite proud to display these ornaments this year. hehehe!
Getting close to noontime.. and noticing most holiday happenings at DLP won't be until later in the day, I decided to head over to the Walt Disney Studios Paris next door and check the progress on that park. Again, I go into the Studios park with any delay and find it mildy crowded and decently decorated for the holidays. Go into Soundstage 1 and got a quick lunch, then headed out the backside door into the area where "Partners" is at.
Like I mentioned before, with the new Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to the left, and some new and very detailed facades just ahead, the illusion of walking into a Hollywood Street is quite striking, which is good, concidering what a dud this park has been in the "theming" department. The only barrier intruding in the illusion is the construction fence that still blocks guests from seeing what's behind on floor level.
The TOT looks totally complete, and it is quite imposing. The facades around it are coming along nicely and are very detailed. I could not resist a quick peek over the fence though... Hehehe! I can only hope the management at DLRP can keep these new areas of the Studios in top shape for the years to come. I personally can't wait to see the finished result soon.
With not much else to do here for now, I headed to the Animation Area, and went gayly forward to Crush's Coaster. It was showing a 15 min wait. I got in line. This time, the line moved quickly and I was on the ride in about 15-20 mins afterwards. This time I was lucky to sit on the forward facing seat. TRUST ME on this... it is better to sit facing forward as you get a better sense of the show and special effects before you go spinning out of control in those strong australian water currents... Crush's Coaster is FUN FUN, albeit a bit carny, but at least this one takes place indoors and has a nice little indoor show as the ride begins. I wish I could say the same for that other horrible spinning coaster ar DAK's Dinocrappa area.
I got off the coaster with a smile on my face and then headed shopping before returning to DLP next door.
I got back to DLP at around 2pm and immediately proceeded to Fantasyland to check out their other holiday area called "Belle's Christmas Village". While this is a nice effort to do something interesting for the holidays... the results are minimal. I do like the little facades they place here for the holidays as they do remind me of being in a Parisian village somewhere in time. However, the area is just an excuse to have more merchanside and food outlets.. and you can find the same stuff at any other stores in the park. There is a nice photo spot area but apart from that, this area is nothing special.
While in Fantasyland, I take the time to ride IASW (my fav version of the ride BTW) and also, as a tribute to my beloved G-Fan, I ride "Snow White's Scary Adventures" (his favorite ride at the MK) Don't ask. BTW..G-Fan was nearby in Germany today and could not join me in Paris...
After that, I take my spot on Main Street USA for the Xmas version of "Once Upon a Dream" Parade. Much to my displeasure, La Parade Noel is not playing this year, which I really like. But this being the 15th anniversary parade, I forgive that, and enjoy. "Once Upon A Dream" performs untouched (as it does normally) for the masses from beginning to end. Then as a special final portion, the music switches to "Chante! C'est Noel" and a snow fall over Main Street begins. Toy soldiers march down the street, followed by dancers in holiday costumes, and finally Santa Claus on his sleigh, with 'real life' reindeers!!! Very nice touch in the finale, but mismatched with the rest of the parade. I would have prefered they had performed "Parade Noel" instead, or even better, why not BOTH?
After the parade, I headed over to Frontierland, getting a Fastpass for BTM along the way, and got a seat at the Chaparral Stage Theater for "Mickey's Winter Wonderland", a delightful character show now playing on it's...like 4th season? Same show as in previous years.. Donald stuck out in the mountains, with his characters pals dropping in to disturb his peace. The show features the Country Bears, a snowfall and Mice on Ice. Very cute. Go check it out if you happen to be there.
After the show, I decided to take a look at the new Woody's Roundup area (formerly the petting zoo) where kids can meet Santa Claus or have their picture taken with several Toy Story characters in different photo spots. Not much to do here for me as I am surrounded by brats and their stroller pushing/cigarette loving parents. I leave the area immediately and go ride Big Thunder Mountain, noticing some nasty spiderwebs in the boarding platform before the ride. When was the last time they cleaned this queue area? Gross!
After riding my fav version of Big Thunder, I headed to Main Street to check out the decor at night. Main Street sparkles with those nice 15th anniversary signs. Then I headed to the hub to take my place for the "Enchanted Candleabration" ceremony, which today took place at park's closing time, 6pm.
The "Enchanted Candleabration" begins and almost immediately, the view is partially blocked with kids, big and small, being placed on their parents' shoulders. URGH! Even one adult (with a child on his shoulders) stood on top of one of the benches closest to the front of the viewing area, causing a bit of an argument with others behind him (me included) who could not see a portion of the stage. That an arse this guy was, but at least he did get off the bench after getting a taste of a very pissed off TDLFAN gesturing with his hands to get off the bench..like NOW! Some people can be so clueless and so inconciderate!!
After the arse got off the bench, we could all see some of the show, featuring the classic characters, who are then joined by the princesses and their beaus. Mickey then shows up and goes into Candleabration mode.. asking for Tinkerbell's help in lighting up the castle's 15 candles. With special lighting, Tink appears to fly around the castle as she lights up the candles, reaching the top, and then like magic... Tink's statue at the top of the castle shoots out golden pixie dust, which sprinkles over the castle, causing the castle to sparkle in strobes. Disney magic and showmanship does not get any better than this. Pass the Kleenex box please! Even the trees around the Hub sparkle in strobes and colorful lights in unison with the castle. It's a most enchanting sight indeed.
Then Tink appears to travel down Main Street (with the help of strobes located above the Main Street buildings/ cool effect!!) and lights up the Xmas tree at Town Square. On her way up.. the Princess chandeliers light up in several animated light patterns. Finally... Tink lights up the castle, section by section, until it's totally lit.
"Enchanted Candleabration" is simply SPECTACULAR, and IMHO.. the best lighting ceremony of any of the Disney parks on Earth this (or any) holiday. This show is a MUST SEE if you happen to be in DLP for Xmas, and make sure you position yourself where you can get a great view of Town Square, the lenght of Main Street, the hub and the castle!
The show ends and an announcement that the park has closed it's door for the day came over the speakers. I took as many pictures as I could of this spectacle, which wasn't easy with all of the people around you doing the same and blocking the shots.
Sadly, Fantillusion Parade nor Wishes Fireworks were scheduled to perform tonight but that's OK. I will catch them some other time I hope.
Then the trip back to the city.... I showed up at the RER Station not knowing what to expect, nor knowing if the trains were running altogether. There were other folks waiting as well, and it appeared that I had missed a train by mere moments before I go there. Anyways... I sat on the station for ONE HOUR and 15 MINUTES until the next train arrived, and we finally departed DLP's station at just after 8pm. The trip back to the city and to my hotel was uneventful from that point on, but still, it took me about an hour 20 mins to get back to the hotel on a trip that normally takes 1 hour to do. But who cares? I MADE IT TO DLRP and that's what mattered! I was quite happy about that.
I am also happy to share the photos from my day visit to DLP, where everything discussed above can be seen with your very own eyes (and patience), so if you have the time then head to my album. I have added captions for added explanations and comments. I took over 550 pics and here are the best 210 of them.. so enjoy and JOYEUX NOEL!!!!
Reminders that my Xmas Albums from TDL, TDS and the Castle DreamLights at the MK are currently up for viewing as well... so take the day off work and enjoy those as well. Also, DLP's Xmas season ends on january 7th, 2008. Hurry and visit soon!