For any of my friends who have paid some level of attention to my Facebook feed of late, it cannot have escaped your attention that Family R recently travelled to The Loire, via the circle of hell that is Euro Disney Paris. Before getting across to Calais of course, we had to endure Operation Stack, and the detours and the travelling ‘hell’ that got our break off to an early, and somewhat grumpy (me) start. The night before I had seen all the travel news, but oddly Le Shuttle carried no real useful information…their service was fine! Four trains an hour! Arrive on time! Easy to say, but not do, when you have a mostly closed section of the M20 that is integral to your route…. Though it is all relative of course. Me, queuing in traffic, having to leave my comfy suburban bed three hours early, it sort of gets put into perspective when your train is cancelled because another migrant has died on the tracks that morning. The moaning I heard from others as we quaffed our Flat Whites in Leon’s… What good it would do to remember how lucky we are… By the end of my second coffee, finally feeling awake, I sort of did.
But enough soul searching, and back to Disney…
Prior to our entry to one of the most saccharine, and desperately hollow two days of my life (though I use hollow in the literal film set style facade that is the park buildings as opposed to internal, personal hollow. On a personal density level I left significantly less hollow than I arrived… To the degree I have a whole other Blog post drafted about the All You Can Eat Buffet and why just because you can, you should not), I was not prepared for quite how bad it would be. I genuinely hoped (though that transpired to be futile), that in somehow parting with a lot of money, staying on the park, and agreeing to embrace the whole debacle (Fast Pass? Check! Actually pretending the characters were the ‘real’ Donald/Merida/Mickey Ok then! Count me in! Despite their suspicious French accents…); that the monetary transaction would mean that, despite all my fears, I would – against my will – love it. But I did not. Is it too much of an article spoiler to admit that?
On arrival, the girls were greeted as princesses. So far… So, well, Disney. Mind you, French Disney, so it wasn’t as earnest as it could have been. It is what ever kid wants right? I think the only reason Mr R booked the two nights is because he himself never went to Disney as a child. Nor did I! But nor have I ever wanted to. I was branded by the family as a misery. They even composed a ‘misery klaxon’ which they sang, in chorus, whenever I rolled my eyes. Or moaned. Or did anything that wasn’t full-on-jazz-hands-fun-having. It was our constant musical accompaniment. My loathing of the experience relentless. The only reason I agreed to this two nights of self induced hell was on the full agreement that I never have to go to Florida. Ever. Mr R I suspect, hoped I would capitulate. To be won over by the magic. By lunchtime of day two, he too was in agreement that anything more than a day is overkill. Frankly, I had revised this down to a minute. It was truly that bad.
But what made it bad? Is it just that I am a horrendous snob, and that being made to wear a wristband to the dinner buffet (fluorescent yellow, just so they couldn’t miss it), or that I sat next to a British lady (no children…. Who would go to Disneyland without a child? Paris is literally down the road… And is probably cheaper) who had for her breakfast, a bowl of cheese. A bowl of orange cubes of (and I defer to the sign next to it the buffet as it was not self evident) cheddar… With a side of eight slices of white toast. And Apple juice so sweet, C left hers, and I genuinely spat mine back into the glass in disgust. No. Though food was frankly shit. Queues for twenty minutes, even the sandwiches a fried, cheese heavy affair. This is France! They do great food! Just not in Disney….
But it wasn’t the food alone (though in case you are left in any doubt, it was fricking awful) or the sheer commercialism, though that was pretty heinous. Even the queuing was manageable though mostly because the girls only wanted to go on the tame rides… My day was punctuated with tannoy announcements that came on with a musical flourish akin to Claudius Templesmith’s game changing declarations in The Hunger Games (genuinely, the composer of the film score must have been to Disney, it is too uncanny to be coincidence) ‘The parade will start in ten minutes’ the voice would announce, and you would scrabble to a vantage point to watch the ‘real’ characters float past on their mechanised floats. Because we were told to. The highlight was Price Charming absolutely plastering on a smile, orange from foundation, while whispering something impolite to Cinderella. Well that was my highlight. Mr R elated as Donald waved at him, and C believes that Flora gave her actual magic powers.
And perhaps she did. My issue is this. That it felt as though the whole thing, including every other tourist in there was a fake. As fake as the faux castle, the facade of the sets in the Disney Studio park, the painted on smiles of all those actors (would they put that on their CV?) as though by spending money, and buying the memorabilia it bought memories. Look, in the same way that for some people love Chessington, or Alton Towers, if rides float your boat, then do it. But I have to say, leaving the park at 10am, and reaching out holiday house in the Loire by 3pm, both girls jumped fully clothed into the pool in the garden. And in that moment, they had more genuine fun then any of the gimmicks we had seen for the previous two days.
And I do acknowledge, I am a misery. And a snob. But the magic is what happens when you don’t expect it, not what happens when you pay much too much for mediocre accommodation, terrible food (though, silver lining, great wine), and plastered on smiles of Disney characters on their fourth show of their day trying to make your experience special.
And, as a final caveat, the kids did have fun. But were total chickens on all the rides. And should I ever hear ‘it’s a small world after all’ again, it may actually cause me to break.