Saturday, January 28, 2012

Euro Disneyland Paris: A Surprise Trip to France


My parents, who are in their fifties and are just now starting to become world-travelers, recently returned from a trip to Disneyland. They went with my sister, who is 24-years-old, and had a total blast! I was inspired as I flipped through their photo album, viewing pictures of them hugging Eeyore, dancing with Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas, and jumping the line of 500 small children to get first dibs in a picture with Mickey Mouse. Close to retirement, new to travel, my parents are excellent examples that it is never too late to start crossing items off your bucket lists!

I myself have never been to Disneyland: I'm hoping to one day take my own (and as-of-yet unborn) children for a fun family vacation. But I have been to Euro Disneyland in France, so I can write the first half of bucket item #64, "Go to Euro Disneyland". I can't compare the two theme parks just yet, but this is a start.

My trip to Euro Disneyland was completely unscheduled and unexpected. Because of that, I have no tips and tricks regarding pricing, best times to attend, etc.  I was just happy to be there! I was in England at the age of 16 on my own, visiting some pen pals that I had. This was the day before email and social networking, when kids had to actually physically sit down and pen a cohesive and entertaining letter, then fold it, put it in an envelope, buy a stamp, and rely on the postal service to deliver your hard work. I enjoyed writing letters, and did so with great frequency. After years of writing to my two English buddies, it was time to go visit with them face-to-face.

Enjoying the canals and locks of rural England. And no, no one forced me to dress like that.

I stayed with my friend Jenny and her mother, Laraine, who was the mastermind behind the surprise trip to Euro Disneyland. She woke us up early one morning and told us to get ready. Downstairs, she had some food packed in a cooler and we were told to gather some items for an overnight trip in our backpacks. We were dying of curiosity, but despite our pleas, Laraine would not unseal her lips. She was having fun driving us crazy. We got into a coach and it drove us to the coast. There we caught a ferry at the famous Cliffs of Dover. By this time, I had figured out we were crossing the English Channel into France, and Laraine couldn't hold me back any longer.

Cinderella's Castle all dressed up for Hunchback of Notre Dame.

"We're going to Euro Disneyland!" she announced, and we all went crazy (I was with Jenny, her boyfriend Higgy, her younger sister and her sister's friend). Jenny and Higgy were a little calmer than I, because they had been there before. But this was such a generous and unexpected surprise, I couldn't believe my good fortune. Another stretch of good fortune: the regiment of (young) Dutch soldiers who shared the ferry ride with us. For a sixteen-year-old boy-crazy girl, I was having the best day of my life.

Playing "Hide and Go Seek" in Alice's maze at Eurodisneyland.

Once in France, we drove until night fell. It was an overnight coach ride, and the first time I'd ever slept on a bus.  The next day was Eurodisney! The day is a blur to me now, nearly 15 years later. But I do remember acting like a total child, skipping and hopping along, taking pictures with every Disney character I encountered.

Getting cuddled by Eeyore, and by cuddled I mean squished!

We got Higgy sick on the teacups, rode some spectacular rides, watched the Disney parade, and saw an evening show with dinner. My favorite place was Alice in Wonderland's labyrinth, where we got very lost but had a total blast.

Getting lost in Alice's maze in Eurodisney.

If Laraine ever reads this blog, I'd like to thank her again (and again!) for this amazing and surprise journey. What a great gift to a girl from Canada!  (And thanks, Laraine, for helping me get the story straight - after all this time the details were a little fuzzy for me!)

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