I recently took the trip of a lifetime. Cliché, I know, but when the thumbtacks on your mind’s map of places traveled are limited to the U.S.’s east coast and Canada, anywhere that the primary language isn’t English (or Strong Island-ish, what’s left of English after its been beat up by Drita D’Avanzo) becomes excitingly foreign and exotic.
I went to Paris, France for roughly 10 days. Now, I could write an entire
novel short story based on my little floral journal of notes about the spectacular monuments bursting with historical relevance and accomplishment or the highly esteemed Louvre and Venus de Milo’s magnificence or how Nutella crepes are the kicking-est mouth party to ever besiege my taste buds, but I’ll save those memories for my daydreams.
Instead, I want to talk about Disneyland Paris, located approximately 24.8 miles outside Paris. Now, some may remark with disgust, “What? You traveled over 3,400 miles on an overly priced Air France 747 to ride Space Mountain?” No, you uninformed down-talker. I traveled over 3,400 miles on an overly priced Air France 747 to ride Space Mountain: Mission 2. It’s light years better than the first. This one goes upside down. Sick.
I jest, sort of. I took the trip to get out of the US and to tour the city of Paris and all its breathtaking wonder, and I made a pit stop at Disneyland along the way.
(Side note: I am a Disney freak whose parents are Disney Vacation Club members and I’ve been to Disney World more times than is acceptable to admit and sometimes, on cold, rainy nights I, teary-eyed, cuddle up with my Mickey Mouse quilt and watch other people’s Disney World trip videos on YouTube.)
Disneyland Paris is akin to the less ambitious, chain-smoking brother (or sister, don’t hate) of Disney World. As opposed to Epcot’s stereotyped World Showcase meant to give little American boys and girls a neatly packaged experience of culture, Disneyland Paris seems to be a way for French, Italian, Spanish, German, etc. little garçons and filles to get their sugar-coated fix of Disney and American culture i.e. the rip-roaring ol’ west and juke-box-gathering cast of Happy Days.
In Disney World Florida there’s Downtown Disney, an overpriced combination of shopping, entertainment, bars, and cheesy, faux-diverse restaurants such as Bongos Cuban Café, Cookes of Dublin, Pollo Campero, Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant, mixed in with the familiar Earl of Sandwich, House of Blues, Rainforest Cafe and Planet Hollywood. In Disneyland Paris there’s Disney Village, a much, much smaller, yet still ridiculously overpriced, version of Downtown Disney whose dining facilities are strictly American, such as Annette’s Diner, Billy Bob’s Country Western Saloon, McDonald’s (featuring McBaguettes), New York Style Sandwiches, and the creatively titled Sports Bar. “Put a shine on your cowboy boots: you’re in a saloon in Austin, Texas!”
Let me take this opportunity to state I am not criticizing Disneyland Paris in any way. Although I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing Disneyland Paris and Disney World Florida (as opposed to Disneyland California, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney), it is obvious, as I’m sure it is to most people with knowledge of the Disney Parks enterprise, that Disney is not real. And by that I mean the company takes the world and reflects it through a remarkably superficial and uncomplicated mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most amiable of them all? Greetings, fair children, I present to you: today’s universe. Everyone gets along and still practices their culture’s traditional customs with a smile.
Oh, and everyone takes debit.
This is just the way Disney is. It’s a fake world, but as long as one knows it’s fake, what’s the trouble in reveling in its simplistic, ignorant “May-Pole of Merry Mount” happiness every now and then? It’s kind of like taking drugs to escape reality, except instead of acid you’re swallowing a lovin’ spoonful of the largest media conglomerate in the world.
Back to the comparison. Disney World in Florida has four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot (Environmental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios), and Animal Kingdom. Disneyland Paris has two: Disneyland Park (their Magic Kingdom) and Walt Disney Studios Park (their Hollywood Studios). If you were to take all of the cigarette smoke from the designated, shady smoking areas of all four parks of Disney World, they would be the squashed mouse to Disneyland Paris’s Lennie. In Disneyland Paris (whose 20th anniversary is this year), as long as you’re outside, smoke your little lungs out.
It was not terribly shocking, of course. To make a convenient umbrella statement, people smoke a shit ton more in Europe than they do in the United States. However, I always thought of Disney as some vice-restricting place where there’s a two (or five) drinks maximum and smoking is a real world no-no. You never see a hipster Mickey lighting up an American Spirit when Minnie’s on her period and run out of PBR, do you? The only characters they have smoke are villains such as the adorable-Dalmatian-killing Cruella de Vil.
In Disney Paris, there are as many smoking sections as there are reasonably priced snow globes: none.
The rides at Disneyland Paris are pretty much the same as at Magic Kingdom. There are less, of course, to fit its smaller size, but they are of the same nature. There are some flat-out copies of the classics, such as Disneyland Park’s “It’s a small world,” Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean (although the Paris version doesn’t have the Johnny Depp animatronic recently installed in Florida), Star Tours (every geek/ my boyfriend’s favorite that we rode three times), the Orbitron, and Phantom Manor (their Haunted Mansion). Since there’s no Epcot to house all of the Future World rides, they were put into Disneyland Park’s retro-futuristic Discoveryland, their version of Tomorrowland.
ER-ROR. ER-ROR. Sorry, just experienced a land/world overload. Seesh.
Paris’s Walt Disney Studios is, again, a much smaller version of Florida’s Hollywood Studios and on weeknights it closes at the wee hour of 18:00 (6pm). Me and my boo hit it up around 10am, and sadly had gone on every ride we wanted by around 3pm. However, the park did have some pretty sweet attractions that are not featured at Disney World such as Crush’s Coaster, RC Racer (a glorified version of the common carnival Pirate Ship ride), and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. While the park also housed my ultimate favorite ride (that gives no indication of my personal music preferences) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, it was closed the day I was there. Weep.
What thrills were lost not riding the Aerosmith-soundtracked spectacular, however, were gained in Space Mountain: Mission 2, a ride not suitable for pregnant women, anyone with back or heart problems, or for those who have recently consumed several ham and cheese crepes. Like the original, it’s mostly in the dark and features seizure-causing light effects. Unlike the original it has loops and corkscrews. We rode it trois times.
So, Disneyland Paris is a quaint, newer (est. 1992) version of Disney World Florida. But what it lacks in size and shimmer it more than makes up in cigarette-ability, both familiar and new attractions, a melody of languages floating around,
and oh yeah, you’re in fucking France, you spoiled bitch.