Going to Disneyland was something I dreamed of as a child, as did every child I know. It never happened and I was left to change the dream to taking my own child to experience this mythical, magical wonder. Finally, when she turned eight, I figured Emiko was old enough to both enjoy it and remember it. I booked a trip for myself, my daughter and my husband for three nights and four days at Disneyland Paris at the end of the summer holidays when it was marginally more affordable. I had lowered my expectations in some regards, as the visit was to take place whilst I was five months pregnant, and expectant mothers are not allowed on most rides and attractions. I still figured I could have some fun though, and would get enjoyment out of my daughter’s pleasure. Here are my diary entries from the trip:
Day One (27th August)
Travel goes as well as it can and we arrive only mildly stressed by it. We check into Hotel Cheyenne after queuing at vastly crowded reception and go to our room only to discover the following: the lock you put the key cards into doesn’t work that well and requires multiple attempts before we can gain access to the room; tea, coffee and even kettle are not complimentary as in even the most basic B and B but are costly extras which must be acquired from aforementioned crowded reception and the TV has only four channels in English, two of which are news. We have just spent several days in a Premier Inn in Oxford while visiting Elliot’s mother and grandmother; so far the Premier Inn is nicer. Unpacking, I realise that somewhere between train and shuttle ride, I have lost my mobile phone. We head to reception to report it missing and find out where it might go if it was lost on the shuttle and handed in by someone but no luck.
We venture out to the Disney parks despite the constant rain. The rain doesn’t stop all day and it turns out neither my aging boots nor my ‘waterproof’ jacket can cope. I spend the remainder of the day cold and damp. We do some enjoyable browsing of shops and checking out locations of stuff in parks. To get out of the wet weather, we go to Starbucks and discover the ‘Starbucks Name’ is a thing in France too -here I am not ‘Lizzie’ but ‘Léti’. I wait with Emi while Elliot goes on the Armageddon Experience -I’d have liked to go too but I’m not allowed because I’m pregnant. Elliot later says he can’t see why that is.
We eat dinner at hot sandwich place called Earl of Sandwich -it’s not bad. We stop to watch the Disney Parade which was good, except for an annoying woman with a camera constantly blocking Emi’s view trying to take pictures. This is aggravating as she pretty much pushed her way in front after we’d been waiting for ages, and also clearly the parade is aimed at children; I let quite a few in front of me so they can see better. Frankly my feet and back are killing me by this point. We head back to hotel as it is getting to Emi’s bedtime. I spend the evening watching Bones on my laptop (thank goodness Elliot had the foresight to say we bring it and have it ready stocked with entertainment.) Other occupants of the hotel apparently have no regard for time of night and are excessively noisy in hallways. I have a terrible night of sleep, where I wake up constantly. I cannot get comfortable, as there are not enough pillows and I am persistently thirsty. I drink lots of water and have to get up to use bathroom several times.
Day Two (28th Aug)
Today is not raining, it is actually quite nice weather. The day starts okay, breakfast is not bad and we take advantage of the buffet style food to make several ham and cheese rolls to take with us for lunch, as well as a quantity of croissants. Everything is so expensive here we figure we may as well. We head out for look around. I buy myself a headband with Minnie mouse ears and bow, I’m quite pleased as it was the only souvenir I had really wanted. We discover that several Disney character’s are out for meet and greet. Unlike in TV adverts, they do not just wander the park at random, oh no. Queuing to meet Minnie Mouse is expected to take two hours and Mickey is no longer with her. Other characters have similarly long lines. We are somewhat disillusioned as it seems like a ridiculous waste of time. We go instead to the Sleeping Beauty castle to see what’s what. My bladder decides today is going to be the day to insist on constantly demanding attention, go pregnancy! Eventually we decide to buy Emiko a princess dress (Ariel’s wedding gown) and tiara as seems like a large part of small girl’s Disney experience.
We queue for 30 minutes to take 2 minute ride on carousel as it is one of the very few rides I can go on. A group decision is made that the queues for Alice’s Labyrinth do not justify walking through a bunch of chest-high hedges. What is the point of a maze when anyone over four and a half foot can see over the top? We go into different section of the park, I end up sitting on a bench whilst Emi and Elliot ride Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m glad they enjoyed it. We wander through various fake caves and man-made waterfalls for a while until we come to an Indiana Jones ride. Elliot wants to go on it but Emiko doesn’t. I am not allowed to. Elliot doesn’t want to go on rides by himself and is frustrated that Emi only really wants to go on the sort of rides we have in our hometown and none of the bigger rides, which she says are scary. This is the point where the day starts to go wrong.
Emiko gets stroppy because she claims we haven’t bought her a souvenir. I point out that we got her a princess outfit and she says that she didn’t really want it. I say we wouldn’t have spent that much buying it for her if we’d known that because she sure seemed like she wanted it it the shop. Somehow the situation escalates until Elliot and I are cross with her for being so ungrateful and she is saying she wants to go back to the hotel and sulk. The final straw comes when she tries to hit me and says we are ruining her perfect holiday. I point out that it is actually her who is ruining things. No one is happy now so we abandon the ride Elliot wanted to go on and head for Starbucks for coffee because it is the only thing we can think of.
Eventually Emi apologises. Elliot and I explain why her behaviour was unacceptable, then say that if she wants any more souvenirs she will have to spend her pocket money on them and is not to expect any more funding from us. We head to the Studio Park and wait in line to see Spiderman, which cheers everyone up.
The day continues a little better but Emiko is still reluctant to be adventurous with rides. Nothing she wants to go on is really worth the queues and everything Elliot wants to go on intimidates her. He doesn’t want to do any of it by himself and I am too pregnant to be allowed on any of it anyway. Emiko then pulls herself and Elliot out of the line for Thunder Mountain (one of the few rides she and Elliot both want to go on) because she needs the loo. The line is 70 minutes long so they do not bother to go back in. She doesn’t want to go in the haunted house and the boat ride is closed by the time we get there, so we spend forever waiting for the little train. We circle the park once and get off at Discovery Land. E and E do the Star Wars experience. I wait outside for ages as I cannot do that either. They both enjoyed it and I am happy.
This is what I was hoping for -they would have fun and I would live vicariously through them. They get in line for Space Mountain and I am patiently settling down to wait when they return, Elliot looking unimpressed. Emiko did want to go on it but then it made a loud noise and she changed her mind. Both Elliot and I are feeling like it was a bit of a waste of money to come when Emiko is not making the most of it so we decide to go back to the hotel. We stop to watch Queen Elsa go past as it just happens to be time for that. I am trying very hard not to show how disappointed and disillusioned I am with how this is all turning out. I don’t think anyone is enjoying this trip as much as I had intended. I am hoping tomorrow is better.
Day Three (29th August)
Day three is much, much better. Prepared for the queuing, we arrive earlier to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse and although the line is still long and the wait even longer, eventually we get to pose for pictures with them. Elliot is extremely amused when Mickey accidentally hits me in the face with his ears, because I’ve been doing it to Elliot all day with mine. We get tea and coffee and go to the Studio Park to watch the car stunt show, which is extremely entertaining and has choreographed chase scenes with shoot-outs, jumps, explosions and a biker who slides through flames and runs around on fire (planned and safely).
Following this, we wander around for a while then go on the boat ride we missed yesterday. It is also quite enjoyable. By this point my feet are killing me and I am too hot as it is very sunny, so we get Frozen-themed slushies and sit down. Then we take Emi to the Disney Store to spend her allowance, which has been burning a hole in her pocket ever since we arrived. She leaves with three new toys and we leave with a realisation that somewhere our parenting has gone wrong and we have to work on her materialism. We make her buy her own dinner with what’s left of her allowance to help teach her the value of money. Thankfully, she is reasonably accepting of this and I think it helps her realise why we wanted her to experience the trip fully and not just think about buying toys the whole time. I also think she actually enjoyed getting her own receipt and food timer -it made her feel a bit grown-up and independent.
Day Four (30th August)
It’s our final day, so we check out of our hotel and go to the Disney Parks for a final look round. We collect our photos of us with Spiderman and Minnie. We end up going to see Stitch Live, which I probably enjoy as much as the kids do. My amusement is more entertaining for Elliot than the actual show, I think. I spend several minutes afterwards busting out my impression of Stitch (which I’ve been told is pretty good). Later we go to see the show CinéMagique. I’m not sure what to expect but it turns out to be a semi-interactive clip show which is very cool, although I wish they hadn’t included the clip from the Exorcist because the show was billed as family friendly. Emi may not have known what it was but she didn’t like it and I don’t find vomit remotely humorous. We spend a long while killing time in Starbucks, as we have run out of things to do that we can logically fit in before our train leaves. We take a last look in the shops and I buy a fridge magnet for my collection and a pencil and pen for my friend RJ as little gifts-she is starting uni soon so I figure they’ll be useful. Train ride back is pretty uneventful and I am glad to be back home with my own bed.
I enjoyed parts of the holiday more than others. I am naturally inclined to focus on negative aspects of life but I am determined to come away from this trip remembering mostly the good times -I refuse to let a few unlucky moments darken my experience. I have never taken a child on holiday before and I think everyone learned some lessons there. We probably should have anticipated more how overwhelming it would be for Emi and we should have taken advantage of the disability fast pass you can get if your child has autism (but since her autism is mild we frequently don’t use things like that, it feels like they are aimed at people worse off and we like to give her the opportunity to cope for herself. Next time I think we’ll just take it when offered.) It was difficult being pregnant, I don’t thing we’ll go on vacation next time I am. And I won’t expect magical perfection from my next family holiday either -even if it is the fabled land of Disney.