This was our first Thanksgiving away from home so we debated what to do. Do we not celebrate at all? Should Jamie and Patrick stay home that day and we have our own Thanksgiving at home? Or do we go and indulge ourselves instead of sitting home and missing everyone? We decided to be indulgent and went to Disneyland Paris for a long weekend!
The most common way of going to Disneyland Paris is by the Eurostar, there is even a train station right outside the entrance gate, but it is only about 6 hours of total travel time by car. We also wanted to check out the Eurotunnel and have the option of driving into Paris proper so we decided to drive. I spent all day Wednesday getting us ready for our trip. It’s amazing how much work it is to pack up a family of 5 for just 4 days. The biggest delay was making sure all the laundry was done since I can only get about half as many clothes in each load as I’m used to. But by about 11:00pm Wednesday night the family was packed, we had snacks, backup clothes, stroller, multiple stroller accessories, etc. We were either going to Disneyland or war but were prepared either way.
We woke the kids up just before 5:00am and piled them in the car still in PJs. Our goal was to let them sleep for at least the portion of the drive that was still dark. Patrick and Ella snoozed but of course Kellen, the child that most needs to sleep, decided he was up for the ride so chatted with us all the way to the Eurotunnel. When we told him we were going to drive our car onto a train he laughed and said “No, Daddy” figuring of course that Jamie was teasing him. Then when we really did drive right onto the train I think we were all a bit amazed. They line the cars up similar to riding on a ferry but its only single file. They get you on, parked and on your way incredibly fast for so many cars. Then 30 minute later you’re there and in France.
It is a bit strange that you go into this tunnel for 30 minutes and come out and it looks totally different. Although the countries are so close you immediately can tell that the trees and fields look different, the villages have a different feel to them and of course you drive on the right hand side of the road. We were on our way, thank goodness for GPS. The drive from the tunnel to Disney was about 3 hours and this is where the details get a bit hazy as I dozed and poor Jamie had to go it alone for at least an hour. Finally we pulled into the Disney property that included Disneyland as well as all of the Disney hotels. It was a foggy day so we really couldn’t see much but being used to Disney always being sunny and warm it was definitely strange to pull up in the fog and gloom.
After we checked into our hotel we walked through the Disney Village, their version of Downtown Disney in California, this was not a good place to start. While the actually Disney store and restaurant in the village were nice the other restaurants looked like they hadn’t been updated since the early ‘90s when it was built. We ended up having our lunch on Thanksgiving day in a Planet Hollywood that was well past its prime. At this point I think Jamie and I were both nervous that maybe this wasn’t a great idea. Here we are freezing on Thanksgiving eating terrible burgers in Planet Hollywood. But then we entered the park.
As usual Disney does such a great job, you walk in and you are on Main Street USA and Mickey was right there inside the entrance. Kellen and Patrick both gave Mickey a big hug and we were back on track. Overall the park was really similar to California but there would be slight differences. For example the first ride Jamie and Patrick did was Space Mountain 2 so it had full upside down loops but was the same dark space theme. One big different between Disney in the states and in Paris was the smoking. It was crazy. We really aren’t bothered by smoking but this was out of control. I would guess that 50% of the adults were smoking in the park at any given time. Waiting in line for rides, pushing strollers, watching the parades, all smoking all the time. We were definetly in Europe and not the states. We also noticed just the number of different languages being spoken all around us. When there were announcements over the loudspeakers they would first be in French, then Spanish, and then English, followed by at least 3 more languages.
We were really lucky that we arrived on Thursday, there were essentially no lines on Thursday and Friday, we couldn’t believe how much we were able to do and see. By Saturday it was the Disney we were used to with hour long waits. Along with Disneyland they have the Disney Studios so that was also a lot of fun. There were Cars rides and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on stage. Patrick did the Tower of Terror multiple times. We did get a kick out of all the names of the rides being different.
Kellen had a blast this trip, we really did focus more on the little kid areas since Patrick has been to Disney multiple times so we spent much more time in fantasy land then we ever had before. The Small World is just Kellen’s speed, along with the Snow White ride and Pinocchio. He did go along with Dad and Patrick in Pirates of the Caribbean but he told me that one was scary and didn’t seem interested in trying them again. It was also a lot of fun to watch parades with him, the rest of us enjoy the parade and look forward to them but it was perfect for Kellen. We would park his stroller right up on the curb and he would point out each character as they walked by.
By Saturday night we decided that a break from Disney would be a good thing and drove into Paris for dinner. I have to hand it to Jamie, I think they drive more aggressive in France then they do in England, and compared to Seattle it’s downright reckless out here. We saw the Eiffel Tower, it was more incredible in person then I anticipated. Then we found a bistro for a late dinner. It was so fun to take Patrick into Paris and have him try out his French he’s been learning.
On Sunday after a few last rides we started to head home. We decided to make a day out of it and went to Reims before catching the Eurotunnel back to England. We knew we wanted to see the Cathedral of Reims but we were pleasantly surprised to find a Christmas market in full swing. There were stalls selling all sorts of food stands and crafts, a full band playing and even a pony ride with a line of adorable little girls. Then the Cathedral itself was amazing. The façade was so intricate you found yourself just stepping back and trying to take it all in.
As we drove home I think both Jamie and I were tired but happy with the trip. It was the perfect balance of familiar and new, kid focused fun and exploring for us. It’s these kinds of long weekends that were the motivation to make the move out here. Throughout the weekend we would talk about what we were thankful for and this year we have so many reasons to be thankful. Our family is now complete with Miss Ella, we are all together under one roof and we just had our first of hopefully many adventures.