Towards the end of two weeks in Paris, we were feeling a need for a getaway from the city.
We know. Thank you for feeling our pain.
Brian being the kid who still enjoys amusement parks, and Frank being the lovable, just-say-“Yes” kind of husband, we first opted to hit a purely French tradition called La Fete des Loges.
We saw their posters on buses and in the metro stations. We were intrigued by two aspects, first, that it was held in a forest, and, second, that the festival has been operating every summer since 1652.
We had expectations of a quaint, rustic gathering in the woods, like the Renaissance Fairs held back home, with people in vintage costumes feigning bad medieval accents, jousting with wooden swords, and eating hearty old-world food.
We grabbed the subway near our apartment, transferred to the regional train, and made it to Saint Germain en Laye in about an hour. From there, we hopped on board an open-air shuttle to the park. The Fete was not a Renaissance-style event at all, but a huge modern carnival with wild rides and tons of arcade games. It was not too different than the carnival ride section of a state fair in the U.S., albeit on a grander scale and with a French twist.
We arrived fairly early in the day, so the large crowds had yet to arrive. We strolled the rows of arcades and watched the stomach-turning carnival rides. It was great people watching, with so many young French families out for the day. It was also nice to be out of the city for the day, even without the wooden swords.
One of the more amusing rides was when they would put small children into large plastic bubbles, fill them up with air (the balls, not the children), and then toss the bubble into a pool of water.
It was impossible for the kids to actually stand in these things, so at best they could crawl in their little hamster ball biosphere making little forward motion. Once the operator pulled the ball from the water and opened the Velcro slit to let the kids reemerge, they typically had a forced smile on their faces, as if they felt like they should have enjoyed their fifteen encapsulated minutes, but were mostly thankful to be back on solid ground with fresh air.
On the way back we skipped the shuttle and enjoyed a long walk through the woods back to town, imagining festival goers walking home in the 17th century.
Before jumping back on the train to Paris, we took time to explore a 12th century chateau near the railroad station. Cheateau de Saint Germain en Laye was the birthplace of Louis the XIV, “the Sun King” himself. Europe has amazing history around every corner.
And then along comes Mickey…
Brian and his kids have been to Disneyland in California multiple times, occasionally buying five-day passes and then actually going five days in a row. Main Street on Disneyland would start to feel like home after a long visit.
So as an incentive to get our blog up-do-date, we said we would go to Disneyland Paris if we caught up on our entries. Unfortunately, we bought the tickets on-line before actually achieving our goals, and so the postings continued to lag by six to eight weeks.
Authors’ Confessions – We love having the blog to share the trip with our friends, and to look back upon for ourselves. It is amazing how many places we have been so far. But, having a blog is also like being back in college, with so many term papers still to write before the semester ends. The difference with college is that there is an end to the semester. With our trip, we are lacking the hard deadlines. When faced with writing about our adventures, or having new ones, the shiny new attractions typically win out. So dear readers, thanks for your patience. Now back to Mickey….
Disneyland Paris is only a 30 minute train ride from Paris. We knew were on the right train because we saw more than one little girl dolled up in her best princess drag.
Ticket prices for Disneyland in California have skyrocketed in the last few years, to well over $100 per day. Disneyland Paris was much more reasonable, at about 38 Euro per person. The entire park was also a bit more “relaxed”, loosening up on the Anaheim desperation to maintain illusion. Here we actually saw active construction sites and park employees were more relaxed too. It was nice.
There were some obvious differences from the U.S. version of Disneyland. Frontierland was not the American frontier, but North Africa. And there were also similarities, like 90 minute lines for a 5 minute ride.
Disney has two adjoining parks in Paris. One is the traditional park with Fantasyland, Adventureland, etc. This little girl’s delight with the characters on parade really captured the magic of Disneyland. Her arms were wide open as her favorite characters would come down the street. She would turn to us, with total joy on her face and urgency in her voice, to make sure we saw what she saw. It really made us miss our 21-month old grandson Benson.
The other park, Disney Studios, has a Hollywood movie-lot theme.
While there, we caught a stunt-driving show which blew us away. It started off with a motorcycle driver popping wheelies first on his back tire, then even on his front tire. And the wheelies weren’t just up for a few seconds, but driving figure eights around a large lot.
Then the cars came. Up to eight of them at one time, spinning donuts and flying around the large course, missing each other by inches. It was jaw-dropping amazing.
It was a great day. After our high-brow days exploring art in the Louvre and d’Orsay, it was nice to relax and let Disney entertain us. We recalled taking our own kids to Disneyland in times past, and began to look forward to taking grandkids in the future.
We are convinced we are the only Americans we know who went to Paris and then took full a day to visit Disneyland Paris.
Just call us Goofy….