I went to Paris for a few days about a fortnight ago, and as well as visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes, Fiona and I also went to Disneyland Paris (on her 21st birthday, no less). Regular readers of this blog will know that I like going to theme parks and suchlike, but Disneyland seems to feel like more of a general destination than the usual thrill ride filled park, so I think it appealed more to Fiona.
We happened to be visiting on a Monday (in April), and the park was at a pleasant level of business. We didn't have to queue much at all for most of the rides (except Thunder Mountain, the iconic runaway mine train rollercoaster), and so we managed to fit in pretty much everything we wanted to do.
One of the nice things about Disneyland is that they do 'theming' in a big way. In 'Adventureland' there are suspended rope bridges to cross, treehouses (from Robinson Crusoe) to climb, as well as shipwrecks and caves to see and explore. This means that often you can be enjoying yourselves wandering around without having to go and queue up for a particular 'ride'. Designing the park in this way must both reduce the pressure on rides to perform at high capacities, and give visitors more overall satisfaction in their day, so it seems a good model that other theme parks might do well to copy.
Before I get into some of the bigger rides that we enjoyed, it's also worth mentioning that we did a circuit and a half in the train ride that goes round the edge of the park. In theme parks, this type of thing is often considered a cross between transport and a ride. The Disneyland Railroad serves both purposes well. The train goes in a clockwise circuit, stopping at a station in each of the five 'lands'. There's no pressure to get off at any particular stop, so you can stay on as long as you like. The trains seem to be powered by genuine steam (from what I could tell), and there's even some cool scenic tableaus in caves that can only be seen from the train.
Ride-wise, we enjoyed the Big Thunder Mountain – surely one of the best rollercoasters in the 'runaway mine train' genre – which, by tunnelling under the lake to its own mountainous island, feels like quite an adventure. The Pirates of the Carribbean ride (which came before the film) was good, but fairly identical to the one I went to in the California Disneyland last year. A bit more different is the Space Mountain ride, which in all the Disneylands is a 'futuristic' rollercoaster in the dark, but at Disneyland Paris is more of a nolstalgic look at the future. The ride is based on the Jules Verne novel 'From the Earth to the Moon', in which astronauts are sent to the moon by being fired from a rocket. The rollercoaster starts by being launched fast up an incline to reflect this, before going into a series of disorientating turns in pitch blackness. Fiona wanted to go on this ride, but doesn't like rollercoasters that go upside down. I'd been on it before, years ago on a school trip, and couldn't remember any upside down bits. Even after we came off the ride, we weren't quite sure. It's only when we got home and looked it up that we discovered it features no less than three inversions. You're going so fast that you don't really notice them. It's a good ride, with a few new special effects and a new soundtrack that were added last year.
Other notable rides were Autopia – where you can drive normal-sized 2 stroke engine cars along a concrete – and Star Tours, a decent Star Wars themed flight simulator.
The idea of visiting Disneyland might seem a bit childish (especially when you haven't got the excuse of 'having' to take your kids there), but it makes for a fun, generally stree-free day out that most people would enjoy.
I took the decision not to take many photos, and the photos I did take are on a disposable camera that I haven't developed yet, so they'll be coming a bit later.