*Rugrats= Myself, Jen, & Danielle.
In exchange for a Dublin trip, Jen humored me by going to Paris. We “dragged” our friend Danielle along with us even though she had traveled there earlier in the semester. Why? BECAUSE WE WERE GOING TO DISNEYLAND PARIS.
From the very beginning of the summer when I was preparing for London, I had this want to go to Disneyland Paris. Of course I wanted to see Paris as well, but Disney was my main goal. I am as big a Disney nerd (Disnerd) as any, so I felt like being so close to it would just kill me if I didn’t at least try to go. So, in November, we three planned a simple trip to the City of Lights with the Mouse on the side.
The hotel in d’Europe wasn’t too expensive because we split it three ways, and I can’t say the plane tickets were too horrible either. However, we only flew from Paris ORY to London HRW and took a train from London to Paris. I would have gladly taken a train back, but the site we used (Eurostar) told us there were no trains available the weekend we wanted to come back which, incidentally, happened to be the weekend we were all leaving for the States. Solution? Take a train there, fly home. Simple as that.
We had an early train to catch at St. Pancras International so that we could have the whole day to explore the city of Paris. I was filled with the normal anxiety and excitement combination, even when we were having minor problems with the Metro ticket machines once we arrived. Fortunately, the lady at the desk spoke some English, albeit broken, and was able to help us pay at the desk because the machines don’t take American credit/debit cards. Maybe some American cards work, but if yours doesn’t, don’t worry. Ask anyone at an official ticket sales desk and they’ll allow you to pay there with your card. Don’t buy from any random people selling them outside a machine or desk; there’s no guarantees they’ll work or be worth the slightly more expensive price. Be on the lookout!
Tip: buy the tickets in a pack (10 to a pack) instead of individually. You can use them for the Metro, a bus, or the RER and I believe they’re slightly cheaper than 10 individual tickets.
Danielle has been to Paris before and warned us about the pickpocketers just like in Rome and Dublin, but again I didn’t really see any. This might be because we went during an off-season time, but I felt relatively safe in Paris. That could also be because I was with two people instead of by myself. The only incident we ran into was a woman asking us if we spoke English (usually a tell tale sign you’re going to get pickpocketed), and then asking if we would sign her petition for something. We responded “no” to both questions to avoid further issues, but she still pressed on. We ignored her and she left, no harm done!
Our day in Paris was short, but we filled it meaningfully with different landmarks vital to a complete tour of the city. First on the list: the Louvre. There you can find the Mona Lisa (behind bulletproof glass, of course) and the Venus de Milo statue that is so popular. I also found another Art History class gem, the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci. The museum is HUGE so if you want to explore it in its entirety, reserve a full day or two to fully enjoy it. Students are allowed in for free if you have your passport and student idea with you at the time of visiting.
Second, we traveled to Angelina, a couple blocks from the Louvre, for some hot chocolate. Being that it was around lunchtime when we decided this, we figured we’d also have lunch. BUT, if there’s one thing true about Paris, it’s that the food is super expensive. The hot chocolate alone, though very tasty, was 8 euros. We decided to wait until dinner instead of ordering a super expensive lunch for what amounted to very little food, a decision I still don’t regret. The hot chocolate was quite wonderful, though, if you’re up to the price! It was rich and tasted exactly like liquid chocolate, no lies.
There is a park right outside Angelina that has a beautiful faraway view of the Eiffel Tower, obviously a must-see. It’s pretty to walk through and not really busy, though there isn’t much else to do there but walk. I bet if we waited a little longer to go (which wasn’t possible, but still), there would have been a Christmas market or two to browse. Either way, we walked through the park with the end goal being the Eiffel Tower, the beautiful symbol for France gleaming against the horizon.
Many crowded streets and shifty restaurants later, we had finally reached the Eiffel Tower. We made the executive decision not to go up into it (we were also quite broke in addition to being uninterested), though we did take plenty of selfies with it and each other. Underneath the Tower is supposed to be a cesspool of pickpocketing and other such activities, but because it was off season there was practically nobody there to bother us. All the better!
Our last two destinations were within walking distance of each other and both quite memorable in experience. The first of these two was Notre Dame. All I could think of was Quasimodo and those gargoyles, but all I was seeing was large and magnificent stained glass windows. There was a large Christmas tree stationed in front of it along with a huge advent wreath to mark the weeks until Christmas. We took a selfie with Notre Dame, and some wonderfully friendly French students photobombed our photo. I don’t think any of us minded too much.
Inside Notre Dame was three times as beautiful as the outside for a couple reasons. The patterns the stained glass made on the stone floor were breathtaking, but the sheer number of stained glass windows was enough to make me a little emotional. To top it all off, though, there was a funeral going on when we visited so the entire cathedral was filled with mournful a cappella that brought a tear to my eye. What a way to leave this Earth, I tell ya.
After Notre Dame, we walked across the street to go to my favorite part of the day, Shakespeare & Company independent bookstore. I love me some books, but this one is exclusively English and wonderfully cozy. It’s two stories of books upon books and people as well. Of course I had to buy a book, not only for the memory of it, but also because they stamp the inside of the book with the Shakespeare & Co. insignia and name to remind you where you got it. After much deliberation, I settled on a new copy of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, a purchase I don’t think I’ll regret anytime soon.
After the bookstore, we headed to the RER train to get to our hotel outside the city center. We used the last of our pack of tickets to get there, which was fine, but when we arrived we couldn’t get out of the gates. Apparently you need a special ticket to get in and out of the further stations because of how far away they are from the city center, but of course we wouldn’t have known that. So, instead of just asking someone what the issue was that we couldn’t get out of the gates, we just ghosted some people and left without any altercation. I still find it weird how no one the station, not even the workers, questioned this. I’ll never know.
Luckily our hotel was literally right outside the d’Europe station and it was BEAUTIFUL. If you’re ever planning a trip to Disneyland Paris, Hotel l’Elysee Val d’Europe is a wonderful option with shuttles to Disney everyday quite often throughout the day. Very high class for a low price, though no breakfast is included. To be honest, though, you can find breakfast somewhere else for much cheaper, which we did end up doing. Save your money!
There was a nice premium outlet mall right next to our hotel, so we decided to eat dinner there instead of wandering too far. After much deliberation and assessment of our bank accounts, we decided on McDonald’s because it was definitely the cheapest option. When I told my parents this, they were quite disappointed that I hadn’t tried French food, but I honestly did not have the funds to pay for French food! There is no shame in buying French McDonald’s if you don’t have enough money for anything else. Burgers are always better than snails!
The next morning we woke up bright and early to catch the shuttle from the hotel to Disneyland Paris. We were all atwitter with excitement and anticipation, and rightfully so! The 2 parks, Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Studios, are so small that you can literally walk from one to the other in about five minutes or less as well as access Disney Village (their Downtown Disney) all after bag check. But, just because the parks are half the size of Orlando’s Magic Kingdom combined, they are still loads of fun and not to be missed if you consider yourself a Disnerd.
The first one we hit up (after breakfast at the McDonald’s in Disney Village) was the Studios Park. They opened at 10 am to a reasonable crowd despite the poor weather (high winds that push you off your feet and misty rain made worse by said winds). Cool rides to check out are Crush’s Coaster, RC Racer, and the Ratatouille ride. They have an entire section dedicated to Toy Story set up to look like a tinker town and it’s connected to the Ratatouille town that looks like something straight out of the Pixar movie. They also have their own version of the Tower of Terror that Danielle and Jen say was amazing and scarier than the Orlando one, as well as a Rock n’ Rollercoaster that was under construction when we went. Still has Aerosmith music, though! We also sat through one of the 3D shows, Cinemagique that we thought would be a lot like the Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios, but it wasn’t. It featured Martin Short, though, which was cool, and had both English and French dialogue which helped immensely. Most of the rides did feature both languages, though some (like Star Tours) were exclusively in French. You still kind of get an idea of what’s going on, however.
For lunch we headed over to the Disneyland Park with Sleeping Beauty’s castle and ate at an Old Western place for a somewhat-expensive 15 euro meal that included a burger, fries, and a large drink that none of us could finish alone. We picked up old-fashioned fast passes for Space Mountain and decided to go on Star Tours while we waited. I had never been on the latter, so that was pretty cool even though it was completely in French! Space Mountain, though, was a whole other experience entirely.
I’m not one to enjoy upside-down steel rollercoasters because of one run-in I had with one at Dorney where I almost threw up on the ride. I’ve been a bit scarred since, you could say. So when I heard the Space Mountain in France had a loop, I was a bit frantic. Danielle and Jen convinced me to get a fast pass anyway, just in case I decided to ride, so that was precisely what I did. I spent about an hour talking myself in and out of it but eventually decided to ride anyway; when in Rome, right? Turns out the ride has about 3 corkscrews that I didn’t know about, but I was completely unscathed. My method? Close your eyes and scream the whole time. It’s entertaining to your friends and it also helps take the nerves out of your stomach. I could only tell we were going upside down when the pressure on the restraints changed. Needless to say, we went on a second time at night and I enjoyed it just as much.
Also while there, we explored the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, It’s a Small World, and the Pinocchio ride. The funniest part of It’s a Small World was when Americans were represented by cowboys and the Hollywood sign, which is obviously so accurate it hurts. Also funny: the entire ride was in English except for a small part in, you guessed it, Spanish. Uh, where are we? France? Yeah, couldn’t tell, could you? The Pinocchio Ride was one I’ve never been on because it’s in California, not Orlando. It’s extremely creepy, like Snow White levels of creepy (you know, the ride before the Winnie the Pooh one in Orlando), and I can’t say I enjoyed it all too much. I was disappointed, though, that I couldn’t relive my childhood nightmares on the Snow White ride because it was closed. Darn, I wanted to remember why I hated that witch!
To end the night, we watched the apparently award-winning show. I expected, in the true fashion of Disney, a bunch of fireworks in addition to castle projections, but we only got the latter. We watched for about ten minutes before deciding to leave and get dinner in the Disney Village. So much for award-winning, I guess. It was cute, but definitely not the level of Orlando… though I suppose it is unfair to compare them.
We ate at Earl of Sandwich and headed back to the hotel, our hearts heavy because we had to leave the next day. The trip from Val d’Europe to Paris ORY was relatively painless, but we were all pretty sad to leave. Not only did leaving Paris mean LEAVING PARIS, but it also meant leaving each other essentially. Danielle was leaving for the States the next day whereas Jen and I still had until that Monday. It was a bittersweet departure from Paris, but I am so grateful we were able to enjoy that expedition together. Danielle, if you’re reading this, I miss you dearly!! Hope everything is going well.
Overall, Paris was quite wonderful to us. Disneyland was definitely my favorite part, but that’s obviously because my priorities are in the wrong spot. Though the food is ungodly expensive, it isn’t the end of the world because there are McDonald’s abound and they aren’t half bad. If I had to go back and do something over, however, I would see the Eiffel Tower at night all lit up. I’m sad I didn’t to see that. Being it was the last trip I took, Paris really delivered. Disney was wonderful, but so was all of that sightseeing we did the first day. Even though we didn’t see everything a “One Day in Paris Itinerary) would tell you to do by the hour, we still had a great time and I wouldn’t really do it any other way.