Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris is one of those places everyone should visit at least once. I got my chance to go with some like-minded friends and we all had a fantastic time. I admit I was a little hesitant at the time because of the news reports of rioting in the streets over new employment laws. I’m glad to say that this did not affect our trip at all.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport

We made the most of the few days we all had off work and stayed overnight in a hotel near to Liverpool John Lennon Airport as we were catching an early morning flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle ( Paris CDG ). If you’re staying in a hotel near the airport, here’s a little tip for you :- Don’t eat in the hotel. Their prices for food and drink are extortionate and geared-up for the business traveller. There are quite a few really nice restaurants within a taxi-ride which would still cost you less in total than eating in the hotel. We found a pizzeria within a couple of hundred yards of the hotel that was very good.

Flight to Paris

After depositing the cars in secure parking within walking distance of the airport and an uneventful check-in, we headed for the departure lounge and gate. We were all a little bit worse-for-wear from the previous night so it was a quiet start to the morning.

The trip had it’s first hiccup in France. After landing in Paris and a minuscule bus transfer to the terminal ( about 200 metres – literally ), we had to wait over an hour for our bags because of “technical difficulties”. The joke was they lost the key to the hold. We were only going for 3 days but most of us checked our bags in at Liverpool because… well, it seemed easier, more sensible, etc. The 1 person who hadn’t checked her bag was quietly smug about it. Eventually, after some confusion over which carousel was working, we retrieved our luggage and made our way outside to the bus stop.

Coach Transfer – VEA Shuttle

A coach transfer is available with regular services between the airports and Disneyland hotels. It’s called the VEA Shuttle and there are signs for it as you leave the terminal. The bus itself is a big red thing with Disneyland Paris written all over it; you can’t miss it. About 40 minutes later we arrived at the hotel.

Sequoia Lodge Hotel

We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge which is massive, fairly comfortable and pretty much like any other 3-star hotel with very obvious influences from U.S. National Parks. The hotel itself is only a 10-minute walk from the Disneyland parks with it’s own health club and swimming pool, souvenir shop and restaurants. There is a schedule of activities for children, including meet-n-greet for Disney characters and an outdoor play area. Check-in took ages. The lobby was busy but it wasn’t a big queue of people waiting to be checked in. They do need to make that a little bit slicker. After getting our rooms sorted out and 10 minutes to freshen up, we headed for the theme parks.

Disney Village

The Disney Village is basically a street just outside the entrance to both parks and provides alternative entertainment. There are all kinds of shops, restaurants, bars, etc. including Planet Hollywood, a cinema and a disco. It is also home to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. With 2 performances a day, you should easily find time to see it and it is highly recommended. Sitting in a mini-stadium, the show tells Disney’s version of how the wild west was won. This is not why I recommend it. It’s for the magnificent animals in the show; there’s some nifty horsemanship as well as some amazing looking buffalo. The food is quite tasty too although basic and there are times when you can’t see what you’re eating. If you get into the spirit of the show – and it’s really difficult not to – you will enjoy it.

Disneyland

We grabbed some lunch in the village and decided on Disneyland first. Little known to us, one of our group was very nervous of roller coasters. It was fairly late in the day at the start of the week and fairly quiet so we opted for the biggest ride first – Space Mountain – Mission 2. Needless to say she screamed throughout the whole 90 seconds or so. As a result, we just had to go on it again and again and again and again. Every time we came out, there was a picture of her with her eyes shut and her mouth open. In all fairness, she was a really good sport about it. The other rides she didn’t really like included Big Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril with it’s concise 360 loop-the-loop.

It wasn’t too busy that afternoon/evening but it was a whole different story the next day. It was easy to get lost going from 1 place to another and we did. As a bunch of adults, you would think that we couldn’t get separated from each other but we managed that too. Luckily, we all had mobile phones with us to arrange somewhere to meet up again. For kids, it must be terrifying. The queues for the rides might be long at times – we saw waiting times of up to 75 minutes – but the way they’re designed, you always feel like you’re moving forward.

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios is the 2nd theme park at Disneyland. We alternated between the two with the entrances so close to one another. You can buy a range of passes that will get you into either or both parks for any number of days.

Here we spent quite a lot of time going round and round on the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Staring Aerosmith. The queue for the ride takes you past some rock memorabilia that’s worth taking a look at even without the ride. The ride itself is full-on adrenalin. 0 to 60mph in 3 seconds. WOW!

The other show that’s well worth seeing is the Stunt Show Spectacular. On the way in, you can see into the workshop where all the cars are being repaired. As the show progresses, it strings together some action sequences involving motorbikes, cars, ramps, fire, etc. to demonstrate how a film sequence can be brought together. Blink and you’ll miss something. If you’re looking to your left, you’re missing something happening on your right and vice verse. It’s action all the way.

Coming Home

After spending the last day being thrown from side to side under a harness and going upside down on Space Mountain and Indiana Jones again, it was time to come home. If you’re using the VEA Shuttle, check your return journey times. The Sequoia Lodge didn’t seem to know the times. It turned out not to be a problem as our return flight was also delayed due to more “technical difficulties”. Don’t you just love EasyJet. They remembered the keys to the hold this time and it was a doddle picking up our bags in Liverpool and collecting the car from secure parking.

All-in-all a trip well worth doing!

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Paddy’s Day in New York

New York has the reputation of hosting the biggest and best St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. With this in mind, I decided this year that I was going to be part of it. So I booked time off work, the cheapest flights I could find on the internet and a reasonable hotel not too far away from all the action.

The Drive To The Airport

I set off for Manchester Airport on a cold, wet and very windy Friday morning. It’s about a 3 hour drive so the roads were quiet but that’s probably for the best. If you’ve seen the movie Twister, the only thing missing was the Frisian cow hurtling past the car windscreen as I drove along.

The Flights To New York

The American Airlines flight to Chicago was fantastic although quite a bit of turbulence. There was loads of leg-room and the in-flight movie was Zoolander. The food wasn’t anything special but I’ve been on enough flights to know that it was better than most. The flight from the Windy City to the Big Apple was a lot shorter but also a lot more uncomfortable. Maybe it was because I’d been flying for about 8 hours already.

The Taxi-Ride To The Hotel

It was dark by the time I got out of La Guardia Airport so there really wasn’t much to see on the way over to Manhattan. The taxi-ride was mad and a little uncomfortable. He was driving far too fast, having to brake heavily quite a few times. He either knew exactly how wide the taxi was or he didn’t have a clue because several times it looked like he was going to side-swipe other cars but somehow managed to avoid them at the last second.

Friday Night

After grabbing a quick shower at the hotel, I was off exploring. I tried to have a look round Madison Square Gardens but Elton John was playing that night and security weren’t having any of it. There were loads of ticket-touts around and that was causing them a huge problem. The concert the following night had to be cancelled as Elton had the flu or something.

I had something to eat in a pizzeria just outside the Gardens and then and got drunk in 1 of the Irish bars off 5th Ave. Beer is relatively expensive over there – don’t expect much change from $5 for a bottled beer, even an American one.

The Parade

The next morning, I was woken up at around 7am from car horns, etc. from the street below. I was staying on the 10th floor so I hate to imagine what it was like on the ground. I found out about an hour later but I think it had died down by then. All the morning deliveries had been made, etc. Brunch was a hot dog from 1 of the many outlets along 5th Avenue.

The police were starting to close off streets along 5th Ave. and re-direct people on the pavements too. An air of excitement was growing; people were milling around trying to find the best spot to watch the parade. I choose a spot outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral which was quiet at the time but it soon got very busy.

I watched the parade for a few hours; to be honest, toward the end it started to get boring. There were several tributes to the emergency services from 9/11. It seemed that any fire fighters or NYPD who weren’t on duty that day marched in the parade. New York’s ex-mayor, Rudolf Guliani did a walk-about, shaking hands with people – [1][2].

A 12:04 precisely, everybody turned south to face where the twin towers would have been and observed a 2 minute silence. It was REALLY eerie; I’ve never known so many people to be so quite for so long.

I gave up watching the parade about 2:30 for 2 reasons – 1) there’s a limit to the number of marching pipe bands and firemen/police that anyone can watch; and 2) I was getting hungry. Getting something to eat wouldn’t be a problem. Getting back onto 5th Ave. afterwards just wouldn’t happen so I went looking for what else was going on. On the way back to the hotel, I came across these street performers.

Other Manhattan Landmarks

I spent Sunday visiting some of the other landmarks around Manhattan Island. The UN building was the most interesting. Security was tight and I had to leave my back-pack at the security cordon. They let me take my camera in but only after I showed them that it really was just a camera.

There are guided tours of the building including entry into the Security Council chambers. However, the lobby was the best bit for me. There are biographical details of all the Nobel Peace Prize winners since it was first awarded. There’s an exhibit of icons painted by children from around the world and a fantastic stain glass window.

Walking down the street, I found a huge mirror propped up against the wall. I took this picture of me.

Monday

Monday I spent packing and travelling back to the UK. The sunset from the airport terminal in Chicago was phenomenal.