Don and I have been to Disneyland Paris twice. Once on our honeymoon in 1993 when the park was only a year old, and again in 2001, the year before Ashley was born. Those trips did not prepare me for how much Disneyland Paris has grown in the past 15 years.
I have a map from 2001 (but not from 1993). The first big change is the heightened level of security. They have airline level security -- bags on the conveyor belt and bodies through the metal detectors. Fortunately, similar to Disneyland in California, you go through security once for both parks AND for Disney Village.
The next big change is how much larger the place is now. I thought there were new sections at the Magic Kingdom side, such as their Storybook Ride, only to realize it was there in 2001. The big difference was that by 2001 we had not yet been to Disneyland and did not know the Storybook ride, so it didn't sink into my memories.
Even looking at the two maps, I can't really tell what changed. The earlier map lists each "land" with the number of attractions, shops, and restaurants in it, but not what the names of each attraction, shop, and restaurant is. There are images. I suspect I could find a good website or blog listing the differences, so feel free to do so if you are that curious.
Before leaving home I bought a three day pass for the price of a two day pass. Not a bad deal. What I didn't realize was that Walt Disney Studios closes at 6 PM on Fridays, and Disneyland Park closes at 8:30 PM. After spending much of the day in Paris, I was lucky to arrive by 5 PM. The parks were really quiet so I could do a lot in a short amount of time. I rode Tower of Terror because I was kicking myself for not riding it in California Adventure when I learned it would close before my next trip there (and it did) to become an Avengers-themed ride. I loved it. I don't know why I was afraid of it for so long.
Everyone feeds into a giant warehouse-y building when they first enter the park. It
reminded me of the entrance to Tokyo Disney as the area had shopping and restaurants.
There seems to be a vast quantity of walls. It reminded me of California Adventure when the powers that be decided the park pretty much
had to be scrapped and start over, but still charge people to come in and enjoy the few attractions left open. Hopefully the construction will be done next year in time for the 25th anniversary celebration. I only needed an hour to see the place, or so I thought. I learned later I missed the Place de Remy section, named in honor of the rat in Ratatoille. He has an awesome ride that reminded me of the technology used in the Pooh ride at Tokyo Disney. It was pretty awesome. Crush's Coaster, nearby, knocked me for an equilibrium loop. I walked off of that one like a drunken sailor, catching everyone including myself off-guard. I didn't see anyone else have troubles walking off of that ride. I still think they have a lot of nerve charging people full price for the park in its current state.
One final picture from the Studios side before I went over to Disneyland Paris. I took advantage of the really quiet park to take some pictures.
I then headed to Disneyland Paris, where I was greeted by low crowds, and 10-minute waits, even for Peter Pan. I was totally spoiled, which I didn't realize until I returned the next day and it was fairly crowded (not like a summer day in California or Florida, but more than it had been the night before).
The biggest disappointment was the lack of a piano player. I didn't see a piano, so I am assuming there is not Ragtime musician, as we have seen in Florida, California, and even Tokyo.
I rode Space Mountain first. I loved the Steampunk look. Later realized it looked like that in 2001, but I didn't know the term Steampunk in those days. Their Space Mountain has a corkscrew in it I knew Ashley would have hated. I did like seeing the planets floating through space, but still like California's with a musical overlay best.
I rode Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan's Flight. Pirates is "backwards," after going through the Blue Lagoon restaurant the scenes are of the pirates alive and "having fun" (fighting, carousing, etc.) and then there are the scenes with their skeletons. I guess it makes more sense to have it happen in that order, but felt like a downer at the end. Peter Pan seemed the same, only the pirate ship seated four instead of 2. I also roamed through Alice's Curious Labyrinth. By 8 PM the far sections of the park (such as where Phantom Manor is located) were closed in order to herd everyone to in front of the castle for the nightly spectacular called Disney Dreams! -- basically a light and sound show with some fireworks tossed in.
Then I was herded out of Disneyland Paris. It seemed there were very few cast members out directing traffic, including leading up to the show, during the show, and as we were exiting. I did not see a single CM that whole time. Even odder was they funneled everyone to three turnstiles in order to exit, as opposed to in California where they open up the doors so everyone can pass through faster.
I came back the next day and faced lines. The slowest, longest lines were for characters, yet I dutifully waited in them. The characters have very short shifts -- from 11:15 to 2 PM, and they are on stage for 30 minutes at a time. They have the luxury of spending about 5 minutes with each family. Anyone handicapped can sneak into the front of the line at any point. You can probably figure out the problem -- the lines moved achingly slowly. I did pose for a few character pictures. The settings were lovely and the characters were all charming. I figured I'd look too icky after the race to pose for many pictures.
After their shifts were done, I rode Le Pays des Contes de Fees (Storybook) and Phantom Manor. Funny story about my Haunted Mansion ride -- there was a group of three in front of me. Two rode together. The third, a woman about my age, insisted she could not ride alone "j'ai trop peur." The CM asked if I wanted to ride with her and I shook my head no. She sort of scared me. At the end of the ride when the hitchhiking ghost appears she was on her side clutching the lap bar, and I was laughing too hard to take a picture. The ride was different, yet similar. The ballroom scene was clearly a wedding scene (something that has escaped me in the past). More of an emphasis on the bride with many dead husbands.
I took a grand circle tour on the train with a very chatty 7-year old girl who wanted to tell me about every place she has ever visited -- she has outdone me and I am more than six times her age. I think her mom was happy she was talking to someone else so the mom could catch her thoughts. The train ride has two sections like the Grand Canyon scenes in California. I was too tired to register what they were about.
Unfortunately Big Thunder Mountain was closed -- a ride I noted in an old scrapbook as being AWESOME! Plus the lake around BTM was dredged, so there was no steamboat. Always a reason to return.
After the race on Sunday I returned again. I was tired. Very tired. But not too tired for another spin on Pirates, a walk through La Cabane des Robinson (Swiss Family Treehouse), another ride into outer space, and a cruise through Small World. I also posed for a picture with Donald Duck, and popped through their version of Princess Fantasy Faire called Princess Pavilion. Their Princess area only has one princess at a time, but the theming leading up to the princess is beautiful. After they closed I asked to see the inside, but did not take any pictures during my private tour. Then the CM surprised me by having me meet Ariel. I posed for a picture. Seriously, I only wanted to see the inside. They turned away someone else who wanted to see Ariel. We kept our chat brief.
Having woken up more than 12 hours earlier for the race, and needing to wake up at 4:30 AM the next day for my flight home through Iceland, I was ready to call it a night.
Having now been to four out of six cities with Disney theme parks I will say Tokyo Disney (especially Disney Sea) is the best themed and organized Park, but my heart belongs to Disneyland (California). I dream about going to Hong Kong and Shanghai to visit their parks.