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Disney castle

I’ve lived in Paris for nearly ten years, which some folks think is a magic kingdom in itself. And although I’ve been to the Louvre, Rungis, the Musée d’Orsay, and the crazy-giant Tati store at Barbès, I’ve not been to Disneyland Paris – until now. I’d been to the one in southern California as a kid, back when Disneyland featured things we never dreamed of even seeing. Although my memory doesn’t go all that far back, things like telephones that didn’t have cords (or dials!) and home computers, (like mine, with a broken iiiiiiiiiiiiii key) were just nuggets in someone’s imagination.

Back then, at Disneyland, IIIIIIIIII was toting an instamatic cameras with 4-sided flashcubes and if you accidentially dropped a gum wrapper, someone was right behind you to sweep it up. And way-back-when, there really were “E tickets”. Now if you say to someone that something is an e-ticket, whereas it used to mean that you were in for an interesting, thrilling, or expensive experience, nowadays it likely means you’re going to be stuck in a grim airport for a few hours.

In the Disneyland of days of yore, many of the stands were sponsored (when being sponsored wasn’t considered such a bad thing – and when I heard Kim Kardashian gets $10,000 per tweet, I’m thinking that perhaps that’s not such a bad idea, since I did the math on the 20,898 tweets I’ve posted), and I munched out at the Frito-Lay pavilion, Carnation was whipping up yummy malted milk shakes, and my parents had to practically call security to get me away from the Welch’s grape juice stand. But I think security is a bit more lax these days as no one seemed to heed the no-smoking rule in the park in Paris, and I didn’t see a single person getting reprimanded for it.

It's a small world

Located about thirty minutes from Paris, this year Disneyland Paris celebrates its twenty year anniversary. It was also a friend’s anniversaire, who is a big fan, so I told my friend Heather that I’d take her there for the big day. Our friends Bryan and Jane came along, because it’s more fun with a group. (Which came in handy, later…) And off we headed to the park with the October skies threatening – and succeeding at various times – to drench us with rain.

waiting time

In spite of the overcast weather, the mitigating factor of going off-season is the short lines. Although there were certainly people in both parks, the main park and Walt Disney Studios park, some rides you could simply walk right up to and get on.

But before we could do anything, it just wouldn’t be France if there wasn’t some sort of paperwork snafu.

bureaucractic snafu

We hit the ground running, but needed a bit of sugaring up for the rides. Since Haribo candies were plastering the candy shops, I was certain there would be oursons guimauve amongst all the gummi bears and sour worms and jars of cotton candy. But in spite of my running around like the Mad Hatter at a tea party, there were only chocolate-covered marshmallow bears if you bought them via a tin gift box (€20).

I’m no cheapskate and my friends kept waving the box around to taunt me, but I didn’t feel like carrying that box the entire day. If it was cardboard, well, I could have polished them off in a few minutes and tossed the box. However I may not be cheap, yet I am frugal, and cannot bear to throw away a perfectly good tin box. Even if it means carrying it on a ride and risk bonking myself on the head with it in The twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which was perhaps the best 2 minutes of the last 10 years of my life, excluding the time spent writing those 20,000+ non-profit tweets.

This ride was built first in the Paris theme park*, which is interesting because it’s got a Twilight Zone theme to it. I know that Le Quatrième Dimension was broadcast in France, but I don’t know how Rod Serling’s narrative played dubbed in French, with another voice, fared. (Perhaps it was subtitled, but English-language television shows and films on tv here tend to be “VF” – version Française – or dubbed.) But I can’t imagine using another voice for Mr. Serling. Thankfully, at the park, they used his actual voice, thanks to a bit of electronic wizardry.

I didn’t take any pictures once they snapped us in to the tower because the ride allegedly goes faster than the speed of gravity. And it sure felt like that when we dropped what was probably eight stories, then the doors opened to a haunted hallway before closing again, and zooming us back up to another floor.

Thankfully, all the candies we had eaten were jellied, so they stuck pretty tightly to our insides – although one member of our crew was still a little jittery after Crush’s Coaster, a tummy-churning, spinning and twirling ride through something that I can’t remember because my brain got scrambled in there. And because most of it was pitch black. Thankfully, I kept everything in because I was not interested in seeing my morning pain au chocolat again in a less-pleasant state.

However man, or men, and les femmes, cannot live by gummi candies alone. So we hit the snack areas. There were some American(ish) treats…

disney doughnuts

Some Mickey meringues…

mickey meringues

And some Mickey marshmallows…


However I was still throwing a tantrum that would have embarrassed a three-year old about the lack of chocolate-covered marshmallow bears in the park, and I didn’t think a couple of chocolate-dipped ears would be quite the same thing. (And I’m a bit scared of pink marshmallows in the bags sold in France and always pick those out. And the pale green ones, too.)

However France was better represented by…

disney macarons

Although I’m not quite sure this cultural mash-up works…

cheeseburger-flavored potato chips

I haven’t kept tabs on what’s happening in the American potato chip market, but in France, there is everything from oyster-flavored chips, to roast chicken, to some with salted butter caramel flavor. Where oh where is that Frito pavilion?

disneyland paris rain

It’s a bit of folly building a theme park in a city that’s known for terminally gray skies with no shortage of rain. But at least they have the good sense to sell plastic rain ponchos (€9), albeit you would think since they’re in Paris, they would at least make them a tad more fashion-forward. Since it was October, one of the notoriously iffy months for good weather, however, we were rewarded with unbelievably short waiting times for some of the rides. And in one day, we hit almost all of them. Many we just walked right on to. (Averting a few other tantrums from yours-truly.)

Some were really fun. But others, like the Pirates of the Caribbean, should probably be retired or at least re-imagined by the imagineers. I remember how exciting it was when it opened. But with the amazing effects that could be realized now, it was a bit triste to see animatronic figures gesticulating back and forth with robotic movements: In some, you could see the mechanics that operated them poking through. And worse, as your boat enters the ride, the skull and crossbones doesn’t utter the words “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”, perhaps because no one could figure out the translation of “ye” into French. (Or crossbones.) And the scariest thing about the Haunted Mansion was that I remember when it opened, it was an e-ticket with a 2 hour wait – and now it’s empty.

But Space Mountain totally rocked it as we corkscrewed through space on a roller-coaster. And we flew around like madmen, and women, in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups. And Dumbo was available to take us up, up, and away.

dumbo ride

Being an expert at all things Disneyland Paris-related, Heather had made reservations at Walt’s: An American Restaurant. It has a whopping 216 positive reviews on the American Trip Advisor site, and almost as many on the British one.

So for lunch we sat down for lunch at Walt’s, which is an American restaurant, and I had a Caesar Salad.

caesar salad

And in a touch I’m sure quite a few parents appreciate…

white wine

…wine is served in the Disney restaurants. C’est obligatoire!

asparagus salad

Two of my friends had the fall asparagus salad, because it’s asparagus season – well, somewhere. And we all had steaks with potatoes that were just okay.


Dessert was a “French Toast” (aka Pain perdu) which was imaginatively garnished with scribbles of chocolate, a raspberry, and a fresh mint leaf.

pain perdu

Refreshed and fed, and hydrated with Sauvignon blanc, we hit the rides again, teetering between a sugar high from all the gummi candies (why were all the coffee stands closed – when you need them the most?!) and the vin blanc from Walt’s.

A few other observations about Disneyland Paris:

-The regular food options in the park are pretty uninteresting and while there are some take-away style restaurants, the only one that was opened featured two things: hot dogs and chicken nuggets. I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs (personally, I prefer all the toppings, like sauerkraut and relish, to the bread and meat part), but they did have little packets of mustard, ketchup and, for some reason, mayonnaise. Do people really squirt emulsified egg yolks and oil on hot dogs?

hot dog disney

The bun was pretty awful and when you’re in a country famous for its bread, it’s hard to chomp down on mushy, undersalted buns. C’mon, folks. If you’re going to build a great American theme park, do decent American food. As a few places in Paris have discovered, if you make a good or great American food, people will come. Hot dogs ain’t all that hard.

-Park employees aren’t as ebullient as their American counterparts, but they are a nice, international bunch. (Although oddly, I only saw one Disney character roaming the park that day and not once did I spot Mickey.) And I think we were the only Americans in the whole place. But the folks who worked there were a good bunch of folks and many are from other countries in Europe.

-Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of line-jumping. We were four, so were able to form a wall to prevent it from happening when we did see folks trying to wiggle ahead of us. Which usually happens when you turn a corner in line, with the wide arc of space next to you, which makes the perfect opening from someone to slip in there, then summon the rest of the family to join them. (Yes, really.)

-Disneyland Paris is not as relentlessly “happy” like the Disney parks in America. Maybe it was the weather, but it wasn’t as pristine as I remembered it either. And one of the pumpkins in the main display had molded through completely on one side, which I was surprised no one noticed. But points to them for using real pumpkins.

-There’s a dearth of les toilettes – or perhaps because this is, after all, Disneyland Paris, they’re nearly impossible to find*. A few signs would help. Because some of those rides really shake things up, ya know.

Disneyland paris

-If you do go, buy tickets in advance online. According to the website, tickets currently are €84 and Heather said that 70% of the park attendees simply walk up to the gate and buy their tickets that way. I got mine on Vente-Privée (€30ea) although Francilien was tickets were selling that week for €35 if you bought them a few days in advance. (Prices subject to change.)

We closed the place and because since I didn’t see Goofy all day, I guess we needed to go a little goofy ourselves. And at my age, staying awake past 8pm is getting “goofy.” (And speaking of old, who else discusses orthopedic hosiery in line at Disneyland? I’ll bet Kim Kardashian doesn’t, which is probably why she gets the big bucks.) The closing show was nothing short of spectacular. Truly, after ten hours of traipsing around the park, looking for chocolate-covered marshmallow bears, I was pretty much kaput. So while my friends did some last-minute shopping, I took a breather on a concrete slab while the parents next to me chain-smoked, while holding their kids on their laps, waiting for the show to begin.

disneyland exit

For the 20th anniversary, they had prepared a spectacle, Disney Dreams, which was actually spectacular. Under dark skies, animation and images were projected on Sleeping Beauty’s castle with curtains of water and lasers. Quasimoto climbed around the towers to the top, the entire castle “fell” and rose back up, chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins stepped-in-time across the tower, which become the roofs of London, and a swirl of fantastic images really wowed me (something a tin of chocolate-covered marshmallows would have done – but I’m almost over that..) The catalog of Disney images from their rich history of animation reminded me of the long tradition of talent from Disney. A video doesn’t do it justice because when you see it live, you forget you are looking at a castle, and just see the magic of Disney.

Disneyland at night

*I was talking to a French friend who had visited the park last year about this at dinner, how hard the restrooms were to find. I asked him if he had that problem, and he looked a bit confused, and said, “I never used them.” Astonished, I followed up – “Wait. You spent an entire day at Disneyland and never once used a restroom?” “I never had to go” he answered.

And thinking about it, the restrooms were nearly empty every time I went in there (which was a lot, because of all the post-ride excitement, as well as a touch of Sauvignon blanc). I keep forgetting that Europeans don’t use restrooms to the extent that Americans and others do. I once heard a shopping center had been built in Japan, but was considered “too-European” for the Japanese, which the writer said was a keyword for meaning there was a dearth of restrooms.

*Heather linked to the video in her Secrets of Paris newsletter and noted that the more interesting parts begin at the 7 minute mark. As a video, it doesn’t capture the show in the same spirit. But for “cynics”, as she says, (she cited “normally cynical Parisians” in her newsletter…and I think she was referring to me…) it was quite a jaw-dropping show.

**Not true – maybe…



    • Loulou in France

    I’ve never had a desire to go to Euro Disney after spending time at Disneyland in California almost every year while growing up, but I can see that with the right group of friends, it could be a fun day out!

    • triles

    You can get a free entry for your anniversary!

    • Carol

    I love that Twilight Zone ride – I went to the Florida one years ago.
    I am glad you brought up that bathroom thing. That is just not right – if you drink enough water, you have to go about once every two hours. We have friends from S.America and they have literally never seen the inside of our bathroom. They will suddenly jump up from the table and announce it’s time to go and I am suspicious that they are running home to use their loo. When I go to their house, I’m there for about ten minutes and I have to go and of course, I spend a long time there smelling all her perfumes. They must think I’m very odd.

    • hanmeng

    Ah, the cultural Chernobyl.

    • Elizabeth

    Pirates of the Caribbean is a classic! However, Disneyland Paris’ version could definitely use an update similar to the ride at Disneyland in Anaheim. Their updated animatronics (to keep up with the storyline of the movie series) look amazing.

    • Claire

    Oh David, that hot dog was particularly awful looking! I’ve seen much better, in Paris itself, where a baguette was cut like a hot dog bun with two hot dogs inserted, covered wtih gruyere cheese and then broiled. Magnificent!

    I imagine putting mayonnaise on a hot dog in France is much like the custom I’ve seen in Paris of eating “French” fries with the same condiment. Unexplicable!

    Love the pictures though!


    • Michael

    We visited Disneyland Paris 2 years ago during an extended stay in France. We also got rained on. Several times. I’ve been to both US parks and love the ‘magic’ of the places but I didn’t feel it at Disneyland Paris. Part of the problem may have been the weather which, when there was no actual rain, was constantly overcast and cool, in July. But there were two things that really struck me as un-Disney like, the lack of attention to cleanliness and the horrible quality of the food offerings. I couldn’t help but constantly notice trash laying around everywhere. This is unheard of at the American parks. And the take away food, which was very pricey (Paris, I know) bordered on inedible from several of the establishments. I left very disappointed and sad that this was my younger daughters first Disney experience and she now wouldn’t grow up telling everyone she meets how you never see so much as a gum wrapper laying on the ground at Disney. Although I think she made up for it by alternately terrorizing the pigeons of Paris and asking the cafe waiters for more bread so she could feed them.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, there was “stuff” in the landscaping and so forth, which I don’t recall seeing at the Disneyland’s in the US, although I haven’t been to one in a while. When I was telling a French friend about the trash, he shrugged, and said, “It’s Paris, Daveed.”

      I was warned about the bad food, which was why we reserved in a restaurant for lunch. But they certainly have some catching up to do. When I was at the Disneyland in Orlando once doing a demonstration, I toured the kitchens and was shocked that they make their baked goods from scratch, as in, using fresh butter, eggs, and flour – and no mixes. I was really surprised to see that. They also have a hydroponic garden and they use the food at some of the restaurants in the park.

    • Josh

    I havent been to a Disney park in 20 years, but i did have to go Anaheim for a conference at the Disneyland hotel this summer. I didnt go in the park, but i did walk around the ‘downtown Disney’ mall area. I could not believe how unbelievably upbeat and positive all the employees are. I know its part of the program, but for someone like me who is perpetually annoyed at the world, its a tremendous shock.

    • heather_kaye

    I was but a tot (okay, I was ten) when this place opened, and had spent nearly all of my memory forming years overseas (Dad in the AF), and there was _nothing in this world_ I wanted more than to open this place twenty years ago. Now back in the States, and planning my first ever trip to Disney next fall – good things for those who wait, eh?

    • Roseanne

    I also grew up going to Disneyland in southern California. I’ve never been to Disneyworld in Florida nor have I been to Disneyland Paris, though I have been to Paris, France.

    I remember those instamatic cameras with the four sided flash bulbs. I probably had one of those myself. I also remember the old paper books of tickets one would purchase for the rides in a particular “land” of the park. I think I still have some of those in an old scrapbook.

    • Pascale

    LOVE this post! I live in LA and honestly wonder how france can make the disney magic happen (expecially wonder after living there for 2 years). Glad you had fun!

    • Or

    Was there a month ago. Ate at the PoTC restaurant, which was very bad (“Walt’s” was closed): the veal in rum sauce was waaaaay too salty, and the fruit salad was mush. I liked the fudge they sell in the candy store – concentrated sugar is good after all the excitement… Anyway, I was quite disappointed that they didn’t have a “Rataouille” even though they did sell “Brave” merchandise (that is, Pixar does cooperate with Disney in the parks), not did they have anything from “Beauty and the Beast”, even though both movies actually occur IN FRANCE. I mean, they can probably make a ton of money out of this. What’s up with their marketing staff?

    • Or

    Ah, also, we didn’t have a problem finding any of the bathrooms (it’s so nice that they’re so empty!). They hand out a map in the entrance, so we used that for bathrooms and food.

    • Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    Sooner you than me is all I can say! However, I wouldn’t comment just to say that, but what I really wanted to say is that when I lived in France all those years ago, hot dogs were as much a feature of your average corner café as croque-monsieurs (always freshly prepared with cheese and ham, no nonsense about white sauce and microwaves!) or fried eggs or omelettes. They would be half a baguette, split and spread with mustard, and then filled with one or two frankfurters – but what made them different were that they were sprinkled with grated cheese and then put under the grill for a few seconds until the cheese melted. Yum – especially if they didn’t use too much mustard. Do they not still do these in Parisian cafés?

    • janele

    My husband and I go to Paris every few years to visit my SIL. One time, we really ran out of things to do, so we decided to go to Disneyland Paris. We’ve both been to Disney in LA (me as a child; he during his gap year). We didn’t know what to expect.

    We were both aghast when we saw a bunch of kids running around with realistic (toy) rifles. When I was growing up toy guns slowly went from very realistic-looking to having colorful attachments that made it obvious it was a toy. My husband is English and is not used to seeing little kids with guns. And seeing the French kids running around with realistic rifles and handguns was very disturbing.

    We actually don’t remember anything else about our time there. We were more amused that this place was popular for Europeans in contrast to how it was first perceived when it first opened.

    • Hillary

    My parents emigrated from Canada to Orlando, Florida, the year before Disney World opened (back when Orlando was a sleepy burg surrounded by orange groves). I appeared a couple of years after that. So, I grew up going to Disney quite a bit – back when they were on the E-ticket system, it was relatively cheap to get into the park, and since the more expensive rides weren’t young child-friendly (Space Mountain and so on), it was a nice way to spend a weekend day without spending boucoups bucks. I haven’t been there in over 20 years, though – and to hear of ticket prices, I’d probably need to be saving up for that long to afford it!

    • Anna

    My attempt to visit Disneyland Paris while studying abroad was thwarted by a grève that put the RER trains out of service. I had been so proud to qualify for Francilien tickets, too. Thanks for the tour.

    • Anne

    I was actually in Disneyland Paris this summer, with a friend. Sort of a “back to our childhood”-thing, as we’d both been there the year it opened/5th anniversary.

    It might be because it was high season (just) when we were there, and they had a higher amount of staff on, but we kept commenting on how clean it was compared to the city centre of Paris we’d just left behind.

    The food was decent enough, but we weren’t expecting miracles. (see: been there before). The only bad thing were the french fries, which were under-salted and soggy.

    But once every blue moon is more than enough Disneyland.

    • Leslie

    We went more than ten years ago when my parents were living in Paris. It was March and cold and rainy. Do they still have a buffet place? We were in heaven there, although my dad was annoyed because my mom wouldn’t let him eat the mad cow beef. I think he ate his weight in cheese instead.

    As far as the rides go…the pirate ride was broken and people were stuck on it, so we skipped it. We got in a boat and enjoyed the small world until just before the end when the ride broke down and we had to sit on our boat for an extra ten minutes.

    My parents always said the same thing about the French never having to pee.

    • RV Goddess

    About 20 years ago we took our ten year old daughter to Disneyland outside Paris. We took the train from Paris and were surprised to see Disney characters in costume – Princesses of some sort, if I recall – on the train, “heads” in their laps, smoking and chatting away! When the train stopped, they put on their “heads” and walked to work! But our favorite memory from our day in the park is when two “wenches” herding visitors onto boats for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride started snipping at each other and then actually started swinging punches! Ahhhhhh, France!

    • Victoria

    Ha! What a fun post. You really sent me cruising down memory lane with your recollections of the four-sided, disposable flash cubes (I used to love looking at the exploded, deformed bulbs after each side had been “flashed”), the A through E ticket books, and the old AT&T exhibit at Disneyland that had “futuristic” phones that were nothing more than speaker phones. My sister and I would enthusiasticlly call my mother and say, “Mom! We’re talking to you and we’re not using our hands at all!” (We were easily impressed).

    I have never been to Euro-Disney but as a former employee of Disneyland Anaheim (tour guide) and someone who has studied in and traveled to Paris many times, I just can’t imagine how the French could possibly uphold the standards set up by Walt for his parks in the states. A spotless image (for both employees and the park itself) and a positive attitude were the two most important characteristics in being a Disney cast member. If you couldn’t comply, you were quickly shown the door and some other young person was waiting to eagerly take your place. In the French culture, these characteristics are just not as high on the priority list. They are certainly CAPABLE of this behavior, but because it is not deemed relevant or important in daily interactions, it is not second-nature and does not come as easily or spontainiously to them as it does to an american. However, that being said, it sounds like Euro-Disney is still a fun place to go. You just can’t expect it to be just like a Disney park at home. I guess it’s like going to a French restaurant in the states. No matter how hard they try to be authentic, it’s just not quite like being at a nice restaurant in France…’s just missing that je ne sais quoi….

    • Meg

    David, for future reference, I’m pretty sure that every restaurant has a toilet tucked around the side of it and that is the only place you will find toilets. Need a toilet: look for the nearest (sit down, not food cart) restaurant. In the Main Street section, they are in the halls that run the length of the shops and restaurants behind the shop fronts. And everywhere else, they are next to the individual restaurants. Says the woman who has been more times than she can count…

    • Drue

    The first time I visited a Disney establishment was in Florida in the late 70’s. We could see Space Mountain being constructed under much speculation and secrecy as we explored.

    My mother must have thought she was on Easy Street because she had barely half of her brood of 9 children to supervise. (With 9 you have a choice of cut-offs and here it means she had 5 kids) My 2 older brothers chose to do that universal teenage thing and ditch their parent and siblings. So, what I remember from that trip is my mother seething with anger dragging 3 reluctant accomplices in a mad dash to find my older brothers. The one thing I wanted to do, Pirates, we never got to. My runaway brothers enjoyed regaling me with the excitement of the boat trip for hours on the way home.

    Almost 19 years later I find myself in Japan on a weekday afternoon with fellow slacker English teachers and nothing to do. We decide to go to Tokyo Disneyland. I had waited 19 years to see Pirates and I managed to overlook whatever shortcomings just to cherish the memories of my family and how life can take you in such unscripted directions.

    The one thing I did find incongruous, and thankfully would not have noticed as an 8 yr. old in FL, is that Disneyland is a booze-free zone. Japan, which has beer vending machines on every corner, does not have beer in Disneyland? At 27, that’s a necessity and fortunately Japan did not disappoint – exit park, walk to corner, put in yen, chug, re-enter park. Ahhhhhhhh. Now I can handle a too-polite Goofy and bowing Cinderella.

    • Vanessa

    My mom and I were at Disneyland Paris on the first of October – while we had a fun time and absolutely fantastic weather we both agreed it was not the Disney we’ve visited in Florida – mainly the attention to detail and the cleanliness. As for food we had guessed it wouldn’t be that good so we just ate a quick meal to fuel up and waited until we got back to Paris to eat dinner. Like David, we didn’t really encounter lines – I think the only ride that had a long line was Thunder Mountain. Some rides really do need some sprucing, especially the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea “attraction” we thought the attraction was just the queue so we were surprised when we ended up at the exit.

    Also, I thought the same thing as Or about Beauty and the Beast, it’s my favorite Disney movie and the only thing Beauty themed was a setting on the story book ride – lame.

    • hag

    I am intrigued by your statement that Europeans don’t use restrooms as much as North Americans (and apparently Japanese)…. how can this be? It just seems biologically impossible. I mean I do try and avoid public restrooms if I can, but eventually we all have to go… or so I thought. I know in Europe ( from past experience) that there seems to be more public urination…easy enough for men, but women? I find this all oddly facinating. who knew?

    • Wordbird

    We took our little chick to Disneyland Paris for her 4th birthday and she was astonished and adored it. She was so amazed and shy when she met ‘the real’ Woody from Toy Story. Stupidly we let her spend her birthday money on really cool toy cap guns – a revolver and a rifle – which made for an interesting explanation at Charles de Gaulle airport…

    But I should probably warn you that if you eat there in the summer at the regular cafes, the food isn’t amazing. It’s OK. It’s standard, perfectly well-cooked staple US-style fast food, in the McDonalds/Burger King/Pizza Hut vein. Because of course, it has to appeal to the broadest possible tastes and be something that kids will eat. So there are a lot of chicken nuggets and Micky-shaped pizzas. And that’s fine. It’s all geared towards kids. And on that subject… kids need the toilet often. And yes, we did find the number of toilets a bit on the light side – could have done with a few more dotted about.

    • The 3 F’s

    We were just at Six Flags in Vallejo, California and were actually relieved that churros are still under $7! And they weren’t even that great…

    • Jenny

    I find your frugality quite inspiring. People should learn from you

    • Polly-Vous Francais

    Tres amusant, this story! Merci!

    But my stomach is… kind of churning. Not because of the corkscrew rides, either!
    Just wondering, David: do you think the mayo on the dogs is a maybe result of Disneyland’s relative proximity to Belgium (where mayo with frites and also hotdogs is common)? Brrrrr!

    • Ronica

    The French don’t drink enough water. They looked at me like I was nuts when I’d carry a bottle in the summer and drink frequently (I faint without it). At the restos, a “carafe” is a bottle of about 10 oz. for 2 people. I don’t know how they survive.

    I was always looking for a bathroom, too.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Wordbird: Curious, since there have been a few books about how French kids eat so well and aren’t such picky eaters. So instead of chicken nuggets and hot dogs, if that was the case, it’d be nice is they had simple “quick” fare like Croque Monsieurs and ham & cheese crêpes. For a country with a rich history of cooking, you’d think they could do a bakery or take-away stand using a theme from one of the films like Ratatouille, Beauty and the Beast, or Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    Rather odd that in their American parks, they have an Alsatian-born chef serving charcuterie platters, whole-roasted hen, and “Mouse-filled cream puffs”. Why don’t they apply that same principle to Disneyland in Paris?

    (In one of the comments to that post, someone wrote – “There is NO WAY that the French would allow their children to eat chicken nuggets…”)

    Polly: It was interesting because they don’t automatically give you condiments and they almost seemed surprised when we asked for them! Personally, I wish they had aïoli for the fries – which would have perked them up.

    hag: I don’t quite understand it either. But wish I had their capacity.

    meg: There were restrooms, but the times we had to use them, we really had to walk around quite a bit to find them. I don’t know why they don’t put up a few signs that point to them. Even outside the doors, it wasn’t quite clear that that’s where the restrooms were. And twice I almost walked into the women’s room by accident! (Although maybe I could blame all the sugar for that…)

    Victoria: I was pretty sure that if Disney branded something, they kept pretty tight controls over it because they were protecting their brand. I was talking to someone yesterday who told me that Disneyland Paris (originally Euro Disney) was owned 51% by France..and Disney does not own the park, just a portion of it.

    Interesting that it’s the most popular tourist destination in Europe.

    • Trysha

    My grandparents used to take me to Disneyland in California every summer until I was 10. I was all about the churros. Churros just taste better at Disneyland. I went back a few years ago with two of the kiddos and the churros were just as good as I remembered.

    • tunie

    Speaking of scary Temples of Peril and the like, have you seen these hi-lar-i-ous photos of people inside haunted houses? So funny!

    Also, it’s part of the Disney charm that everything is clean and friendly…that’s what we expect of a magical wonderland! I agree with the French resto in America comment – certain cultural vibes are lost in translation…

    • donna

    Paris was way better than Disneyland. I looked at the Disney signs in the Metro and just said “WHY?”

    Give me Paris any day. But then I do live 90 minutes away from Disneyland in San Diego. Which is also way better than Disneyland…

    • Johanna

    My “fondest” memory of Disneyland 20 years ago (besides how beautiful it was and the 2-hr wait for forgettable food) was the time I was in a line for an administrative procedure and asked an employee to signal to my husband that it was almost our turn. I pointed him out and the employee said “oh, that balding gentleman” ? I don’t imagine that sort of description is in Disney’s public relations guidebook.

    • Maxine


    I know this is completely unrelated, but my friend recently gave me some fresh figs from her garden (which is amazing considering where I live you pay $40 kg+ for figs), but they are completely green inside! is there anything I can do with them so they dont go to waste? I was thinking candied slices of figs, like you get candied orange peel/ orange slices, do you think that would work?

    Thanks for your help!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      If they’re not sweet, candying them would probably not make them taste better. Perhaps try my Fig Chutney.

    • Christine

    Interestingly, the only places I’ve seen people put mayonnaise on hot dogs is in England (which makes sense) and Italy (which does not). It’s a disgusting idea, but people do it.

    • Ilona

    This was such an awesome read for me! :-D
    Apart from being a foodie and a long term reader and fan of your blog, I’m also an avid theme park enthusiast and although I live in The Netherlans, I have a season pass for Dineyland Paris and I visit the park 2 – 3 times a year.
    The food at DLP can indeed be quite disappointing and overpriced (like that vary sad looking ‘hot dog’) but there are some places that offer nice things to eat. If you ever find yourself at L’Endroit Le Plus Heureux Sur Terre again, I suggest you book a table at the Agrabah Café in Adventure Land. For less than EUR 25,- you get a pretty brilliant middle eastern buffet full of fresh salads, hummus, falafels, eggplant dips, cheeses, breads, baklava-ish pastries and so on.. Nothing beats taking a break between riding the Disneyrides by sitting down to a few dishes of roasted cauliflower, fattoush and lamb kebobs. Plus: the restaurant is beautifully themed as well, and quite cozy because of all the different interconnecting rooms you can sit in to eat.

    -x-! Ilona

    • Jason Hocker

    The Tower of Terror was first built at the Disney Hollywood Studios park that is in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It has since been copied to other Disney parks. That would explain the Twilight Zone theming. The ride is also at the Tokyo park but had the theming changed to a new story since the Twilight Zone is not unknown in Japan.

    I confronted my friend who I’d gone with, who told me that bit of information, and she finally had to admit that she saw it in a documentary. If wrong – I’m going to make her eat two of those hot dogs next time we’re at Disneyland Paris! -dl

    • Rox

    I went to Disneyland six years ago, in July, so the weather was great and the park was full. One thing that surprised me was that there were many older children in baby carriages, and the grown-ups looked far more enthusiastic about the park than the kids.

    As for the restrooms, I remember that ‘Bare necessities’ was playing in the one I found.

    • Asti

    I remember e-tickets!

    • Alain from Belgium

    Mayonnaise is the number 1 sauce to put on frites here in Belgium.

    What is wrong for us is to put vinegar (like in the UK) on it, or brown sauce with cheese (like poutine in Québec) or even put frites in a baguette (the infamous mitraillette they sell in North of France).

    And please do remember that “frites” come from Belgium, not France. “French Fries” is not a good translation !

    Best regards

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Alain: Personally, I like my frites without any sauce at all. As long as they’re crisp, and salted. However I do make exceptions for spicy peanut sauce (which I first had in Belgium on my frites – excellent!) and I like aïoli as well. Even though it’s mayonnaise-based, the garlic somehow gives it the right kick to offset the oil-yolk combination.

    • Susan

    Reading about mayonnaise on the hot dogs reminded me of childhood summers in Bermuda, where mayonnaise on hot dogs was de rigueur – with relish, if memory serves, or pickles. Or maybe both. Not half bad.

    • Axelle the french cook

    I LOVE Disneyland… PAris or anywhere else ! Unfortunately, as I’m terrified by planes, I know this is the only one I could visit.

    • David

    I feel I visited because I’m exhausted

    • nic miller

    I have been to both US parks and when my daughter was eight, decided to surprise her with a trip to Eurodisney. It was hell. Despite being mid July it rained all day and after travelling by coach overnight (was the year it opened) and arriving burning eyed and exhausted, trailing around a rain lashed park was the last thing either of us felt like doing. To be honest I got the distinct impression that much of the verbal schtick you hear from employees in these parks was said with either a) gritted teeth or b) heavy irony by the French; not that I saw this necessarily as a Bad Thing…..

    Sadly, my daughter was most impressed with the foot long Hot Dogs sold all over the park.

    In contrast, our first visit to Walt Disney World in FL was great. The Animal Kingdom park opened that same week so we got to enjoy the attractions all shiny and new…Our favourite though was the waterparks- Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

    Interesting comments regarding potato crisps/chips and French varieties thereof. In the UK the latest ‘fashion’ is unusual and artisanal varieties of Popcorn- chilli and lime, cinnamon and apple, cheese and onion being some of them. Even Heston Blumenthal has got in on the act with varieties for a middle class supermarket amongst the other over priced mediocre food products he peddles. His salted popcorn ice cream is the vilest thing; soggy cold popcorn tasting of stale butter.
    Over here, our artisanal brands of crisps are very good. You should try them, David.

    • Maurine Fischel

    Having grown up in Anaheim, I too have never had the need to visit Disneyland Paris, though my grandchildren considered it a must when the visited two years ago. On the subject of hot dogs, however, while I agree to a point (not my favorite food/prefer the toppings to the base), if I’m going to have one it is adorned with mayo and mustard, a combination that is almost magical.

    • Monica

    I was at Disneyland on Friday and saw that rotting pumpkin! The lack of queues was refreshing, but the state of the park and some of the attractions was shoddy, much worse than when I last went 5 years ago. The article you linked about their debt explains it perhaps. The food and souvenirs were so overpriced my friend and I were pleased we’d brought a picnic and can go to the Disney store in London when it has a sale. The anniversary merchandise wasn’t very tempting either. At least our tickets were cheap! We got a free one for booking our hotel, and then got one of the dated 35Euro tickets, but had to go to guest relations to sort out the paperwork…
    We were too tired to stay after the 5pm parade, and went to Verjus for dinner to recuperate, which was excellent.

      • nic miller

      To be honest, it wouldn’t occur to me to have positive expectations regarding the food at any theme park regardless of their location.

      Futuroscope in Poitiers was very poor regarding food, environment and cost.

      So David, what do you put on your fries? I lweekend near what is widely regarded as one of the best fish and chip shops in the UK on the East Anglian coast and on those it is strictly malt vinegar. Thin European fries? Salt all the way….

    • nic miller

    Reading ‘Cast Member Confidential-A Disneyfied Memoir’ by Chris Mitchell is a real eye opener especially regarding the so strict rules of conduct American Disney employees have to adhere to.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    David: I was wiped out too. Why the heck weren’t the coffee carts open?!

    nic: While I appreciated that the staff works hard in theme parks, and many of them at Disneyland in Paris come from various countries in Europe to work here, there was a vast difference between the enthusiam between the original parks and this one. Part of it, of course, is cultural. But to me, part of the Disneyland experience is for everything to be in tip-top shape and for the staff, and the facilities, to be in the best possible shape and spirit.

    Monica: It’s funny that we both noticed that, and not one park employee did. It was right in front. (The ducks were also having a field day decimating the flowers as well, which was kind of amusing.) I didn’t find the stuff so overpriced (the hot dog was €6,99…but I guess I’ve gotten used to paying more for things living here.) Funny that there are paperwork problems…

    • nic miller

    I quite agree David. I love American customer service. I do like the professionalism of French Waiting Staff too but that didn’t translate to Disneyland Paris….

    What do you put on your fries? Weekending near one of the UK’s best fish and chip shops, it’s malt vinegar (and even the sounds-vile non brewed condiment). European skinny fries? Just salt….

    • Lydia

    I’m glad you had a good time! I’ve been to Paris twice and that means I’ve been to Disneyland Paris twice. I just think it’s amazing that it’s there, it seems so out of place. My favourite memory is of hearing a tiny little girl saying wonderingly, “C’est incroyable!”

    Love the Disney macarons!

    • Lis Brodie

    “Europeans don’t use restrooms to the extent that Americans and others do.” Seriously? How can that be?

    • EM

    My family (American-Austrian living in Austria) visited Disneyland Paris this summer. I have never been to Disneyland in CA although I had been to Disney World, albeit pre-kids, so couldn’t directly compare it to the mother ship in CA. My DH said he would have liked a monorail for getting around the park.

    We really enjoyed it although I have to say that the food was awful, both the American-style food as well as European. Also our son actually preferred Parc Asterix to Disney.

    Also the RER was packed at the park’s close. You would think they could run a few more trains or make them bigger or something. A French gentleman kindly gave up his seat for me to sit down with my sleeping daughter on my lap.

    And as for the poster who thought there must be toilets tucked in next to all of the restaurants– no, there are not! (And I can’t be the only one who wants to run to the restroom and at least wash my hands before eating!)

    Several months later and my daughter still talks about Disneyland Paris every day. Our favorite attraction was “It’s a Small World.”

    • EM

    @LisaBrodie– I think that statement that Europeans don’t use restrooms to the extent that Americans do is true, based on my personal experience as an American living in continental Europe for well over a decade.

    Maybe it has to do with the sizes of beverages– American ones tend to be bigger and I notice that Americans tend to drink more beverages anyway.

    Little examples– American cars tend to have more cupholders (and bigger ones) and I have also noticed that cupholders seem to be fairly standard on many American children’s strollers– not so in Europe.

    • splendid market

    David, Merci. We are living in the South of France for a few months and my daughter is dying to go to Disney Paris. We’ve gone to the Disneyland in Anaheim a few times and love it, I’d concur, the Tower of Terror is thrilling and Pirates, needs…. something.
    Happy to hear the serve Sav. Blanc, maybe I will book those train tickets.

    • Philip

    It is nice to see pictures of different places, and it certainly looked like you enjoyed yourself. Keep it up.


    • kathryn

    That so-called Ceasar salad looks grim. I would rather eat the hot dog even if I had to have mayonaise on it.

    • Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.)

    I’ve been there YEARS ago and never had the desire to go back – until I saw Bryan, Heather and Jane there – what a stellar group of friends to share in the magic of Disney!

    • Sharyn Dimmick

    I wasn’t too impressed with the “Caesar Salad” — why are there eggs in there and tomatoes and slabs of flesh? The hot dog looked better to me, too (and I just had a delicious Japanese-inspired Dojo Dog in Berkeley yesterday for Food Day). We do share a love of fast and gravity-defying rides, but it looks like the best eats were the candy and the Sauvignon Blanc,

    • Karen Fox

    Hi, David,
    I just loved this piece. I, too, first went to Disneyland as a kid, 14, in 1962, just months before the Cuban Missle Crisis, when I went to bed wondering if there’d be a world the next day. But back on that lovely day at the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, all was lovely and I was truly besotted with all I saw and experienced there. I especially liked your reference to your Instamatic camera. I had one, too, but I’d completely forgotten the 4-sided flash cubes! Thanks so much for this trip back through time. We were in France last month and will have to visit D-land Paris the next time.

    • Wini Moranville

    Great piece, and I remember those Disneyland e-tickets. Weren’t they an orange-brown color?

    When Disneyland Paris first opened, a friend of mine went with his young family and couldn’t find the entrance. Outside some gate, he saw a bunch of employees, including Snow White smoking a cigarette, who pretty much shrugged off his questions. Of course, my friend found plenty of charm in that in its own way.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    EM: We drove to the park because of issues like that with public transit. I’ve been stuck/stranded too many times on jam-packed trains when no one considered that there might be extra-heavy traffic when an event got out.

    splendidmarket: I heard they are revamping the Pirates ride in the other parks. I thought it would be more fun, for nostaglia’s sake, but it was kind of sad to see a relic from another era that was pretty past its prime.

    Sharyn + kathryn: People commit all sorts of crimes in the name of Caesar Salad (and although plenty of them occur in France, they happen elsewhere as well.) It actually was one of the better things I ate that day. The wine list was good and the servers were really nice.

    But wouldn’t it have been fun if they had a “real” American restaurant, where they had the rolling salad cart and made the salads tableside and served them on chilled plates, like they used to do? And if they had some American-style diners serving hot dogs, hamburgers, milk shakes, and hot fudge sundaes? That kind of food is pretty easy to reproduce well.

    • Jeff

    Well, I’m guilty of occasionally smearing a generous portion of Mayonaise on my hot dogs. Living so long in the Southeastern US where Slaw (cabbage and mayo) Dogs are quite common, perhaps the Mayonaise on my hot dogs isn’t too big a stretch from the norm or such an unforgivable impropriety as it might seem elsewhere.

      • nic miller

      It’s Colman’s English Mustard Powder in the little yellow metal tin for my sausages/hot dogs. Mix the powder with water to make your paste which is also excellent smeared onto pork products before roasting and grilling…

    • Erin

    I took my 4-year old to Disneyland in California this summer. I grew up not far from the park, but hadn’t been in probably 8 years prior to this trip. The food has improved so much! I was really impressed by the updated and sophisticated options at the sit-down restaurants, and the fresher, healthier foods now available at the take-away stands. I was kind of stunned, reading your post, to realize that Anaheim is serving up tastier food options than Paris, at least when it comes to Disney. How can that be?!

    In regards to hot dogs, I’m not a big fan of them, except for at the occasional baseball game. However, I do put mayo on mine. My friends, particularly those from the East Coast, are horrified, but for me it’s mayo and relish on hot dogs and nothing else.

    Are you familiar with “Tigger Tails,” sold at the US Disney parks? People are fanatical about them. If you’re craving a very American marshmallow treat, here you go. Several marshmallows on a stick, dunked in orange-colored chocolate and drizzled with dark chocolate.

    • Mem

    This visit to Disney Paris sounds positively horrible…glad you could endure.
    Please have a PSA test and a DRE test at your next doctor’s appt. Do ya know what I’m talking about?

    • shari

    David, you mentioned that the bun on the hot dog wasn’t that great, but it sure looked a heck of a lot more appetizing that the buns that are mass produced here in the states. As for the flavored chips, I haven’t noticed a cheeseburger flavored chip around these parts, but I have tried a BLT flavored chip that wasn’t too bad, -actually tasted a little bit like a BLT, and dill pickle flavored chips which are excellent. They taste exactly like the dill pickle dip I remember fondly as a kid.

    • Laurence

    You perfectly described my experience !
    I went in September this year and felt the same !
    The crazy lift ride !
    The food !
    Oh I just could not stop laughing while reading you.
    I am sending this to my bf right away.
    I lived in Paris for 5 years and absolutely refused to go to Disneyland ! Over my dead body !
    Left France for 8 years and returned in 2011.
    And finally gave in.
    Oh waow I just can’t stop laughing !!! Thank you so much for this.

    • Holly

    I’ve started stopping people who line jump me. Especially when the line isn’t that long to begin with. Usually they are so startled that I’ve said anything they get flustered and move to the back of the line. The French just need to be held responsible for their actions. They’ll learn. ;)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I always think it’s funny when people say, “We are a Latin culture. It’s who we are.” And I think, “We are all primates. Some swing off trees in the jungle.” I think people just see space, and go to fill it (with themselves) and don’t think they are doing anything impolite. At CDG airport, there used to be no ropes in the line to check passports on the way out of the country. And so many people would just slide along the sides of the line, which irked tourists who were enraged that someone would dare cut in front of them. It was kind of funny to watch people who aren’t used to it, but I’ve noticed they put ropes up to discourage line-jumping.

    • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    I’m moving to Paris on Monday to work as an au pair so I’ll have to think about bringing the kids here! I’ve been to the Disney World in Orlando and this seems very, very different- no palm trees and a lot more wine.

    • Nellie

    I gotta say, as a European myself; we do use the public bathrooms and when I was in Disneyland Paris last summer there was a line to the bathrooms!

    • Briana E.

    Thank you for giving us a tour of DLP, I have never been, my French friend in Nantes won’t let me go there. He says the French are the ones who know how to make amusement parks with “substance” (he said this as he stood there in his Levi’s Jeans and cowboy boots and he may have just mumbled something about puritanical Americans. LOL). So I was shuttled off to Le Puy du Fou in Les Epesses. I have to say, I had an amazing day there…and the food was great for a park!

    • Ana F

    “because it’s asparagus season – well, somewhere.”

    Well, apparently it is asparagus season here in Portugal, as just today I’ve seen some freshly picked wild asparagus been sold by the side of my road to work. It’s the upside of the climate’s changes, I guess.

    • R. Leicht

    David, You and my son on those “E” tickets! Recently he was recalling the song, “The Cheerleader Has a Gun” where the lyrics mentioned “E” tickets. Actually I think the park was better when the tickets were spread out but what do I know?

    • fishgirl182

    sounds like a fun visit. i actually just wen to disneyland in california for the first time in maybe 25 years a few weeks ago. it wasn’t like what i imagined but it was still familiar. and you’re right, most american food isn’t hard. they should do it well if they’re going to do it. i think your treats looked better than ours though. and i love haribo so i think i could just eat those all day.

    • S in vancouver

    I looooved Disneyland Paris. I’ve been to 3: DL Anaheim, WDW Florida and DL Paris. It was one of my must visits in France. I know, so many things to see and I want to go to Disneyland on my 28 day European vacation! You are so lucky to live in Paris. Envious. And also pretty envious of your ability to bake and just be awesome. :)

    • Patty Barnett

    Hi David, Had a great day in Paris with you and Jeanette. Enjoyed your tales of D Paris. Did you happen to see the Dragon in his lair, left side of castle, in dungeon? If you go back, you should see it. Eat in the DLand Hotel, right outside the entrance. The food is much better. There is also a great bar with food. They may also have the Tigger Tails there.


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