This year has seen a few activities ticked off my childhood bucket list. I saw the Sydney Opera House with my own eyes back in May, I am off to watch the actual Queen B - B for Britney Spears - at the end of the month and I finally spent a day at a decent outdoor pool in England like we all do on holiday (there are so many London lidos about... who knew?)
As a child, I didn't have any actual proper interest in the world of Disney. While my brother and I would watch our Alice in Wonderland video on repeat - and I would lie to my mum and say my teachers had taken me to visit the blue moorcroft during the school day - that was about it. The Lion King was emotionally stressful, Ursula was scary AF and while Aladdin had cool songs (and my fancy dress party alter-ego of Jasmine), I just liked the films. However, I soon learned young Tamsin was missing a trick when I set foot in the Happiest Place on Earth a few weekends ago.
A whirlwind weekend, thanks to my lack of available annual leave and other adulty constraints, I donned my Disney manicure, my two friends and my friend's 9-year-old son and headed to Paris on the Saturday, smashed pretty much everything Disneyland's main park had to offer in 14 hours on the Sunday, and commuted to work from Paris, via Lille, on the Monday morning. It was one of THE BEST weekends I'd had in ages.
We get so caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities, life admin and how good our lives supposedly look on Instagram, that sometimes we forget to have the good old fashioned fun we had in childhood. That is exactly what we did this weekend. Here's how to rediscover your inner child with a trip to Disneyland Paris...
Wake up early
I am guilty of wanting a long lay-in on the weekend; we work so damn hard in the week and live by an alarm most of the time, so why not? I still stand by this belief but, when it comes to Disneyland, channel your inner six-year-old, get up and GO! Despite a late night because of our late train being delayed, we got up at the crack of dawn (well, 7.30am) and were in the queue for the park by 9am.
The doors opened at 9.30am and we headed straight for the shop to get our ears on. Make sure you buy your mouse ears from inside the park - after you've scanned your ticket, not just from stalls after the security checkpoint - as there is a huge range. In fact, we probably missed a trick by getting them at the shop that sold around 10 options; you'll find more and more designs throughout the different 'lands'.
It was a good thing we got in early as, two attractions in, my friend's son had a little accident. As we exited Alice's Curious Labyrinth, he collided with a rather ill-placed pole, catching the corner. This meant a trip to the fully-functional Disney hospital (with a nice French fire warden escort) where we observed a couple in their early 40s jokingly miffed that the plaster the husband had received was not a Mickey Mouse one. It was okay though, as the wife then drew one on for him - true love, that. This is one of the things I loved about the park; grown adults, Shoreditch hipster-types, the Phil Mitchells of the world - everyone I saw had a grin from ear to ear, some singing, some bopping along, nearly ALL with some sort of Disney paraphernalia on their head, getting into the Disney spirit.
Be willing to let go of the purse strings
Right, I'm gonna get this out of the way early. Remember when you were a kid and had no concept of money? Yeah, you're gonna need that attitude here. While I live a very budget-focused life at the moment, you've got to be willing to let that go in the Happiest Place on Earth. Thankfully, I came with a set amount of mullah that I was willing to spend throughout the weekend, so I could only go mad within that realm.
Our must-get Disney ears were a bit on the expensive side, but we'd have done ourselves an injustice had we not got a pair each. Water was another essential; it was hot, so you've gotta keep hydrated. I wince a little bit now though, looking back on how we each spent about €15 on aqua, especially when I remember how I left three different bottles on three different rides. Whoops.
Now, food. Mate. You're gonna spend a lot. My loaded chips and four chicken nuggets cost me the equivalent of £15. FIFTEEN POUNDS. FOR CHICKEN NUGGETS AND CHIPS. Yeah, I'm not yet over that one.
Rides, shows and the parade
Despite going at the start of the summer holidays on a sunny weekend, we were pretty lucky with the queues. We waited between 20 and 45 minutes to get on the rides, apart from Big Thunder Mountain, which was an hour's wait. If you wish, you can opt for a 'fast pass': you'll receive a time for the ride, go off and enjoy yourself, then return at the stated time, missing out the queues.
Right, I will say it now: I hate rides. I hate that stomach drop feeling and I hate not knowing what's around the corner. In fact, I watched the other three take on Big Thunder Mountain from the comfort of a nice rock on the ground. At Disneyland Paris, sure, there are those kinds of rides, but there are also a lot of chilled-out rides that aren't just the plain old teacups.
There are a few rides that you sit on and just watch a story or show, for example, Pinocchio's Daring Journey and It's a Small World. The latter was one of my faves as I enjoyed the recreation of all the different countries and how the song (a proper earworm) was sung in different languages.
There are more interactive rides, such as Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast, which involves competitively shooting targets with a laser (we got quite into this), and Autopia, where you drive a car around a track. My favourite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean which, despite being in darkness and beholding a few unexpected drops, I found thrilling. Once that theme tune starts playing, you're transported to the world of Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones in an instant. The production values on all the rides, and even their queueing areas, are incredible. It genuinely felt like a tropical night as we waited to board our 'boat' on the Pirates ride, despite being 3pm on a hot summer's afternoon.
As we were at the park during the 25th anniversary year, there was a 25th anniversary show that we sat and enjoyed, croissants in hand. Again, I loved how they integrated different languages throughout in a way that flowed and was non-repetitive, rather than doing it purely in French or English.
The parade that takes place a few times a day is a Disneyland classic. Head to the main concourse to grab a spot, but get there early. We, unfortunately, headed over just before it began, so we were a few people deep in the crowd. There are acts and characters doing 'floor work', which was a little hard to see from our low vantage point, however, there are huge floats you can enjoy no matter how far back you are. Again, incredible production values - the dragon from Sleeping Beauty was mesmerizing!
Of course, a trip to Disneyland would be incomplete without meeting the man himself. Not Walt, obviously, but Mickey Mouse. Unlike the other characters who roam about the park, or are stationed outdoors, Mickey gets his own theatrical experience and room. While you queue (again, this was about 40 minutes), you can watch reruns of the cartoon, before being ushered into a room with just your group, the photographer, and Mickey himself. Now, I don't know if it is just me, but there is something weird about knowing there is an actual human being behind that huge animal head, and not knowing whether his/her eyes are in the eyes, in the nose, in the cheeks... it's unsettling. However, don't be apprehensive like me - just embrace the magic! Yes, even when Mickey tries to run off with your friend...
Put down that camera and enjoy the moment!
I love taking photos all. the. time. I print them out and have them in an album, and I love spending a Sunday afternoon leafing through and reliving good experiences. I often take short videos when I'm on holiday, so I can truly relive the moment, especially when I'm on a grotty tube.
However, make sure that you're not just viewing your surrounds through a camera lens or phone screen - smell it, see it, hear it and feel it in the moment. The whole of Disneyland is great at keeping your mood up, especially when you're 9 years old, or feel 9 years old again, and have done over 31,000 steps. They play music constantly in the Central Plaza and at various points throughout the park, so you can't help but feel upbeat, too.
The most magical part of the day, by far, was the illuminations. The world-renowned daily show at 11pm is just... words cannot describe it. We got to the Central Plaza at around 9.30pm, kitted out with our snacks, and thank God we did; it got packed. Fast. We opted for a spot near the fences a little further back from the fountains and protected our space like a lioness would her cubs. Come 11pm, we had a great view and what proceeded was an absolute feast for the eyes, ears and even the soul, tbh. The fireworks were incredible, the music was touching and, the last time I'll say this, I promise, but the production values were AMAZING. The whole thing was genuinely tear-provoking. It wasn't even just the classic Beauty and the Beast montage and scenes the more recent Frozen, either; Star Wars got their moment, too. A very special 20 minutes... and there have only been a few moments in my life that I can say that about...
No matter your age, no matter whether or not you have a son/daughter/niece/nephew/family friend, Disneyland needs to be on your list. It really is the happiest place on earth and is truly MAGICAL.