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Guide to Disneyland Paris and Disney Studios With a 4 1/2 Year Old

October 11, 2011 1 comment

We discovered some “best known methods” for enjoying ourselves at Disneyland Paris and thought we’d share. Here is our Top 7 List:

  1. Go in the “Low Season,” but right at the beginning of it.
    Pros: The weather will be brisk and the lines will be short. No waiting at the restaurants. Really good deals on lodging and tickets.
    Cons: Some attractions might be closed. There are no fireworks. It might rain
  2. Stay on campus.
    We got a great low season package at a Disneyland hotel  for 2 nights + breakfast + 3 day passes for Disneyland and Disney Studios.  There was also a bus that ran directly to the parks from our hotel and back with no additional stops every 10 minutes. Since it only took 4 minutes to get to the parks we were never more than 14 minutes away from the parks. This also meant that we could easily return to the hotel for a mid-day nap, then get back to the park later to finish the day. Liam doesn’t usually take a nap, but on Disneyland days we quickly learned he needs one. (He actually asked for it both days.)
  3. Breakfast package = all day snacking
    Slip some of those chocolate croissants and Nutella packages into your backpack and–viola–snacks for the day. My mother would be proud.
  4. 3 days and 2 nights was perfect.
    It was just enough time to hit all of the young child appropriate attractions. We actually didn’t even go back on the 3rd day except to buy souvenirs and grab a coffee at Starbucks before heading into Paris for the rest of the trip.
  5. Disneyland App for iPhone
    We have Android phones, so this didn’t help us, but it looks really cool.
  6. The Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride is not to be missed.
  7. Check out what is available in the gift shops as you play then buy on your final day.
    This is a great tool for encouraging good behavior to “earn the toy.” We told Liam he could have one “pet” (as he calls stuffed animals) and one toy if he behaved well for the 2 days we were there. Every time he asked if he could have some small cheap thing we’d say “If you’d rather have that than a pet or a toy then you can get it on the last day if your behavior is good.” It was a great way to reinforce really planning what to get and making the most of it, and not asking for every little small shiny thing that captured his attention.
    Also, pay attention to what your child really likes and see if they have it in the hotel gift shop. We actually didn’t even have to go back to the park to buy his toys because they were both at the hotel shop.
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Yes, You Really *Must* See Paris

October 11, 2011 2 comments

When we first started planning our trip to Europe, we were thinking Eastern Europe. We’d heard you could do a fairly cheap vacation in most Eastern European countries so we started asking for recommendations. As we did our research it dawned on us that while it would be a fantastic trip for us, we weren’t really sure how much Liam would enjoy it.

Paris really wasn’t at the the top of our list. It seemed a little passe–everyone who goes to Europe goes to Paris. The actual tipping point in the planning was that we knew Liam would love Disneyland. We were only in Paris proper a few hours when we realized why everyone says that you must see Paris. Yes, you really must see Paris.

It’s really quite simple to navigate for a European city. We bought a 2-day pass from l’Open Paris hop on/hop off bus tours and used it quite a bit to get around. Stace really did well when he booked our hotel 2 blocks from the Champ du Mars. Twice I got to run in the park and see the Eiffel Tower at dusk. Even better was seeing the tower sparkle on the hour after dark. It really was a magical sight.

The streets reminded me a bit of Portland, Oregon because so many of them were lined with trees. There is quite a bit of green space for such a big, old city. I can’t even really articulate what it was that I loved so much. I just felt at home, but in a really romantic sort of way. Yeah, I know it sounds lame, but Paris really does capture your heart.

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Stepping Back From the Seurat–Literally

October 8, 2011 3 comments

Those of you who know me well have heard me use the metaphor stepping back from the Seurat. I made it up and it works well for me when I realize I’m too far up in the details and can’t see the big picture. I wrote about the concept in my post, An Electrical Socket Made Me Cry.

Today, for the first time ever, I was literally able to step back from a Seurat,specifically, The Circus.  (And a  whole room of them at the Musee d’Orsay!) It was really incredible, especially because I got to share it with Liam. I had him stand really close to see the dots, then we stepped back together to take in the whole picture. The coolest part about it for me was that Liam thought it was cool too! I wasn’t sure if he’d be into it, but I loved that he got it!

I also got to see two of Van Gogh’s self portraits and Church at Auvers. That got my Van Gogh and my Dr. Who fix on. It was entrancing and heartbreaking to see those thick strokes of paint up close and think about the poor tortured genius who made them.

Speaking of Dr. Who, we also stepped into this great comic book/sci fi shop in St. Germaine called Album. They had a fantastic collection of figurines that included the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Han Solo in carbonite bookends. Liam got the LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia and his first comic book ever–also Star Wars.

It was a fantastic day out with my boys. One I will definitely remember.

The Happiest Place in Europe

October 7, 2011 3 comments

For many people, visiting a Disney park is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I’m lucky enough to have the resources and opportunities to have been four times. The first time I was 5 years old. The last three trips have been as an adult.

I vividly remember many of the experiences from that first trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. I think the Disney Company goes to great lengths to make things memorable for kids because it might be the only time they ever visit. I remembered nearly every detail of The Haunted Mansion–I had nightmares about it for years. 😉 I also remembered the teacups and my first (and only) pair of Mickey Mouse ears—they were two plastic molded ears stapled to a felt beanie with my name written on it in glitter. I also got a stuffed Tigger and a Winnie the Pooh dining set. My mom still has the fork and spoon in her utensil drawer in Kentucky. My nephews and nieces are using them now. 🙂

I also remember Pirates and forts in St. Augustine, Florida and NASA Kennedy Space Center. I was so captivated by rockets and space travel as a child that while my friends wanted to be nurses, I wanted to be an astronaut.

I anticipate that Liam’s memories will be of the Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast and Pirates of the Caribbean rides, driving a car at Autotopia, his stuffed Bullseye toy,  and his Buzz Lightyear blaster gun. He’ll think of our adventure in Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower. He’ll remember riding the Eurostar under the English Channel to London, playing in Kensington Gardens, and seeing The Lion King.

Given our resources, opportunities, and proximity to Disneyland California, I imagine this will not be Liam’s only trip to a Disney park during his childhood. It saddens me just a little because I think this first experience will be diluted. Will he remember his adventures at Disneyland Paris or will they blend and mesh with California and Orlando until he won’t remember what happened where? (I know—“First World Problem,” but I’m being nostalgic here.)

I’m sure our parents were just a little sad for us like that sometimes. Sad that we needed new fangled toys to hold our attention. Sad that we might be losing our ability to use our imaginations. I wonder what things Liam will pine for when his children have their own moon rockets? 🙂 I’m not really worried about Liam’s imagination though. Mine and that of modern visionaries my age have remained intact. I think, if anything, having amazing experiences only makes us dream bigger and reach higher.

So thank you Disney, for capturing our imagination, giving us a wonderful experience, and bringing back fond memories of Mickey ears and astronauts.

Traveling While Traveling

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey dere, ho dere. My lovely wife has added me to her blog as a “contributor,” which is a title I’ve never really had before in our marriage so I’m pretty excited. It’s like a promotion. I’ve gone from slacker to contributor! Mazel tov!
(Admin: You’ve been upgraded to Editor, dear.)

I was told in clear language that being a foreigner in Israel during Yom Kippur can get pretty boring, so I just scheduled our first vacation while in Israel. And we’re not even there yet. But it had to be done.

Tracy and I aren’t terribly experienced with European travel. We’ve been to the UK (not that UK), and when I was a teenager I spent some time in Spain, but that’s about it. So choosing a destination was the first step, and it started out pretty tough. I sought advice from the Interwebs, and from some folks at work who were particularly well traveled. One coworker, Bob Cooksey, was happy to tell me lots of stuff about every major European city and it all sounded pretty cool.

Then he brought out the trump card: Euro Disney in the suburbs of Paris. Since we will have the little guy with us, and he won’t even be five years old at the time of departure, I was afraid that all of the museums and parks and ancient ruins we might stumble upon would just be giant snoozefests to him. Euro Disney was a chance for him to latch onto something and look forward to it. Additionally, he has already connected with the idea of the Eiffel Tower and the fact that it is a Parisian landmark (although he believes it to be eminently climbable).

And so, Paris it is. Honestly if Liam weren’t with us for the trip, we probably would be going to Dublin or Vienna or Geneva or Budapest or Istanbul or Amsterdam (especially Amsterdam) or just about anyplace else. Not to say that Paris isn’t a fine city, but it just seemed so… cliché, pardon the vernacular. But for Liam’s sake, I will soak up the dusk light show on Le Tour Eiffel and sip espresso (decaf plz) at a sidewalk pastisserie, and wander the Champ de Mars. All for the kid, of course. Sometimes you have to make giant sacrifices as a parent.

The next thing in my head after deciding on Paris was, “how can we get back to London?” since that is a place we both fell in love with and Paris is just one chunder away from London anyways. I mean chunnel. The Eurostar chunnel train was another coup de grâce (pardon the vernacular) as far as Liam was concerned, because train. Oh and also because tunnel. Both being things that he likes to yell at the top of his lungs whenever he sights one from our car. I have to assume that if he is riding on a train, in a tunnel, for some number of hours, that he will tire of yelling it at the top of his lungs. It’s either that, or the locals will put us off the train in the middle of the tunnel to walk the rest of the way.

Finding things to do (for young and old) in London will be an absolute non-issue. At the very worst, we can communicate with the locals to the point of asking “where is the nearest McDonalds?” but we plan on being more interesting than that. I think Liam would love the London Eye, even though Tracy and I have already been on it. And I think he would dig watching the changing of the guard and such things. And for Tracy and me, just being there was just about enough. One of my fondest memories of our last trip to the UK was wandering over to a local laundromat and listening to the hilarious proprietor cracking wise at his patrons’ expense while our clothing got dry enough for us to pack for our trip to Brighton. And going to Sainsbury’s to buy our own ingredients to make treacle sponge pudding.

The timing of our arrival in London is unfortunate in one sense: no EPL games taking place in London during the time we plan on being there. Until the day we’re scheduled to leave, at which time Everton, the team I started following back in 2003, plays Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It wouldn’t be completely out of the question to attend the match, except that getting tickets to a Chelsea match of any kind is almost prohibitive. The UK equivalent of StubHub is quoting 190 GBP per ticket for the away section. So for three tickets that would be approaching a thousand dollars. Not including the medical bills that would arise from being a yank wearing the wrong kit in Chelsea. So I’ll save that money for an online soccer broadcast package if I need to watch Everton play so desperately, thanks.