Friday, 29 August 2008

Survivors

Well, we survived Disneyland - just about!

After an event free journey west, we arrived at the Sequoia Lodge around lunchtime. Although we were a little early for the room, it was ready so they let us check in, and essentially it was then just a case of getting our things out of the car, into the room, then heading for the park. As it happens, the secret held. The only suspition Alice had was that she could see we were heading for Paris, yet I'd told her we were going to the sea side. Now, she realised that Paris is nowhere near the sea... But as it happens she didn't suss out exactly where we were until after I'd parked the car, on the way into the hotel, we passed a bus stop with "Disneyland" plastered all over it. But I'd have to say, apart from the initial excitement which was a joy to watch, she was a complete bastard for the rest of the day.

It was very much a case of "I want, I want", and although we were in the park from around one o'clock until gone eight o'clock, there was no let up. As one might expect from mid-August, the place was rammed full of people and even the most trivial ride involved queuing for a while. The "ride" highlight was on some real cars - complete with accelerator and steering wheel - on which Alice took me for a ride. A great idea, basically the further down you push the pedal, the faster you go. Take your foot off the pedal completely, and you stop. The cars were on a kind of monorail so there was a limited amount of movement allowed from the steering wheel. All in all, quite realistic. Alice loved it, despite the 45 minute wait, though as I say she was generally a pain in the ass that day. Lots of walking, then, and not very many rides because of the amount of people. But we got our bearings and also learned that the hotel was actually a lot closer to the park than we originally thought - first time around we'd got the bus, but after that we learned that walking around the lake was just as quick.

Back to the hotel for supper. Alice had been so tiring by then that we'd said that we were going to leave the park the next day - not least she'd told each of us that. we were ruining her holiday. And when I think back to when I was a kid, how a visit to somewhere like this would have been a dream come true. Anyway, by the end of Monday I needed a breakvfrom it all, so at eleven o'clock I went out and took some photographs in the darkness - as one may imagine the place becomes a neon city by night. Had a heart-to-heart with Alice and made her realise that next day, things would have to change. And the scary thing is - they did!

I can hardly remember any bad behaviour for the whole remainder of the visit. And the irony of it is, of course, that Alice herself got a lot more out of it - not just little presents etc., but the fact that Jac and I were happy to take time out to talk to her. I mean, there was still quite a lot of selfishness - she made us go into the Disney Studios just so she could get her face painted, then immediately wanted to go back into the park, despite the fact that I know Jacqueline would have liked to have looked around more. For me, I was a little more realistic and realised that this was really Alice's treat, and it was entirely possible that I might just follow her around for the day. I did try to give Jacqueline some time to do what she wanted to do when I took Alice for a swim in the hotel pool, which was a good break from the park for a couple of hours. But really the park held most of the excitement. The disappointment of not being allowed to go on the Indiana Jones rollercoaster was more than made up for by the thrill of going on the Space Mountain ride (which to me looked every bit as scary) twice!

An excellent day continued with supper at the Rain Forest Cafe - I had been avare that there is one of these near Piccadilly Circus but have never visited - and we had an excellent meal, with cocktails and the works. From there, we had literally twenty minutes back at the hotel room before we went back to the park yet again, this time to see the firework finale. I, of course, was all kitted out with camera, tripod and flask gun, and despite the fact that the place was rammed still I managed to get some excellent shots of the fireworks. I just made sure I had the castle at the right exposure, then left the shutter open for a couple of secnods - and the results were some really spectacular pictures.

Our last day, Wednesday, I needed to get the car packed up and told everyone I wanted to be on the road for lunchtime. We got ourselves sorted and headed over to the park shortly after it had opened, although I think basically we were all too knackered to do much. For me, all I wanted to do was walk along Main Street and look in the shops (I had deliberately told Alice that I wouldn't buy anything until we were just about to leave). In the end, I probably ended up spending a couple of hundred euros on various bits and bobs, presents for grandparents etc.

The verdict? Well, to be honest this kind of place isn't really my scene. But if it were, it isdifficult to imagine anyone doing things better than Disney. In the park in particular, everything was "just so". Shame that there were thousands of other people there. Next time, it might be worth looking at paying extra to get some kind of pass (if they exist, I don't think they do) which allows the queues to be bypassed. The hotel, again, was comfortable enough but the rooms were quite dated. The fact that both days we had to queue for breakfast was a big turn-off and reminded me of a cheap package tour to the Costa del Sol. But, once we were in the restaurant (we had two breakfasts and one evening meal) the food was excellent, even though the buffet format again, is not my style. The hotel was absolutely enormous - six floors with over 100 rooms on each, plus the fact that the rooms contain beds for four made it popular with families - we saw loads of toddlers and pushchairs about the place. Total cost, including two night's bed and breakfast and three days admission to the park (for the three of us) was £561. That sounds like five star prices in probably a two star hotel, although I did learn that a day pass into the park was €30 per adult, so over three days it adds up. Plus, everywhere else we've stayed has charged around €12 per person for breakfast, so that too adds up.

I guess the big question is, "would I do it again?". Well, certainly not in August, I'd pick a quieter time. And certainly not until Alice is of an age where I could safely say to her in the morning "Here's your pass and I'll see you tonight". And I'd maybe look to stay in a different hotel. But all these things aside.........its possible!

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