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Archive for Paris

Disneyland Paris (part 2 of 2)

I won’t show you pictures of the Main Street Parade at Disneyland Paris because of the insanity involved. My pictures of the parade reveal people, people, and more people. If you happened to be wandering around these parts of the concrete jungle known as Disneyland Paris within 15 minutes of the parade you became instantly trapped and couldn’t go forward or back. I’ve been to sold out general admission concerts that allowed more freedom of movement.

Needless to say, most visitors to Disneyland Paris were not very happy at this point. We witnessed verbal fights between strangers (in French), and I heard someone from the UK behind me comment that this was the “Unhappiest Place on Earth” (knocking off on Disney’s propaganda that Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth”).

The rides were mostly like those in Anaheim Disneyland with minor variations and several omissions. Space Mountain was cool at the outset with a “blast off” I hadn’t previously experienced, but then it was mostly painful blackness without all of the stars you experience on the ride in Southern California. Space Mountain was very jerky and had a harness that helped to cause, rather than cushion, the blows. My wife actually came out of it with her shoulder quite sore and bleeding a bit.

The one fun roller coaster was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which was very smooth and long. As you can see from the above picture (that’s me in the middle right with my hat on backwards), I whooped it up to try and make this day have some silver linings.

The photo is one I took of the monitor after the ride. Prices for a picture of yourself started at 15 Euro (or over $24).NOT disneyland paris nachos

I mentioned the food being bad at Disneyland Paris in yesterday’s blog entry. I’ll offer one example of what a joke it was. My son ordered “nachos” and we envisioned something like what you see in the picture to the right. The price was high enough to warrant something like your typical nachos with cheese, etc. that one expects in the states. But what did we actually get? 6, that’s right SIX, nacho flavored Doritos. Can you believe that ordering nachos in a restaurant would result in Doritos without any toppings–not even cheese? Neither could I.

While generally lacking the charm and character of a place like Tivoli, which we visited in Copenhagen, and with the shortest lines being longer than Tivoli’s longest queues, Disneyland Paris does get somewhat better after the sun begins to drop.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups spin wildly under an array of Chinese lanterns which are kind of neat once lit in the evening.

Our last ride of the day was It’s a Small World, which has the same soundtrack as that at Southern California Disneyland but looks more recent in construction. The same goes for Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom Manor.

The above photograph is of the Japanese part of It’s a Small World.

In summary, avoid Disneyland Paris at all costs. It doesn’t matter if your kids are of the right age or if you want to say you’ve been there. The odds are pretty good that your money can be spent on something else that won’t cause misery for much of a day. You couldn’t pay me to go back to the place.

My kids may say otherwise, but they are under the influence of the Dickens’ quote which kicked off yesterday’s blog entry.

Disneyland Paris (part 1 of 2)

“One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it’s left behind.” — Charles Dickens

Our second to last day in Paris we decided to go to the place formerly known as Euro Disney–Disneyland Paris. I take that back. We didn’t decide to go; I didn’t want to go. I knew it would be a day from hell. But my veto was overridden 3 votes to 1, and there was nothing I could do but blow nearly US$500 to stand in lines all day (and eat horrible food).

The trip to Disneyland Paris didn’t get off to a great start. When we got to the RER station we found the ticket machine wouldn’t accept bills or our credit cards. Since Disneyland Paris isn’t in Paris, the RER train you take to get there is not exactly cheap with a fare of over US$10 a person each way. The only way someone without a local credit card can buy a ticket is to use coins. Who carries around $40 in coins to ride a train?

We wanted to get there before it opened at 10 to avoid the lines (yeah right) but soon realized that wasn’t going to happen when we had to find someone who could provide so much change. Not many businesses are open in Paris at 9 in the morning, and the bitter, French shopkeepers who were open were not willing to provide us with change without us buying their overpriced wares.

Eventually we found a change machine in the post office which ever so reluctantly provided the needed handfuls of coins. The train was packed so we had to stand for most of the 40 minute+ journey.

Once we were at the “park” we had to stand in four lines. The first, pictured above, was for security. The second was for tickets. The third was to get in. The fourth was for our first ride. From the time in which we arrived at the train station until we got on our first ride four and one half hours had elapsed. 99% of that time was spent standing and waiting. Now do you see why I wasn’t looking forward to my veto being overridden?

We have been through this before, at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, and I vow (once again) to never let it happen again. If my kids want to go to Tokyo Disneyland, next year, they will be going without me.

In our first ride line (which took an hour even though it wasn’t a fast pass type of ride) we met a really nice man from Poland. He heard us speaking in English and asked, “Are you from the USA?” When we responded in the affirmative, he asked why someone from the USA would go to Disneyland Paris. I agreed with him–no one from the states (or anywhere else for that matter) should go to Disneyland Paris. The discussion with him was the most enjoyable part of the day. It turns out he is an excommunicated, former Catholic Priest. He was excommunicated for wanting a family and was visiting Disneyland Paris with his son. It’s not every day that an excommunicated Catholic and an excommunicated Mormon like myself meet up in a line in Paris Disneyland.

As you can see from the above photo, Disneyland Paris is very similar to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. There are a few minor differences. One major difference is that you can smoke in Disneyland Paris, and the French, like the Danes, love their cigarettes. Few things in life are worse than spending a day in queues at Disneyland. Spending a day in lines with people blowing smoke in your face is one of them.

But the biggest disappointment of all (not really) is that there is no Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Disneyland Paris. There is a restaurant called “Toad Hall” though.

Urinetown, The Musical

SOU's Urinetown slide showEarlier this year we took the kids to a play called, “Urinetown, The Musical” at SOU. The play was pretty good–very original and well executed by the SOU students. We thought the play was satirical, but after a few days in Paris we realized it wasn’t.

You see, in Urinetown people have to pay to pee. And in Paris, assuming you can even find a toilet, you frequently have to pay to pee. Sometimes the price can be ridiculous too. One place wanted 2 Euro per person. Imagine paying over US$3 just to pee!?!

At the previously mentioned Luxembourg Park we paid to pee. Then we paid to have our kids get into the playground area. Only then did we find out that you can pee for “free” in the playground area after paying to get in. They really stick it to the tourist who doesn’t know the peeing particulars in Paris.

Paris as a vacation destination is overrated. People who have yet to visit the place imagine a clean, classy town with lots of charm and beauty. Perhaps, by looking only at the photos I have shared so far, you have been thinking the same. The reality is that Paris is very crowded, not very clean, and the occasional charms are not around every corner. In fact, thanks to the lack of public toilets and people trying to avoid having to pay to pee, public urination can be smelled as you walk the streets. Not pleasant. There were other strange odors in Paris as well, but what can you expect in Urinetown?

Sacre-Coeur (part 2 of 2)

We walked through the interior of Sacre-Coeur. Photography was not allowed, but it looked pretty similar to the other churches we’d been through in Paris with very high ceilings. Walking mats had been placed throughout much of the interior which covered up the fancy floors. It reminded me of those people that cover their furniture in plastic. Sure it may keep whatever you are trying to protect in pristine condition, but no one gets to enjoy the protected item in the meantime so what exactly are you protecting it for?

Back outside we waited with hundreds of others for the sun to set. The police cut off access to the upper area which meant no one could get up. For some unknown reason, the public toilets up top were also all closed around dusk. So now we had hundreds, if not more than a thousand, people crowded up top with no place to pee.

The views of the church and Paris below got better and better. Musicians came out of the woodwork to entertain the crowds.

You can’t actually see the Eiffel Tower from Sacre-Coeur as there are a bunch of apartment buildings blocking the view. However, if you head to the side a bit and peak through some trees you can get the above view. At the top of each hour the Eiffel Tower does a light show for 10 or so minutes.

Sacre-Coeur (part 1 of 2)

Let’s see, where were we now? Oh yeah, we went to Jardin du Luxembourg Park for a puppet show (that was horrible). On an earlier evening the park was nearly empty, but not on this day. The park was packed with people willing to pay to let their children play on the equipment. I’d never seen such a thing. Of course my kids also wanted to pay to wait in line to ride on regular playground equipment as well so they did. Actually, I paid for them. And I paid to pee. More on that in a future blog entry…

After a rather miserable experience at the park we decided to follow the recommendation of the crazy New York lady and go to a fondue restaurant near Sacre-Coeur. We hopped on the Metro and made our way to the area. Amazingly enough we found the place. Unfortunately, the fondue restaurant was closed for a week or two for vacation. This was actually a situation we encountered in Copenhagen and Paris many times. Some restaurants just close up shop for a few weeks during the summer for vacation.

The Montmartre area, where Sacre-Coeur and our closed fondue place are located, had a different feel to it. Moulin Rouge is also in this area. The streets are usually narrower and more inclined compared to the other areas in Paris (and especially compared to the flat Copenhagen we had grown used to). I was reminded a bit of parts of the Cinque Terra in Italy but without the Mediterranean Sea.

We grabbed some food to go at a nearby shop and headed for the grassy hill leading up to Sacre-Coeur. We ate on the hill. Here I was reminded of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Not so much because we were on a steep incline with people walking up steps on either side of us but because of all the foreign hawkers of goods. Many weren’t selling wares as much as they were tricking people into having “friendship bracelets” tied onto their wrists. After the colored string was woven tightly around the gullible person’s wrist payment was demanded.

After eating (and watching sucker after sucker have to pay to be left alone after getting stuck with new wristwear) we climbed to the top where we had great views of the church and…

great view of Paris from the church…

To be continued…

Guidebooks for sale

We interrupt our normally scheduled blog adventures in Paris to try to make some room on my overloaded bookshelf.

Here is what I have for sale:

For those in the USA, shipping is $3 for the first book and $1 for each additional book. Ask if you are from outside the US about shipping rates. Email me if interested.