Auf Wiedersehen Becks!

I will point out now that the above title may well be the one and only time I shall refer to my youngest daughter as anything other than Rebecca.  I use it today for the sole purpose of creating a title for this post, as Rebecca sounds nothing like Pet, and frankly even Becks is a push!  Friends and even teachers use Becky and/or Becks, however, I stand firm, and use her given name!

I write this with a daughter in Germany.  Wednesday morning saw Louise and I waving Rebecca off, in a dirty, and mechanically suspect mini bus.  The hour or so prior to this were the usual pre holiday panic of case cramming, essential checking, make up applying and hair straightening.  I was not involved in the last two of those.

German Pen Pal

As Rebecca says, this is "her german".

Rebecca was quite nervous I think, as she is staying with a family she has never met before, who of course don’t speak English as their first language.  As previously documented, Rebecca speaks not one word of German, so to her credit she did get several key phrases off of the internet before she left.

As usual of course, to the perpetual shame of the UK, the German family all speak good enough English to communicate so she should be OK.  Rebecca’s fine as long as she wants some black forest gateaux as I have coached her well there.

She has updated us via text and a quick phone call that she arrived safe and sound, despite being left on the final train with one other boy, as the doors closed before she could get off.  Thankfully, they had the sense to travel to the next stop, get off, and somehow manage to find their way onto the right train to get back.  Not bad for a thirteen year old, in a foreign country I must say.  Perhaps the teachers should have been last off the train?  Just a suggestion!!

Earlier this week, I endured a trip to Harrow.  With all due respect to Harrowians, I have had better days.  The town itself was of course fine, but the journey to and from was frankly as horrific as I had expected.  Travelling down only took the four hours, without interruption from anything more major than a tinkle around Watford Gap (which I must point out is absolutely nowhere near Watford!).

My habit of being early stood me in good stead to

  • Find a car park
  • Find the Costa in which my colleagues were waiting
  • Find the venue of the meeting

The meeting was fairly unremarkable, and took the form of a workshop for a fairly large retailer/convenience store, comprising us, two competitors, and the great and good of the retail organisation.  With that sort of crowd it turned into a bit of a willy waving do between the three suppliers, and I happened to be sat next to one of them, who used the in the air punctuation mark sign with his hands so many times, that there was more of his contributions inside of virtual punctuation marks than out of them.  I had a special name for him, which did not require those in the air punctuation signs, from about ten minutes in, when my tosser radar went off.  It is remarkably accurate.

Finishing the meeting around 4.30pm meant that after a quick post meeting debrief with colleagues, I was back in the Mondeo at around 5pm, and trusting the sat nav to get me out of the gridlocked town centre and somewhere near a motorway as soon as possible.  Once on the M1, things were nice and easy until Newport Pagnall Services, where around two minutes before I arrived, a few drivers had decided to abandon all common sense and driving ability, and come together in a carriageway closing extravaganza.

An hour I sat there, just far enough past the services slip road that I couldn’t pull off, but close enough to be able to smell the stale Ginsters and over priced chicken wraps, as my stomach growled its complaints.

The growling was quelled a little further up the motorway with an overpriced sandwich, over sized bag of crisps, and under whelming bar of Milka chocolate that I was blatantly upsold to at checkout.  The remnants of said meal are still in my foot well, and may taste better now than they did at the time of consumption.  That lot will be going on the expenses I can assure you!

So with all that I eventually arrived home at around 9.40pm, feeling brain and bottom dead.  I’m not sure which affected me more!

Louise had her “back to work” meeting, and is indeed due to go to back to work next week.  However, as it now turns out she may need another “procedure” to fix other issues (not for discussion on here by a male!!) the debate now is whether they can fit her in pre xmas or if she has to go back to work and then get it sorted around February time.  It also turns out that the doctor she saw this week was amazed the other doctor/surgeon didn’t sort it all out in one go, but of course this would have been all too simple.

In what seems a strange move, when my frame expandeth in all the wrong directions, I have cancelled my gym membership.  With the new job, rubbish traffic, cold weather and general apathy, I am just not getting any use of the silly sums of money being given over to the gym.  I shall welcome the cash saving, but fear for the extra funds required to equip me with a wardrobe of clothes large enough to accommodate my expanding girth.  I MUST cut down on the stuff going in.

In what is turning out to be a busy week in retrospect, on Monday (and why am I outlining events of the week in reverse order??) my brother celebrated his birthday, so I popped round with a card and pressie to be entertained by George, my four year old nephew, who ran through his repertoire of every song from the Johnny Depp Willy Wonka film.  Truly impressive stuff, especially whilst wearing his Woody from Toy Story pyjamas….George that is, not my brother, as at 46 that would be silly.

HTC HD2

It takes more power than a small town

I know many of you will have been awake night after night, scouring the internet, consulting with experts and haranguing HTC themselves to solve my bluetooth issues with my phone.  Fear not, I have found a solution!

That solution was to get a different (note that word does not say new) phone from the IT boys at work.  Found somewhere in the darkest corner of the dustiest cupboard, I have been presented with a HTC HD2.  If you seen a film on iMax recently, the screen is a similar size.  It is a Windows phone (for those who know or care), but alas not one of the new ones currently advertised on the telly, it is a 6.5 thing, and works OK, crucially in terms of bluetooth, but the Marketplace, where you go to get apps for these Windows phones is about as full as Gillian McKeith’s bookings diary for next year.

The choice of apps is pitiful, and I mourn the loss of critical apps such as Angry Birds, which I used purely as research for my job in the mobile industry.

The screen is so  large that if anyone phones me in the car whilst it is dark, it lights up the car, three surrounding streets, and causes several low flying aircraft to land on the M60, confusing the lights for the runway at Manchester airport.  Hopefully, the bugger will break soon and I can get a real one.

The weekend arrived like a long-lost relative, but one that you actually like, perhaps one that is at death’s door with a favourable will.  We then proceeded to insult it, by taking on a challenge greater than anything thrown at those jungle folk, and I almost fainted at the prospect.

IKEA

Swedish for Hell!

With Christmas shopping in full swing, we “had to” go shopping for some stuff for the house.  Fine, thought I, we’ll nip into Bolton, do the deed, and be back in a few hours.  This was until Louise announced that we HAD TO go to Warrington!  I repeated the word WARRINGTON in a similar style to the well known Peter Kay Garlic Bread catchphrase.  Why Warrington?  No offense to folk living there.

It turned out that the holy trinity of retail worship, Ikea, M&S and Next all had large shops there, and would have (and I quote) “Lots more choice than Bolton”.  Remember that.

We arrived at Gemini Retail Park, and first popped into Porcelanosa, which is a bathroom shop.  With an ensuite to fit out in the coming weeks, we popped in to see what our options are.  In that shop, it turned out that our options were to get out before we were ejected on the grounds of my pitiful earnings.  They had some lovely stuff, and we can only hope B&Q have similar versions somewhat closer to our budget.

With that behind us we did M&S and Next, neither having anything we were looking for (a rug, and some lamp shades) so we entered the devil’s lair, Ikea.  I always feel like one of those lab rats in Ikea, forced to navigate the maze and find the exit.  The way in which you are forced through the store in that one way system brings out my deeply hidden rebellious side, and I always end up saying at least once, “How the hell do you get out!”

So, for all that driving and walking, we returned to our car with a pack of spotlights (one had gone in the kitchen), and on the wrong end of one of the worst cappucinnos in the history of mankind.  Let it be recorded, here, that I was indeed right and Louise was wrong.  We headed back to Bolton, and to cut what is becoming a long story short, we ended up buying a rug in a shop about seven minutes from our house!!  Sigh!

Last night, with Rebecca in the Fatherland, and Emily sleeping out at a friends, we had the unusual occurrence of being home alone.  With this in mind we decided to go out for a meal at our local Italian restaurant.  Don’t let the local tag fool you into thinking we’re regulars.  I think last night was our second ever visit, and having been overwhelmed by the total averageness of the food, that may well be our last.

Full up, we headed home to make the most of our time alone, and of course, this manifested itself in Louise falling asleep on the couch by 9pm, and me flicking through endless channels trying to find a TV show that didn’t include people voting for something!

Tomorrow sees work actually start on this garage thing.  It seems I have been on about it for weeks, so it will be good to actually have stuff happen.  Snow permitting, the chaps are quite confident that they will be done before Christmas, leaving us to decorate etc.  We should be in by early to mid January, depending on our ability to paint.

For me, next week nothing earth shattering is on the cards, and the best I can hope for is a downfall of snow so severe that I can work from home for a few days.  Rebecca is home next Friday, and to be honest it can’t come soon enough.

Till the next time….

Trifle and time machines.

Welcome back from France!

The last three posts have been a mini trip report of my time at DLRP, but fear not, these tales of exotic travels are at an end and we can get back to the really important stuff like how much I don’t want to go to work, my life of woe as the world turns against me, and my life as taxi driver and bank for the girls.  What more could you want?

Whilst we have all been away in France not a great deal has happened that I need update you on.  Garage wise not much has progressed as we still await a resolution to our gas issues.  Not an unfamiliar state for me.  At least now we have a date, and that date is the 29th of November.  With that in mind work actually starts on the 1st of  December.

Garage

We're going to sleep in there???

My efforts to ready the garage for the arrival of work men have long been documented via Twitter and this blog, and we are now seeing light at the end of tunnel, not to mention some floor space.  Previously, with the garage chock full of essential crap, every inch of floor space has been occupied.

After one fully loaded Mondeo, and a trip to the tip, yesterday saw me “break the back” of ridding us of about nine years worth of hording.  It didn’t all go.  Some stuff we want to keep has been redistributed to other areas of the house, where it can gather dust for another nine years.  But the stuff retained is worth it, as it was memory stuff.  Photos, school books, paintings by the kids, from a time when we could decide what they wore, and how their hair was.

Browsing through some of that stuff did delay the task yesterday.  There was a fair amount of head shaking, and wondering where the time went.

For those who plan to still be reading this nonsense in a few weeks time, the picture above, and the one below shall serve as the befores, compared to what will be several lovely looking afters at which we can all bill and coo.

Garage BeforeIgnore the bins, Louise will hate them being on this photo!

Speaking of wondering where the time went, earlier this week on Thursday, Louise and I spent the evening at school, attending an open evening for the sixth form college, as somehow she is now in her final year at school!!!  Seriously, how did this happen?  It was only last month that I was sat on a miniature chair in the school hall of the local Infant school, fretting at my eldest striking out on the scary road of attending school.

The night was very helpful, and it only took about half an hour for Emily to choose the subjects she wants to do at A level.  It was at this point that I officially became old.  I used the phrase “in my day”, whilst trying to explain to Emily that when I chose my A levels, I had a choice of boring traditional subjects, such as English, History, and I pushed the envelope by also taking Economics.

Our quick tour of the sixth form’s TV studio, editing suite and gallery convinced Emily to take Media Studies and Film Studies.  A further chat with another member of staff, and she added Photography to the list, having dismissed Product Design!!  To be able to study subjects that truly interest you must be a joy, and I “pecked Emily’s head” for the journey home, explaining how important it is to find a job/vocation that enables you to wake up every morning and not consider chopping your right arm off as an excuse for not getting in to the office.

She didn’t get it, as of course she is fifteen, immortal, and a million years away from all this adult nonsense.  All she has to do now to get into sixth form is deliver her predicted grades.  She seems quite relaxed about the whole thing, and I wish I could be too, but I seem to be living in a perpetual panic attack at the endless milestones hurtling towards us at a million miles an hour –

  • GCSEs
  • Getting into College
  • Will they go to Uni?  If so how will we afford it?
  • Learning to drive – fills me with fear and dread.
  • Relationships, and heavens forbid weddings!

I keep telling myself that there is no destination here, and the trick is to enjoy the journey, as the discovery of those photos in the garage demonstrated, if you keep waiting to arrive, you miss all the scenery along the way.  Nice words, but putting them into play is not my strength.

Rebecca is getting ready for her school trip next week.  Again, “in my day” would apply here, as she is off to Nuremberg on an exchange trip, rather than the local museum to see some bloke in a low quality costume talk about the life of a blacksmith.  She has been exchanging emails with her pen pal (although no pen has been involved) for a few weeks, so I hope they can stand each other in the flesh for ten days of the trip.

Getting ready for the trip translates to having clothes bought for her at the Trafford Centre yesterday.  I of course had other tasks at hand so Louise did the honours.  I am sure I got the better deal.

Trifle

One trifle, two week's calories

So after a hectic Saturday, today has been a little more relaxed.  Some ironing aside for Louise, we’ve been what is called pottering, and Rebecca is making a trifle for tea.  Having seen the ingredients in her own special recipe, I’m either going to lose some teeth, or about five years of my life expectancy after eating it.

I’ve just booked our tickets for the Harry Potter film tonight, and my main concern is when to eat the trifle.  The last thing I want to do is take the edge off my sweet tooth before the film.  It looks like a long one, and may involve a double-header of Pick n Mix and Popcorn.  I’d hate to run short of eats at a crucial time in the plot, and become distracted.

No doubt I’ll spend the first half hour of the film marvelling at how grown up the three principal actors look.  I don’t have any photos of them in the garage, but the same time machine has been at play it seems.  How this can happen when I am not aging at all is, as Toyah once said, a mystery.  Not that I am old enough to know who Toyah is of course.

Looking ahead to next week, Louise meets with Occupational Health to assist her in her return to work, and I have a meeting in Harrow on Tuesday.  My how I am looking forward to those eight hours in the car, probably about as much as Louise is looking forward to going back to work.  Her knowledge of day time TV is very impressive, and her obsession with Coach Trip is quite frankly a bit worrying.

By the way, on the theme of time flying by, as it turns out this post has all been about, I am wishing this blog a slightly overdue Happy 1st Birthday.  It was the 5th of November last year that this thing sprang into life, with just me Louise and two others reading it.

I am astounded that I have kept up the postings and that now hundreds of folk each day come here to see what nonsense I am rambling on about.  I know, I find that hard to believe too.  Who would have thought it?

1st Birthday

Close your eyes and make a wish, and it can't be that there isn't a 2nd birthday!

So I will count Rebecca’s trifle as a birthday treat for my bloggage, and therefore I’ll be able to justify the few thousand calories with my name on them at the local Cineworld.  I’ll be coming down off of my sugar rush just in time for work tomorrow, and who knows, removing an arm may be more appealing than the M60.

Till the next time….

Studio Here We Go!

Despite a very tiring day on Saturday, we embraced the theme park commando ethos, and Adam made a point of setting his iPhone alarm for 8.00am.  However, with the whole clocks going back thing, this all went wrong, as Adam manually adjusted his phone before going to sleep, only to find the iPhone then adjusted itself during the night.

All this confusion meant that when his alarm went off it was actually 9am, and not 8am.  As welcome as the extra hour of sleep was, this now meant that all our plans of getting to the Studios early lay in tatters amongst our twisted duvets and dirty clothes.

However, we did not do anything stupid, like miss breakfast.  After quickly showering, dressing and packing, we made our way down to the restaurant to find a fairly long queue to get in.  This was a worrying sign for the day ahead.  We were soon shown to a table, and unleashed on the crepery etc once again.

After checking out, we joined the cast of Ghandi outside the hotel, who were all waiting for the next bus to the parks.  As it arrived, Adam trampled several small children and got on, but alas, I was trapped behind people who were quite frankly bigger than me, so I could not get past them.  No matter, the next bus was only five minutes away, and I met Adam at the train station, after he had checked that France actually had trains running today.  Luckily, today was one of those special non strike days in France.

Once again, the scrum to enter the park was large and unorganised, and we had to do it twice, once to get into the Disneyland park, and check our luggage in Guest Services so we didn’t have to cart it round all day, and then again to get into the Studios next door, as the latter has no facility to hold your luggage.  When checking in my bag I put my receipt in my back Jeans pocket, along with my mobile phone (which now has a full charge!).  That might be important later!

 

RC Racer

Don't get RC with me!

Adam was keen to try to ride the RC Racer ride first, as it was new.  Having not arrived at the park at first opening our fears for the queue situation were large and valid, as the posted time was 75 minutes.  As it was only likely to get worse, we decided to give it a whirl, and were then delighted to spot a single rider line.  We clambered through and over a couple of barriers to get to it, and waited around 15 minutes for me to get on first, shortly followed by Adam a few minutes after.

I took a video of Adam’s go, which is both the wrong way around, and the reason I then had minimal battery for the rest of the day again!

The ride itself was another one of those that looked less intense than it turned out to be.  I wouldn’t say I would wait 75 minutes for the two minute experience, but it was good fun, and worth the 15 minutes we waited.

Adam was not keen to ride Tower of Terror, and wanted to take some photos of the new Toy Story area, so I toddled off, VIP Fastpass in hand, to ride it solo.  I couldn’t spot the Fastpass entrance initially, as it had a queue all of its own.  I was shocked to realise that this queue was (mainly) French folk, waiting to speak to the CM, and see if they could get in now with a 2.30pm entry time!!  I floated gracefully to the front, with my timeless, uber Fastpass, and endured the hatred as I was allowed into the hallowed halls.  Once inside, I used local knowledge (from Orlando!) to stand at the right place in the library, allowing me to leave first and get to the loading area.

The ride itself is a good one.  There is no forward moving section as there is in Orlando, but the droppy stuff is just as good.

After meeting up with Adam in the gift shop, we made our way over to the Rock n Rollercoaster.  Another 75 minute wait is thankfully avoided with the magic pass, and again, a ride similar  to Orlando, yet different.  It was very good indeed, and brought out similar shrieks and screams all the way round.

Frank Father of the Bride

Hello Mr Bonks!

Next, was one of my favourite attractions of the weekend, Cinemagique.  This to me is a great example of what Disney does best.  I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone yet to experience it, but it is a live action and film show, brilliantly executed, and thoroughly entertaining.  As an added bonus for me it stars Martin Short, who I love in O Canada, and no matter how many times I see them, makes me howl with laughter, as Franque in the Father of the Bride films.

I did some extensive gift shopping in the area where last night Cast Members were “attacking” guests in a ghoulish manner.  Today was business as usual really, and in a typical Dad type shopping session, we are were quickly in and out of the shop area, equipped with two suitable presents for the girls.  Job done!

Having largely done the park now, in addition to what we covered last night, we headed for the exit, and across to the other park.  You may have noticed a complete absence of food since breakfast, so we remedied this at this stage with a welcome Hot Dog at Caseys.

Suitably refueled, it was time to do battle on Buzz Lightyear.  Being honest, my expectations of victory were low, bearing in mind Adam was a veteran of 35 previous visits.  We got through the first battle, which was the usual congregation of confused French folk around the Fastpass entrance, trying to negotiate with the CM, that it really was time for them to go in.

With a wave of our “golden ticket” we were in, but still had a 10 minute queue or so before loading.  As expected Adam wins easily, however he was very gutted that we both achieved the same level (Level 4) even though our scores were miles apart.  I counted that as a creditable draw, and quickly moved on.

Star Tours was next, and this was almost identical to the one I am used to, apart from, of course, the fact that the pilot does the whole thing in French.  No matter.  Having ridden it countless times I knew the script anyway.

Castle

Dragon's Den

Next, we wandered to the castle.  It was very pleasing to see that they have actually used it for something more useful than just a restaurant, and a place for Tinkerbell to jump off.  There are shops of course, in which Adam bought a Christmas bauble, but they also have an area you can wander around, and do some sort of walking tour, plus in the basement, an impressive dragon in its lair.

After watching a few minutes of the show currently in progress in front of the castle, it was time to make our way out, and head for the train station.  Upon collecting our bags, I discovered that my receipt must have fallen from my pocket upon me taking out my phone to see how little battery I had left somewhere in the park.  Luckily, with some ID and a description of my bag, it didn’t pose a problem.

At the train station, Adam discovered that his original train was delayed by an hour, which would have meant he missed his flight, so after a quick review of the time-table he realised he had to take the train leaving, sort of nowish.

So a rushed thank you (from me) and good-bye, and he was off to his train.  This left me with nearly two hours to kill until my train, so I set off for a wander around Disney Village.  Having my bag with me, I was wanded at the entrance.  Beggars can’t be choosers!!  A touch more shopping happened, in which I picked up a present for Louise, and then had a general mooch.

Disaster was narrowly averted, when in a crowded shop, I turned around only to hear the bag on my back bash into a load of Disney mugs hung up in the aisle.  I closed my eyes, and prayed that no further sounds followed, which would signal the smashing of the mugs, and either a quick getaway or a painful use of the credit card.  Luckily, nothing fell to earth, and I quickly moved on.

Having exhausted my interest in retail, I went back across to the train station, bought a drink and sat outside people watching for quite a while.  I then wandered around the station, and frustratingly discovered a source of power for my phone in the waiting room, about ten minutes before I was due to board!!   A quick injection of juice, a tweet bemoaning the shocking battery performance of my phone, and it was time to go to the platform.

I won’t bore you with the details of the train journeys home, as everything was on time, and pretty uneventful.  I will comment on the delightful food I endured on the Eurostar leg, which was basically a microwaved pitta bread with a slice of dairylea and wafer thin ham.  It only cost me around £7, with a soft drink!

The walk from St Pancras to Euston was brisk, as the time between trains was short, but I made it quite easily, and took my seat in First Class (this is very cheap at 8.30pm on a Sunday night!!), and settled in for the last leg.

Louise picked me up just after 11pm, and I was more than happy to find my own bed about half an hour later.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the weekend, and would once again like to thank Adam, Juz and Craig (the DisneyBrit Podcast folk) for their generous prize, and of course to Adam for looking after me all weekend.

Having never really fancied or planned a trip to Disneyland Paris, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.  Once inside the parks, they are of the same quality of the Orlando parks, and indeed some parts are better!  For me, my obsession is not just with the Disney parks, but now I realise it is with the whole Florida experience.  The whole place feels like a theme park!!  In Paris, I felt that once outside the gates, the “magic” did not pervade.  I’m not saying anyone was rude, or we had bad service by any means.  It is an intangible thing, that you just feel.

The one thing that did strike me was that unless you are careful, a weekend at DLRP, with the family could get very expensive very quickly.  With flights (or trains), hotel, park tickets, food etc you could easily be into a couple of grand.  I’m sure you can do it for less of course, with knowledge and experience, just like Florida, but I’m not sure I would want to invest that sort of cash into such a short break.

If money was not an issue I would gladly return, with the family, and have a really good time I’m sure.

Thanks for reading these unusual blog posts, and with these travel journals providing a break from sheds, garages, work and general Meldrew style moaning, normal service shall be resumed next time around.

Till the next time…..

Vive Le Fastpass!

Adam’s alarm woke us around 7am, so we had a plentiful five or six hours sleep, which was splendid.

Breakfast

Brown sticky stuff.....it's crepe!

We showered (separately), and made our way to the restaurant for breakfast.  Things were pretty quiet at this time of day, and we had  “kids in a sweetie shop” expressions as we cast our eyes over the pretty impressive array of wares on offer.  A little cereal got us warmed up nicely, as we then progressed to the cooked items, which included, quite weirdly we thought, chicken sausages, and finally we have a really big crepe.  That’s French for pancakes.

First on the agenda this morning was an interview with the manager of the hotel we were staying in (and the one next door) for the podcast.  We loitered in reception until she turned up, and Adam had his microphone out and everything.  She’s all polite of course, but it turned out she did not want to do an interview….at all.  Not to worry, we accepted her offer of a tour around both hotels anyway.

Halfway through this I had a horrible sinking feeling that I had left my phone in the restaurant after breakfast and I was ever so slightly distracted for the latter part of the tour, being keen to get back there and find it.

Once we were done we quickly dashed back, but with no joy.  I then realised that I was indeed an idiot, as I must have taken it back the room after breakfast, as I had taken a photo of the view from our window.

Still, I was still ever so relieved to see the little beast, charging next to my bed.  This is a situation my darling phone would find itself in for much of the next few days.

 

View from our room

Our room with a view

Senior moment over, we got ourselves ready for the day ahead, and headed for the parks.  The bus service to the park was (as it was all weekend) pretty good, and we were soon on our way.  Upon arrival at the main entrance, the weather was the worst we would see all weekend, with a light drizzle.  However, the weather was nowhere near as grim as the queue to get in.  A huge crowd was congregated, slowly inching its way to the bag check.  It turned out that we were through it in a  few minutes so it was not as bad as it looked.

Crowd at main gate

A crowded entrance

At this point we needed to convert Adam’s magic letter to actual park tickets, so we joined the horrific looking queue at the Guest Services windows.  There were only three of them, which would have been OK if they were just used for queries etc, but they were also being used for normal sales, despite there being about three hundred other sales windows ten yards away.

I would say we waited here for about an hour, with the star of the show being an Italian chap who occupied one of the windows for at least forty minutes all by himself.  I obviously could not understand what he was discussing as I understand neither French or Italian, but I did feel quite a bit like punching him in the back of the head.

Finally after sorting our tickets, Adam suggested we go into Mickey’s Salon.  Having no real idea what this is I of course agree.  It turned out to be a special place for shareholders.  It is a beautifully decorated room, with free hot and cold drinks, and the odd croissant, so it would have been rude not to partake.  Anyway, with all this waiting around, it was hours since we had last eaten anyway.

 

Salon 1

Salon....

 

Salon 2

and on....

 

Salon 3

and on and on.

For me, it was at this point that things started to feel a lot like Disney, probably for the first time.  Ironically, this experience is not available in Orlando for shareholders, for long complex reasons that I will not trouble you with here.  So, like a 70’s disco, we were full of hot chocolate, and on our way to do some fun.

Ah not quite yet.  One more stop at City Hall so Adam could pick up our essential VIP fastpasses.  Looking at the hordes of folk around me as I waited, it was worth this wait, to avoid much more later on.

Castle

A pink castle

Now, whether this was Paris or Orlando, nobody was going to stop me taking the traditional first view of the castle photo.  OK, so now it was definitely time for some fun type stuff, and we decided to ride Big Thunder Mountain first.  Adam flashed the fastpass and we avoided the hour of queuing lesser mortals had to face.  The ride itself was, like a lot of this place, strangely familiar yet different.  The first thing I did realise was that if you come to Paris in the seriously cold months, then a couple of rides like this would see you picking ice out of your eyelashes.  The wind chill factor took the temperature down a lot, so a balaclava would be essential kit in February!

We then wandered across to the Indiana Jones ride, and again from the special fastpass line, we boarded very quickly.  I was mildly surprised to see that this ride went upside down, but coped manfully, and my warnings to Adam about my world-renowned coaster Tourette’s, were largely redundant.

There were some rides that didn’t have fastpass.  After lodging my formal and official complaint about this we queued for Pirates for about thirty minutes.  This seemed to pass fairly quickly, as it was constantly moving and we were chatting away about….well, Disney stuff.  As the French might say, quelle surprise.

I remembered thinking that this version of the ride was probably actually a little better to the Orlando version.  It felt longer (not that this is a guarantee of satisfaction of course!), and somehow more logical in the story line, although much of the ride is pretty much identical to its US cousin in many respects.

We then found ourselves in Fantasyland, and knowing that most rides here were aimed below our demographic, I still decided to queue for half an hour for the Pinocchio ride.  Well, there is no point coming all this way and missing stuff out!

 

Pinocchio
Two grown men waited 30 minutes to ride this!

Likewise Peter Pan saw two odd-looking (not old-looking in any way) blokes waiting amongst hundreds of kids, but hey I enjoyed it, and again felt this version slightly superior to the Orlando one.  We walked across to Frontierland now.  On this note, it was very odd for me not to have a clue where I was going, and not to have any sense of my position in the park.  We long since stopped needing park maps in Orlando, so it was a little strange to be following Adam around all day.  I think he knew where we were, based on his 35 previous trips!!

It was lunchtime now, actually around 2.30pm, and the eatery of choice was the Cowboy Cookout.  We joined the line, and waited to order, and witnessed, in the adjacent queue the greatest contribution to Anglo-French relations since Sasha Distel.  An English chap approached the French cast member on the till and started to order.  However, he was of course using his best slow and loud English so that Johnny Foreigner could pick things up.  However, being a part of the modern Europe he must have felt compelled to make some sort of effort to speak the lingo, and so we heard….

“Bonjour, could I have one diet coke and…..erm….deux….erm…..normal cokes”.

Genius.  Sir I salute you.

The cast member, who no doubt speaks at least three languages, just carried on as if he heard this stuff all day everyday, and he probably does!

Our double cheeseburgers were huge, and tasty….and huge.

On our way over to Phantom Manor we passed Jack and Sally, and I don’t mean the characters from Coronation Street.  The make up for Sally was excellent, and if I put some weight on, Jack’s suit might fit me nicely!

Jack and Sally

Jack isn't a character I am built to play....

Again, Phantom Manor was a no fastpass ride, so we settled in for a long wait.  I think it was posted as a 75 minute wait, but it either wasn’t, or my memory has fooled me into thinking otherwise.  Now, doom buggies aside, this ride is pretty different, and the house itself, to me, reminded me of the Bates Motel.  You start with a stretching room type thing, but beyond that there are few similarities between the US and French versions.  Both are very good, and both often stop mid ride a lot!

At this point we headed over to Space Mountain, which from the outside looks a very similar animal to the one I am used to.  Adam warned me however that not much else was common between the two.  After a restroom stop in Videopolis, which seems to be a vast auditorium built for a now dead attraction, currently being used to show old cartoons, and somewhere to eat your lunch, we took the fastpass back entrance, and still queued a fair bit.  A sign of how busy the parks were today.

Space Mountain

A mountain of space

Once at the point of boarding, it quickly became very clear that this is a VERY different ride.  The fact that we got into a Rock and Rollercoaster style carriage with full on pull down restraints gave me a big clue that I had better take my glasses off for this one!

It was a wise move.  It started like the Hulk, and I spent the next few minutes teaching the French some English swear words!  A great ride though.

At this point, it was coming to the time that Adam had arranged to meet up with some of the cast from the Buffalo Bill show, for interviews for the Podcast, so we made our way out of the park.

Back at the Village, we waited a while outside the show, having a welcome sit down, and eventually Buffalo Bill (Trent) and Annie Oakley (Lesley) came out to see us.  After brief intros and chatting, Adam whipped his microphone out, and launched into his interview, and I just loitered a bit trying not to get in the way.

They were both very lovely, and treated us both to a back stage tour of the arena.  We shook hands with most of the cast, walked behind too many horses for my liking, and had a look at the buffalo too.  They are pretty big!

Complete with our cowboy hats and tickets for the show we made our way front of house to mingle with the muggles now entering, and we watched the pre show in the lobby before going up to our seats in the arena.

At this point, we say goodbye to my phone (and therefore camera) for most of the rest of the weekend.

The food and drink were brought out almost immediately, and we take on board some welcome beer, and some pretty nice Chilli. I also had some (if not all) of the corn bread on offer!  The rest of the savoury food wasn’t the greatest, but I guess this is to be expected at an event of this scale.  The crumble to finish was nice though and we both made short work of that.

The show itself is based on the central sand arena, with lots of horse trickery, a section of songs including a few Disney characters, and it ends with a set of rodeo games that pit four different sections of the audience against each other, as we each cheered on our respective players.  Good fun!

We left the show and headed for the bus.  We were quickly back at the hotel, and in the room preparing for the Terrorific Night 2 at the Studios.  This involved the addition of a few more layers of clothes, for me, a thicker warmer hoodie, an attractive hat, and gloves.  Being two males this took us a matter of minutes, and we were back on the bus at 8.50.

Once at the studio gates we had the same organised chaos to get in.  Having no bags, surely we could have simply walked through the no bag entrance?  Alas, there wasn’t one, so we jostled with everyone else for about ten minutes.  As we did get in, I was asked by a burly, surly security guard to open my coat, as with my 23 layers of clothes it looked like I was smuggling in a small child.  I chuckled, and told him that I was simply fat, not a terrorist.  My humour did not translate and I narrowly avoided Le Glove Rubber.

All around the park, the atmosphere was superb.  Obviously at this point I had not seen the park in normal circumstances, so I could not judge how much work had gone into transforming it.  Well, after seeing it the next day, my verdict was, quite a lot!  Cast Members wandered the park, mingling with/attacking the guests, in some fantastic costumes.  As the posters said, this was definitely an event for those over twelve years old.  We saw one Dad rushing for the exit, carrying his young daughter who was quite distraught.  Adam did a video of some of the night’s events.

Ride wise, we headed for Crush’s Coaster first.  A ride unique to Paris, but also with a huge queue.  This took around forty minutes, but the ride itself was very good indeed.  Again, Adam told me it was very different to normal operations and I had to take his word for it.  Anyway, it was a belter!  Many of the attendees tonight had dressed up in Halloween costumes, and indeed I had come as a grumpy, overweight, balding UK Dad.  Scary enough I think.

Next we decided upon the backstage tram tour, which for tonight had been rebranded as the Terror Tram (or something like that).  As queues went, this was the Daddy of them all.  It took an age, and towards the end we were both tired, cold and in danger of losing the magic a little.  Finally we got onto our tram and set off.  It all began quite normally, but soon enough the usual pre-recorded patter on the video screens “broke down”, and we had just white noise as we entered Catastrophe Canyon.  This was pretty much unchanged, but upon leaving that we came upon a scene from (Adam told me) Dinotopia.  If you have watched the video by now you will know that a scene was played out here with a large devil type bloke and his minions.

As they stole the young girl from the carriage it did take a few moments to realise the boyfriend was in on it.  His subsequent “performance” as he himself then turned into a zombie was truly impressive, and he absolutely frightened to death the young girls sat behind Adam and I.

Next, at a London scene, more zombie types appear, only to be chased off by chaps in welder masks at the last moment, who then in turn, also reveal themselves to be “not of this world”.

All in all the whole experience was pretty amazing, pretty hard to describe here, but suffice to say, it was easily impressive enough to put all thoughts of grumpiness about the queue out of our minds.  Typical Disney!

Our next ride was Armageddon, which in effect was “closed down”.  Instead we were invited to do a walking tour, which quickly turned into an attack from more deformed types, this time in the shape of aliens.  Again, anyone showing the slightest sign of fear was targetted for “ghouling” and there was a lot of screaming and shrieking along the way.  Again, really good fun.

To finish off the night we ended up in the odd position of doing a couple fo rides in the Toy Story section, on a night of horrors and Halloween.  I think this is called a juxtaposition, which I always thought were an 80’s pop band!

First we rode the Slinky dog ride, which is a pretty simple merry-go-round type thing for young kids, but we jumped on nonetheless as it had no queue at all.  We had no shame!

 

Disneyland-Paris-Toy-Story-Playland-2

Image pinched from Google due to lack of phone battery

We then did the new parachute drop ride, which was surprisingly more intense than it looked, and a definite tummy tickler.

By now it was going on for 1am, and we were both, not to put too fine a point on it, cream crackered.  What we really needed then was to have to sprint to jump on the final bus of the night to avoid a forty minute walk back to the hotel.  So after a full-blooded Dad run, a red face, and asthma attack, the bus then sat there for ten minutes with us sat on it, heavy breathing.

We got off the bus and into bed within moments, and it took me seconds to fall asleep!

 

Euston, we have a problem.

So my trip to DLRP is done, and so I thought it only right and proper to tell you all about it.  This trip really was sponsored by the DisneyBrit Podcast.  Go on click the link!

I’m going to break this report up into three sections, each representing a day of the trip, so this one is primarily about trains!

My day started at around 8am, and after some breakfast and a shower (not at the same time), I had time to play a little bit of Xbox.  I hope you realise this is the sort of crucial detail I shall be including.

Louise dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly train station, which was handy, as this was where I was due to catch my train to Euston.  I picked up my tickets from one of those clever automated machines, without struggling in any way to figure out how it works, as I am dead technical and clever.

Books

Good Evans!

With twenty minutes to kill I wandered into WH Smiths to find some stuff to occupy me over the next endless hours on a train.  I quite fancied the new Chris Evans book, and via his twitter, had found out that it was on special offer.  It was that special that WH SMith had none left.

I therefore switched my attention to the fiction section, and chose a James Patterson novel.  I’ve read quite a few of his, and they are decent page turning stuff, without making you think too much.  This is a pre-requisite for holiday/travel reading.

So with that, a bottle of water, a newspaper, some paracetamol (just in case) and a pad and pen (for trip report notes) it was an astonishing £16.

Upon boarding the train, some bloke was sat in my reserved seat, but with lots of available ones around I just took another one.  The fact that he was slumped across the table, and looked like he needed a good wash were other contributory factors.  However, shortly afterwards I was asked if I would mind moving to let Keira (the grand-daughter of the woman asking me to move) to sit next to her.  So I moved to the seat opposite, and settled in for the peaceful journey to Euston.

Alas no.  Keira’s grandma is one of those so full of pride in her offspring’s offspring that she “performs” all the way to Euston.  You know the sort of thing.  Everything the child says is repeated, but louder, and with a chuckle in the voice, and a look around to see who is watching.

So the whole carriage “enjoyed” Keira and her grandma looking through her Disney Princess magazine for two hours.  What do you mean I sound like a grumpy old git?  And???

So I tried my best to read my paper, and then my book, but couldn’t really concentrate over the noise of grandma reading stories out loud.

About an hour in thankfully she fell asleep….Keira, not the grandma, so I made the most of it and played some games on my phone.  This was OK as the train had a source of power for it.  As you will learn my phone has a battery life shorter than one half of the Krankies.

The train arrived at Euston exactly on time, and I decided to walk to St Pancras rather than catch the tube, as my google map showed me it was just down the road.  It took about ten minutes, and I went to more of those automated ticket machine things to print off my tickets for the Eurostar.  After a few minutes of entering stuff with no joy (a familiar tale) I started to wonder if I had the right reference numbers etc, so I called home, and asked Emily to take a look on my laptop.

I was in no way a bit short and panic-stricken, and after realising I did have the right numbers, I put the phone down and went in search of a human being to ask.  There were none.  So I wandered deeper into the station and came across an Information desk.  I joined the queue, and whilst waiting, glanced up at the sign above the Information desk.  The one that said Kings Cross Station Information.

Realising I was sort of in entirely the wrong train station, I made a quick exit and went next door to St Pancras.  Seriously, who the hell had the bright idea of building two stations next door to each other!!

Once in the right place I was now close to missing the train, and after quickly printing my tickets, I heard the last call being made, and I hurried through to check in.  It entailed all the pre trip rituals of a flight, such as ticket check, passport control and security checks.  I had somehow not imagined all this would not be necessary!  At security, I did some bleeping, and this resulted in some big bald bloke wanding me.  There is a first time for everything, and it didn’t hurt at all!!

I arrived on the platform, and luckily the train was still there.  I checked with the member of staff on the platform that I was in the right place, and I indeed I was.  I also asked him where my carriage was.  He says the one right in front of me…..is number 2 and I am in 18, so I’d better start jogging!!  With a sweat on, I clambered aboard carriage 18 and found my seat just as the train pulled away.

France

France...obviously.

I was sat next to a French lady (what are the chances?), and had to disturb her to sit down, and then again moments later to get at my bag again to rescue my book, and my lunch.  Having had no time to procure anything close to lunch, I had to rely on the emergency Sports Mixture, packed for me by Louise.  At this point they were literally a life saver, and I polished them off quickly as I got into my book.

Shortly after boarding, as usual I discovered that I was sat near to a screaming child, and this one was going for it big time.  To me, it sounded like a tired cry, and my mind raced back to the days of my girls being this age, and at this point I would have been stood up, rocking and gently patting her on the bum to get her to sleep.  I offered this to the young mum, but she didn’t want me to pat her bum at all.

Honestly, a screaming child does not usually bother me at all (apart from in restaurants, when the parents don’t take them outside if they won’t stop crying).  We have all been there at some point, and as a parent I have developed the ability to block out child noises!!  However, a couple sat just in front of me were having none of it.

One of them stood up and announced to the whole carriage that he was not sitting next to THAT all the way, and was off to find another seat.  He demanded his boyfriend followed him, and off they flounced out in a flurry of designer clothes, stubble and false tan.

Very quickly we were under water, and then out again, and I took it from the emergence from the tunnel, that we were now in France.

We arrived in Lille bang on time, and I had about half an hour to wait for the train to DLRP.  I wandered about for a bit wishing I’d taken French and not German at school, as it may have helped me read a couple of signs.  In the end I asked at the Information booth, and was relieved to at least be in the correct station this time.  It turns out I needed the Perpignan train and it was due to leave in ten minutes.

I watched the board for the platform to be announced, and soon enough I am aboard.  Despite a couple of announcements on the train about its destination, I was none the wiser.  By the time they did the same announcements in English the train was already moving, I couldn’t make out what he said anyway, so I just crossed my fingers that I was on the right train, or I would be doing an impromptu tour of France.

Thankfully, I was on the right train, and at around 6.15, the train arrived at Marne la Vallee-Chessy.  It is a good job I had looked this up beforehand, as you might expect the Disneyland train station to be bedecked with all sorts of Disney stuff, and have characters parading up and down the platform.  It doesn’t, and it is only as you ride the escalator up to ground level that the hordes of folk in Disney hats assure you that you have indeed arrived.

Disney Village

Village People

Adam had let me know he had been delayed, and this meant I had even longer to wait until he turned up.  So first of all I went for a wander around Disney Village.  It was very un-Disney like to be honest.  The music was generic pop stuff, and it felt really just like a shopping precinct, which happened to have a few Disney shops in it.

It was nice, don’t get me wrong, just not at all like Downtown Disney.  This is a theme I need to avoid, as it is unfair to compare the two locations, as I really don’t think Paris is trying to be Orlando.

After a quick browse around the shops, I nipped into McDonalds and had Le Big Mac et Pomme frites.  I found a table for one and tucked in.  A French child approached me, asking (in perfect English) if she could have the prize sticker thing off of my drink.  I agreed, realising that if she actually won anything, the resultant wrestling match would be quite embarrassing, and not at all conducive to Anglo-French relations.

At this point I decided to head for the hotel, and settle in for the wait.

The train station really is right next to the Disney Village, and in turn the buses to the hotels are there too.  The bus was waiting there as I arrived and I jumped on as it set off on the loop of non Disney hotels.  Adam had let me know by text that we were staying at the Dream Castle, rather than the Magic Circus as first thought, so I got off at the right stop and wandered in.

The hotel is themed in a medieval style, and is decorated for Halloween as you might expect.  I couldn’t check in until Adam got there, frankly as he was paying, so I made my way to the bar, bought a Stella (and the glass for that price I presume) and settled in with my book in a corner.  The corner position was required, as I happened to have found a power supply behind a curtain, which means I could plug my phone in again!  It had run all by itself for about two hours and so was now quite tired!!Book and beer

So after lots of reading, I made my way to reception, and sat there for a while.  I got updates from Adam about his hellish journey.  His delayed plane meant that he had missed his train, and was now having to use the Metro (is that what it is called?  I am so metropolitan, pardon the pun), and he expected to arrive sometime on Tuesday!

After a while I went back to the bar, had another beer, and a sandwich (I always eat when bored), and finished my book!  It was now coming up to midnight, and I was so tired that I was tempted to go to reception and see if they had a spare room and just book it myself.

Anyway, being tight, means that I sat and waited instead, and finally Adam arrived around 12.45am.  I shook his hand, bleary eyed, and we quickly checked in and went up to the room.  I can honestly say I have never gone to bed with anyone so quickly after first meeting them!

We had a quick chat for half an hour or so and then realised it was bloody late, and we went to sleep.

Tomorrow, (and the next blog) some actual stuff that may be interesting, rather than trains and waiting.

Till the next time…..