Theme parks love Christmas, and the parks run by Disney, who might have invented the concept of Christmas on their own if it did not exist, which love Christmas more than most.
Disneyland Paris exists in a sort of trans-Atlantic crossover twilight. It even has a Christmas market that would not look out of place in a Bavarian mountain village.
But that is there to adorn the main event – Disney’s fairytale castle (inspired by various castles in France and Germany) that towers over the landscape and its endless cast of fairytale characters, princes, princesses, villains and fairies.
Tinkerbell is on call this December to light up the Disney castle during the fairytale adventure. She waves her wand and the castle changes colours, and lights up with, of course, fairy lights.
You might expect a Christmas Parade when you go to Disneyland. You get three.
Each evening the three parades follow each other at half hour intervals, the fairytale ceremony at enchanted Disney castle, Disney’s fantillusion, and a daily parade featuring Santa Claus.
Santa is fat and wears Coca Cola’s red coat and a white beard, and because he lives in Disney you suspect he must be the real Santa.
Then there is the real Mickey Mouse and Pluto posing for photographs with children (u14 a flash). The children shy back,, over-awed by the enormity of meeting someone whose character straddled popular culture across the globe. Sometimes he gesticulates with a finger to call them forward. But they are still over- awed.
And well they might be.
We are all over-awed by Disney. It crept into our lives on Sunday afternoon black and white matinees and stayed there since, from Jiminy Cricket through the Jungle Book down to Aladdin and the Lion King. It stayed there since, so much that at 12.8m visitors, Disneyland Paris is Europe’s top tourist attraction.
On one of the Disney stages the musical version of Lion King is performed daily and a handsome tailed gent sings his songs of enchantment to the gathered families.
The coolest of ends up humming the Disney songs that somehow got lodges in all of our brains.
They say the downside of going on holiday is encountering the unfamiliar, and there is no danger of that here.
Around every corner there is something familiar. The littlies adore the new Buzz Lightyear ride where you shoot bad guys with a pistol and try to run up a better score than daddy (invariably they do).
The top rides are not always the scariest, although the Space Mountain, The Temple of Doom, Thunder Mountain and the Rock n Rollercoaster in Disney studios are stomach churning enough for most roller coaster fans.
The traditional rides, Pirates, Peter Pan, and the amazingly alluring It’s a Small World (you will end up humming the theme song that drives everyone nuts) are worth the queues.
Queues are a problem in summer. In winter they can be cold as well. At weekends 30 minutes can turn to 60 to 70 minutes very quickly. The funny thing is on Sunday night everyone has gone home and you don’t have to queue at all. The same is true of midweek. You get great hotel deals as well – it is worth staying on site to save time.
Disneyland Paris’s cross over culture is part of the appeal. These are Disney restaurants, but they care about their food because they are French. The Mickey winter wonderland show has Minnie talking in French and Mickey answering in English, as it should be. Buzz Lightyear talks perfect French as he greets the queues into his moving shooting gallery.
A few slides at the start of the Armageddon special effects show at Disney Studios are enough to remind you that this is where cinema was invented.
We owe France as big a debt as we do Hollywood, or indeed Carlow, where Walt Disney’s ancestors came from in the first place.
Christmas feels more Christmassy when you have to wear your winter woollies, which you do on mainland Europe.
There is a real chance of snow too. What the heck. This is Disney. They provide their own. Between 280 and 300 litres of bio snow are used each day from November 11 to January 7 to create snow in the Disney park.
The effect is universal. It turns us all into children, and we smile inwardly and outwardly as we stand in the falling artificial snow watching handsome girls and guys in ball gowns doing their dances for the princess on the balcony.
Europe doesn’t have to have pretend princesses, but pretend princesses don’t have scandalous affairs that end up all over the Sunday tabloids.
And it seems better that way.
And when the parade villains have been vanquished and the fairy lights have come back on and a whole new world is being blasted from the tannoy, you know all is right with the world. The warning on the front of the bus tells you not to delay too long on Sundays in case you miss your shuttle back to CDG, or your flight home to reality.
- Contact 01-6058383 www.disneylandparis.com
- Abbey Travel (01-8047100) and Neenan Travel (01-6079900) specialise in Disney packages at the seven Disney hotels.
- Keith Prowse (01-8783500) offers Disney tickets at discount rates.
- Disneyland Paris has two parks, seven hotels with 5,800 rooms, 59 attractions, 54 shops and 68 theme based restaurants.
- During the Christmas season prices start at u570 for a family of four staying two nights and three days at Disney’s hotel Santa Fe. You can have an extra night and day free between December 12th and 18th.
- Disneyland resort Paris’s autumn/winter 3006-7 brochure includes a new range of made to measure packages.
- Between now and January 7 Mickey’s Magic Winterland, an ice spectacular, is on show daily.
- Disney is offering free child places form January 7 to March 29 for each adult package booked including accommodation, Disney park tickets and selected options, one child aged 3-11 can experience this for free when travelling with an adult sharing the some room and booked at the same time. During kids free season prices start at u296 for a family of four staying two nights and three days at Disney’s hotel Santa Fe.
- Air France operates seven flights daily to Paris and onwards to a total of 185 destinations in 83 countries. Prices from u132.46 return including taxes www.airfrance.ie or 6050383
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