Upcoming series will take readers to Disneyland Paris
It seems everywhere you turn, there's Paris.
Watch just about any television channel and inevitably, there will be a commercial -- be it for a high-end automobile, an expensive fragrance or a popular travel website -- with The City of Lights serving as a beautiful, beckoning backdrop.
Walk through many retail stores and you'll see the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysee prominently displayed on photos, T-shirts or knickknacks. And how many movies have been set in Paris over the years? Answer: Too many to count.
Paris, perhaps more than any other city in the world, is THE place where people aspire to visit. It's no wonder that, in the late 1980s, when the Walt Disney Company was exploring sites to place a European theme park, Paris was high on the list.
Disneyland Paris [then known as Euro Disneyland] opened on April 12, 1992. The resort, which now includes two theme parks, a variety of themed hotels and The Disney Village shopping district, is located about 20 miles east of the heart of Paris, in the quaint village of Marne-la-Vallee.
After a shaky first few years, Disneyland Paris hit its stride in the late 1990s and has been Europe's No. 1 travel destination since. The resort welcomed 14.8 million guests in 2015.
Jay Rasulo, the Disney's former CFO and Parks & Resorts Chairman, was a key figure in reversing the resort's flagging fortunes when he was named executive vice president of Euro Disney S.C.A. in 1998. When Jay arrived, he and his team quickly surmised that Disneyland Paris was just too American for European tastes.
"There was never anything wrong with the product that we opened in Paris," he told me several years ago. "It's an absolutely beautiful park, one of the most beautiful in the world. But what we probably didn't understand very well was that ... Disneyland Paris is an incredibly diverse environment and very different from the American environment.
"I was really determined to reverse that and to really embrace that," Jay added. "Instead of fighting it and trying to fit the American model, it was really about embracing the European model."
Jay and his team came to the realization that European guests devoted more time to meals, wanted wine with those meals, enjoyed more outdoor seating options and had different preferences when it came to hotels. When a second park, The Walt Disney Studios, was added to the resort in 2002, "we tried to evolve the product as we went along," Jay added. "It was really an effort to make visitors of Disneyland Paris feel like this was made for them, not made for an American audience."
The entire Disneyland Paris complex was designed in such a way as to make it convenient for guests to arrive, enjoy the resort, then depart. There is a transportation hub near the entrance of the resort where buses, taxis and trains all converge, and from that entrance, it's a short walk to the Disney Village, the Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park.
Disney buses, known as the Magical Shuttle, take guests to and from the seven on-property resorts [Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Hotel New York, Disney's Newport Bay Club, Disney's Sequoia Lodge, Disney's Hotel Cheyenne, Disney's Hotel Santa Fe and Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch] to the transit hub. In addition, there is public bus service, as well as bus transportation provided by nearby hotels that have partnered with Disneyland Paris.
The train station, known as Marne-la-Vallee/Chessy, is a clean, modern building serving a number of popular lines, including the RER [a local service which most folks utilize to travel into the heart of Paris], the TGV trains [a high-speed train which links Charles deGaulle and Marne-la-Vallee/Chessy in less than 15 minutes, as well as the Eurostar, which enables guests from England to travel through the Channel Tunnel to Disneyland Paris in just a few hours.
All arriving guests are funneled toward a centrally located checkpoint before entering either park or the Disney Village. Here, guests' bags are processed as if you were going through airport security, with agents employing an X-ray machine before going through your bags visually. [Indeed, security throughout the resort has been ramped up even further after the attacks in Paris last November and the attack in Nice in July].
Once through security, guests can fan out in three directions: To the right, is the Disney Village, similar in theme [though much smaller] to Disney Springs in Walt Disney World or the Downtown Disney District in Disneyland. The Disney Village features Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which is an extremely popular dinner/live entertainment experience; a cinema complex; restaurants; shops, bars and cafes.
In the left of the Disneyland Paris entrance complex is the Walt Disney Studios, which is home to some unique attractions and some Disney park staples. Although the park has seen a number of additions in recent years and is quite enjoyable, you'll be hard-pressed to spend an entire day in the Studios.
Finally, there is Disneyland Park, where guests are greeted by the stunning gardens, topiaries and the Disneyland Hotel at the entrance. In fact, guests walk under the hotel to reach the turnstiles at the main entry point. Once through the turnstiles, there's a small courtyard leading guests to the Disneyland Paris train station. Once you walk under the elevated station, you enter Town Square, with the stunning pink-hued Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant [Sleeping Beauty Castle] at the far end of Main Street U.S.A.
My wife Janet and I visited Disneyland Paris last September with our friends Gail and Julian Robinson. During the coming weeks, we'll go into detail on our visit, sharing our thoughts and impressions on the Disney Village, the Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park.
For AllEars.Net readers who will be taking part in the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in late September, be advised that the roadways surrounding Disneyland Paris are pancake flat. The daytime high temperatures in late September are generally in the 60s. One caveat, though: It rained quite frequently during our visit last year.
One other note: For whatever reason, cast members at Disneyland Paris have gotten a bad rap over the years for being grumpy and aloof. Don't believe it. Every cast member we interacted with was friendly, courteous and extremely helpful. And all of them speak English.