Alice in Wonderland

August 30, 2006

This is probably not going to be very interesting, but I really need to write it because my memory is so appalling that it will all get forgotten otherwise.

On Friday 18th August 2006, Isabel went to Disneyland Paris. Mattgreen and I had talked about it a few times, given Isabel's predilection for princesses, but he stated categorically that there was no way he was going. A few months ago I asked Lee-Anne if she'd like to come instead and she agreed.

We flew into Paris the night before. We were up at 6.30am and got the RER out to Marne-la-Vallée. It took a long time and we had to keep Isabel entertained by teaching her to count in French. We arrived at the Park at about 9am. I hadn't said where we were going and finally spilled the beans when we got to the gates.

Me: Well Izzy... the surprise treat is... we're going to DISNEYLAND!
Isabel: Yay!
Me: Do you know what Disneyland is? What's actually there?
Isabel: (grinning) No!

I explain to her that there are real princesses and rides to go on and lots of characters to meet. She is overjoyed.

We go in. Isabel begs to go and see the princess castle, so we set off towards it. On the way we stop to talk to a wandering bear. I'm not sure who he was meant to be, but Izzy shook his hand anyway. We took some pictures of her outside the castle, then we went inside and looked at the stained glass windows and tapestries of Sleeping Beauty.

After that we started on the rides. First we went on the teacups, and Izzy soon worked out that she could spin our teacup around by herself. All my pictures of this are a bit blurry! We saw the Dormouse from Alice in Wonderland popping out of a teapot and went on a boat ride past fairytale scenes. Then we went on the Peter Pan ride. Izzy liked 'flying' over the houses but was not so keen on the pirates.

We stopped for a coffee and a doughnut before moving on to Adventureland. We climbed the treehouse, crossed the rope bridge, went in the caves. About this time Isabel started getting grumpy. She moaned that her tummy hurt. She refused to pose for pictures. She kept wanting to sit down. It was quite annoying.

Still, she managed to summon up the energy to go on the playpark! After that we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Lee-Anne and I were most impressed at the restaurant INSIDE the ride! Isabel was frightened of the pirates (again).

After that we went to get some lunch. The restaurant inside the ride was hideously expensive (32 euros a head!) so we decided to go back to Fantasyland. There we found a little pizza/pasta place. Isabel was still moaning that her tummy hurt, so Lee-Anne took her to sit down while I waited for our food. I ordered her the Mickey special.

When I got to the table, she opened the pizza box and it was in the shape of Mickey Mouse! Izzy was most taken with it and wolfed it down. She managed to eat the ice cream too. After that she had a little lie-down before it was time to go and join the queue to meet the princesses.

I was pretty sure that meeting the princesses would be one of the highlights of our visit. We got there 10 minutes before the princesses were due out and the queue to meet them was already hovering around the 1.5 hours mark. Isabel moaned that she was tired and sat on the floor. She moaned that her tummy hurt. We kept waiting. She moaned that her legs hurt and she didn't want to wait. We kept waiting. After 45 minutes, she started crying and whining. I asked her if she wanted to meet the princesses and she said, "No... I just want to go home". Lee-Anne and I looked at each other with increasing desperation. I begged Izzy to wait just a little bit longer, but she really didn't want to.

At this point, we'd only been in the park for a few hours. I really, really didn't want us to leave and waste the money we'd spent on tickets (£76 for the three of us). But Isabel was in a bad way, so we decided to go to the medical facility. We walked.. then I carried Isabel halfway across the park. I managed to get us lost and Isabel was still refusing to walk. Lee-Anne stepped in and managed to find the medical centre. They were really nice. The nurse took Izzy's temperature and pronounced, "She has a fever". (They all spoke perfect English)! She showed me the thermometer: 39.2 degrees.

She gave Izzy some ibuprofen and took her to a bed to lie down. We waited for half an hour, Izzy drank some water and they gave her a special certificate to say she'd been good. Then Isabel sat up and said, "I want to see the princesses". Thank god!

We went back to the princess area and went up to the front. I explained what had happened and asked if Izzy would be allowed to jump the queue. The woman said "No, she'll have to wait again". I said that she'd been ill, produced the certificate to prove it, and she still said "No". I was on the verge of total meltdown (and I do it so well, too!) when a woman in the queue stepped in and said she remembered that we had been in front of her and she didn't mind letting Isabel in. The woman relented but said that Isabel would not be allowed to have her photo taken with the princesses, I guess as some sort of 'punishment' for queue-jumping. What a bitch!

I whispered to Lee-Anne to try to get some pictures from afar and took Izzy up to meet Belle and Cinderella. They were really nice to her and she was thrilled. Lee-Anne got a few pics, but through the bars of the princess area so they didn't come out as well as we'd hoped. Still, better than nothing, and Izzy was happy.

We walked back round to the princess castle and saw that there were a few characters out the front. One of them was Alice in Wonderland! So we went over and waited while loads of pushy adults shoved in front of us. I kept saying to Izzy, "Hold on, be patient, I'm sure you'll get your turn to see Alice in a minute". She waited really nicely, bless her, and when Alice did meet her she spent loads longer with Isabel than with the pushy children. She had a really nice picture taken with Alice, too.

After that we went to Aladdin's Passage (ooer! Lee-Anne and I couldn't resist a few jokes!) and Izzy took a picture of us outside. NOT the most flattering picture of either of us but it's the only one I have!

Then we did a bit of shopping and Isabel spent the money her grandparents and great grandma had given her on a Tinkerbell pillow and a Cinderella hairbrush. We had a quick look at Discoveryland but it was aimed more at older children.

We decided to go and have a coffee so we headed back to Fantasyland. While Lee-Anne was queueing for the coffees, the heavens opened! Disneyland is not quite the same in torrential rain! Isabel put her mac on and we all had a drink and a chocolate crepe.

The rain stopped and we went round the Alice in Wonderland maze. At one point we rounded a corner and a (hydraulic) Duchess leaped out of a hedge, fist in the air! Isabel screamed then turned and ran!! I chased after her and we waited until she'd gone, then rushed past. Isabel mentioned "I didn't like the Duchess!" a few times after that...

We went on the carousel, then we tried to go on It's a Small World but it broke down while we were queueing. We felt really sorry for the people trapped on the boats inside the tunnel! After that we headed back to the main street to wait for the princess parade. On the way we saw an actual rainbow! We had to wait ages for the parade to start.

When it did, Isabel was overjoyed. She waved, she grinned, she said excitedly, "There's Snow White! There's the Beast! There's Aladdin!" The genie did a funny little dance, which she thought was hilarious.

Right at the end of the parade, there were a few characters who were dancing along after the floats. I recognised one of them ... it was Alice! Isabel waved frantically and amazingly, Alice recognised her and broke the formation to come over and say hello to Isabel. Out of all those thousands of children! She asked Izzy if she'd had a nice day, and Izzy said she had and told Alice that she'd bought a Tinkerbell pillow. Then Alice said, "I've got to go! Bye bye!" and skipped off back to the parade.

Izzy was absolutely awestruck. She said, "Alice was really kind to me, wasn't she?" about 1000 times on the way home. She said it was the best treat ever. We finally got her home and into bed by 10pm. We were all exhausted - we did A LOT of walking that day. She's drawn a million pictures of Alice and the princesses (and the Duchess, looking suitably scary) since we came home.

After a few days of telling anybody who would listen about her adventures, Isabel started asking when we could go again. I explained that Disneyland was an extra-special treat and we wouldn't be going again for a long time. Cue hysterics!
Tonight she was whinging at bedtime and when I asked what was wrong, she said, "I want to go back to Disneyland and you said we can't go for ages!" I said, "Mmm yes, oh well, nevermind, we'll go again one day". She replied, "If you don't take me back to Disneyland, I'll NEVER SMILE AGAIN!"

There's gratitude for you!

Seriously though, she absolutely loved it. And I have to admit, Disney do a good job. Everything is spotlessly clean, the staff are helpful, the queues are not too bad and it's all very carefully themed.

Extra special thanks to Lee-Anne for helping with child-wrangling and being good-natured about the whole day. We really enjoyed the rest of our holiday in Paris too, but I think I've gone on long enough! If you're thinking of going, yes it is worth the money if you've got children because they will love it.

If you want to see the 'proper' pictures they're all on my Flickr. If you know me but haven't got access just drop me a line.

Terrorist magazine

August 22, 2006

Yesterday Isabel and I flew home from Paris.
We arrived at the airport and discovered we weren't allowed to take hand luggage on the plane. We dutifully placed money and passports in plastic bags and I opened up my suitcase to put my handbag inside.

Isabel kept asking, "When can I have my Barbie magazine?" I explained that she wasn't going to be able to have it now because it had to go on the aeroplane. Cue screaming tantrum...

I explained that nasty people might want to put a bomb on the plane so we couldn't take things onboard just in case. I said she could have her magazine when we got to the car. I told her that you can't always have the things you want. Nothing worked.

Eventually, running out of patience, I said, "Which would you rather... the plane got blown up and everybody dies, or you get your magazine?"

She wailed, "My magazine!"

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