Right after indicating that all of the photos were edited and promising that I would finish this trip report soon, I went on a two week hiatus from posting. Oops. I think most of you probably understand, as we’ve been in Japan for the last couple of weeks, and my staff of 1 doesn’t work well from the road. If you’re just finding the site now and want to read our Disneyland Paris 2012 Trip Report from its start, click here.
As an item of housekeeping: we’ve already had a lot of questions about Tokyo Disney Resort. A trip report is coming for the Tokyo Disney Resort trip, but it probably won’t be here for a while. You’ll understand why once it does get going. Since so little good information is out there for planning a trip there, I’ll also be doing a series of trip planning posts. I know they won’t help many people, but I wish someone would have written posts like them before our trip–it would have saved me from reading a lot of trip reports. (How do you all make it through these things?! ;))
Back to the here and now (or in this case, the last November), and we’re continuing this Disneyland Paris trip report from our last full day in the parks. As I noted in the last installment, I have to cut down on the size of these reports, keeping them to only around 60 photos each. That means that this is going to be a fairly pedestrian installment since it will stop before the exciting nighttime stuff. To add some mystery and intrigue, I’ll spice it up with some controversy, fireworks, and even a possible cameo by Christopher Walken.
We had just left the abysmal Walt Disney Studios Park and had washed the sour taste out of our mouths with some delicious treats at Gibson Girl and Cable Car Bake Shop. Having just had dessert, it made since to go to yet another restaurant to have real food. (For how much we complain about the food at Disneyland Paris, it does seem odd that we’d waste the time to go to 3 restaurants in succession, rather than just saving time and only going to one.) Due to our meals at Blue Lagoon and Walt’s, table service was out of the question. Instead, we opted for Toad Hall, which served “so very British” counter service fare.
This turned out to be our best meal of the trip up until that point, with the exception of Earl of Sandwich. Although I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, each night after the park had closed, we had done dinner at Earl of Sandwich. It was a great place to eat inexpensively without wasting park time, and its free WiFi (make sure to sit near the soda fountain) gave me a chance to catch up on the internet, since I didn’t otherwise have internet access during the trip. From the outside looking in, it probably seems incredibly lame to go all the way to France only to eat at a typical American restaurant. I would have thought the same thing before actually going to Disneyland Paris. If that’s how you feel, get back to me once you’ve been…
The food at Toad Hall was possibly the best food of the trip. By best, I don’t mean relative to price or only other counter service restaurants. I mean the best overall, including the table service restaurants. To reiterate, it sounds like our experience at Walt’s was an anomaly, and it’s normally much better (but I’ve heard that Blue Lagoon is normally as bad as it was for us). At Toad Hall, the fish and chips were great, even better than the fish and chips at the UK pavilion in Epcot. The portion was large, and was mostly fish, rather than mostly breading. Plus, the restaurant had an awesome theme and wonderful details from Mr. Toad’s exploits. Serious Mr. Toad fans would definitely geek out at this restaurant.
It would turn out that subsequent counter service restaurants we’d visit would all be pretty solid. Nothing unique like you’d expect from the better ones in the US parks, and perhaps they were so “good” partly because our expectations were lowered from the table service experiences, but we really enjoyed the counter service food we tried in Disneyland Paris. They were still on the average side as compared to US counter service, but we thought they weren’t too bad.
We decided to do ‘it’s a small world’ celebration again. I already covered my disappointment of this attraction in Part 3 of this report, so I won’t bother to reiterate my thoughts there. Instead, I’ll share this email I received from a reader:
I am a regular reader of…your excellent internet weblog, and…I believe your thoughts, opinions, and…et cetera…regarding the small world boat ride at the Disneyland in Paris were…particularly insightful. As a celebrated thespian, I find the words you shared…precisely mirrored my own thoughts on this matter. It’s widely known by anyone with an inkling of sense to them that…the small world boat ride is my favorite boat ride in all of the world. I have been told it is a boat ride with all the qualities of…my own personality. When I first visited Paris for the sole purpose of riding this boat ride…I was particularly disappointed by it.
I greatly enjoy your internet musings, ace. By that, what I mean to say is that…I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more of your trip reports.
Warm regards, C.W.”
Thank you for the kind words, “C.W.” Glad to see someone with your sage wisdom agrees with me. A bit surprised that you’re such an avid fan of ‘it’s a small world,’ but you are a bit of an enigma.
Here are some additional photos from this ride-through of ‘it’s a small world’ celebration:
The sky was again beginning to clear, and it was looking like there might be a beautiful sunset for a few minutes, so I began to search for spots to photograph the sunset against Le ChÃ¢teau de la Belle au Bois Dormant. My preference, whenever photographing sunsets or sunrises, is to shoot into the light. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which generally suggests that you shouldn’t shoot into the sun, and that these times are ideal because of the soft light they cast on the things they illuminate (and this is no doubt true), but I find the much more dynamic sunrise and sunset subjects to be those that are backlit by the sun or have the sun in the frame. The possibilities when shooting into the sun, I think, are endless. By contrast, a frontlit subject illuminated by “good light” will more or less look the same day in and day out.
Backlit photography is also much, much more of a challenge, and usually requires more time in post processing to get right. The two photos below, as I’m sure you’ll recognize, were toyed with fairly significantly in post processing. Part of this was because I wanted to capture the ethereal feeling of the scene that I experienced in person, and part of it is because they were tricky subjects to photograph.
I’ve shared the above photo before, and as I’ve said, it’s my favorite photo from the trip. I know it might just seem like a garden variety Sleeping Beauty Castle photo, but to me, the lone boy running toward the Castle totally embodies the sense of childlike wonder and delight that we all have when exploring the Disney theme parks, whether actual children or kids at heart. The unknown child in the photo could be any one of us, and what he represents in the photo makes it special to me and different from your regular Castle photo.
I’m actually lucky to have captured this shot, and it was sort of by accident. I was standing over in this relatively vacant area on the far side of Fantasyland, trying to photograph the sunset behind Le ChÃ¢teau de la Belle au Bois framed by the castle walls, when I heard footsteps. I wanted my typical “empty park” photo, so I quickly fired off a series of shots before anyone appeared in my frame. Then, when I saw that it was a child with a Mickey Mouse balloon running through the shot, I realized he would be the perfect “icing” for this photo, so I quickly stepped back into position and put the camera back up to my eye and started firing, trying to capture him in the shot before he disappeared. If I could, I would change the framing here just a bit to make things more even, but given the circumstances, I am really pleased with what I captured.
A lot about good photography is luck. I was lucky that no one else was around to clutter up the frame, lucky that he ran where he did, and lucky that he was photogenic (I mean that in the basic sense of the word as far as photography goes, not in terms of “attractiveness”…generally guests in Paris were much more photogenic than US guests). Granted, it wasn’t luck that I put myself in a position to capture the shot, but the rest was all luck!
After I captured that shot, I quickly moved closer to Sleeping Beauty Castle and fired off some more shots, knowing that the sunset could disappear at any moment. I was able to capture the above shot, which again (obviously) has been liberally processed. I wanted to give it even more of a dreamlike feel, so I went with Orton processing here to soften the scene. It’s nothing compositionally brilliant, but I think the light and color here is great, and this perspective really shows just how sprawling Disneyland Paris’ Castle is.
Within 2 minutes of taking this photo, the sun moved behind clouds, and what was a beautiful blue and pink sunset disappeared, and quickly turned into a gloomy, dark grey evening. That’s probably the quickest I’ve ever experienced a beautiful scene give way to an ugly one. If you ever photograph Europe in the winter and have a nice scene, move quickly, as that scene might be fleeting!
Next, we played Buzz again, and I scored 580,500. I can’t remember what Sarah scored, but this was definitely more. Actually, I think she focused on taking iPhone photos on that ride-through, probably because she saw me get off to a hot start and wanted an excuse for losing so badly! I can max out my score in Walt Disney World about 50% of the time, but in any of the other versions, it’s rare for me to score above 200,000. This was thus a major victory. A victory worthy of fireworks!
After this, we wandered around for a bit, slowly making our way to Frontierland, while I took photos with my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. I really love this lens, but I find myself carrying it to the parks less and less because it takes up a lot of room in my camera bag and is quite heavy. Unlike a lot of people, I think it’s useful for more than just “the Safari ride” (something I commonly hear on Disney photography forums), which was really a good thing here, as I didn’t see any Safari rides in Paris. Still, it’s really heavy, and I can usually get by by only having it one day in each park we visit. At Walt Disney World, this often means carrying it each day of our trip. In Paris, it meant only bringing it with a couple of days.
As I’ve said in another installment, I’m not the biggest fan of the film tie-in in Pirates of the Caribbean (it feels contrived to me), but I think the chance to replace “Perv-y Eyed Pioneer Man” (I believe that’s his official name) with an Audio Animatronics figure of Tonto if The Lone Ranger is successful would be pretty cool. Probably equally creepy since this AA is elevated and can startle guests, but I get the impression that Tonto is the type of character that is supposed to creep up on you out of no where. This guy just creeps on you, period.
We made a stop in The Lucky Nugget, which was modeled on the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland. I think this made for a better name than simply elevating it a step further and calling it the Platinum Horseshoe Saloon. Lucky Nugget was gorgeous, from the ornamentation on the lamps to the woods, to the ceiling. The highlight for me, though, was definitely the mural behind the stage. I can’t believe I didn’t get a photo of the mural…I guess I was so transfixed by it that I forgot! I guess this is a reason to go back…right? (At this point, I’ll take any reason, however lame.)
After concluding our wandering, we headed to Phantom Manor again. I read online that “Grim Grinning Ghosts” can be faintly heard coming from the room where this tea set is out, but I couldn’t hear it. My hearing isn’t the best (I rock out hard to Disney BGM with my headphones on), but Sarah has good hearing, and couldn’t hear it, either. We thought we heard something coming from this area, but couldn’t make it out as “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” I guess you have to be a bat to hear it!
Here are some photos from this ride-through of Phantom Manor…
From there we headed over to Adventureland. I’ve spoken a bit to the beautiful details of Disneyland Paris, and to me these lamps lining the entrance to Adventureland really embody the great detail work. Photos of these lamps don’t really do them justice. The things are huge, ornate, and add the perfect splash of color to Adventureland.
Unfortunately, they also embody a problem that was endemic to Disneyland Paris: burnt out lights. About 25% of these lamps were burnt out/not lit for the duration of our trip. Now, I think a lot of Disneyland Paris was spruced up pretty substantially for the 20th Anniversary, and we saw the parks in a very good state, but lighting was a serious issue throughout the trip. It seems burnt out lights is one of those divisive things for Walt Disney World fans. Some think it’s the poster child for maintenance issues, others think supposed issues are something that’s over-blown by hardcore Disney “fans” who want to make much ado about nothing. No matter where you fall in that spectrum, I think you would likely acknowledge burnt out lights as a problem in Disneyland Paris. It was so bad that some marquees were not readable at night because large portions of the marquee were burnt out. Even the brand new strands of garland that hung across Main Street (literally, brand new–this was their first year and they had been up for about a week and a half when we arrived) were only half-lit.
As far as maintenance went, this was definitely the biggest issue. It hardly “ruined the trip” or anything like that, but it was a bit disappointing. On the plus side, all of the big problems about which I had read over the years were completely fixed. So I think it’s undeniable that Disneyland Paris is on the upswing. Here’s hoping that addressing the lights is on someone’s checklist, and that problem will be resolved by our next trip.
Next stop was Pirates of the Caribbean. Here are some photos from that ride through…
We wanted a good spot for the popular tree lighting ceremony that I described in Part 2, so we got to Main Street about 30 minutes before it started for a prime viewing location. I think it goes without saying that you should listen to Chante C’est Noel while viewing these next few photos. It’s okay to listen to that even though it’s not Christmas…it’s truly a song for all seasons.
I thought it would be cool to photograph the Sleeping Beauty Castle lighting ceremony from a unique vantage and with the fisheye to include all of the lights in the shot. Not sure how successful I was, but I think it sort of looks like the Castle is shooting lasers across the sky with reckless disregard. INVASION OF THE CHRISTMAS CASTLE!
The next installment will start with night photos and Disney Dreams! shots from that night. Only a couple of installments left!
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If you’re a Mr. Toad fan, would a Mr. Toad restaurant in the Magic Kingdom (EPCOT Center purists won’t like this, but I think it’d even work in World Showcase) help heal some of the wounds left from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride being removed from the Magic Kingdom? Share your thoughts on this, any questions you might have, or just say “hello” in the comments! We read and appreciate all of your comments!