It’s important to begin by saying that I hate rollercoasters. It started when I was a young girl, maybe nine or ten, when I went on The Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the first time and stumbled out of the carriage with boneless jelly legs, nausea in the pit of my stomach and a resolve never EVER to put myself through such torture again.
For years, we returned to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and I stuck to the gentle flying teacups and the splish-splashy log flume, only the curdled screams from The Big Dipper in the background puncturing my safe, controlled fun and reminding me that hell was a wooden carriage on wheels at the peak of a 50ft drop.
So, admittedly, Disneyland Paris might seem an odd choice of half-term break for someone who detests rollercoasters as much as I do.
But with two teenage boys to entertain and rain forecast in London for the entire week, shooting off to Paris for a few days to a world-famous amusement park didn’t seem such a bad idea, especially as my pair of thrill-seeking sons insisted they’d be perfectly happy to go on all those rollercoasters without me.
“You promise?” I checked, before clicking the ‘pay now’ button. “Of course,” they both laughed, and the deal was done.
Three tickets for two days in Disneyland Paris, plus Ultimate One Time FastPasses on nine of the most popular rides thrown in, six of which were at Disneyland Park, and the remaining three at the Walt Disney Studios Park next door. What could go wrong?
Well, on the first day, very little. We entered this magical world of make-believe castles and candy-coloured store-fronts that Disney does so well, skipping past Goofy and Donald Duck and dozens of excitable tourists sporting Mickey Mouse ears and selfie sticks and made a bee-line for the wildest, scariest rides.
I waved the boys off to Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, the FastPass giving them a considerably shorter waiting time — barely 10 minutes versus 45 minutes for normal punters — and they eventually came out the other side with wide grins, babbling happily about it being dark and fast and going upside down and bashing their heads because it was so jerky and rough.
“Sounds great,” I said, swallowing down the nausea.
They persuaded me to join them on Star Tours: The Adventure Continues and I agreed: this 3D flight simulator features characters and destinations from the Star Wars saga with no real drops or 360-degree loops and I could easily close my eyes if it all got too much — which I did.
The big rollercoasters were next on the boys’ hit list: the wild west-themed Big Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, which, again, they both loved.
Before the trip, I had been slightly worried Disneyland Paris would just be a fantasy playground for little kids, without the thrills and spills necessary to satisfy teens but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The park itself was split into four areas — Discoveryland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Fantasyland — and we spent the afternoon criss-crossing between all four in haphazard fashion, stopping only to watch the Frozen float make its way down the Parade Route, all three of us somehow swept up in this surreal, musical display as snowy Olaf and fully-costumed Anna rode a six metre ice canoe with Sven and a dazzling array of dancers following on from behind.
It turns out you’re never too old or too cool to be sucked into a Disney fantasy!
As we limped towards five o’clock, our feet aching from all the walking, we headed for Walt Disney Studios Park for our final two attractions of the day: Phantom Manor and Ratatouille: The Adventure.
Phantom Manor, a train ride through a haunted house with the usual ghouls and skeletons, was pretty tame but Ratatouille, based on the Disney film, was genius and utterly charming.
Thanks to a pair of 4D glasses, we were shrunk down to the size of a rat and hurtled in our trackless carriage through the streets of mini-Paris, ducking, diving and dodging as cartoon characters from the film loomed over us. Rat-tastic!
By this time, the boys were flagging, especially my older son. Back at our hotel, just one stop on the train away from the Park’s Marne-La-Vallée–Chessy station, he started to feel ill.
It became clear that a day in bed was what all that was needed. With my younger son desperate to return to the park, we ventured out again, the front desk at the hotel kindly agreeing to frequent checks while I kept in touch via mobile.
It was only on the train ride back to the Park when my younger son said, “you know, you’re going to have to come on all the rides with me now?” — at which point, panic set in.
He’d already spent the morning waiting patiently while I sorted out his brother and now he looked at me, his eyes, wide and expectant. How could I disappoint him?
“OK,” I said, the roof of my mouth already dry at the terror that lay ahead.
The following few hours passed in a blur. I went on all the rollercoasters bar Hyperspace Mountain (I couldn’t even contemplate that upside -down loop) and I cried, screamed, swore multiple times, and nearly bit my son’s shoulder.
I explained to him that it was like giving birth – not the pain obviously – but that feeling when you’re in the carriage and the bar is lifted over your shoulders and you know you can’t escape. You have to go through with it; get the baby out, so to speak.
After every ride, my son insisted we took a selfie to prove it had been “conquered”. And, admittedly, I did feel a slight sense of achievement each time I crawled out of the carriage.
Disneyland Paris. Great for teenagers, small children and anyone who loves rollercoasters. But not for me.
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