There’s only so much sin and sophistication you can sample in Paris at any one time, writes Nigel Robinson. So when the lights and louche luxuries of gay Paree get a little too much, it’s good to know that there are a few destinations practically on the French capital’s doorstep to appeal to even the most cynical and jaded.
Disneyland Paris isn’t, in fact in Paris at all, although at only a 35-minute train journey from the centre of the capital it might as well be. It’s actually in the tiny town of Marne-la Vallée, but Disneyland Marne-la-Vallée proved a bit of a mouthful, so Paris it had to be. Sprawling over almost 5,000 acres, it contains two main theme parks, a shopping and entertainment area and a bunch of Disney-themed hotels.
Of course, it’s a kids’ delight, but the range of attractions and rides on offer will soften even the most grown-up of grown-ups, and you’ll spot lots of same-sex couples, with or without families, enjoying the range of attractions. Paris doesn’t have a “gay day”, like Disney World in Orlando, but the company is famously LGBT-friendly.
Disneyland Park is the older of the two parks, and is dominated by the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, a fairytale building with soaring salmon-pink spires and royal blue rooftops, guarded by a sleeping dragon that occasionally wakes, puffs smoke and roars. When night descends, it’s the scene for a dazzling lasers and lights spectacular as characters from Disney movies are projected onto the castle walls. It’s a breathtaking experience, and if you didn’t believe in magic before then you will now.
The castle is reached by Main Street USA, a pretty and authentic recreation of a small American town at the turn of the 20th century, complete with places to grab a quick bite or max that credit card on the Disney merchandise available. From there you can mosey on over to Frontierland, an old Wild West town, and hop on a runaway mine train hurling at breakneck pace through Big Thunder Mountain (currently closed for renovations but reopening soon).
Over in Discoveryland get sent soaring off into the universe on the Space Mountain: Mission 2 white-knuckle roller-coaster ride, or channel your inner Jack Sparrow and shiver those timbers with the Pirates of the Caribbean. And if that’s all a little too much for you can always take a ride in one of the Mad Hatter’s teacups, get lost in Alice in Wonderland’s maze, or have your photo taken with Mickey Mouse.
Next door to the Disneyland Park is the Walt Disney Studios Park, home to some of the resort’s most hair-raising rides including a 4.5G Rocker and Roller Rise featuring Aerosmith’s greatest hits.
Not to be missed are the daily seasonal parades of floats featuring live-action Disney characters played by Cast Members (as Disney calls its employees) and who are obviously having the time of their lives, and if you’re still not feeling the magic by now, then there really is no hope for you, and you might well slink back to the fleshpots of Paris, you miserable old grump, you.
There are several ticket options so check the Disneyland Paris website for the latest deals. There’s no need, however to buy tickets for the Disney Village, a few minutes’ walk from the Parks and which is open to everyone.
Disney Village is a huge and buzzing shopping and entertainment district, complete with restaurants and American diners, live music events and movie theatres and fun for all the family.
Not to be missed is a ride in the PanoramaMagique, one of the biggest hot air balloons in the world, which rises to a height of 100 dizzying metres over Lake Disney. On a clear day you can see over 20kms over Disneyland Paris and the surrounding countryside.
Go to: www.disneylandparis.co.uk
Where to Stay
VIENNA HOUSE MAGIC CIRCUS HOTEL
Just a ten-minute (free) shuttle ride from Disneyland Paris, the Vienna House Magic Circus Hotel has, unsurprisingly, a circus theme. Take a stroll on the shores of its own lake, or in the heated swimming pool, treat yourself to a fish pedicure, or just unwind playing on one of the many amusement arcade machines dotted around the reception and bar and play areas.
VIENNA HOUSE MAGIC CIRCUS PARIS
20 Avenue de la Fosse des Pressoirs ,
Val de France,
Magny le Hongre
77703 Marne la Vallee Cedex 04