I awoke early that morning, with great trepidation and joy in my heart, knowing that finally, I was destined for Disneyland, the fact that I had long surpassed double figures did not bother me, and I was still a huge kid at heart. We didn’t leave that morning quite as early as I would have liked, but that was only a minor detail.
We made towards Gare du Nord and purchased the appropriate tickets after a slight language barrier, before jumping on the train that would take us to the place of happy things, where dreams are made…
The train was busy, but we got seats, I gazed out at the urban scenery as a jolly busker started up on the carriage. I couldn’t picture such an occurrence on the trains back home, but the impromptu music session was welcome. It entertained us and no one seemed to mind. I was too scared to snap a picture, but others did, and before I knew it we’d arrived.
It didn’t take long to queue for tickets and we got student discount over both parks which was even better. Walking through Downtown Disney, we tried to come to grips with the maps before us and started off with a visit to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Yes I was wondering through Sleeping Beauty’s castle and my rich Disney-filled childhood came flooding back with nostalgia.
We took our time queuing from ride to ride and, managed a fast-track pass for free, due the maintenance of one ride. It can also be known that I’m not big on rollercoasters or any serious thrill rides, but having come all this way, I couldn’t leave the park without riding one, so despite a previous mechanical failure, which really should have put me off, I showed nerves of steel and jumped in a carriage before I could back-out. Big Thunder Mountain had me in its grasp and I actually rather enjoyed it, so much so had I had a chance, I might have considered one more thrill ride before home.
Having covered significant ground and wandered back towards Main Street just in time to catch the afternoon Disney parade- a festive special. Queue a load of family faces, along with Santa and his sleigh and a platoon of backing dancers following in regiment. Little did I know that this would only serve as a taster to a later evening parade filled with a lot more familiar favourites. How lucky was I?
Once we felt we had sufficiently covered the majority of Disneyland, we made next door to venture round the Walt Disney Studios. Others in the group braves the Tower of Terror, but Big Thunder Mountain proved enough for me in end. Secretly I was desperate to get back into Disneyland to take on the ‘family favourites’ such as It’s A Small World and Peter Pan’s Flight – 20 was the new 10 and as everyone knows, you’re never too old for Disney!
As darkness began to fall, we regrouped by a patisserie in Main Street and huddled round outside, clasping cold hands around hot cups of cocoa as we watched the evening Disney parade. It was all singing, all dancing as expected and as the finale took hold, flakes of snow began to fall and my heart went all squishy and festivity took hold. We lingered longer, as the crowds grew thicker and watched the magnificent light display against the focal point of the castle.
The others stayed late to watch the fireworks, but, as much as I wanted to watch them too, there was something I simply had to do more. After my indecision and anxiety of the day before, I found myself newly invigorated and dared to go it alone into the night. I was on a quest to reach the Eiffel Tower before closing. Unaware of whether I would make it, or even find it, I took a risk and tore myself away from all things Disney. Jumping on the train, a double decker train I might add, (very cool) I was lucky enough to find myself amongst familiar faces from another student group, which helped me to reassure myself I was getting off at the right stop.
Reaching Gare du Nord was the easy part, but now I had to figure out which train was headed for the Eiffel tower. In short, I was unconfident with French directions, so I jumped on a train, then jumped off a train and opted to hail a taxi instead. Though pricey, I knew this was my best chance at making it to the iconic site and low and behold it worked. Then I saw the crowd around the ticket desk and wondered if we would all receive a ticket to ride. Bemused and hoping to distract myself in the cold, I watched the lift going up the leg of the tower.
Luckily, I caught one of the last lifts up that evening and my, was it glorious. The tower was lit up in a thousand golden bulbs. I took a couple of photos from the lower viewing platform, before braving the second lift right to the top. Admittedly I’m not always great with heights and ride made my knuckles clench a little, but once we were up, I was so glad I’d done it and any previous anxiety swiftly washed away.
I noted the champagne bar at the top and had I not been so tight on cash I would definitely have been tempted to splurge, but flying solo I regrettable walked by. The views were quite something and like the previous day at the Sacre Coeur, this moment marked something special. So overjoyed was I that I managed to bravely ask a pair of French guys to take my photo for me. There were very kind and did so and I took one of them in return. For the first time I felt something of a nomad, like I was one of ‘them’ a real traveller out to discover the world, one adventure at a time.
It certainly gave me food for thought and that night ended on a high, despite the odds and downsides of the first day, I had made every moment count that day. I’d gone it alone and just made it to the Eiffel Tower, it was a first to tick of the bucket list. Since then that list has grown dramatically, to the point I’ve given up keeping one, simply jumping at any chance I can to visit someplace new. All in all it wasn’t a terrible escapade, but I certainly learnt some lessons. Several years on, I’m still keen to return to the ‘city of romance’ one day and pick up where I started off, with so many places I’m yet to see and uncover.