BIG NEWS: Starting the online Documents/Ephemera collection!

So you probably figured that a guy this obsessed with Disney theme park maps would probably have lots of other types of stuff in his collection, wouldn’t you?

Well, you’d be totally right!  I have so many vacation guides, timetables, other maps, cast member education, even ride operating guides!  I have always wanted to share these with everyone as well, but the maps seemed like a good place to start.

So starting right now, you can click on the newly added “Documents” menu item on the site to be taken to the online documents.  There is also a counter on the right side of the home page as well, just like for the maps.  As time goes on I will also add a “New Additions” link like the maps as well, so that you can just jump to the latest additions for the past 30 days.  For now, they’re ALL added in the last 30 days….

I will be creating a similar search process for the items, like with the maps.  For now it just shows everything, but that won’t be a problem until the online collection gets a bit bigger.  Which it will–I literally have THOUSANDS of items that need to be scanned and added.  And if you see an item duplicated, it’s not a mistake.  The way the database is structured, I have to create a duplicate entries for items associated with multiple resorts.  Once the results are categorized the duplicates won’t be visible.

If you’re still reading, first: thank you!  Second: If you have anything in your personal collection, I would love to be able to offer it an online home.  Contributors are properly acknowledged, and I can even create a link to your own site or blog if you have one.  My ultimate goal is to create an online archive that offers a central place for people to look when doing research or just revisiting happy memories.  I would love to have your help in making that a reality for everyone out there in Internet-land!

Celebrating the 500th Disney map milestone!

So 500 sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?

It’s amazing how a total can creep up while you’re not looking.  If somebody put 500 maps in front of me to process, I would just get up and walk away from the overwhelming magnitude of the task.  But taken little by little, it’s a fun-filled, educational experience instead.  I still get excited as I open up each new map to find what they hold.  Sometimes it’s a new or updated attraction, sometimes it’s a person’s handwritten notations that give a little glimpse into their vacation.

I definitely owe huge thanks to the people that stuck with me when this collection was just a shared drive with really no organization at all.  People like Jim and Dotty Hart as well as Arthur Na gave me the encouragement to keep pushing onward even when I was discouraged.

I also have to thank my VERY understanding wife and family that supports and tolerates this obsession.  It’s gotten to the point that any time the mail shows up with something that has an eBay mailing label, my 9 year old daughter scolds me that my wife is mad that I’m spending all the money on Disney auctions.  Which she NEVER has, by the way!

Lastly, I need to thank you people on the internet, wherever you might be.  Even if you never email or leave a comment, just seeing the traffic numbers is encouraging itself.  Anyone out there that has done a website, blog, podcast or published can attest to the fact that it’s scary to offer a piece of yourself.  This site has definitely turned into a pretty big piece of me!

I hope you will all continue to visit, and tell your Disney loving friends as well.  I hope to continue adding to the site for a long time to come!

Oh, and one more thing, be on the looking in the next couple of days for a major addition to the website, something that any respectable Disney lover should appreciate!

Disneyland Paris – Main Street USA East Side

Main Street Band StandContinuing from where we left off last time, let’s go back down Main Street to the plaza inside the train station.  Here you see the band stand in the center of the Main Street loop, with the train station and the Disneyland Hotel in the background.

Bixby BabiesThe east side of the plaza has buildings for the Main Street vehicles, stroller rental and restrooms.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of those locations due to walls and scrims being in place for renovations.  The left side of those buildings is the Bixby Babies Shop, pictured above.  As you might expect, this store focuses on baby clothes and accessories.

Town Square PhotographyNext as you continue around is the Discovery Arcade south entrance, pictured on the far right of the photo.  The other store fronts (covered by walls) include the Town Square Photography shop and the Boardwalk Candy Palace.  The photography shop occupies the corner location on this side of the street.

Disney ClothiersAs you make your way past the Candy Palace (behind the scrims on the right side of the picture) the next shop is Disney Clothiers Ltd, offering more souvenirs and especially clothing for kids.

Main Street MotorsThe next facade is one of my favorites on Main Street at Disneyland Paris: Main Street Motors.  I love how three dimensional the facade appears, as well as the vintage billboards above the shop.  The story for this shop is that it is the town garage, which is reinforced by the red brick paving that goes from Main Street into the facade under the Auto Service sign.  Alas, inside is just more clothes, primarily for adults at this location.

East Center StreetEast Center Street really only offers alternate entrances to the shops and restaurants along Main Street.  There is also plentiful outdoor seating for the nearby quick service food locations.  It’s also a great area to get away from the bustle of all the foot traffic along Main Street, and each time I went by there were not many people hanging around the area.

Market House Delicatessen

The Market House Delicatessen anchors the corner opposite Main Street Motors.  This Quick Service dining location offers sandwiches and baked goods.  The decor of the interior resembles a general store to some degree, with tin containers lining the walls and even a potbelly stove.  You can also find the party line phones inside here!

Harrington'sContinuing up Main Street you will find Harrington’s Fine China and Porcelains.  This shop specializes in kitchen and cooking related souvenirs.  It also has decorative items similar to Lilly’s across the street.

Cable Car Bake ShopAs you approach the end of Main Street, you get a couple opportunities to satisfy your sweet tooth.  The first location you come across is the Cable Car Bake Shop.  The shop offers cookies, donuts and other baked sweets in a Victorian setting.  There is also a walk-up window if you’d like to grab something quickly.  In the photo the entrance to the seating area is on the left, while the walk-up window is on the right.  Be aware that the interior portion of the shop may not always be operating.

Gibson Girl Ice Cream ParlourLast, but not least, you find the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour at the end of the street.  They offer the expected ice cream cones and sundaes.  I was actually surprised that it is sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s rather than one of the European brands of ice cream!  The left side of this building (the part with the second story balcony) is Victoria’s Home-Style Restaurant.  This is a table service restaurant that offers pizza, hot sandwiches, and salads.

So that’s the tour of Main Street USA!  Overall the attention to detail is excellent, with many small touches throughout the buildings that really make them feel “real.”

Next up: Frontierland!  I look forward to sharing the similarities and differences in the French take on the American Old West!

Disneyland Paris – Main Street USA

DLP June 2014_012Disneyland Paris, like all Magic Kingdom parks, starts you off with a representation of the century idealized American small town life.  Also like the other parks, it allows you to experience a grand unveiling as you enter the park much like the opening act of a movie or theatrical production.

DSC_0065A major difference will strike you immediately: the entrance gates are actually on the ground level under the Disneyland Hotel.  Entering this way is particularly striking, because the hotel is quite beautiful itself as well as the fact that a view of the park is completely hidden until after you enter.

DSC_0066As you enter the main gates, the park is still somewhat hidden.  A small plaza sits on the far side of the gates, and you approach the Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station as you cross the plaza.  Crossing the tracks via tunnels underneath, you get your first view of the park itself.  The layout is generally very similar to other Magic Kingdom parks, with a circular street on the entrance end, a long straight street, and terminating in another circular street at the hub.  It has the center cross street here as well.

A major difference are the Liberty and Discovery Arcades…arcades in the traditional sense, not the kind with video games!  These covered walkways run parallel to Main Street, at the back sides of the shops.  The Liberty Arcade is on the left as you enter (West) and the Discovery Arcade is on the right (East).  All the shops have entrances to the arcades as well.  The Arcades provide easy access to travel the length of Main Street while avoiding the bulk of the crowds, particularly if it is close to a parade time.  They also provide great shelter in the case of inclement weather, something not unusual in Northern France.

 

DSC_0067Let’s walk down Main Street and examine the locations on the West side of the street.  Starting in the train station plaza, you have the City Hall on your left, which has the same amenities and services found in every City Hall at other Magic Kingdom Parks.  Attached on the right hand side is a small book store called The Storybook Store.  On the left side of City Hall is the Arboretum, which is pretty much just the restrooms.

Liberty Arcade South entranceContinuing around the left side you have the South entrance to the Liberty Arcade, which gives you easy access to Frontierland and Adventureland, as well as the rear entrances to all the shops on this side of the street.

Disneyland Paris EmporiumNext is a sight familiar to Disney Parks visitors around the world: the Main Street Emporium.  Like its sister stores around the world, the store actually extends quite a ways up the street.  Other facades, like the Main Street Gazette and Bixby Brothers, may look like different stores on the outside but are all part of the Emporium on the inside.  You will find all the typical merchandise, including clothes, plush items, and other souvenirs.

Center Street WestWhen you reach the Center Street on the left, you have an entrance to Liberty Arcade labelled Liberty Court.  Tucked away at the back on the left is Dapper Dan’s, “For a haircut & shave just like the good old days”

Walt's An American RestaurantNext is a unique restaurant to Disneyland Paris: Walt’s – An American Restaurant.  It’s a table service restaurant, where most of the tables are actually on the second floor.  This provides a unique perspective on Main Street while dining, especially if it’s a parade time.  The food is “Refined American Style cuisine.”

Lilly's Boutique/Disney and CoAfter Walt’s (at least on the street level) is another conjoined store, Lilly’s Boutique/Disney & Co., which is continuous on the inside and again offers an assortment of souvenirs.  Lilly’s Boutique has a bit more of a focus on kitchen and cooking items.

Casey's CornerThe last location on the West side of Main Street is another familiar location: Casey’s Corner.  Like other similar locations, it offers a Quick Service menu that centers on Hot Dogs, Fries, and soft drinks.  Betcha can’t guess what brand!

The far side of the facades provides the North entrance to the Liberty Arcade.

The next post will detail the East side of Main Street, and then we will progress around the park, examining the similarities and differences at Disneyland Paris.  Feel free to leave questions or comments!

Disneyland Paris – Some Useful Tips

 

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle

After reflecting for a while on my trip to Disneyland Paris, I thought that it might be useful to offer some previews and forewarning about some of the differences between Disneyland Paris and the stateside parks.  There are definitely some differences in culture and park operations that you might want to be aware of.  They are not the kind of thing that would ruin a vacation, but might be helpful if you knew beforehand.

  • Smoking is MUCH more prevalent.  Americans have become accustomed to a fairly limited exposure to second-hand smoke with all the legislation about public smoking throughout the U.S.  In Europe, however, smoking is still quite acceptable and many people do it regularly.  This is never more apparent than waiting in the queue for an attraction, when many people will light up.  Though there are designated areas for smoking, the policy is not enforced.  If you are especially sensitive to second-hand smoke you may want to reconsider a trip to Disneyland Paris.  If you were to ask people to stop smoking, you would be going against the prevailing culture and would probably be frowned upon.  C’est la vie!
  • Lines move very slowly.  I’m not totally sure why this happens at Disneyland Paris, but lines for attractions move at approximately half the speed of the parks in the States.  We did notice that, on attractions where you could see loaded ride vehicles, it was common for them to leave half full or even empty on a regular basis.  Cast members also do not seem to want to hustle or hurry guests either, even when the lines are approaching 60 minutes or more.
  • Lines for Quick Service dining are even slower.  For lunch one day, it took nearly 45 minutes from the time we entered the line until we paid, with about half that time between getting the food until paying.  Needless to say, the food wasn’t that warm by the time we could finally eat.  While you could try to eat at off-peak hours, we didn’t notice much difference in line length through the course of the day.
  • Fast Pass operates a little differently at Disneyland Paris.  The Fast Pass return window is only 30 minutes, and the times tend to be strictly enforced.  I frequently saw guests turned away at the Fast Pass Return entrance to attractions.  While you may get lucky if you’re outside your window, I would generally recommend that expired Fast Passes are pretty much useless.
  • Getting a Fast Pass may take as long as the standby ride wait.  The Fast Pass machines operate a little differently than the old Disney World machines.  Rather than a machine that takes the ticket inside and spits it back out, the Disneyland Paris machines are a card swipe type mechanism.  They seem particularly sensitive to swipe speed and have a hard time processing the swipes.  On top of that, people who have waited 30 minutes for a Fast Pass are definitely NOT going to just step aside when they have card troubles.  They had to wait for one of the overburdened cast members to make their way over and wait until the cast member finally convinced the machine to give up a Fast Pass.  Plan 15-30 minutes to obtain a Fast Pass for the more popular attractions.
  • You can get an “unlimited” fast pass if you’re staying on the equivalent of one of the Concierge levels at a Disney hotel.  This gives you the ability to enter any Fast Pass entrance at any time, without getting a separate Fast Pass.  Keep in mind that even if your budget allows a room upgrade like that, there are relatively few attractions that utilize Fass Pass, limiting the benefit somewhat.

I want to reiterate that I’m not trying to be negative about Disneyland Paris.  It really comes down to a cultural difference between France and the US.  I feel that if you have some forewarning, you can expect and plan for these differences and enjoy your vacation better!

Disneyland Paris – Arrival and Hotels

Disneyland Hotel

Disneyland Hotel

Getting to Disneyland Paris isn’t actually too difficult.  Once you arrive in Paris, this basically involves finding your way to the RER-A4 train line.  The RER is a regional train system that goes through Paris as well as the surrounding suburbs.  A4 is the specific line you’re trying to find.  Make sure you get the A4, not the A2 train, as this refers to a specific branch of the A line that will take you to Disneyland.  There are many good resources about the specifics of getting around, including the two guides I mentioned previously.  Your destination for Disneyland Paris is Marne-la-Vallee/Chessy.

When you arrive at the train station and exit into the plaza, you are actually RIGHT in the heart of the Disneyland Resort.  To the north is the Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland itself.  To the west is Walt Disney Studios.  South leads to the Disney Village Marketplace and the rest of the Disney-owned hotels.

Should you be a supremely lucky individual, your hotel is the Disneland Hotel, and you can’t miss it.  It is literally the front gate to Disneyland.  Just go through Security and towards the front gates.  I am confident that even the most directionally-challenged individual will find themselves in the right place.

New York Hotel

New York Hotel

Guests of the New York Hotel, the Newport Bay Club, or the Sequoia Lodge have to go a different way, but it is still within walking distance.  If you find yourself on the World’s Longest Moving Sidewalk because you were foolish enough to follow the signs to your hotel, sadly you are headed the wrong way.  And you will continue to head the wrong way for quite some time, so get comfortable.  After an eternity you will arrive at the parking lot and bus pickup.  Turn around, grab a drink from the vending machine if necessary, and start the round trip back to the plaza.

Eventually you will arrive back where you started.  Now this time, IGNORE the signs directing you to your hotel and head through the security checkpoint toward Disney Village.  Walk all the way through, and when you come out the back side you will be next to the New York Hotel.  Around the small lake found there, the Sequoia Lodge and Newport Bay Club are also visible, but a bit further walk.

DLP June 2014_003

The Hotel Cheyenne and Hotel Santa Fe are both technically in walking distance, but it is a bit of a hike.  The World’s Longest Moving Sidewalk will actually take you in generally the right direction, plus save you some walking at the same time.

If you’re staying at the Davy Crockett Ranch, you must catch a shuttle bus because it is actually a fair distance from the main resort.

One last thing you will notice as you traverse the security checkpoints is that they are run differently than the parks in the US.  In Paris they utilize x-ray bag scanners like at the airport, rather than manual bag searches.  The process is actually quicker (in our experience at least) so the line moves at a reasonable pace.  Disneyland, Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Village are all part of one large, continuous security zone so you can walk between any of them without going through security.  The hotels, train station, and the rest of the world are not, so plan to go through security if your origin is one of those three places.

Disneyland Paris Trip Planning – Money Issues

DLP June 2014_013

Let me say first, right off the bat, that if you’re already a seasoned international traveler, the information here is probably nothing that you don’t already know.  In fact you could even probably give me a few pointers!  But if you haven’t ventured outside the US, here’s a few tips I’ve learned:

  • First, just go ahead and get this out of your system: things are significantly more expensive in Europe than the US, and particularly in Disneyland Paris.  Just accept this.  When you’re paying $3-4 for about 8oz of Coke, remember these words and go to your happy place…
  • As you set out your budget, whatever you decide upon, increase it by about 50% to get a more realistic idea of what you will end up spending.
  • Well before your trip, investigate what options you might have through your regular bank for international spending.  Some banks, like Bank of America and others, have partner banks in Europe that can significantly reduce your service charges for banking services like ATM’s.
  • No matter what card you plan to use, it’s a good idea to call the customer service number prior to leaving, to let them know your travel plans.  When they see Continental charges for $10 ice cream cones start rolling through it should prevent them from putting a hold on your funds.
  • While in Europe, having a chip and PIN card is worth its weight in gold (almost).  Magstripe cards are generally harder to use, though while at Disneyland Paris you should have little to no trouble paying with almost anything.  If your bank can’t issue you a debit card with chip and PIN, consider applying for credit cards geared towards travelers.  You can usually get these cards with chip and PIN, and they also will often have minimal or no Foreign Transaction Fee, which brings us to:
  • MAKE SURE you look into whatever Foreign Transaction Fees your method of payment will charge.  The aforementioned credit cards usually don’t have a fee.  Cards like the American Express Platinum don’t either.  These fees will usually run anywhere from 2.5-3.0% of your purchase for EVERY purchase for the convenience of converting the currency electronically, so the savings will really add up as you enjoy your $20 quick service cheeseburger.
  • If you don’t have access to a bank chip and PIN or can’t get/don’t want a new credit card, another option is to visit a Travelex currency exchange.  There you can preload a chip and PIN cash card in the currency of your choice (well, currently about 5 choices).  Sometimes having a built-in limit is good for self-control when you see the perfect $50 T-shirt.  If you go this route, just have a backup fund source because there is no such thing as overdraft or extending your credit limit if you empty the card.
  • Did I mention it’s expensive?

Hope this is helpful!  Next topic will be arrival at the resort and the hotels.

Planning a trip to Disneyland Paris

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Wanting to take a trip to Disneyland Paris?  Who wouldn’t?  For any fan of the Disney theme parks, going to Disneyland Paris should be a mandatory box on the bucket list.  Getting there, however, is not quite as straightforward as a visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World.  Over the next few posts I hope to provide some guidance, especially for some of the more practical tips that I never really found until I experienced it in person.

Part of the problem is that specific information is fairly lacking in the United States.  A visit to the US version of the Disneyland Paris site will often leave you a bit confused.  There is a definite lack of specific reservation and touring advice, which can make it difficult to commit to spending thousands of dollars on your own.

For example, for the US parks it is quite easy to pick and choose exactly what you want whether it be hotels, just park tickets, etc.  By contrast the Disneyland Paris site links hotel and park tickets.  I had originally hoped to buy a 2 day ticket as well as 2 nights hotel since we would be arriving late the first day.  But no luck, you have to buy 3 days of park tickets with no option to change it.  Think of it as a prix fixe menu rather than a la carte.

So for the first time I decided to use a travel agent, just to be sure I didn’t completely mess things up.  Major credit goes to Michelle Cunningham at MEI-Mouse Fan Travel for making the process a lot easier.  She did a great job investigating different room and price options to find just the right combination for us.  If you decide to stay at a non-Disney hotel you probably have more flexibility in regards to tickets, etc but since I didn’t go that route I can’t comment on that.

Planning resources are really hard to come by.  Compared to the huge variety of stateside Disney park books, the isn’t much for us here that detail Disneyland Paris.  There was an Unofficial Guide written back in 2010 but that is now hard to find (as well as out of date AND expensive).  I primarily used 2 books:

1. Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris by Kevin Yee.  Available as an e-book ($2.99) or paperback at Amazon.  This book is relatively short but offers a lot of good, practical advice specific to these parks.  Kevin is a regular columnist over at MiceChat and has major Disney credibility.  He covers a lot of the preparation for the trip as well as details of the parks and attractions.  Highly recommended.

2. Independent Guide to Disneyland Paris (from a Former Cast Member) by John Coast.  Also available as an e-book ($6.99) at Amazon.  A much longer text, as well as organized in a fashion similar to typical stateside park guides.  This book seems to be updated on a regular basis, and I purchased the 2014 edition.  Like Kevin’s book it is details the parks as well as getting to/from them.  Particularly useful was the chapter Disneyland Paris for Walt Disney World Regulars, so you know what is similar as well as different.

Both books are quite affordable so really there is no reason to not pick them both up.

Other things to consider during the planning phase:

  • Make sure your passport is up to date, and will not expire close to your travel dates
  • Check to see if your mobile phone is capable of usage in Europe.  Some companies offer plans for global travel and will save a lot of money in roaming fees, though calls will still be quite expensive.  Data is even better while you’re there if you have the option as free WiFi can be hard to find.
  • Ask your bank/credit card companies if they have a Chip and PIN card available for any of your accounts.  Chip and PIN cards are much more widely accepted than traditional magstripe cards and will make your life easier.  I will discuss money options in more detail in a separate post.
  • Check the average weather during your visit window.  Disneyland Paris can be quite chilly during the winter and even spring months.  Even during the summer the evenings can be on the cool side.

The next post will discuss some things about money during your trip.  Following that will be information about the parks, hotels and getting around.  I will wrap everything up with a set of Do’s/Don’ts from personal experience.

Disneyland Paris!

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle

I recently had the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris, which is why there haven’t been any map updates recently.  Over the next few posts I hope to offer some insights from visiting the parks, because it can be hard to find good information if you’re planning a visit there. In the mean time, I have uploaded a new gallery into the Favorite Photos that is dedicated to that park.  I hope you enjoy them!