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The adventure in la belle France continues. If you're still reading, bravo. If not, then why are you here?

Allons-y!

 

DAY 9: The Big Setup
June 7

The drive to Val d'Europe, where Disneyland Paris and our meeting is, takes about an hour if you're lucky. We were semi-lucky. We got there in okay time. Melinda and Richard and I were driven by Bernard, from BVHE-I France. Very kind of him, oui?

 
Setting up in the French booth

The projection booth and auditorium were completed just days before we arrived, and much was still untested. To add to the fun, we were just one of two crews setting up to do the show tomorrow! AND the French dislike A/C as much as the English! Hot and cramped. Like... something that's hot and cramped.

 

Once again sweaty and tired, the Disney lobby offered some colorful respite. I should have used the salle de repose, a little room near the auditorium with a small bed and reclining chair. Our French hosts assured us it was not normal for all French companies to have such a room, and that it was probably for executives. Mais bien sûr!

Colors o' Disney
 
Val dEurope

Turns out Val d'Europe is another "city" created entirely by Disney to support Disneyland Paris. It had a fake feel to it. I haven't yet seen Celebration, the Disney town in Florida, but I imagine it feels something like this. Maybe when the trees grow up here it'll be better.

Val d'Europe even has a huge mall that reminded me too much of the United States. Yuck.

 
The BVHE-I offices used to be right in Paris just off the Champs Elysées, but the company got cheap (and a tax break) and moved the offices way out here. Now all the employees are furious at having to waste so much precious time traveling to and from work. I agree. Having to travel less then these people do every day, I understand how annoying it can be. Especially if, as was told to us, five other cheaper, much closer sites were proposed to the Disney execs and they said no. Did I mention they got a big tax break? I think I need la salle de repose.

 

Dinner on the Town tonight was at Rue Balzac, thankfully right across the thin street (Rue Balzac) from our hotel (l'Hôtel Balzac). The crowd was larger, with folks from the France office treating us. The food was good, too. Of course! Maybe even better than Georges and Costes.

A Toast to Snooty!
 

I have been very good at trying to speak French while I'm here. My seven years of schooling in the language has somewhat paid off, though I still must sound like a cross between a small child and a moron with dyslexia and gauze in my cheeks. The people have been very friendly, though, and have enjoyed my attempts to commnicate with them in their native whatever.

My mediocre French got me into trouble at dinner, though, when, instead of ordering les petits pots, I ordered les petits poids. We all had a good titter at my mistake, including the waiter, who gave me what I thought was a smile tinged with pity.

When dessert was served, we all exploded in laughter as the waiter placed in front of me a small tray of peas. Les petits poids were what I asked for first, of course... After the laughs died down, the waiter gave me les petits pots, or small pots of delicious pudding.

 
Les Petits Poids!

 

Tiny EUs

 

DAY 10: Disney Disney Disney Disney
June 8
The French Crew

Up too early, but surviving nonetheless. Thanks. And on a show day! Here's the French A/V crew during the show, discussing something Gallic.

 

The show went well, and afterward, everyone got to enjoy lunch and a variety of activities in an Aladdin-like set-up. I had a charicature done. (Sorry, no scanner here to post it. [Whew!]) Aussi, a Starsky & Hutch photo where my head is there instead of Owen Wilson's. (Again, no scanner. [Is this the right way to do these layered brackets?])

Marketplace with Carpeting
 
The Mickey Afro

After eating, getting humiliated by artists, and packing up the gear, Richard and I took the RER train one stop to Disneyland Paris. We noticed in the station a young man who either had a great affinity for Mickey Mouse or an unfortunately coincidental bad hair day.

 

How peachy keen was it to actually get to see this park I never thought I'd bother going to? And how excited was I to ride Space Mountain here, which is supposed to be great? And how much does the main gate look like the Grand Floridian in Orlando?

ANSWER: THIS much! (Approx. 28cm.) It was already after 4:00, so it was time to get cracking.

Disneyland Paris Main Gate
 
Main Street, France

 
Main Street, U.S.A.! In F.R.A.N.C.E.! Oh B.O.Y. oh B.O.Y.!

 
La Montagne de l'Espace

Yay! Space Mountain!

Wha—? Huh? CLOSED? WHAT?

 
 
Oh for Jesus fucking sake.

 

Please pardon my French there, but that was quite handily disappointing. It figures. The one ride Richard and I both really, really wanted to ride was closed. They are painting it, you see. Le sigh. It is supposed to be open again for the weekend, so we may go back out Friday just to ride it. Sad, huh?

We did get to ride other rides, however, and I will give you my quick review of some of them here.

 

STAR TOURS: Exactly the same, but in FRENCH! To see just how hilarious and fun that concept is, here's a little video (244KB) of a famous robot you may recognize (and hopefully no one else will—especially of the legal, tipped-off-by-someone-I-know variety). We discovered that most of the rides are a mix of French and English. C'est bizarre! (Oh, and that's definitely Anthony Daniels doing the voice, both here and on the ride itself.)

 

IT'S A SMALL WORLD: "Why did you go on that?" will be the question most asked about this entire trip, I'm sure. But I wanted to see if it looked newer and better-crafted than the original, which was thrown together for a world's fair or something, then moved to Disneyland. Verdict? It DID! It put Richard and I both into sleepy sleepy mode, though. Oops.

 
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: While it was nice to see parts of the original slavishly re-created for this version, it was a gigantic mistake to ruin the story of the original by reversing the segments. Here, you start with the living pirates and end with the dead ones. Boo. In the original, you "stumble upon" the dead pirates in caves under the Blue Bayou restaurant, then travel back in time, via some dips and well-voiced curses, to the live pirate era. Then you go back up through the dead pirate layer in the end. This one makes no sense.

 
INDIANA JONES ET LE TEMPLE DU PERIL... À L'ENVERS!: That's a mouthful in French, oui. This is a fun but rough two-car coaster that goes BACKWARDS! My favorite thing to do on Big Thunder Mountain in California is look backwards as I ride the ride so you don't know what's coming up next. Well, voilà! This ride does that for me, loop included! Too bad it boxes your ears like a bad CG kangaroo in a bad "comedic" movie.

 
Mother! What have you done?PHANTOM MANOR: Holy moley, what a mess! The dinkuses who re-designed this one decided to take the bride in the attic from the original Haunted Mansion and create a stupid and incomprehensible story around her. She greets you at the start of the ride, la-la-la-ing (sans mouth moving) the Haunted Mansion tune. Then they ruin one of the coolest tricks in the ride by making her ghost hold the candlestick down the hallway, and having it not move around! Dorks. There's the bride and a decomposed, laughing, phantom-of-the-opera-type guy in a tux in the ballroom, where things are less lively in general. Then her crying at a mirror shaped like a skull. Then we're out of the top of the house and into the ground! We see coffins opening and rotted corpses lounging about and moving like... well, like zombies. Jarringly, the now out-of-place singing busts are useless and are the only reliable singers of the famous song. Oh, and then we're in an Old West (yes, U.S.A.) ghost town with nothing dead at all except the laughing tux guy, and... Sigh. They even ruined the hitchhiking ghosts. Now, some skeleton thing appears at the top of the carriage. Oh, man, what a debacle.

 
That's it, I think. Anyway, it seems they also have only three or four Disneyland Paris logo designs for use on clothing. I could not find anything cool to buy and wear as a souvenir! (Don't grin yet, Matt!) No shops on Main Street had anything except a cool logo on, coincidentally, a shirt exactly like the one I was already wearing right then and there. What craziness! I finally found something good at Disney Village (a.k.a. Downtown Pleasure Disney Island), but it was trop difficile, je pense!

 
Benoit's Quiksilver Car

Following the train ride back to Val d'Europe, the very kind, funny, and generous Benoit drove Richard and I back into Paris (he lives there, so it was not out of his way, see). Here he is driving us on the freeway in his Quiksilver Peugeot. Yes, Quiksilver, the clothing company. Not Eddie Bauer. Quiksilver. Which Benoit said was started in France anyway. Who knew? The car did not come with a surf board.

 

Finally, I have to report that the official Dinners on the Town came to an end tonight. It was just Richard and I, and I wanted to eat fast and try to get to the hotel at a decent enough hour to pump out this update and SLEEP!

Oh, well. We did not get to the hotel at a decent hour, so it's now 3:30am. Therefore, I'll shut up and get on with getting to bed. Bonne nuit!

 

Tiny EUs

 

DAY 11: The French are Hot
June 9
Room as Closet

Richard wants to kill me. Thanks to my self-imposed budget for the rest of the trip, we're staying in something less than nice. Tiny rooms, worn furnishings, and NO A/C! Zounds. And this place is three stars. I imagine the rating was given back in the middle ages. Oh, and not even an RJ-11 phone jack. Don't know how I'll post this...

 

NEWS FLASH: There's an internet café nearby, I am told, so though it will be tardy, I will be trying to post this tomorrow. If I succeed, you will... Well, you won't know if I don't, so... Oh, on with the show.

Did I Mention that the French are Hot?

Yes, friends, the French are hot. And I mean that in the most literal sense. It was very cold up until just before we got here, and now it's gotten very hot. Today, Richard and I did some sightseeing after moving hotels, and in an effort to not look so American, I wore pants. (Not many French people wear shorts, sorta like how Hispanic people wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts to the L.A. beaches.) I was miserable. Granted, even in shorts, I would have been too hot, but they would have helped.

The Metro is as piss-poor with air conditioning as the tube in London, so escaping underground during our travels did not help. I was wondering how these people can deal with such bad heat, then remembered how many died here last summer. Guess they don't. What they do do is relish any sun they have, like the English. They may not wear shorts, but they have no trouble taking off their shirts, rolling up their pant legs, and getting some sun in the many, many parks all over the city. (No, the women did not take off their shirts!) Richard and I both wanted to join them today at several points.

But enough about that! On with the pictures! I will try to keep the commentary to a minimum tonight so I can get to bed and off early to Versailles. [ADDENDUM: Guess I failed to provide minimal commentary. Adding an addendum helps a lot, too.]

 

Here's Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. I have always wanted to see it, and now here it is! Well, dip me in pamplemousse and feed me to the thin!

Sacre Moi!
 
Tile from Hell

This church, built in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, is much newer than Notre Dame, and looks it in many ways. While the stained glass did not have the depth and richness of the oler stuff, it and the other features had a more precise and modern look. The execution is more refined.

 

Before a walk around the neighborhood, we got some nice views of the outside of Sacré Coeur.

Sacre Horse
 
Come What May

We dined at an outdoor place (J'ai manger un croque monsieur!), then walked to the Moulin Rouge! This place is in the middle of tons of sex shops and shows. It had a Vegas air about it. Only tourists would want to see a show here. As I am a tourist, I would have, too. But not for €95.

 

After another sweltering Metro ride, we got to see the Eiffel Tower. Here's a photo for your perusal.

What an eyesore, huh? But the tower's very nice! BA-DUMP-BUMP! PSHHHHHH

What an Eyesore.
 
Symetry and Metal

A cliché shot, but the sky and clouds were so gorgeous today, I couldn't resist taking these kinds of photos.

 

We did not go up to the top today because we ran out of time. We had to take another hot ride back to our hot hotel to get ready for a—yes, folks, it was back for one night and one night only—DINNER ON THE TOWN!

Joel and Melinda were still in town for work. They both had plans last night, but tonight they were free, which meant eating well on Disney's tab. Yay! Benoit suggested a place called Man Ray right off the Champs Elysées. Yes, it was named after that Man Ray. His photos were on the walls around the dining room. The restaurant is owned, however, by Johnny Depp and John Malkovich. Or they are at least the famous faces for what is no doubt a group of investors. Said Joel. And so-on and so-forth.

 

This was a very cool place, and the food was great. Also, a private party was going on in the bar. Famous people, none of whom we Americans would know, were there. Melinda and I dashed to grab a photo with Miss France 2002, but we missed her. Damn.

East Meets Yet Another Restaurant
 
Tiny Lift

Benoit once again saved the day by driving Richard and I back to our hotel. It's cooler now, in temperature if not in décor. Oh, and this is the elevator I get to take to my floor. Yes, that is the whole elevator, not just an antechamber to the real elevator.

 

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Let's Hobble Back to the Library The Ranting Wren

Trip: May 30 to June 12, 2004
Last Page Update: June 13, 2004