France: Disneyland Paris

I love traveling and experiencing new foods, places and cultures, but these are fun activities from a grown up perspective. So when Isabella dramatically died of boredom on her tour de chateaux, we knew it was time to change up our itinerary. Luckily, we had planned for our threenager to be in full force and had booked a special detour just for her and Olivia.

DISNEYLAND PARIS!

We live in the United States, but this was our first trip to any Disney resort. We did internet research from Dedicated to DLP, Disney promotional videos and listened to input from friends who Disney often in the States. We knew that on-site guests have access to early entry to the park and that we would benefit from purchasing a dining plan. We purchased our tickets directly from Disneyland Paris but we used the French speaking site because it’s literally more expensive to get the same package when you book in English. We also reserved character dinners two months in advance, which is the limit for Disneyland Paris (DLP). We had better luck calling Customer Service directly (yes, we called France directly from the U.S.) than trying to reserve online. They did speak English and were very pleasant over the phone.

Lodging: We stayed on-site at the Sequoia Lodge. It was close enough to walk to the parks and far enough to remove ourselves from the parade crowds at the end of the day. It is themed in a rustic “American style, Western-pioneer” motif. If your kids like playing cowboy or out in the woods, this is a pretty cool place to stay. The hotel common areas were gorgeous. They also had an on-location Disney Store with exclusive DLP pins, clothing and suitcases.

Mom notes: The room met our needs with two double beds and en-suite bathroom. I would compare the room to a Howard Johnson or Holiday Inn. They provide a cute Mickey Mouse Shower gel and shampoo, but they do not provide conditioner. We opted for breakfast with our accommodation. It was a light buffet with assorted breads, cereals, cold cut meats and cheese. If you want to take advantage of the early “magic hour” then I suggest booking breakfast at 7:00 or 7:30AM. By 8:00AM, the line was extremely long with lots of hungry little princesses and Avengers waiting for an open seat.

The walk from the Sequoia to Disneyland Park was great. It took us past a beautiful pond with a hot air balloon and straight through Disney Village. There were very kitschy, cute restaurants and lots of various shops to visit. I loved that we could hit the shops outside of the park on our way back to the hotel and not carry everything through the park all day.

You actually have to travel under the Disneyland hotel, a beautiful pink chateau in its own right, to get to the park. This is, as they say, where the magic happens.

What to do with a 3 year old and 6 year old in Disneyland Park? Well, we visited during the 25th Anniversary which includes special costumes, parades and attractions in the park. We definitely bought new costumes and they wore them the whole time we were there.

We spent most of our time in Fantasy land because that’s where the girls’ favorite rides were: Tea cups, Flying Dumbo and the Alice in Wonderland labyrinth. We did each a few times and you  know what? It was ok. They had a blast and we had a good time being with them. And we did take them through the 20,000 leagues under the sea ride and driving the motorized cars in Discoveryland. There was something fun for everyone.

In the end, vacations are about getting away from the everyday grind and spending time with the people you love most.  Whether it’s grabbing the special blue donuts with star sprinkles or just watching a little blue fairy dancing joyously in her new costume, the magic of Disney is making those memories together.

Loire Valley: Cheverny and Chambord

It’s been a wild two months with travel, and I’ve just now replaced my luggage and done enough laundry to justify taking the time to do another blog entry. And so, my lovely travel friends, I present to you our Springtime adventure to the Loire Valley.

As always, we planned our flight around the girls. We try to book flights to coincide with bedtime when flying long-haul trips. That way, the girls boarded the plane, ate dinner and fell right asleep for the majority of the flight. At three, Isabella is already a pro at check-in, packing the right toys for the plane and enjoying the flight.  We flew Economy Plus via United Airlines direct ORD to CDG.

We arrived in the morning, ready to grab a croissant and explore the Loire Valley. Our first stop was the Chateau de Chantilly, known as the home of Henri d’Orleans and for it’s amazing whipped cream desserts. Something for everyone.

It was a beautiful introduction to France. The grand chateau, the ornate décor, everything that a toddler could care less about. Mike demonstrates the proper technique for getting a toddler into a historic site below.

Once inside, Olivia really loved the library and the beautifully appointed rooms. In her heart, she was now in a Disney princess movie. Isabella was still rather suspicious. This entire castle was filled with things she wasn’t supposed to touch and she took that as a personal challenge.

After letting the kids run in the chateau gardens and feeding them a proper lunch at the restaurant in the chateau, we wondered down the path to Chambord. Now, I was excited to visit Chambord. I knew we wouldn’t be drinking Chambord, but it looked like a beautiful chateau with gorgeous ambiance and I was just way too excited to see it.

And it was gorgeous. There is this amazing double helix staircase in the center that leads up through several floors and lets out on the castle ramparts. The girls explained that this was where the “Beast” fought Gaston on the turrets. They loved Chambord almost as much as I did.

After the kids ran all through the chateau, we headed to our home away rental home for a glass of wine, baguette and cheese. But that is a story for a different post.

Until then, Au Revoir!

Mica