In March of this year I turned 18. Of all my friends, I was the first and I’m not going to lie, getting to that point of adulthood really scared me. I’m not one for change, and this seemed like a really big jump for me. That seven bumping up to an eight changes a lot – expectations, legal rights, obligations… it all seemed a bit much, so when my mum and dad asked me what how I wanted to spend my birthday, my mind jumped to the most innocent thing imaginable.
I’d been to Disneyland Paris once before, when I six and my brother four. We stayed in New York, New York, my brother spent the weekend as Simba and I was Sleeping Beauty. Obviously costumes were a no go this time, what with me turning eighteen and my brother growing facial hair, but that same innocence was in there somewhere… well, that’s what I believed anyway.
Paris, while having a lot of the same rides and attractions as the other parks, is notably smaller than the other Disney Parks, so my family chose to only spend day in the actual parks, while I petitioned that every night therefore had to be spent in the Disney Village, just one tube stop away from our hotel. From the village (if you manage to stand on a platform high enough without being removed by a worker) you can catch that little glimpse of the fireworks, the sound isn’t loud enough and you can’t see the castle but there’s that odd spark, and that odd spark sparked something in me.
I already know that this is going to sound incredibly cringe worthy, you don’t have to tell me, but I genuinely felt so fulfilled just being there, so close to some sort of magic – the kind of magic that you stop believing in as life starts to scrape away at you. Now, I’m writing this late at night so please forgive me if I’m being far to philosophical for something I’ve previously described as so innocent…
I don’t think anyone else understood my reasoning for wanting to go, and I don’t think any amount of explaining would have really got my point across. In every practical sense, I wanted to be a child again, I wanted to dance with princesses and be speechless at the sight of Mickey and Minnie like I was when I was six. I only realised my intentions were misunderstood when I waited in line for almost an hour to have my photo taken with the Genie from Aladdin, only to get to the front of the queue and have him he replaced by Abu. He was cute nonetheless, but I could see that my family were bored to tears and this was not how they wanted to spend their day.
(Yes I did wear Minnie ears and a Mickey jumper… what about it?)
I visited on my last true day of childhood, I spent my last hours as a 17-year-old hoping that I’d, at least, catch a glimpse of Tiana and Prince Naveen, my favourite Prince and Princess. Alas, they did a meeting greet at 4pm, but the stunt show in Disney Studios was also at 4pm and I although I felt like it was my day, I also felt like I couldn’t put everyone through the Genie incident again – just because I queued didn’t mean I was guaranteed a picture.
Oh god, I sound about six.
That’s when I felt the disappointment of Disneyland, the grounds of the castle holds a lot of expectations, even for a grown up. But I don’t want this to take a dramatic turn, because the magic was reinstated when I caught a glimpse of Tiana twirling in that green gown, and I did manage to snap a quick picture, although I may not be in it.
I got my payback though by making everyone sit through the parade, and half an hour before the parade to make sure I got a good spot. Now, if you’re a mother reading this, I’m probably about to be someone you hate right now, but boy, I did not budge. I let the little kids kneel next to me for a good view, but the mother behind me who continuously rammed me in the back of the legs with and empty pushchair and muttered in a language I’ve never heard, got nowhere. I deserved a front row spot just as much as anyone else did, and I took it. And it’s a good thing I did. When first walked into the park my mum told me that, last time, it wasn’t the princesses I got exited over, I wasn’t all that fussed about them apparently, but I did nearly wet myself at the sight of Winnie the Pooh. So when I saw the float coming, I felt a massive yearning for those years to come back, to be young enough to be read a Winnie the Pooh bedtime story. And that’s when Eeyore made a B-line for me, coming in for a hug. Now I don’t know who that Eeyore was, or why he came to me, but that made my day. No scrap that, that made my childhood. I felt so complete (sorry if you want to barf at how cringe worthy this is, but I did warn you), I felt as if that made that chapter of my life go full circle. It meant more to me than that person in the costume could ever really know.
The fireworks were the only thing that could really stand a chance at topping that moment, you really haven’t seen fireworks until you’ve seen a Disney firework display. My dad tried so hard to get me to change my mind so we could leave the park early and beat the traffic, but I insisted it would be worth the wait. I know you don’t know my dad, but I feel like it takes a lot for him to be genuinely impressed, or at least admit it. The look on his face, and everyone elses around us, told me all that I needed to know. I don’t have any photos of the fireworks, because I literally just stood in awe of every single aspect, but pictures really wouldn’t have done them any justice anyway.
I feel like I need to put a little break in here, because it’s now the next day, and I can’t be nearly as philosophical or emotional about it as I was last night in bed. But I will try to round this off the best I can in broad daylight.
This post doesn’t do the park any justice either, it really is somewhere you need to go to experience the feelings that it gives you. It probably is one of the most indescribable things in life, and I don’t know one person who has come back – from any Disney Park around the world – and hasn’t felt the same. Apart from that, I really don’t know what else to say… other than I’d go back in a heartbeat.