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Old 05-09-2010, 04:46 PM   #1
dolphingirl47
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Magical Mystery Tour

Prologue

Once upon a time, on a particular cold and rainy day, two people decided that they were in dire need of a holiday and a bit of sunshine. It just so happened that their favourite ship would spend the summer in Europe and that there were some really good deals available on some of the Mediterranean cruises. So they decided to see if there were any cheap flights available to Barcelona and once they realized that there were, they decided to book the cruise. Little did they know that a volcano erruption many miles away would threaten their fairy tale. Not people who give up easily, they decided to get to the ship whatever it takes. They embarked on a Magical Mystery Tour of epic proportions.

Day 1

DH still had to work during the day, so we met up at Manchester Piccadilly station at 17:30 to embark on our great adventure. Things for once went according to plan and our charriot awaited.




We had a clear run into London. To make this even better, as soon as we got on the train, somebody from the airline called. DH had sent them a couple of emails the previous day and I had unsuccessfully tried to call them. She seemed quite relieved when she found out that we had made alternative arrangements and had no intention to be on the plane on Thursday. She was very quick to offer to put notes on the booking to the effect that we would only use the return part of the ticket on 5th May. This was another worry dealt with and we both felt that we could really relax now.

Once we got to the underground platform, our hearts nearly stopped. There was an announcement about a signal failure at Waterloo, but fortunately this was on another line. We only had an hour to get across London. Still, we made it in plenty of time and managed to get a bite to eat before we had to get on our train to Portsmouth. This worked like clockwork as well.

When we arrived in Portsmouth, we turned the wrong way when we left the station. The hotel was supposed to be quite close to the station so we soon realized that something was wrong. DH asked a group of young people for directions. They were not local either, but while he was chatting to them, I suddenly remembered that I have GPS on my mobile phone. It took a little while for the phone to find its current location, but once it had done so, I just had to type in the address of the hotel and we were away. We found the hotel without any further problems.

Our hotel room can best be described as compact, but it was clean and the bed was comfortable and that was all that was needed. It kind of reminded me of a cabin on a ship and it even had a porthole in the bathroom. We were both tired. I set the alarm clock and we went to bed.
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Old 05-09-2010, 04:55 PM   #2
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Day 2

We had an early start as our hotel was a couple of miles from the ferry port and we needed to be there by 7:00 AM. We called a taxi and checked out of the hotel. By the time we had done this, the taxi pulled up. As we got in the taxi, we saw some planes overhead.

When we got to the port, we checked in. We were surprised when the whole check in operation consisted of one counter and one member of staff. We were even more surprised when there was nobody in front of us. The check in process was easy. Our passports were checked and we were given our boarding card. We were then sent away with the instruction to go to the boarding gate at 7:45.

We had not had breakfast so we put this right while we waited. The ferry terminal was absolutely packed with people that had just arrived. However, once they had left, there were not many people in the terminal at all.

As soon as we finished our breakfast, our boarding call came. We went to the gate and they took the boarding cards. There were x-Ray machines for the luggage, but when we approached, they just waived us through. Outside the terminal building were luggage carts and they encouraged people to put their suitcases in there. We then got onto a bus, which took us the short distance to the ferry.

We managed to get seats right at the front of the ferry with big picture windows in front of us. The seats were rather comfortable and we had loads of legroom.









I fell asleep pretty quickly. When I woke up again, there was land in the distance. I had heard that Le Havre is pretty ugly, but I actually liked what I saw.











Getting off the ship was a novel experience. The access to the terminal building was maybe 50 yards away, but again we had to get on a bus. The bus then proceeded to travel the entire short distance to the terminal building in reverse. Once we got to the terminal, we went through passport control and then waited for our suitcases. When we had our luggage, we made our way to the station. Initially there was a signpost every two yards, but then they suddenly stopped. Still, we found the station without too many problems.

When we arrived at the station, we could just about have made the next train to Paris, but we decided to collect our tickets for the Paris to Barcelona journey at Le Havre and we also decided that we needed some lunch. So we opted to take the next train, which left two hours later.

We found a great little restaurant near the station, where we could sit outside. DH had some local pork dish, but I went for a couscous with beef, which was yummy. After lunch we headed back to the station to catch our train to Paris. The train was very comfortable and took us through some very pretty countryside.



We arrived into Paris St. Lazare during rush hour and had no clear idea how to get to Gare d'Austerlitz. We managed to find out which Metro lines to take and where to change. Unfortunately, escalators are very rare on the Metro network so we ended up carrying our suitcases up and down a lot of stairs

Our hotel was right across the road from the Gare d'Austerlitz, where we wouldw catch the train to Barcelona from the following day. The hotel room was again very compact, but clean and comfortable. As we were still full from lunch and very tired, we opted to have an early night.
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Old 05-09-2010, 05:59 PM   #3
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Phew, sounds complicated but strangely exhilarating so far! Did you have time to do anything in Paris?
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Old 05-09-2010, 06:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disney_princess_85 View Post
Phew, sounds complicated but strangely exhilarating so far! Did you have time to do anything in Paris?
It was great fun. I should be able to post the trip report for our day in Paris tomorrow.

Corinna
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:05 AM   #5
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No great dramas so far - which is good.

Looking forward to hearing about your day in Paris
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Old 05-10-2010, 04:48 AM   #6
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A very exciting start to your trip, looking forward to hearing more
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Old 05-10-2010, 06:00 AM   #7
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Great start, Corinna!!! Loving the intrepid journey from Manchester to Barcelona and looking forward to hearing about Paris...

PS: Just wanted to say how FAB you look in the photos on the Holiday Shopping thread - love those long dresses from Tunisia!!!
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Old 05-10-2010, 06:35 AM   #8
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A great start Corinna, I am looking forward to reading more.
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Old 05-10-2010, 06:36 AM   #9
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Wonderful start ...... and what an adventure Hope we don't have to do all of this in September, but if we do at least we know it CAN be done.
Looking forward to more
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Old 05-10-2010, 08:15 AM   #10
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Great start Corinna. I look forward to reading more about your adventures
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:13 PM   #11
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Oh Corrina great start, sounds like youve had such an adventure

Cant wait to read more
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Old 05-10-2010, 03:45 PM   #12
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Day 3

This morning we had a slightly more leisurely start. We got up at around 8:30 and had breakfast at the hotel. Once we had our breakfast and had reorganized our luggage, I left DH with our suitcases and I headed off to see my favourite mouse.

When I got to the station across from the hotel, I noticed a problem. There was no metro or RER going from there that has an interchange with the RER A line. So I collected all my courage together and approached the information desk. My French only goes as far as asking if people speak English nowadays. Fortunately the guy at the information desk spoke enough English to explain that I had to walk to Gare de Lyon where I would be able to get an RER train straight to Disneyland Paris. Again I was puzzled by the signposting. First there was a signpost to Gare de Lyon every 10 yards and then suddenly nothing at all. I managed to find it without too much difficulty even though I ended up cutting through an underground carpark. When I got to the RER station, there was a train listed for Marne la Vallee three minutes later. To my immense surprise I actually made it. The train pulled in just as I got the platform. We have stayed in most places along this train line over the years. So once I was on the train, I was in my comfort zone again. It took only 45 minutes to get there.















I have been to Disneyland Paris a number of times over the years. However, it was always in late November or in December. I have never been there when the Christmas decorations were not up and it was always freezing cold and sometimes wet. I have always wanted to go in spring, but never got around to it. So this was a chance that was too good to pass up. With it being a beautiful day as well, I was rather excited about my bonus day with the mouse. I have never really rated Walt Disney Studios and the three new rides there don't really appeal to me either so I have decided to go to Disneyland and ride my old favourites like Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor and It's A Small World and just generally enjoy the atmosphere.











I had expected it to be reasonably quiet, but it was actually very busy. The wait time for Big Thunder Mountain at 11:00 was 100 minutes. As much as I love this ride, I am not willing to wait that long. So I got a Fast Pass for later and headed over to Phantom Manor, which was unfortunately closed due to technical problems. That would have to wait until later. I headed over to Discoveryland to do Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, which had a posted wait time of 40 minutes. I was quite happy with that and got in line. Even if the park is very busy, the wait times for Pirates of the Caribbean and It's A Small World are usually pretty manageable so I figured it makes sense to take care of the biggest crowd pullers first.





I had a great time and got a score of 73000, which is pretty good for me. When I headed towards Adventureland, the character train was parked in front of the castle and the characters were mingling with the crowds. Unfortunately by the time I got near Remy and Emille, they got back on the train.





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Old 05-10-2010, 03:51 PM   #13
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Saving the world makes you hungry. So I decided to get something to eat. I found a real gem. The Cafe Aggrabah right by the entrance to Adventureland is a buffet with Middle-Eastern food. It is not anywhere near as crowded as the other restaurants in the park and at EUR21 significantly cheaper as well. The fare of salads, olives, grilled meats and fish was tasty and healthier than the normal theme park food as well. Dessert was a mix of Middle-Eastern, French and American treats. I can really recommend this.







After lunch, I headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean and at a good 20 minutes, this had the longest waiting time I had ever encountered. Still, it was worth every minute. Pirates of the Caribbean here is still the original with no Captain Jack Sparrow in sight. I much prefer this version.











After that I wandered around Fantasyland just soaking up the atmosphere. This is so pretty with all the spring flowers. While I was there, I also rode It's A Small World which was pretty much a walk on.

















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Old 05-10-2010, 03:58 PM   #14
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Somehow I took a wrong turn and ended up in Discoveryland. So I decided that Snow White and Pinocchio would wait and headed for Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast again to see if I could improve my score. Unfortunately with 16900, I came nowhere near my previous score, but I had great fun trying.

When I exited the ride, I had about 40 minutes before the window for my Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain opened. I took a leisurely stroll through the parts of Fantasyland that I had previously missed, through Adventureland and finally on to Frontierland. The weather was so gorgeous and I soaked up all the clever detail that I had never noticed before. Huddling up in thick winter coats with scarves and wooly hats as we always had to do previously, does not really encourage you to appreciate all the little details. I more than made up for it this time though.











Soon it was time to get on Big Thunder Mountain, which is definitely my favourite ride at Disneyland Paris. I absolutely loved it. As I was at Frontierland anyway, I decided to check out if Phantom Manor had reopened. Fortunately this was the case. Phantom Manor is another ride that I think is much better here than the corresponding ride at Disneyland or Disney World. Even though there is no narration, I get more of a sense that this ride tells a story.





I took in all the clever detail in the queuing area. I never had to queue for this ride before and there are some real gems there. I enjoyed the ride as well.





When I exited Phantom Manor, I had an hour left before I needed to head back to central Paris to meet up with DH. My plan had been to head back to Fantasyland to do the two rides that I had bypassed earlier. However, I decided to just quickly have a look at the standby time at Big Thunder Mountain. It was 40 minutes, which was just too good to pass up. In the end I waited just over 20 minutes. This was a nice end to a great day. On the way out, I had a quick look in the shops, but I did not buy anything.

The trip into central Paris went like clockwork as well. Again, as soon as I got to the platform, my train pulled in. At Gare de Lyon there were signs with directions to Gare d'Austerlitz and the signposting in that direction was better, too. So I ended up at our meeting point an hour ahead of schedule. Our train for Port Bou was already on the departure board.

DH turned up early as well and we headed to a little restaurant across from the station where we had some pizza. We got back to the station about 90 minutes before our train left. We retrieved our suitcases from the left luggage lockers and found a quiet spot to sit.

The platform for out train was listed about 45 minutes before departure. We headed over to the train and checked in. Our seats were in the coach that was the furthest away. We managed to find our seats with no problems even though the seat numbering was somewhat strange. We had seats 82 and 88, which were actually next to each other. The seats were actually very comfortable and reclined quite a lot and we fell asleep soon after the train started moving.
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Old 05-10-2010, 05:33 PM   #15
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Yay for the bonus DLP trip! Seems like you had a really lovely day.
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