Come, all you rounders, if you want to hear
The story told of a brave engineer.
Some people love everything about trains. I am not in that category. I like trains. I like most train journeys (I block out the number of times I have stood at Liverpool Street trying to get back to Norwich to find all my possible trains cancelled, or the times when I have not been able to find a seat until the other side of Ipswich). To me they are mainly a means to an end. I really don’t see the point of going on special trains as they are much over muchness once you are on them (although again something like the Orient Express might make the journey more special). I like steam trains to look at as they go past, but who knows what’s pulling you once you are on one.
However today was different. I have only been on the Eurostar a couple of times and was looking forward to the speed, smoothness and the tunnel. The only thing that could have improved it further would have been if the driver was Casey Jones, a definite favourite from my childhood.
We were up and out of the Travelodge at 7am for the short but already busy drive to Epping. I had arranged parking in someone’s drive through JustPark. It was easy to find and just a short 10-minute walk to the Station (should have been 5 minutes but we missed the cut through).
Typically, we arrived just as the train was leaving so had to wait another 15 minutes for the next one. This gave Karen time to calm down after causing a commotion at the ticket barrier. Despite warning her in advance that she needed to use a credit card to get through the barrier she struggled to find it in her handbag. The three all went through at the front with no problem. We are still not really sure what happened with Karen but the barrier opened but she failed to make it through with her bags. She tried again. This time she made it through, but her suitcase didn’t. There was by now a hold up of other people and fortunately one of them kindly lifted the case over the barrier for her. We just pretended she wasn’t with us.
The train as ever was quite empty to begin with as it is the end of the line. By the time we got to Stratford it was very full. So, we decided to change at Mile End Road rather than Liverpool Street to get on the Hammersmith line to complete our journey. It was a good call as the second train was far less busy. It was pleasing to note that on both of these trains that the very large majority of people were wearing masks and so we felt reasonably safe.
After a couple of ticket checks at St Pancras we then had to go through UK passport control in order to leave the country. This seemed strange as we never have to do this when flying. Then all of 6 feet later we had to go through EU passport control where excitingly after having our Covid paperwork checked we had our passports stamped. That made all the Brexit fuss worthwhile.
We assumed that we were then technically in an EU/French controlled area and so after a short wait to collect our extra RER tickets we had a breakfast of sorts at the very continental Pret a Manger.
The boarding of the Eurostar was straightforward. We had a couple of the airline style seats which I prefer to a table as you also end up playing footsie with the person opposite. If that person is Karen, then my feet are barely even allowed in my half of the space.
The journey was as I hoped fast and smooth. It passed quickly and we were soon roaring through the French countryside approaching Paris. We passed the Stade de France just before we pulled into Gare du Nord.
Once off the train we made our made to the Blue Line on the Metro. There was a slight delay when I led Karen down to the wrong platform cueing much frantic waving from Barry who stayed at the top of the escalator. Karen being such an easy-going person, hardly fluttered an eyelash over my mistake.
Eventually we were on the right platform and therefore the right train and with one further line change we arrived at the Marne le Vallee which is at the very entrance to Disneyland Paris.
Although we wanted to explore there and then, we needed to go to our hotel to check in and drop our bags. The Hotel called Dream Castle provided a 15-minute free shuttle service. We struggled to find the pick-up point and only realised where it was once, we saw the bendy bus pulling away without us. So, we had another 15 minute wait. It was just gone 4pm when we finally arrived in the lobby.
Our rooms were next to each other on the second floor and were very good. We had been allocated 2x quadruple rooms for some reason which included rather spectacular high bunk beds.
After a short break getting ourselves sorted out, we headed out for the evening to explore Downtown Disney. The shuttle bus was soon back to pick us up and when we arrived back it felt like we were finally back at Disney again. We had to use the French NHS pass on our phones that we had preinstalled to be allowed in and that worked very well.
This French version of Downtown is quite small but perfectly formed, although we wandered over to both the park entrances just to have a look. I also wanted to speak to someone in Guest Relations regarding 4 Fastpasses that I had acquired through eBay some 12+ years ago that allegedly gave us entitlement to a free Fastpass on every ride. Now since being purchased Disney has switched off the Fastpass system so I wanted to see what Disney would do instead. The answer was precisely nothing and unlike them they were quite dismissive. If they had been helpful and polite, I might have left it there, but instead I could feel a complaint email being composed in my head.
We then wandered around the large Disney store before having a browse in a couple of other shops. I was pleased to go into the Lego store. The adult sets they have are so very complicated and detailed. I was keen to see the made-up Titanic which is their new biggest model. It was very impressive as I hoped but also as was the price at just under 700 Euros. Ever since I built the Disney Castle during the first lockdown (an eBay purchase) and then sold it afterwards at a modest profit on eBay I have been keen to do another. I have already secretly purchased and hidden in the garage the 4000+ piece Tower of London ready to build when I get the chance – don’t tell Karen!
After a little debate we settled on trying King Ludwig’s Castle Restaurant for a meal enticed in by the Happy Hour drink prices. It was very nicely themed. Barry had a full litre of beer which almost took 2 hands to lift. The rest of our drinks were modest in comparison. Foodwise, both Karen & Ellie had the very sensible and apparently very tasty Caesar Salads. Barry ordered something which had pork belly, German sausage and sauerkraut amongst other things. I was even braver and went for a Flamenkush which was very unlike me. It was a Bavarian style of thin crust pizza with potatoes and ham. Jolly nice it was too.
After we sat chatting for a while, we decided to catch the shuttle bus back to the Hotel. It turned up just as we were walking up to the bus stop which was nice. We found seats although not everyone getting on managed to do so. In front of me stood a teenage girl with her mum. She had long auburn hair. As she got on, I was horrified. It looked like she only had half a nose, and one side of her face was severely disfigured in a way that I could only think at the time made her pig faced. I felt so sorry for her and kept thinking how brave she was. I know what it is like to be stared at for the wrong reasons and it must be even worse for a young girl.
A few minutes later the bus went over a bump and she turned her head full towards me. I nearly shouted with joy that I realised she was just wearing a flesh-coloured face mask that was just crumpled and creased making her look disfigured when in reality she was far from it. It made me smile with happiness for her and at my own stupidity.
Back in the room we made ourselves a hot drink before crashing out on the very wide bed.