For my 21st birthday my then boyfriend’s ‘main’ gift to me was the promise of a trip to Disneyland Paris (he was very super sweet and got me lots of little things too). I was on my year abroad in Italy at the time and he was in his final year of a Pharmacy degree so finding a time when we were both free and able was a bit tricky. We kept putting it off month by month, holiday by holiday, until whadduya know? I’m single and turn 24 next month and do you see any posts gushing about the amazing time I had in Disneyland Paris? No you bloody don’t. Because I haven’t bloody been.
I’m not bitter, I swear.
So after the whole getting dumped on Copacabana beach scenario I became super determined to find my way to Disneyland no matter what.
Because no man comes between a girl and her love for Disney.
And that’s how I ended up spending way too much money on the world’s longest and most complicated journey from Mexico to India – Cancun to Mexico City to LA to Taipei to Beijing to Kuala Lumpur to Sri Lanka and finally, three weeks later, landing in India.
Disneyland was worth every headache, extra penny and fancy restaurant meal I had to sacrifice to be able to afford it.
So freaking worth it.
I mentioned in one of my previous posts how I didn’t actually realise that Disney wasn’t in LA. My stupid non-American brain kind of forgot that California and LA weren’t the same thing, and so to cut a long story short I ended up spending 2 nights and 2 days in Anaheim, which is where Disneyland is actually located.
Other than baseball and Disney, there doesn’t seem to be much else to do in Anaheim, but Disney has so much on offer that it doesn’t even matter!
Because I’m a frugal backpacker and had to eat packet noodles for three weeks straight in order to afford just the one day, I opted for a single day pass as opposed to the multiday Park Hopper, meaning I could only actually enter one of the parks on one day. I chose Disneyland, obv.
So on my first full day there, I had to find something free and easy to occupy my time.
To be honest I could have just stayed in my hotel room watching Jane the Virgin Season 2 and drinking supersized cans of coke, but the weather was bloody lush and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get rid of my dodgy tan lines.
Enter Downtown Disney, stage left.
Attached to Disneyland, this is essentially an open air shopping mall for all things Disney. It. Is. Amazing. So many shops, so much merchandise, so much Disney-related edibles! As soon as I walked into the candy store all of my hopes for a cheap and cheerful day flew out the window.
But who can resist Mickey Mouse biscuits?!
I paid about $5 for that bad boy.
In order to physically prevent myself from spending any more money I didn’t have on pointless things I didn’t actually need, I forked out $13 to go to the onsite cinema. Spending money to save money – that counts, right?
I’m one of those losers who regularly goes to the cinema alone because I do everything alone because I’m a friendless loner.
Back home I’d often spend the entire day at Cineworld, using my Cineworld card to flit from one movie to the next. My record is 4 in one day. When I’m going for just the one, though, my tradition is to order a coke. Medium if the film is less than 99 minutes, large if it’s over. Bad for my teeth and health, I know, but who am I to break a decade old tradition?! So yeah, that’s tradition and I didn’t want to break it Stateside.
So. I was going in to see Bad Moms (hilarious by the way – if you haven’t watched it yet, do it!) which IMDB tells me, as did the man at the ticket counter, is exactly 100 minutes long. Which of course equates to a large coke. Now, being in US and with everything being bigger than my head, I thought this would be way over-reaching so order a medium instead, figuring it’d be around the same size as a British large.
The lady asked me if I was sure I wanted a medium, suggesting I order a small instead while holding up two cups for comparison. The medium was monster-sized!!!!! So I went for small, which FYI was almost exactly the same as a UK large to the ounce.
That was a pointless retelling of a pointless story but just so you all know, expect to take pee breaks every 10 minutes if you buy any sized drink in a US cinema.
Now back to Disney.
Post-Bad Moms, I wandered around the shops a little longer, picked up a few gifts for my tiniest relatives back home and decided to make pin collecting my new hobby, investing my hard-earned cash on a few adorable little pins that will never actually be pinned to anything for fear of losing them.
Pin collector life is hard.
By this point my “cheap and cheerful” day had probably cost near enough $100, so I did the sensible thing and stood outside the Lego Store admiring the incredible Beauty and the Beast model before going home. And by home, I mean hotel.
Downtown Disney was the perfect warm-up to get my toes tingling ready for what would be the best “I love me” gift from me to me – a day at Disneyland.
You walk through the gates of Disneyland and it is honestly like you’re on a different planet altogether. I swear, it really is the happiest place on earth! People walk around with these goofy grins (pun intended) on their faces, eating candyfloss while holding hands and skipping. Kids don’t even cry at Disneyland. Or maybe they do and I just didn’t notice because I was too caught up in my own Disney-induced euphoria.
For the first twenty minutes or so I just stood there in the main square thing looking up at the castle.
The actual castle.
It’s a lot smaller than I imagined, and a lot smaller than how I remember the one in Orlando. But then again, I went there when I was four and everything’s giant-sized when you’re four.
Then I came to my senses and started you know, actually doing stuff.
First up was Hyperspace Mountain simply because my brother went on Space Mountain when we were in Florida but I was too short and cried, so this was something my inner child needed to do. No idea how it compares to Space Mountain because we’ve already established I’ve never actually been on that, but Hyperspace was pretty alright like. And by pretty alright I mean blooming fantastic.
Then came the Matterhorn Bobsleds because hey single rider line, love you babe, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean, inclusive of unfortunate but brief technical malfunction and the Haunted Mansion, simply because I was walking past and the wait time was only 5 minutes.
Then I ate a $10 chicken burger because vegetarians don’t do Disney and Disney don’t do vegetarians, but it was actually quite gross and tasted like industrial plastic so I just pulled the chicken out and had a lettuce and pickle sandwich. It was a delight.
Here is where I state the obvious: I had no plan.
People – especially families with small kids – tend to run at Disney headfirst with at least a basic outline of their day, ie. which sections of the park to go to in what order, when to eat, where to eat, what rides to go on etc.
Ever the black sheep, I went in blind and just kind of wandered around, going on rides when the lines seemed short but otherwise drinking in all things Disney and nice.
Which is exactly how I was able to watch the Disney band in action outside of the castle.
I figure they perform pretty regular throughout the day, but having been stupid and not researched anything, I didn’t even know they existed so was absolutely delighted to have been able to catch them!
The best by far, though, was the parade!
It definitely reignited my lifetime dream to become a Disney princess. Not somebody who works for Disney and gets paid to dress like a princess, but an actual Disney princess. I don’t often use the word dreamy, but on this occasion there’s no other way to describe it.
It was dreamy.
When the ‘roads’ cleared up and the floats were gone, I headed off on a search to become a big kid again with some rides, preferably one a little more exciting than the teacups. Indiana Jones fit the bill and oh my days, it was wonderful. The bumpy track and rocking back and for legitimately felt like being back on South American and/or Asian roads.
Then I internally Benjamin Button-ed to become 5 years old again, heading to Toontown to catch up with my old pal Mickey.
I queued up for almost a whole hour to meet this guy. I have never looked so out of place in my life – a 23 year old girl queuing up alone amongst the families with kids no older than 10 years old. Did I care, though? No.
Because it doesn’t matter how old you are – you can’t go to Disney and not meet Mickey!!
Mickey made me pose like that. What can I say? He’s a film star.
I also saw Minnie but didn’t get a pic with her because I haven’t forgiven her for the whole cheating with Goofy saga.
As the name would suggest, Toontown as a whole was super cartoon-y, and also full of tiny children so I scarpered pretty quickly for fear of looking like a weirdo.
This is when I made the biggest mistake of the day.
I went on the It’s A Small World ride.
I should have known what I was letting myself in for.
I should have known that damn song would be playing on repeat in my head not just for the rest of the day, but for the whole plane journey from LA to Taipei that night.
I should have known that I’d be seeing those creepy little puppet faces in my sleep.
The above creepy little puppet faces oddly reminded me of my niece and nephews so I snapped a picture to send to my brother. But now the photo’s been deleted from my phone and I don’t want to go through the effort of downloading it from Dropbox so Thomas, if you’re reading this – look at them!
Yeah, It’s A Small World never ends. The ride, the song, the everything.
Just writing about it makes my head sing that song, so now I will stop.
Following on from ruining my life on It’s A Small World, I decided that to ward off homesickness a little bit longer, I’d take a trip through the streets of London on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.
A few flaws to my plan lay in the fact that a) I am not from London, b) I wasn’t feeling homesick anyway and c) with the exception of a few London bobbies, the scenes could be from any city really.
Also, the statue of Mr Toad looked way too much like a Cadbury’s Freddo, and just thinking about that makes me too angry to function. We all know why.
Then came a little jaunt on the Snow White adventure ride thing, which was just sitting in a cart and waiting for the Evil Witch to pop up like in one of those pop-up picture books you can get.
This is when I realised that Disneyland isn’t about vertigo-inducing, gravity-defying big kid rides. It’s about rides that tell a story, rides that make you feel like you’re in the world of Disney. And though some may find the likes of Mr Toad’s Not-So-Wild Wild Ride and the Snow White thing a tad boring, I found them absolutely delightful!
And do you know what was even more delightful?!
Meeting Cinderella <3
I have no photo of this momentously joyous occasion because I need to buy it from the online photo thingamajig, but just know that it was a beaaauuutiful moment. Sigh.
Next up was Splash Mountain and yet another cheeky little single rider line. Love those little guys. I vaguely remember going on Splash Mountain in Orlando as a kid and getting absolutely soaked, which is why I’d saved this one for towards the end of the day. However, I sat at the back and probably got off the ride drier than how I got on, which was a snazzy little surprise.
Then came a little treetop discovery.
When I was younger my favourite Auntie Michelle worked in Woolworths, which is now obsolete in UK and that is a very sad fact because you can’t go wrong with a Woolworths Pic’n’mix! Anyway, because she worked there she got access to all the promotional material that comes with new movie releases – you know, like life-sized cardboard cutouts and those huge posters – and one day brought home this mahoosive Tarzan poster that wrapped halfway around my bedroom wall. I loved it. I loved Tarzan. I still do love Tarzan. It’s up there with one of my all-time favourite films.
So walking through his treehouse, seeing the scenes and prop replicas and everything was an absolute dream.
They even had a re-imagination of the campsite scene where you could play music on the pots and pans and other bits and bobs.
By this point it was nearing 6pm and I was a bit sleepy.
I’d been up since 7:30 and out and about since 8:30. I’d walked what felt like the length of a marathon (in Havaianas, might I add) and my feet were hurting like mad. So I decided on two last bits of fun – Jungle River Cruise and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – before making my way back to the beginning-ish part of the park to just soak in my surroundings with a churro and a bottle of iced water.
So walking back I saw all these people sat on the curb and though “oh, that’s a nice idea” and sat down beside a couple who had two adorable little toddlers speaking Spanglish with each other. I figured there were probably so many people sat down for a reason, but didn’t find out until 20 minutes passed and the woman told me there was going to be another parade called Paint the Night, full of characters with LED lights and nice dancing.
She told me it shouldn’t be long, so I thought I may as well hang around and wait.
Half an hour passed, then an hour, by which point I began to seriously consider just cutting my losses and leaving, but by this point so many people had gathered around and I had prime position right on the curb of the road, that I didn’t want to lose it. So I sat. And I waited.
Two hours later and the parade finally started.
Definitely worth the wait.
It’s a bit hard to take nice photos of moving LED lights to be honest, but just look at Belle!!!
When the parade finished, the fireworks began but I didn’t stick around for too long. I’d actually watched the previous night’s fireworks show from the comfort of my own hotel room, so didn’t quite fancy cramming myself into the park like a sardine with thousands of other people to watch a rerun up close. Also, as amazing as the display was, nothing can beat Indian fireworks.
I saw the castle all lit up and pretty, watched the opening few bangs and then headed back to my hotel where my airport pick-up was supposed to meet me at 10:30pm.
I already want to go back.
I want to go to all the Disneys. I want take my brother’s little minions because seeing Disney through the eyes of a child would be the best. Somebody find me a millionaire please.
And to anybody who’s made it to the end of this monster almost-3000 word post, I salute you.