|La France, day 1: Val d'Europe, Sea Life Paris, Disney Village and a hotel from hell
||[Oct. 6th, 2015|11:41 am]
|[||Tags|||||aquarium, disney village, disneyland paris, halloween, holiday, photo of the day, sea life, shopping, travel, trip, trip report, zoo||]|
|||||not Disneyland Paris, alas||]|
|||||Momoiro Clover Z dvd playing in the background||]|
Trip report part 2: Day 1 at Disneyland Paris part 1
Trip report part 3: Day 2 at Disneyland Paris part 2
Trip report part 4: Day 2 at Disneyland Paris
On Friday, September 25th, Bert and I were leaving for France. We had planned to go to Dapper Day in Disneyland Paris, and because we figured that we might as well leave a day early to get the most out of our stay in Disneyland Paris, I had booked a cheap hotel via Booking.com for the night before. So we left at 6am and got to Villa Bellagio in Bussy-St-George around 11.30
The traffic wasn't bad, but we had stopped a few times along the way because you know, we were in no fuss.
The hotel had been listed as having private parking, but in reality it was a completely unsecured underground parking garage that looked like something from a horror movie. Luckily the area it was in was really nice and upscale (why it houses a fleabag hotel is beyond me) so that made it just about safe enough.
The people at reception were really friendly and let us put away our bags in the luggage room (which was locked, luckily) and gave us directions how to walk to the RER station. As we couldn't get into our room yet they suggested we do the entire check-in and pay later, which was fine by us :)
Bert and I had bought tickets to visit Sea Life in the Val d'Europe shopping center, which seemed really interesting from the website. We had bought them at FNAC in Antwerp, and ended up paying about € 4 (or possibly more) less than the sur place ticket price. I had also heard a lot of raving about the Val d'Europe mall on several Disneyland Paris forums so I figured it'd be something to do at least.
Of course, France being France, things weren't that spotless.
We bought our RER tickets at the ticket booth, and the woman there didn't seem to understand (even though I speak perfectly understandable French, it's not perfect but I got this right) that I wanted to buy TWO sets of ADULT return tickets to Val d'Europe. Really people, do yourself a favour and use the ticket machines, they take bills too nowadays so yay :)
It was only one stop on the RER and a short walk to the shopping center. Because it was past noon when we got there and were both quite hungry we decided to have lunch at PAUL. I was going to have something sensible, but faced with all the delicious pastries I caved and had this little lemon meringue key lime pie instead.
Bert had a warm cheese sandwich which ended up the rustic version of the hot dog. In hindsight I kinda wish I had one of those too :)
Finding Sea Life was not as easy as it seemed because the signage really wasn't all that.
But we got there in the end :)
Passing by the carousel build by Royal Deluxe, who also do Le Ménage Magique, the steampunk carousel that is always at the Brussels Christmas market, and the giants that sometimes come to Antwerp. It's pretty and all but this is definitely not their finest work.
The art nouveau architecture of that part of the mall sure was pretty. Should have taken a photo with my SLR really.
Unlike in Aquatopia, where the octopus likes to hide, this one was really social and came to greet visitors if you stood still in front of his tank :)
Believe it or not, but this is a kind of seahorse :)
I asked a guy working there if I could drop my camera in the tanks and take underwater photos (the compact, obviously, not the SLR) because in Aquatopia they always put up signs you can't, but if you have a waterproof camera and ask they let you do it at your own risk anyway. And he told me that it was a really bad idea, because the spidercrabs tended to immediately attack cameras and the rays weren't much better. But there was a little tank with starfish, anemone and one disgruntled little crab where you were allowed (under supervision) to touch the animals and he said I could dunk my camera in it as much as I liked. The crab seemed really frightened of the camera, so obviously I didn't bother it, but the starfish couldn't care less (considering they are basically walking stomachs, this may have something to do with their utter uncaring about the world).
They had advertised Crabzilla, imagine my disappointment when it turned out that the Japanese spider crabs they had were NOT zilla sized at all. They did look like mean buggers though.
The GIANT shark tank was utterly AMAZING!
And a leopard shark, that had a tank of it's own together with some other really big fish.
There was a tank with a stingray, it looked really grumpy but it was so pretty when it floated through the water!
Those little stripes are actually really flat fish :)
Like the octopus, the sea horses would come investigate if you stood at their tank long enough. They'd let go of the plants they were holding with their tails to come really close to their side of the glass :)
The pacific octopus was probably the animal I was looking forward to most (together with Crabzilla). At first he just sat there attempting camouflage but when I started moving my hand up and down and wagging my fingers at him he got curious and came to hang out :)
Photo of the day: 25.9.2015 (day 268)
Sea Life was about the size of Aquatopia I guess. It's fun but not really very big and you can easily see everything in a few hours (if you really take your time). They had done a good job of at least providing most things in English also for tourists that don't speak French. What I did like is that because we didn't have a time dated ticket, we could get a stamp and that would allow us to walk in and out that entire day as much as we liked :)
We didn't go back, but it was nice to have the option.
In the gift shop we looked around a little and Bert got some souvenir coins (he collects coins), and I bought my niece a pink pirate hat. I know a pink one is very cliché girly, but she genuienly LOVES pink and pirates and had told me before she would love to have her own pirate hat when we were watching an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, so a pink hat it was :)
As you can see she was well pleased when she got it :D
Photo of the day: 30.9.2015 (273)
After that we decided to check out some stores. At FNAC I considered buying a Jules Verne book in French for my collection of copies of 20 000 Leagues, but they were all really crappy quality versions. You know, the kind of cheap pocket you buy just to have a copy of your favourite book to take on the go whilst your nice one stays home where no harm can befall it.
The FNAC store was really weird, it had a lot of toys, books and camera equipment, but not much in the means of electronics. The FNAC stores in Belgium are positively lousy with electronics.
So that was bizar.
Of course I could NOT resist Sephora. We don't have Sephora in Belgium sadly, and I love the brand loads, so when I can I take advantage of popping in. I ended up getting a bottle of top coat, a white eye pencil and profited of being at Sephora to already get something for my sister in law's birthday. Which isn't 'till December but I'm not sure I'll be visiting another Sephora before then.
The H&M had a lot of Halloween stuff in the children's department, and some really cool hairbands. It took a while to find the ONE full lenght mirror in the store (how ridiculous, just the one), and as none of them suited me I didn't buy anything. I did take this photo though because I thought the packaging was cute :)
We popped into Maisons du Monde, as we like that store. But this one was much, much smaller than the Wilrijk one we general go to so we didn't find anything we liked. There was also a Nature et Decouvertes. We used to have that in Antwerp on the Meir a great many years ago and I loved that store, so I had to go on for nostalgia sake. There were a lot of really cool and clever things (like the little books of tons of postcards you could send to people that were also colouring pages), and it was quite hard to resist them, but in the end I succeeded because they were things I didn't really need or could get cheaper somewhere else (like the bike bells, HEMA sells the same vintage styles, but for much cheaper).
Speaking of bike bells, and this is kind of off topic, but the bell on my bike, which is UGLY and huge sounds like an old clock. So now I'm totally torn. I was going to replace it with a curled horn (for the look) and a vintage style one (again, for the look), but I LOVE the sound of mine. So I think I'll just buy the other two at HEMA and keep them for when this bell inadvertedly dies in the end.
On the Disneyland Paris forums, a lot of good was said about the Auchan supermarket, which is apparently the biggest in Europe. I suppose that it's practical in itself, but compared to Macro and Carrefour Hypermarkets in Belgium, it's not a big deal. I did like that they had quite a bit of organic foods, and we ended up buying a box of grapes and a bunch of organic croissants to have as breakfast the next day. Ironically, a box of 4 organic croissants at Auchan costs as much as 1 croissant in Disneyland Paris. Nuff said.
Aside from sensible food we also got biscuits to take home to family :)
We like to bring back nibbles you can't find in Belgium, but sadly most they had were either also sold here, or had a lot of chocolate on them which could potentially melt. But in the end we found sablons. Hail the sablons!
Somewhere along the way I was rummaging in my bag and realised I had either forgotten to pack (it turned out to be that) or lost my pocket mirror. Luckily, however, there was a HEMA (hail HEMA!) and they always carry pocket mirrors. So I went and got one. And URGH! people XD
There was a guy trying to do questionaires, but instead of politely addressing customers and ask if he could ask them some questions, he COUGHED at them. REALLY LOUD. So of course everyone gave him dirty looks and avoided him like the plague.
At the registry, In front of me there was this older Spanish couple. At one point they left the queue to check out other things. And then when it was nearly my turn, instead of getting back in the queue at the back, no this cow just assumes she can take up her space again! She just butted in with this really condensending smile. If Bert hadn't been there with me (he can NOT stand drama) I would have point blank told her that if she proper leaves the queue she can just get back in at the end of it. But Bert was there so I had to content myself with glaring at her and being displeased. I read a lot about Spanish people being rude jerks on Disneyland Paris forums, and I don't want to generalise because I know some LOVELY Spanish people, but in general it is sadly true.
There was a Photomaton photobooth that did different photos on one page, but in sepia and black and white, which of course I was immediately loving. And we waited quite a while for it to get empty (checking out the toy store accross from it because the lady in it took FOREVER) only to discover it had one of those ridiculous tiny interiours that do not fit two people. So that plan was foiled (we'll have to wait 'till we're in Roubaix again I guess).
At this point I was really hungry, and I really, REALLY wanted a hot meal, or at least a proper warm meal. Of course at that time of day PAUL had ran out of all the good things, so getting a sandwich like Bert had for lunch wasn't an option. The Village only seemed to offer proper table service, for which I really wasn't hungry enough for, and Bert was going to eat food we brought at the hotel, so that would potentially have been an issue as he'd only have a drink. All the counter service places served utter crap, and there was really no way I was going to eat at McMonsanto (McDonalds can shove their roundup littered filth where the shun don't shine). So I suggested that maybe we could just pop on the RER to Disney Village and eat there. Bert said it was all fine, so I got us two tickets to Marne-la-Valée Chessy.
I know that what I'm about to say now is a very unpopular opinion, but I'm going to voice it anyway.
The bag check at Disney Village is not only unpleasant, it is point blank invasive of privacy and ILLEGAL.
That they do it to guarantee safety at the parks is also illegal (in the EU only law enforcement can force you to open your bag, not private security firms) , but there I can at least understand that they want to guarantee safety.
But at Disney Village it's a step too far.
First of all, if you were planning to drag a bomb or any kind of weapon into the hotel area, you would just go in via another entrance, and there are plenty. You could just book a hotel, arrive by car and no one would ever check what you are bringing in.
Disney Village may be part of Disneyland Paris, but not everything there is owned by Disney. Therefore it's extra ridiculous. If you're a local and want to go see a movie, you have to have your bag checked? Seriously, what kind of crazy, totalitarian regime is that?
It has seriously put me off ever going to the Village for a casual stop by again.
You can't even open your bag with meds and show it to them, no you have to physically separate yourself from your medication, get stuck in a queue (because it generally doesn't go smoothly) and wait for them to come through. What if someone suddenly gets a seizure? Asthma attack? Whatever medical issues that require immediate medication intake? Oh yeah, just policy, feel free to die on the spot! Not our problem!
Also, if someone seriously wanted to bomb Disneyland Paris, they could just carry the bomb or their body and suicide bomb the place, or go and place it in a quiet area and walk away. It's all nothing but creating a false sense of security and it pisses me off.
That rant aside, when we finally got in, we went straight for Earl of Sandwich where I got a Ham 'n' Swiss. I think € 6,95 is a ridiculous price for a Subway style sandwich, but everything is overpriced at Disney when it comes to food. At least it was nice and warm, just what I wanted :)
What did irk me was that they don't give you plates, no they pack your sandwich in wrapping paper and put it in a plastic bag. Practical to go, but a bit stupid to eat in I think.
I did like the system where you got a token that would start to vibrate when you could pick up your order. It beats standing around idly waiting for it. And the decor is really lovely too! It was the first time I had eaten there but I'd definitely go back :)
I suggested to Bert we could go on Panoramagique, but he didn't feel like it because he had a shopping bag with him.
Of course, during the rest of the weekend when we passed by it it was closed, so again, we failed to go on XD
Because we were there anyway and it was only around 5pm, we decided to check out some stores in the Village.
I was glad to see that there was already so much Halloween merch out :)
My plan was to do all my actual shopping on Sunday (with exception of things that were limited edition pins or stuff I really loved but clearly had a very limited stock), but check out some shops beforehand so I knew what I wanted to buy and where :)
So I didn't buy anything ^^
We had never been inside the LEGO store, and it was pretty cool, but most things were very expensive.
Seeing stuff like this wants to make me buy boxes full of random cubes and build something like it too :)
The shop next doors carried the new Eleven Paris x Disneyland Paris collaboration line, and one of the t-shirts had an all over Cheshire Cat print. After seeing the price tag (nearly € 50) I decided to give it a miss, knowing I wouldn't wear it very much.
Of course, I am still kicking myself for not buying it :(
The closest thing to an outfit shot we have for that day haha :)
Hair flowers: H&M
Backpack: Fjällräven Kanken Big
Skirt: made it myself
Petticoat: Dear Celine
Umbrella: Baby, the Stars Shine Bright
Tights: American Apparel
Clear lens sunglasses: asos
Cardigan: Forever 21
Backpack: Fjällräven Kanken Classic
Our last stop was World of Disney
and then we went back to the RER station where I realised I still needed to get tickets to Val d'Europe (which I had forgotten to do at Val d'Europe station in a combination of hunger and excitement for Disney Village). Sadly there was an immense queue at both the ticket booth and the ticket machines. Figuring the booths would go slower, we went into a machine queue. And for once the booths were actually faster, but in the end we didn't wait very long so it was ok. We hopped on the train back and then at Bussy-St-George station came to the conclusion that the cow that sold us tickets earlier did in fact NOT sell us 2 tickets Bussy-St-Georges ---> Val d'Europe and 2 tickets Val d'Europe ---> Bussy St-Georges. No she sold us 4 single fares to Val d'Europe...
How fucking incompetent can you get when someone asks you, in correct French, for 2 adult fair return tickets to Val d'Europe. Very incompetent it seems. So moral of the story: always CHECK your tickets at the booth as soon as you have them in your hands. ALWAYS!
So basically we just hopped the stiles, because you know, we legit paid our fare.
Tickets like they were, 4 single fares. Two correct ones and two the wrong way.
Tickets like they should have been, obviously to and from.
So clearly, the woman selling us tickets was incompetent. Or malicious (she wasn't friendly at all) and thought she was playing a fun trick on tourists.
At the hotel, we got our luggage and were able to check in. There were some people there at the reception that were really angry about their rooms, apparently they had neither pillows nor towels, so I started to get a little worried. There was also no secure wifi, which also didn't please me. But we checked in, and got told that if something was missing, we could just come ask for it and they'd give it to us, so that made me feel slightly less worried. We got the last bits from the car, and just to be sure I made Bert move his. It was the first one you saw if you walked into the garage via the entrance, and I thought it would be safer to park it next to the fancy Mercedes so that would be the first one someone with nefarious ideas would see (hey I know it's mean but I like to be practical!).
Now our room...
When we got in, it smelled really dusty. You know, the smell you get when a room hasn't been aired enough. The weather was nice enough, so we opened the windows, we had to really because the air was stale. The room was quite big, with a full lenght mirror, a little kitchenette where you could cook and put food in the refrigerator. Hairdryer in the bathroom. Not the greatest but it would do (and had to because I forgot mine *facepalm*).
That were about the ONLY positive points, our room got chilly really quickly, and we couldn't get it warmer because the heating didn't work. It was turned on in the hotel, it just didn't work in our room. The lighting wasn't all that, presumably so people would have a harder time seeing the stains on carpet, bedding and towels. It was all the kind of stains that simply wouldn't come out, everything had been cleaned, but whilst bedding and towels had obviously been washed, the carpet cleaner could have done a much better job.
There were only towels for one person, and when I went downstairs after my shower (Bert didn't want me asking for more but I did anyway) to ask about a card for the garage (turns out it was the room key card) I got told they had run out of towels. So even though she had said that I could get extra stuff, I couldn't.
Basically we slept really badly because we kept on waking up because the room was too cold. Seriously IF you want to book a cheap room with RER access to the parks, do yourself a favor and book the Premiére Classe Bussy-St-George instead. I stayed there a few years ago with my friend Sam and there is hardly anything that can be remarked on that hotel. The staff was friendly, the hotel was safe and secure, the room was super clean, bedding and towels were all present, it was warm enough, seriously I wish I had booked that this time too! Sure it was a bit of a challenge to get on the parking lot because we didn't know how it worked, but that aside all was well!
I am still kicking myself I went for the free wifi and slightly cheaper place and picked Villa Bellagio, which was a moot point anyway because the wifi was shit. And of course now the Prémiere Classes has wifi too, so I really should have paid € 5 extra!
Oh well, live and learn :)
Next entry: Dapper Day!
In the mean time, more photos of Val d'Europe and Sea Life are here.
And more Disney Village/Disneyland Paris photos are here (I'm still editing and uploading).