DOS HERMANOS DO DISNEY:
DAY ONE: “MUM, WHAT DOES UNCLE MEAN WHEN HE SAYS HE IS GOING TO TEAR GOOFY A NEW ONE?”
I’ll grant you, it is an unlikely scenario for two men who get called “Miles” or “ Niles” by our friends depending on whether they are fans of Frasier or Sideways to be seen boarding a “ Disneyland Special” at Waterloo at 8.30am on a Friday morning.
But, every year the whole family goes away for a long weekend and this year Hermano Primero thought that this may just be a good idea. I had my doubts, but was persuaded by the fact that the our sister’s kids have been counting the days since we made the reservation and I was assured that we would be doing the whole thing “club” class which gave us the promise of a decent hotel, access to some adequate meals and super fast VIP passes to the main attractions. Unfortunately, my added request for a moment or two alone with Snow White was met with short shrift. Ho Hum, I had my chat up line all ready, “ I may be grumpy, but I am no dwarf!”
The Eurostar terminal at Waterloo was mobbed with families and their little cherubs but thankfully few of them were to be seen once were settled in the club carriages and the three hour journey was perfectly pleasant ( especially when I secured a few free bottles of white from the train manager ) and we arrived bang on time.
We had booked into The Disneyland Hotel, the main hotel for the site and with rooms overlooking the park itself. Surprisingly, the way to the hotel was incredibly badly signposted and we spent a good twenty minutes walking around looking for the entrance and shouting “hello Cleveland” before we saw a small revolving door which led to the main lobby.
First scary encounter of the trip. A large man in Lederhosen wearing a badge which identified him as “ Sven” and a permagrin that frightened the kids. He grabbed our bags and whisked us to the lift to the Castle Club floor where an agreeably gruff Parisian host ‘tsk’d” at the kids and checked us in while we had a cup of tea.
So, four hours after leaving London, we were in the park, dragged by a nephew in one hand and a niece in the other and having to answer questions such as “ do they really shrink you in Honey I Shrunk The Audience?”
I guess Disneyland is an easy target. Even at a relatively early hour, the whole place was so rammed to the rafters that walking ten feet took nearly half an hour. There is barely any signposting and even fewer staff. Those you do encounter seem more like the camp guards at a gulag than the cheery smiling faces that would have made uncle Walt so proud. The queues for the major rides had notices that read “ two days waiting from this point” all this for a thirty second ride. If I want to wait that long for thirty seconds of pleasure, I will get married again.
Worse of all, the music. Piped, loud, marching music played at an ear deafening level in order to keep the crowds moving and enabling them to allow even more people into the place.
But, I don’t care. The kids adored every last waking minute of it and, in this instance, that is all that mattered. Once we had figured out that our VIP Fast Pass allowed us to walk on to any ride at any time, we were dragged from “ Buzz Lightyear” to “Pirates of The Caribbean” to “ The Mad Hatters Tea Cups” all at a rapid pace that had us all flagging by four in the afternoon. It was, we were warned by the six year old in our group, not an option that we were going to be allowed to miss the daily parade. So, we stood in the thirty degree heat while the poor sods in their heavy costumes came past to more of that damn piped music.
Part of our package at the hotel allowed us access to a concierge lounge which, apart from serving soft drinks all day also served afternoon tea. Very nice too. A vast selection of pastries and sandwiches served overlooking the park.
We had been told that the food at Disneyland was truly grim. Our hotel houses the only ‘fine” dining option called “ The California Grill” and themed on some restaurant or other in the Napa. We had booked an early table at 6.30pm so we could have supper with the two children and arrived just as they were opening.
I have to say, I have had meals that cost a lot more and were a lot worse. Most agreeably, they were very well set up for kids not just because they gave them some games and crayons but because they did not assume that just because they were four and six that they would be happy to eat crap. So, instead of chicken nuggets, they got a well made salad of fresh leaves with goat’s cheese and poached fish with butter sauce and creamy mashed potatoes. A particular favourite was the dessert, a white chocolate jigsaw puzzle of Mickey which came with three paint brushes and a variety of “paints” made from coulis to colour in our mouse friend. Try finding that at a restaurant in London.
For the adults, much better food than any of us anticipated. Grilled whole lobster, decent foie terrine, a cracking cote de boeuf and excellent lamb shank. Service was excellent with the children being treated as human beings rather than nuisances and they had a very very good wine list from which we chose a Volnay and a Chablis.
This was a meal that would have been more than acceptable back home and was all the more welcome given the horrific things we had been told about eating in Disneyland.
Followed by a large nightcap and a short walk, we all headed off to bed where, I understand the kids allowed their parents all of thirty seconds sleep all night. About the length of the ride on “Pirates of the Caribbean” Apt really.
DAY TWO: WHAT PLANET HOLLYWOOD ARE YOU ON?
It’s my fault, OK? My fault. No one else’s.
I made the choice. I made the reservation and I am to blame.
When we were sitting at breakfast ( visited by some of the Disney characters much to the terror of the smaller children ) in the lounge at 8.30am, we were, as is our want, pondering on what to have for lunch and supper.
Lunch was pretty easy. They had a very decent looking buffet at the hotel that looked like it could more than fill a hole. Supper was more difficult. We did not want anything high end and we wanted to eat early again and with the children. I am not sure what made me say it but the words “ Planet Hollywood” came out of my mouth. I may as well have said “ let’s rip up lots of money and then drink lots and lots of salt water until we vomit” the end result would have been the same and we would not have had to walk half way across the park.
But more of this horror later.
First, another morning being dragged around the park where I sat on the “Dumbo” ride with my four year old niece who kindly pointed out that the ears of the little elephant and my own were alarmingly similar. Also, “Space Tours” where the kids had a ball and all the adults found that they had become reacquainted with their morning croissant.
By lunchtime, we were starving again and headed back to the “Inventions” restaurant at the hotel which offered a buffet service. I usually steer clear of these not being particularly fond of food that has been kept tepid over water while people sneeze over it. That being said, this was as good an example of the type as you could hope to find. A huge array of fresh salads, seafood, meats and desserts. Dos Hermanos made so many return visits that the authorities sent in the Park’s secret police, otherwise known as Chip N’ Dale to warn us off. Just what we needed to set us up for a visit to The Walt Disney Studio’s much quieter and altogether more manageable.
OK, so let’s get back to the horror and let me restate. It was entirely my fault.
The last time I entered a Planet Hollywood was with a young cousin and her friend over from Houston back in 1997. Their choice and they enjoyed it. I did not and was incredibly grumpy particularly to the young waitress who hunkered down at our table and stage whispered “ so who is Mr Grumpy then? To which I replied, slightly more loudly “ he is the one who is paying the bill so piss off” But, I did not die and they loved the burgers so it served a purpose.
I had thought that a place that offered pizza, burgers and steaks might suit the kids for a more simple meal. I had assumed that, being a chain, it would at least offer some level of quality control and, while not haute, would fill a gap. How wrong can you get?
Well, What we did get was a truly inedible meal ( a large portion of which we refused to pay for) served in a room that was so grubby and tired that most of the items on display came from films that were made some fifteen years before the kids were born. A model of a nude Sly Stallone ( welcome to my nightmares little one) in “ The Demolition Man” anyone? Now there’s one for the kids.
Like Disneyland, Planet Hollywood is an easy target. But, if I had had a decent burger and a nice cold one I could easily of answered any criticism by saying “ it is what it is and the kids liked it” Well, they didn’t like it. The little one just made vomitty faces and the older one declared the food “ absolute rubbish”
Starters of wings, dips and garlic bread were about edible. Main courses remained largely untouched primarily down to the amount of salt added. Disgusting.
A chunk was knocked off our bill when we complained and we slunk out of there with everyone, including the children glowering at me as if I had been found doing something filthy to Cinderella. I deserved it all.
It took a go on “Thunder Mountain” and a train ride for the kids and a number of nightcaps for the adults to erase the memory.
I am really very sorry.
Still, it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the kids for long although the rain which poured down on Sunday morning certainly did and it also put paid to any attempts to spend a last hour in the park. So, we fought our way through the crowds who had decided to brave the downpour, purchase a bizzarely yellow Disney raincoat and headed to the station.
The journey home was uneventful and I am now sitting back in London, a bottle of Duchy Original ale and a scotch egg in front of me and it all seems like a slightly surreal dream or, in the case of the food at Planet Hollywood, a nightmare.
Let's end with a joke
Q: "Did Cinderella ever sleep with Prince Charming?"
A: "Only in Disneyland Paris"