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Archive for the ‘France’ Category

OK, here we go again. I’ll keep saving this time. If it doesn’t work God does not want me to tell you this story.

So as you know I lost my luggage. Here then is the story of that fateful Saturday and really, truly, what I went through.

OK so first thing you need to remember is …. still sick. Seriously that guy did a number on me and have another blog in me about how ill I am as I think I may have turned into the walking dead and they forgot to tell me. For the moment, just know that I cannot walk anywhere without sweating buckets. There’s more but it can wait.

We are catching the bus from Disneyland Paris Hotel to Charles De Gaulle Airport at 2 pm on Saturday. As my parents are rapidly aging before my eyes, this means, in their mind, that we have to be there an hour early so as not to miss the bus. Thus it is my parents are at the Disneyland Hotel waiting for the 2 pm bus at 1pm. Even the bag carriers at Disneyland are confused as to why they are there and come out and ask them if they want their bags moved yet.  The porters look confused when you say your bus isn’t there for an hour.

Eventually the bus does arrive and takes us for the 90 minute trip to Charles De Gaulle. When we get there the driver, who happens to be Asian and doesn’t speak English or French successfully, leaves all the customers to get their luggage from the hold. It is a free for all. It is conceivable at this point someone took my luggage here. Now my father is getting the luggage from the hold. Why am I not doing this? My parents have propped their luggage smack bang in the centre of the entrance to the airport and are being abused by the French. Probably a good thing not to know French at this point. I’m moving the luggage from the doorway as the luggage is pulled off. We pile the luggage on the trolley and there is too much for the one trolley and it all collapses onto the floor. So we’re distracted and there is no actual recognition that my bag is missing yet.

I am drenched in sweat and decide on the long walk to the British Airways desk that I need to clean myself up in the toilet. I go to the toilet for big jobs when a tidal wave of diarrhea comes spilling under the cubicle next door. There comes a French voice from next door apologising, I presume, but I could not question him as to why he was unable to use the bowl. Instead I skeedaddle holding my breath before the tide hits my feet.

We get to the checking for British Airways and the check in lady requests that we show her our hand luggage. THEN we realise the bag is missing. And then it all kicks off.

My Dad immediately becomes “sick”. Certainly while it was my Dad not getting the case from the hold that caused this, I don’t blame him for the loss of luggage. Even if it wasnt for the fact that the bus driver should have been getting everyone’s luggage, it was a mistake. An annoying mistake that has impacted severely on me but a mistake nevertheless. Certainly I was annoyed but not angry that the bag had been misplaced. However Dad decides at this point that he is ill.  When my Dad is ill he speaks…. really…. slowly….. and…… sounds…….. as…… though…… it…… is….. a….. struggle….. to……. speak.

This is not annoying AT ALL. So we try to sort out my Dad at the same time as somehow work out how to contact the bus company and get the bag back.  My Dad sits down and recovers (not quite sure from what) while I try to work out the phone systems in France.  My mother goes off to try to find the bus company details.  I honestly was doing the phones ok as the phone insturctions were in both languages however, for some reason, I could not get the phones to work. Not even close.

Dad…… is……ok…. and the plane is beginning to board. I go off to find my mother who has disappeared off the face of the earth.  I am running through the airport trying to find her or an intercom system that could contact her.  By this time, as you will recall, Charles De Gaulle Airport is VERY long indeed and I am swimming in sweat. After about twenty minutes of searching I find my mother who has gotten a phone number off someone where I can contact the bus company. The number is 17 digits long. I have no idea which country I would be ringing if I used it. I did know that the country code was not France at the very least.

So we make a plan to contact the bus company once we are in the London. We go to the plane and Dad…. is……still….. really….. sick…. and so I am carrying the luggage. We get to the plane and the air stewardess welcomes my Dad onto the plane.  My Dad immediately recovers and, normal voice, thanks her and bounds down the aisle.

At which point I could kill him.

My computer was dying and I had no way of recharging it.  I wrote the entry that upset everyone at the end of that day. I tried to  use the hotel television internet to keep in contact but it was insanely annoying. It would take me fifteen minutes to write a sentence. I was going to kick the television in. I bought the cord for my computer when it became clear I was not going to find my case.

The problem with this situation is that it is the gift that keeps on keeping on. I know my Dad is not to blame however he couldn’t have shafted me more if he tried.

In my case was

500 GBP

400 USD

300 AUD

my camera (and data card… that really annoys me)

My laptop power cable

My iPhone power cable

My Mobile phone power cable

My bitching jacket (arrrggh)

My Electric toothbrush

A mug from Disneyland Paris

five packets of tim tams

2 packets of licorice bullets

Trey’s laptop bag

My receipts for the trip thus far

My professional tourist trap photos of me at Disneyland

Tragically there is probably more but the joy of losing stuff is remembering bits you’ve lost as you go along.  So it can be annoying one more time.

And so my stay in London was a complete loss. I spent the time in my hotel room charging up huge bills to try to contact both Disneyland Paris and the VEA bus company. Waiting for people to call back who didn’t. I managed to go to The Mousetrap and the Doctor Who exhibition but that was it. I’ve checked the insurance policy and there is a clause they wont cover computer/ camera gear lost in the cargo hold of transport. I’m not sure if they will cover this at all.

I’ve contacted the Bus company for their loss of content policies and havent heard anything yet nor do I suppose I will. I will battle with the insurance company. I have spent my time trying to replace items, such as the phone and computer power cords. It’s all been a big pain in the arse really.

I would suggest people do not use the VEA bus company should they travel from or to Disneyland Paris or the airport. The company was, in my opinion, incompetent in addressing this issue. I lost the case on Saturday. I wasn’t informed that they could not find it until Wednesday. I remain waiting for response to my request for clarification of their missing items policy.

Ah well, not to worry. Things are replaced and no one was hurt. I am just over it. One more in a long round of being shafted. Oh well. Tomorrow the Doctor Who Exhibition which will be far more jolly.

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The park must base much of its economy on disposable items. The type of item that, when you buy it in the midst of the fun of Disneyland looks fantastic, when you get it home you think what were you thinking. For example, a Minnie Mouse ear headpiece cost ten euro and 50 per cent of the females in the park had bought one. While that’s charming when you are three, when you’re thirty the chances of wearing it to a social occasion outside of the park are pretty limited.

Balloons also have built-in obsolescence. The number of balloons that go drifting off to the heavens can’t be that much of a coincidence.

The attention to detail in the theming of this park is incredible. The cast members’ costumes, for example, are simply beautiful in some instances. (Phantom manor, Space Mountain 2) Quite honestly I’d love some of their clothes. Plus the design is clearly European, i.e. think warm.  Think very warm.

Equally the theming in the areas is impressive and unique to Disneyland Paris. Tomorrow land is completely inspired by Jules Verne; Fantasyland is influenced by olde European fairy tales.  Both look beautiful. Adventureland is less impressive though it amuses me to see people take pictures of the polystyrene mesas.

That is true of Disneyland, the other park here; Disneyland Movie studios is unbelievable in it’s completely rubbish theming. Think artificial backdrops, loads of “shows” rather than rides, dreary eating areas, the different areas merging into one without any unique identity (e.g. a Cars ride is opposite a finding Nemo ride is next to Toy Story Play land.)  When I take over Disneyland I am revamping this park completely.

While unbelievable attention is paid to the theming, the same cannot be said for the food services. Any food eateries in the park serve cold, reheated, expensive crap. It’s wonderful for the diet as you simply don’t eat however this is something I again am changing when I rule this place.  How each eateries works is you place an order in front of the food preparation area, are then given a receipt which you hand to the dull-witted but exquisitely tailored cast member who then grabs the been siting there for ten minutes food products and places them on a tray for you. While he wrestles with the complicated concepts of getting both a lemonade and coke zero from the dispenser, the food sits getting colder. By the time they achieve each drink item all the food is cold. So cold. That’s completely being revamped when I am king here.

Fascinatingly, a fun game to play is spot the country with the crowds. Italians are incredibly easy obviously due to their skin colouring; the French tend to be stylish in clothing and, ducks for cover, sort of pushy in lines. The British are tanned. Clearly not having learnt the terrors of the sun bed the British roam this place like tanned leather crocodiles. Some skin cancer doctor will be rolling in it in a few years.

I am a walking Chernobyl disaster. AS you know I have been sick all week, which has meant that while everyone has been dressing up in their winter warms against the alleged cold, I have been wandering around in a short sleeve shirt and wondering if they would mind if I took that off. It’s nice when people gravitate to you in lines as you warm them. A little girl told me, “Monsieur, you are so warm.” I’m not sure that is a good thing. Today when the sun came out I became freezing and had to wear my bitching jacket. People have been looking at me oddly all week. Then welcome to my life.

I’m not sure how it developed but you could drop me in the middle of any Disneyland and I could tell you the quickest, easiest access to any ride you mentioned.  I realized this today as I cut off ten minutes walking to the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride (still closed and the only ride my parents haven’t done this week. They are having conniptions.)  I am not sure this is a translatable skill though. Most Cast members only get paid crap wages and I can’t imagine anyone else paying me for such information.  Sadly this unique sense of navigational acumen does not translate into real life. If you stuck me on a street and spun me once   I would have no idea where I was.  Normally I have the directional sense of a lemming.

My mother’s favourite ride has been the Buzz Lightyear ride. Essentially you are given a laser and have to hit targets and score points. My mother then buys photos of her or Dad or me shooting at targets as the Buzz Lightyear game is, in fact, a massive money spinner. Particularly when my mum is here.  I have been made into a cup as a result of Buzz Lightyear ride.

My Dad’s favourite ride is Space Mountain 2 which is a roller coaster in a darkened environment with asteroids spinning around you, etc. My father has been on it 6 times. He has not had his eyes open once. He asked me “Did we go upside down?”  Bless him.  It is my desire to get a mug of my dad on Space Mountain 2 WITH his eyes open before we leave tomorrow.

Thank you for all the wonderful comments re the post Duets yesterday.  That it touched everyone so well was indeed a wonderful surprise. Thank you.

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Duets

Perhaps it’s because I am still full of lurgy and feeling sorry for myself that my defences are down but I am misting up all the time here. I would never have thought this park would kill me so much on daily basis but each day I have witnessed something incredible that has had me reaching for the tissues.

It’s probably that everyone’s defences are down and people are prepared to have a wonderful time no matter how foolish they may look. Thus it is nothing to see mothers wearing Minnie Mouse ears, fathers wearing Stitch hats or Goofy cowboy hats; all the while looking like fools while their children love them for it.  The amount of unbridled joy and love you witness between child and parent while waiting  in line for a ride is unparalleled. No matter how big a cynical corporation Disney is, that it can generate that response in people is pure magic.

However two moments captured me completely this week.

The first involved an intellectually disabled boy in his wheelchair, coke bottle glasses and spastic contortions, meeting his hero, Mulan. The cast member playing Mulan, an utterly captivating Asian woman, sat down next to the boy and held his hand.  He shook happily at her touch. Even without talking you could tell he was captivated by her.  She held his hand and spoke gently to him:

“You know my name, don’t you? It is Mulan.” The boy nods despite his constrictions. “Do you know my friend, Mushu? He is a red dragon who blows fire in his breath. He is magical.”  The boy knows Mushu too. He is smiling so wide, his face looks so happy. The boy starts to drool slightly from the corner of his mouth and without hesitation, the cast member uses his cloth and wipes his mouth, all the while smiling and speaking to him.  The boy is shaking with delight.

The cast member speaks softly now and grasps the boy’s hand tighter.

“Did you know you are magical too?”

His parents begin to cry.

I leave. Something in my eye.

Today I was lining up to see Buzz Lightyear. My niece is infatuated with Toy Story and I get uncle points for having pictures taken with celebrity cartoons, no matter how stupid I look doing so.  To have your picture taken with Buzz you line up like a lemming and wait patiently if you are a 45-year-old man, less so if you are a three-year old boy.

I am next in line when the procession of people and photographs stop.  A girl in a wheelchair is driven to the front of the queue.  No one minds. She is physically handicapped, slightly less contorted than the previous boy but nevertheless significantly impaired. She is able to say Buzz, but that seems to be her only word.

Buzz walks up to her in her wheelchair and takes both her hands. She stands up and, with his support, walks towards the photo area.  She is beaming with accomplishment.

He stops and kisses her on her hand. She is totally smitten, as is her audience.

Then Buzz lifts her up, pulls an arm wide and waltzes with her. Around and around. She is squealing with delight.  When he finishes their dance, she hugs him so, so tight. He returns to her wheelchair and, as she sits, he bows towards her.  He kisses her on the hand one last time. Her parents wheel her away, tearing up, as she laughs and laughs.

Buzz Lightyear took a well deserved break after that visit. Something in his eye. And mine. Again. Damn this place.

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My parents are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. My Father is celebrating his 70th birthday.  This makes my Dad 19 when he got married and 20 when he had Andrew, which is astoundingly baby like.  Their request to celebrate two momentous milestones is to come here, to a Disneyland and stay in the Disneyland Hotel. (If I am truly honest, if I were to reach 70 and/ or 50 years – unlikely unless I meet someone today and live till 95 – I would ask for something else for a present. But that’s me and it’s not my moment.)  So here we are in Disneyland Paris for the week and the parents are in heaven.

I let them be yesterday as I was feeling wretched and they skeedaddled off, systematically riding every ride in every land.  Shopping till they dropped. My nieces have that many Princess dresses and accessories now that we are going to have to make a separate post as we are way over luggage. Every niche of this park has been explored by them. They are exhausted.

What impresses me about my parents is there is no ride they will not attempt. Space Mountain 2, which is awesome and has two inversions, Indiana Jones, runaway mining cart roller coaster with one inversion, Big Thunder Mountain, which you need to come here and try if you’ve only done the lame California one. Nothing is missed. Which is very impressive for a 71 and 70-year-old.  Slap on the heart patches and away we go.

They may keep their eyes closed while riding but, hey, at least they’re there.  The tourist photos the rides take and then try to sell you are hysterical. Each time they are there, eyes tightly shut. If it weren’t for the fact that the photos are so expensive we could have a record of every ride ridden, eyes wide shut. Ahhhhh, memories….

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Those Wacky French

Yesterday was what we refer to in the mental health business as A Bugger, thank you very much full moon.  So I am blaming that for the incredible Nigel moment that I had.

As explained yesterday I am attempting …. attempting being the operative word… to get my parents from Zürich to Marne-la-Vallee Chessy (amongst other tasks but this took forever).  On paper the train from Zürich arrives at  Gare De l’Est  and to get the train to Marne-la-Vallee Chessy one needs to get to the Les Halles Station  (trust me, you do) and carry on to Disneyland Paris on the A4 line.

This is indeed lovely but, for the life of me, I could not work out how you got from Gare De l’Est to Les Halles. In fact, on paper, Gare De l’Est existed in a twilight zone part of Paris that wasnt connected to anything, despite it having a heavy internet presence and being one of THE major connection points in France.

I spent HOURS (accumatively between calls) trying to work out how this existed in relation to a station that on paper looked as though you could skip there. Take a look and you do better. A clue: it’s right next to Gare du Nord.

Not there is it.

Nope. Somehow my parents were arriving at  a train station that Paris refused to acknowledge existed let alone connect them to something they could go and see Mickey Mouse on. I scoured the internet for AGES. AGES and AGES. And then the stunningly simple penny dropped.

There are two maps for two services.

It is no wonder everyone hates the French.*

*I don’t really. It is true what they say about French lovers.

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Not sure when this will be published. Apologies for missing yesterday but it was crazy busy with getting to Heathrow and getting back from Paris on the Chunnel. In the ridiculous way of the traveller I have been in four countries in the past 24 hours. I am completely manky with sweat as American airlines now only allow one item of luggage per flight (so I elected to take the laptop and sacrificed the hand luggage which had the gear for a shower.)

I am writing this in Toronto Airport on word 10 with the view of transferring it when I get wifi connection.  Got up super duper early at 0530 which was really 430 as the clocks went forward this morning. Had a nice trip on Air Canada next to an irish teacher who likes his drink and other things. Arrived in customs in Toronto and the guard was itching to strip search me. The questions you are asked and the sneer with which every answer you gave was received made it so special to arrive in the country. Honestly do they train Border Security to be so rude. I talked to the Irish guy after we got through customs and he had received the same treatment.

We were fingerprinted (more eye rolling), picture taken (eye rolling and tutted), stood on an inexplicable mat for no apparent reason, had our hands and bags and laptops swabbed, shoes removed. Thank god they didn’t make me take my belt off like they did in Heathrow as these trousers are ridiculously too large for me and I almost mooned  Customs. It was however the only thing they didn’t ask of me. It was a ridiculously humiliating experience. I am all for border security and want to fly safely but do they have to be so mean spirited with it? As the Irish Guy said, “You are called Sir twenty times and it is meant zero.”

We discussed our experiences over a $11 pint of beer!!!! $11!!!!!!!!!! Even the alcoholic Irishman thought that was crappy and bought duty free wine and drank that. Ah, you crazy Irish.

Anyways I am off to Charlotte and then Murrylund ( the pronounciation of Maryland evidently and you’ve got to deepen your voice when you say it) and back to Charlotte for the rest of the week.

The pilots who are transporting us to Charlotte are discussing what has happened on The Young and the Restless. I am not filled with confidence.

My English Readers… Ie Rachel. Can you let the fam know the mobile isn’t working here. Thanks!

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Relations in the United Nations that is the populace of this theme park broke down a few times over the last few days, in much the same way as the real United Nations. The most spectacular was a very large Frenchman and a very large Englishman come to blows outside of the Skitch ride. Much macho posturing, fists were raised and it all got really ugly in front of the kiddiewinks. All of this was due to the French family pushing in front of the English family. Annoying, it is agreed, however pullease…. Examples to the children please.

As you know I am here for the rides. Best ride bar none was the Space Mountain ride here. It is themed ala Jules Verne and includes a 0 to 60 mph launch tube which goes up through the giant Jules Verne telescope. Good fun and you get off genuinely dizzy. One of the best things was watching the punters stagger off the ride.

This may be boring if you’ve never gone to a Disney theme park but the rides here have largely improved upon their American cousins and, as such, are well worth a look if you’re into that sort of thing.  Most rides are more gutsy and genuinely exciting, even the more gentle rides like Peter Pan and Snow White. (Bet none of you knew I was a theme park geek, did you?)

It is incredibly crowded. Nicola, this would be your idea of hell and, on occasions, was mine as well.

While I may be cynical towards the Disney Empire, it’s not often you see parents spontaneously engage with their children and act like complete fools. You see parents dance with their children here, sing songs to them, generally act like big children themselves. The children loved it, of course.  Obviously I could be completely mistaken and parents do this all the time with their children however I do not think so. And, certainly not so publicly.

It is ridiculously overpriced here. Even for Disney, they are taking the mickey. Heh, pardon the pun. A delightful Irish 11 year old very nicely let me know that the drink I was quaffing in the bar would have cost a good 3 pound less in Irish pubs. God love him. And nothing like perpetuating the stereotype of Irish people…. How does an 11 year old know bar prices?

Most of the rides are indoor, unlike their Californian cousins. This is because it snows here, though sadly, not while I was here. Today however was a bracing + day and I wore a second layer for the first time since coming to Europe.

It is exhausting here. I am sure a pedometer worn from day to end would indicate a half marathon.

Went to a ghastly tourist exhibition this evening. A Mickey Mouse Buffalo Bill rodeo “spectacular”.  Evidently the West Was Won when Mickey helped the French discover Champagne…. or something. I had stuck cotton wool in my ears to stop my brains seeping out.

I’m back in England tomorrow and off to the States a day later. Normal services will be resumed for a day. Then Who knows!

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Duet

Really quick update today as there are multiple balls being juggled at the moment.

It’s the end of a really long day traipsing the parks. I’m tired and my feet are screaming at me. We sit down at the bus stop waiting for the bus that will transport all the weary people back to their hotels.

Next to me is an older lady, mid 40s, peroxided hair looking extremely weary. Her daughter is with her wearing a Cinderella outfit that she has bought in the park. The daughter looks extremely pretty and I catch the mother’s eye as I smile at the daughter in her outfit. The daughter and mother are French and I do not understand their conversation.

We sit and wait and wait. The daughter gets close to her mother and her mother gives her a gentle hug. Then the mother starts singing, very quietly, so quietly only her daughter and I could hear it. She sings Someday My Prince Will Come from Disney’s SnowWhite and she sings it PERFECTLY. Completely stunning. It really was the most beautiful voice.

And the daughter is looking at her mother as she is singing to her and there is such an expression of love on her face that the mother starts to cry. Singing this song with tears down her face. As her daughter looks at her perfectly.  And I start to tear up, as I am tearing up writing this.

The mother finishes singing and realises I witnessed this beautiful moment  and we both smile at each other with tears in our eyes.

I have not described this at all well. Certainly not to convey the sheer perfection of the emotion between the mother and child. My apologies. It’s probably one of those had to be there situations.

Life is full of small beautiful moments.

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After an interesting journey in the chunnel ( note to potential travellers…. The Eurostar train trip is ok and at two hours long way quicker than previous options of travelling to the continent however,  all in all, it’s kind of boring. Do it so you can say you’ve done it but otherwise go for the cheaper flight options that now exist in the UK. If you can find a long tunnel and make your ears pop you’ve done the chunnel) we have arrived in the French house of the rat.

This one is going to be stream of consciousness stuff and all over the place tonight because I am a bit tired. The reason I am tired is because I went to Kensington Gardens this morning to have a look see at the Princess Diana Memorial Garden which is themed like Neverland. ( Just in case you were wondering, I nothing Princess Diana. People either loathe her or love her.  I am not bothered.  I was interested in the theming of the park. )So moi and the joggers were up at six to see the sun come up over London.  Kensington Gardens ( not Hyde Park as I erroneously identified it yesterday – I could go back and correct it but let’s face it, by now you’ve realised I directionally challenged) is right opposite the hotel.  Getting to the Memorial Garden is easy as pie. Getting in was harder as it didn’t open till ten. AND you needed a child to get in as there were signs everywhere stating adults couldn’t enter the gardens without a child. I left Kensington Gardens pleased that Princess Diana’s memory was being kept alive by encouraging people to abduct children so they could get in to see her poxy garden.

I am in two minds about Disney. It’s a corporate giant and as such it does it jobs brilliantly well. The ride to the park and access to the hotel could not have been easier. Disney is a well-oiled machine. However, having known some Disney Cast Members (staff for those not in the know)and knowing they  are treated like crap, you can’t help but wonder  what cost  is paid to oil the machine.  I have not heard any positive stories from the staff that makes me want to give up the glamorous life of mental health nursing and put on a Mickey Mouse suit. And the reality is that Disneyland is essentially a giant Supermarket. It may have rides and parades to amuse it’s customers but you’re here to buy and you buy up big, whether  its food, clothing or tourist rubbish that will be junked as soon as you get home.  (It amazed me how much cheap plastic junk the kids had today, all specifically designed to break after five seconds. I dread to think how much was paid for that. I was also amazed at how many people were willing to wear silly Disney hats while they got into the spirit as it were. Minnie mouse ears are the headpiece de jour.)  Hence, the title of the blog.

On the other hand I love theme parks. There is something about going on roller coasters and other rides that thrills the socks off me.  Plus all that people watching! I was in heaven. Let me assure you that Disney has failed to meet its marketing by not issuing Mickey Mouse stasers for some of the little darlings. A little sweetheart on the chunnel with a lightning bolt shaved into his hair was affectionately nicknamed 24601 by myself in honour of his future employment status. I marvelled at his antics as he kicked and hit all of the people around him. Mickey staser = fixed. 😉

Some random thoughts:

Rides break down a lot here. I got stuck on the haunted Mansion about seven times before the ride completed. Mercifully the It’s a Small World ride died as we approached it. There is a God.

I completely marvelled at the amount of people and different nationalities present in the park today. It was like the United Nations. Everyone, largely, was happy and working together despite often not understanding each other. It was quite inspiring really.

It is fascinating to watch the parenting of the different nationalities. Tragically the children most in need of Disney Stasers were the British kids thus far. However the most scary parents were the French, whose parenting techniques appear to involve eye poking.

And the most terrifying thing I have seen today was an older Gentleman in the bar of the hotel  French kissing his ten-year old son! Fortunately, because yes I did have to investigate this, it turned out it was his wife with a very small head. It was beyond disturbing.

So were here for a few more days. I am writing this on word because Wifi is proving to be elusive but hopefully I can sort it out tonight. If not there’s going to be a huge Saturday update.

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