For Youngest Daughter and Friend, Paris trips are still synonymous with a Disneyland excursion.
Last time we’d visited The Magic Kingdom, my brother in law was so upset by the very unmagical crowds (we managed two rides in six hours) that he was moved to officially complain.
This time, conscious of an astrologically troublesome confluence of French and English half term holidays, Himself and I suggested escorting the girls there, accompanying them on a couple of decent rides, and then getting the hell out by lunchtime and leaving them to enjoy the queues all by themselves.
We had a far, far better ride in mind: the local bus which shuttles around the satellite villages comprising Marne La Vallee administrative district: a little tract of suburban USA in the French countryside.
It was surprisingly easy to find the bus stop. The whole visitor-processing aspect of Disneyland tends to infantilise everyone stepping out of the RER station. From off the train, it appears there is but one path: that leading inexorably towards the parc and Cinderella’s castle. It’s an extraordinary revelation to discover the possibility of turning left and finding a whole series of local bus stops.
I could barely contain my excitement as we boarded. Himself was sceptical about the whole plan. He checked with the driver that the bus would indeed transport us to Val d’Europe shopping heaven by way of Magny-Le-Hongre, Bailly-Romanvilliers and Serris.
“Ben, ouay,” grunted the driver, and muttered there was a better, more direct route. Not a problem, we assured him. We wanted the scenic route.
As we trundled past a hitherto unknown set of newly built Disney hotels, we had a greater understanding of why the magic is fading from the kingdom. In the good old days, you could arrive at the park opening time and have five rides done and dusted in the first hour. Now, the hotel residents have first dip at the attractions for two hours before the day trippers are allowed in. So there’s already a backlog on the fast pass system before you’ve crashed the rope barrier at 10am.
But I digress. There were no queues in sight on the route of the Number 34. Indeed, there was no traffic in sight and not a pedestrian to be seen anywhere in the Hyperreal Hinterland.
We had a clear and completely unobscured view through the bus window of an interminable series of pocket handkerchief estates, picture perfect dwellings and a constructed, somewhat dystopian, urban utopia for the employees of Disneyland Paris.
It was as intriguing a 45 minutes of sightseeing and suburban exploration as any I have done anywhere. Regretfully I could not explore on foot: Himself had a greater goal in prospect, and if we were to sample the delights of possibly the nicest designer outlet village in Northern Europe, I was not to be allowed to escape my seat on the Number 34. Another day, methinks.