Countdown to Disney: 45 Days


20953500_10106693311536829_1695517932177272958_n.jpgMy Disney obsession is no secret. I first visited with my parents and brother in 2001, and thought I don’t remember much of the trip—to those who know me well, it’s also no secret that I have the worst memory in the world—I know I had a good time. Todd and I visited together early in our relationship, then again in 2012 when he proposed. And on our recent trip to California with my parents, we visited Disneyland for the first time (right). But every time we’ve gone to that magical place, it’s been warm and sunny—until now. This year we’ll be in Disney World for New Year’s Eve, so that we get to experience all of the holiday decor plus a special celebration to welcome 2018.

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Impressions of Disneyland Paris: Part 2


Since returning from my honeymoon with Todd, I’ve been busy baking and cooking and running 10 miles at a time and enjoying weekends without having to worry about wedding planning. Unfortunately I’ve also fallen a bit behind on blogging. But I am going to try to rectify that, starting with this second installment on our impressions of Disneyland Paris, which will cover our experience at Parc Disneyland. (For our thoughts on Sequoia Lodge, Disney Village, and Walt Disney Studios, check out part 1.)

We spent two full days in Disneyland Paris, and we devoted our entire second day to Parc Disneyland, the larger of the two parks. It resembles Magic Kingdom in layout (hub-and-spoke design) and lands. There are some differences: Tomorrowland has been recast as Discoveryland and has a really cool retro-futuristic steampunk style. Haunted Mansion is Phantom Manor, with a slightly different storyline (as far as I can tell, since it was all in in French). Some of the rides are more intense: I expected a nice calm trip on Space Mountain but ended up screaming my head off as we went around corkscrews and loops. And instead of Cinderella’s Castle, there’s Sleeping Beauty Castle—which features an awesome dragon that moves and blows plumes of smoke at visitors.


Beware: A dragon’s lair lies beneath Sleepy Beauty Castle!


One of my favorite aspects of Parc Disneyland is the theming. Each of the buildings and ride queues have so many intricate details that I could spend hours just exploring the park without even venturing on any attractions. It really feels like you’ve stepped into different worlds as you enter each of the lands. I especially loved the theming for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction: You progress through dark caverns until you get to the loading dock for the boats, and the ride starts by passing alongside the Blue Lagoon Restaurant as if it’s part of the town where the ride’s scenes take place. Another favorite was Discoveryland; the steampunk theme didn’t feel outdated, and new surprises waited around every corner, even along back pathways that didn’t lead to any major rides.


It’s no secret that Todd and I are extremely passionate about food: We love to cook it, bake it, eat it, review it. So it was really disappointing to discover that the food at Parc Disneyland just isn’t up to par with the delicious offerings at Walt Disney World—in fact, it doesn’t even come close. We could barely drink the coffee, which tasted like buttery sludge; the quick service spots had only one to three options (and mostly the same options at each spot); and even the ice cream was pretty underwhelming.

But it wasn’t all bad. We did enjoy our meal at Blue Lagoon. Todd started with a fish soup accompanied by curry bread. The soup wasn’t too fishy and had a nice, thick consistency, and the curry bread made for an interesting flavor combination. I chose a salad as an appetizer, which came with pineapple, kidney beans, tomato, and avocado, with a mango dressing. All of the ingredients were really fresh! For his main meal, Todd got shrimp-filled ravioli that had a pleasant taste and were quite large and filling. My main meal featured grilled shrimp with fruit and veggie salsa and toasty rice. The shrimp here, as in all of the places we visited in Europe, still had the heads and tails attached, which kind of creeped me out. The salsa was really tasty but I wished there were more of it, and the rice didn’t really have any standout qualities but was good enough. For dessert we ordered banana, coffee, and chocolate cake that was super soft and really rich; we both enjoyed it a lot. Here are a few pics from our meal:

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Nighttime Show

The very best part of our stay at Disneyland Paris was the nighttime show, Disney Dreams! It features projection mapping on Sleeping Beauty Castle that makes it look like the castle is changing color and even growing or shrinking in size. Characters flit across the castle, too, and scenes from popular films. There are also water effects (so colorful!) and fireworks (so shimmery!), and all of these come together to create a truly magical experience. The audience sang along to some popular songs (of course, “Let It Go” was one of them) and many people in the front of the audience remained seated for the show in order to give everyone a good view. It was a great ending to a great trip in Disneyland Paris.


Now imagine this 10x better than my picture.


Impressions of Disneyland Paris: Part 1


The first stop on our honeymoon was Disneyland Paris, Europe’s answer to Disneyland and Disney World. There are two parks: Parc Disneyland, which is like the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland Paris (it’s laid out almost identically, with a main street and a castle hub that branches out in spokes), and Walt Disney Studios, which is more like Hollywood Studios but even smaller and less themed. Here are some photos and thoughts to convey our initial impressions of Disneyland Paris (hotels, Disney village, and Walt Disney Studios), with more to come in additional posts.

We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge, which is located about a ten-minute walk from the parks and a five-minute walk from Disney Village. We lucked out with a quiet corner room and a private balcony. The rooms were comfortable and relatively clean, though the balcony could have used a dusting for spider webs. The beds and pillows were standard, but we were so exhausted by the end of each day that they felt like heaven.

Breakfast was included at the hotel, though it wasn’t anything to write home about, mostly croissants and some meats and cheeses. There was yogurt and cereal for us light eaters, and the guava juice was really tasty. A big bonus of Sequoia Lodge? The hotel pool, which I forgot to snap a photo of. There’s a slide going into the pool, which is both indoor and outdoor, connected by a little opening that guests can swim under (or they can walk around, like I did, if they don’t trust their swimming abilities or don’t want to get their hair wet). The pool area also featured a hot tub, a sauna, and a gym.


Disney Village
Think Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), but much smaller. There were a few shops selling toys, clothes, and art pieces, as well as a few food options. One note about the food both in Disney Village and in the parks: It was all very average. I think Todd and I have been spoiled by the exceptional quality of the food in Disney World. But everything looked super cute and we enjoyed browsing the shops. We even got to ride on the “hot air balloon,” and got great views of the parks and resort.

Walt Disney Studios
On our first day we visited the smaller of the two parks, Walt Disney Studios. We felt that it could be done in a day if you want to do everything, or a half-day if you are going to be selective about the rides you choose. We skipped Tower of Terror because neither of us were feeling 100%, but we did try out Rock-n-Roller Coaster and the Crush Coaster, both of which were more intense than we had expected. The Crush Coaster starts out with cute theming and a little story, and morphs into crazy loops and turns! Of course we also went on the trackless Rémy ride, which was so awesome. You go into a little “rat mobile” and wear 3D glasses, and really feel like you’re a rat being chased through the restaurant and kitchen! We then ate in Bistrot Chez Rémy  (so good!), but I’ll post a separate food review another day, probably when I’m back home. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the shows, but we heard that they’re really enjoyable.

Finally, Part 2 is up! Check it out!

My First Time at Cirque Du Soleil


I only have vague memories of visiting the circus as a child, and I’m not sure if those are real or imagined. I’ve longed to watch a circus show for some time now, so when planning this Disney World vacation, Todd and I decided to purchase tickets to Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba. The largest theatrical producer in the world, Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian entertainment company that combines global circus styles and continual live music to create jaw-dropping performances. La Nouba is the company’s show in residence at Disney World, running 90 minutes without an intermission in a custom-built theater since 1998. The ticket hints at the show’s grace and eccentricity, and the seat plan below demonstrates the layout of the theater. We sat in section 103, Row D; I think any seat would have offered a good view, but we did have to crane our necks a little bit for the aerial performances.

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Restaurant Review: The Wave … of American Flavors, at Disney’s Contemporary Review


I didn’t plan on posting up a restaurant review quite so soon after my recent post raving about Artist Point, but only two days later I discovered what might actually be my favorite restaurant at Disney World: The Wave … of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while know that I’m all about fresh, natural food with as little processing as possible–and that’s what The Wave is all about too. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced and organic, and most entrees come with a bounty of delicious veggies that excellently complement the dish. I’m not a picky eater, but I am also not afraid to speak my mind if there’s something I don’t like, and I have to say that I had not one complaint about this meal (except for the fact that I can never get used to the taste of Florida tap water)!

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Jogging and Exploring at Walt Disney World’s Art of Animation Resort


Todd and I have been having a great couple of days at Disney World so far, even though we haven’t actually gone to any of the theme parks yet. On our first day, we had a really fresh dinner at Artist’s Point, and yesterday we spent some time strolling along the boardwalk, renting surrey bikes, and playing miniature golf. We also ate a couple of snacks, including a delicious (but slightly overwhelming in the Florida heat) peanut butter, bacon, and banana brownie bar.

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Restaurant Review: Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge


To celebrate our very first day in Disney World (the countdown is finally over!), Todd and I decided to splurge on dinner at Artist Point, a signature dining experience at the Wilderness Lodge Resort. After taking some time to explore the comfortable nooks and soaring totem poles of the lodge, we entered the restaurant with excitement and empty stomachs.  Continue reading