A precious eleven days

Friday, March 14, 2008

On August 31, 2005, my son and I stepped through the gates of Disneyland Paris. We rushed right to the castle, to complete our collection: We now had pictures of him in front of every Magic Kingdom castle in the world!

At least, every castle that was open to the public. Because eleven days later, Hong Kong Disneyland opened, and our collection was immediately incomplete. But boy, did we enjoy those precious eleven days, gloating to ourselves. We knew we had to pack a lot of gloating into a short time.

How did this come to pass? Well, it’s kind of strange. It’s not like I set out methodically to visit every Magic Kingdom on earth, though I’d like to say I’m that organized and dedicated. I will confess that now that there’s only one missing, it feels more like a dare . . . Hong Kong Disneyland beckons to me like a forbidden lover, but with a Comic Book Guy twist: Come to me and collect the whole set! Best. Collection. Ever! (And hey, why not stop off in Tokyo on the way, since you missed DisneySea last time?)

Orlando was an easy score. We made a family trip there in 2000, and several mother-and-son trips in the years since. Standard enough fare for an east coast American family.

Tokyo happened almost by accident, in 2002. I’d managed to convince my extended family (kid, spouse, and grandparents) to spend two weeks vacationing in Japan, because I wanted to visit a theme park there which I’d only seen in videos. You’re thinking Tokyo Disneyland, right? No, it was actually Sanrio Puroland, the Hello Kitty theme park in Tama City, and we did in fact have a fabulous day there. At the end of the trip, we spent a day at Tokyo Disneyland, and I was smitten. Tokyo Disneyland is a beautiful park, with some particularly excellent attractions (their Pooh’s Honey Hunt is far superior to its US counterparts), and customer service that I dare say exceeds even the standards at Walt Disney World. Hubba.

Anaheim was the next year, and as easy a score as Orlando. I grew up in California, so Anaheim’s a sentimental favorite.

And then finally we made it to Paris, in many ways the prettiest of the Disneylands. Again, it was an international vacation with the extended family, but this time my son and I snuck away for a full two days, including a night at the Hotel Cheyenne. My parents thought I was a bit daft, and I can’t blame them . . . I was shelling out quite a few Euros to stay in a hotel that hoped to mimic the US old west, while I could be strolling down the Champs Elysee.  But by now, I had the Disneyphile fever bad. Before we left, I’d researched a place to leave our luggage for the morning, reserved our Good Morning Fantasyland Breakfast before park opening on our second day, checked and re-checked directions for getting there on the Metro from Paris (it’s about a 45-minute trip from the center of town).

Our bragging rights may have expired quickly, but we still enjoy thinking back on those eleven days. And who knows, maybe we’ll get to Hong Kong Disneyland a couple weeks before they open a park in Shanghai!