Europe 2013 Trip Report Depository

This post is just a collection of all the parts of my Europe 2013 Trip Report.  If you’ve already read it, thank you; and if you’re new then welcome.



Part 1 – Beginnings

Part 2 – I’ll have a full English

Part 3 – The Bells of St. Paul’s

Part 4 – Finally some rain in London

Part 5 – A Magical End to Our Time in London


Part 6 – Wow, That’s Pretty Big

Part 7 – The View From the Hill

Part 8 – They Take Their Shopping Serious Here

Part 9 – Moms and I On Our Own

Part 10 – Where I Geek Out About French Cars

Part 11 – The Mustard Store

Disneyland Paris Resort

Part 12 – What Did I Get Myself Into

Part 13 – A 5 Minute Wait!?!

Part 14 – Disneyland Paris Gets Unique

Part 15 – A Disney Dream


Part 16 – I’ve Never Been So Scared


Part 17 – Bellissima Venezia

Part 18 – A Peaceful Walk Through the Streets of Venice


Part 19 – I Guess Tossing A Coin In the Trevi Fountain Works

Part 20 – Beneath The Vatican

Part 21 – Food So Nice We Had To Eat There Twice

Part 22 – Pain, An Accident, & Arrivederci


Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 15 – A Disney Dream

Get caught up with part 14 here.

We returned to our hotel later than we had originally planned.  When we got back Jules had just finished her load of laundry which worried us since we’d be doing ours when we got back from the parks later.  The break ended up being really short because we wanted to get back in time to catch Disney Dreams! their nighttime spectacular at Disneyland Paris.  I changed out memory cards and we were on our way.  Most of us.  Cuz was too tired to go back and didn’t want to go back since we had to be up early to catch our train to Milan the next day.  So just the four of us went back. DSC09876_HDR.jpg Europe 2013 - 279 - DSC09889_HDR Europe 2013 - 280 - DSC09892 DSC09895_HDR.jpg Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant

Moms, Nina, & Uncle D grabbed a bite to eat at Market House Deli while we waited for the show to start.  I wasn’t hungry, but I should’ve got something anyways.  I explored Main Street as they were chowing down.  It started sprinkling right before the show started, but luckily I had my rain sleeve for the camera and it stayed a light sprinkle.

Europe 2013 - 283 - DSC09904 – one of the arcades that run along the back sides of the Main Street shops.  Each arcade is themed differently and you can access the stores from these.

Disney Dreams! uses fireworks, mist screens, lasers, music, and castle projections; so it’s basically a hodge-podge of Disney’s other nighttime show ideas.  In a word, fantastic.  I’m pretty sure it’s Disney’s newest nighttime show and it feels like a culmination of their best ideas.  I didn’t take too many photos and instead I just stood and enjoyed the experience.  The parks were empty during our visit and one of the nice things was during the show people didn’t crowd.  I had room to put my arms out and spin around without hitting people.  It was just such a different experience than I’m used to in those kind of situations.

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 – here’s a short video of the Tangled section (there are much better videos of the entire show on YouTube that are worth checking out)

After the show, the others left to get started on laundry.  The park was closed so I stayed to get some photos. Europe 2013 - 289 - DSC09941 – the closest I got to Discoveryland today DSC09946_HDR.jpg Europe 2013 - 291 - DSC09949 Europe 2013 - 292 - DSC09955 DSC09957.jpg Europe 2013 - 294 - DSC09960 Europe 2013 - 295 - DSC09961 Europe 2013 - 296 - DSC09962 Europe 2013 - 297 - DSC09964 Europe 2013 - 298 - DSC09965 Europe 2013 - 299 - DSC09972 DSC09973.jpg – I love how the rain added that extra dimension to my photos

Europe 2013 - 301 - DSC09977Europe 2013 - 302 - DSC09978 – attraction posters

I quickly checked out the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel before making my way to Disney Village to get my shopping done.

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By this time I was getting hungry and was looking for something to eat.  Everything I was seeing was sit-down, closed, or the lines were long.  I figured I’d get something in the little shopping area down the street from the hotel.  The RER stop at Val d’Europe has two entrances/exits.  One is next to our hotel, the other is a block away and leads to some shops.  We had been using the entrance near our hotel all day so far, but I knew there were shops at the other end so I went that way to see what was around.  I was just looking for something quick and nothing looked appealing to me.  Luckily, when Moms and them left the parks, they met Jules at Earl of Sandwich and got food for her and Cuz; and Moms still had half a sandwich left.  Which I scarfed down.   The washer and dryer at the hotel were just completely foreign to us.  Not the language, Jules had been using them all day and had that part figured out for the most part, but they were super slow.  We didn’t get finished and to bed until around 1 in the morning.  The good thing is the driver would be back to pick us up at 5:30, so we would be able to get plenty of sleep.

Paris is one of my favorite cities.  I could see myself living there.  It’s cliché, but it’s beautiful obviously.  More than that, for me it’s the vibe and the speed of the city.  The overall feel, but that’s almost impossible to quantify.  I know Paris has a reputation of rudeness.  I’m yet to experience that personally in my two visits there.  I could see how some of the interactions could be considered rude, but I feel it’s just less of the forced pleasantries we tend to use a lot here.  I like going into a store and after a simple greeting not being bothered while I shop though.

I didn’t see all of Disneyland Paris and my time there was short.  What I saw I loved.  I’m a Disney fan anyways, but I felt this park offered more unique takes on the same rides in comparison to the two US parks.  I hope to get back there and spend a couple days.  I didn’t notice any glaring issues, not was I looking.  I saw a beautiful theme park that apparently gets empty during certain times of the year.  Coming from Disneyland recently, that’s a huge plus.  Walt Disney Studios Park isn’t a place that requires a lot of time.  Crush’s Coaster is amazing and worth visiting both parks for; I enjoyed Cinemagique and would like to see Animagique, but since I’m not a thrill person I can leave Tower of Terror and Rock N’ Roller Coaster (which are both just clones anyways)  The new Ratatouille ride sounds great though and Moms has already mentioned having a timeshare in the area.

Continue with part 16 here

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 14 – Disneyland Paris Gets Unique

Read the previous part here.

After escaping the dragon, we made our way to Frontierland.  Our destination?  Phantom Manor.  That is Disneyland Paris’ version of the Haunted Mansion.  Spectacular.  It’s a different take on the Haunted Mansion formula of the US parks.  It didn’t seem as light-hearted and was a little darker in tone.  I could see it freaking out little kids more so than the US versions.  I loved it though and I wish I could’ve rode it some more.
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DSC09797-Edit.jpg – Phantom Manor
Europe 2013 - 261 - DSC08155-2 – Big Thunder from the Phantom Manor queue
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After our visit in the Manor, Cuz, Uncle D, & I rode Big Thunder Mountain while Moms and Nina sat it out.  Big Thunder Mountain (they dropped the Railroad part of the name in Paris & Tokyo) sits on an island and the ride goes through tunnels to get you there and back.  It didn’t feel like it whipped around as much as I’m used to with more straights, but it ends with a high-speed blast through the darkened tunnel on it’s way back to the station which was a lot of fun.  Like Phantom Manor, it gives you a unique take on Big Thunder.  Another win in my opinion.

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After our ride we joined back up with the ladies and started to make our way to the Frontierland Railroad Station.  On our way we were distracted by a store.  It was a big store and we spent quite a bit of time there.  I’m still kicking myself for not buying the Phantom Manor print they were selling.  I guess I’ll just have to go back.  After lightening our wallets we boarded the Disneyland Railroad and rode one stop to Fantasyland.
Europe 2013 - 267 - DSC09825 – this area was next to the train station and was empty during our visit so I’m not sure what they normally have there, but they had fake snow at this time of year

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Our goal was to ride Pirates of the Caribbean before taking a quick break.  I don’t remember much about this version of Pirates unfortunately.  I remember the ordering of the scenes being different and this version doesn’t have the characters from the films in it.  In an effort to be more comfortable I had left my backpack in the room since I knew we’d be coming back for a break.  The bad thing is my memory card wallet was in there and I only had about 200 shots when we got to the parks that morning.  By this point I was down to single digits worth of photos left, but Moms came through and let me use here card as we exited the park.  We stopped in the Emporium on our way out and Moms bought a Goofy version of the Disneyland Paris Eiffel Tower statue that I showed in part 12.  Nina had bought the Mickey & Minnie statues at another store, and when Moms bought her Goofy one the lady grabbed a box for her.  Nina was standing next to her wondering why she didn’t get a box for the two she purchased.  They got her some boxes and we headed back to drop off our packages.
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Our Disneyland Paris fun ends with part 15

Next up, Disney Dreams!

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 13 – A 5 Minute Wait!?!

Read about the previous part (Walt Disney Studios Park) here

We made our way to Disneyland Paris and the approach to that park is great.  All you see is the Disneyland Hotel at first, you walk underneath that to give/buy your tickets.  Then you’re in a little open area with the hotel to your back and the Main Street Railroad Station in front of you.  You pass under that like the other Disney parks into Main Street.  The park was ready for Christmas and that initial impression with the Castle down the street did not disappoint.

DSC09704.jpg – Disneyland Hotel park entrance
Europe 2013 - 231 - DSC09712 – the classic sign with a French twist
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As a Disneyland regular, I know in my Disney World trip report I went on and on about Cinderella’s Castle.  I hate to sound like a broken record, but I have to do it again.  The Disneyland Paris version of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant) is spectacular.  If this Castle was in another park and not in Paris, it would be out of place.  It works so well in this park.
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We were on a mission to get some food.  Au Chalet de la Marionnette was our choice.  The map description mentioned roast chicken which sounded good to Moms, but she changed her mind by the time we got there and got a burger like the rest of us.  The meal included burger, fries, drink, and a Magnum ice cream bar for the price which was cool.  I don’t remember anything about the food being either particularly good or bad.  While we ordered Cuz went to get Fastpasses for him and Uncle D to ride their version of Space Mountain.  It includes a corkscrew, which does not interest me in the slightest.

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Europe 2013 - 243 - DSC09740 – I don’t know why a ghost was stamped on the bun.  We were there about a week after Halloween so that’s probably the culprit.

After lunch, it was time for Cuz & Uncle D’s voyage into space.  Moms, Nina, & I saw Peter Pan’s Flight, a favorite, across the way and decided to ride that.  I couldn’t believe the posted wait time though.  If you’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World and rode Peter Pan’s Flight, you know the ride is very popular and tends to have a perpetual 30+ minute wait.  This sign said the wait was only 5 minutes!  I thought it was a malfunction.  We were visiting on a Thursday in November and the parks were dead, but it was still a surprise.  The normal wait times tend to deter from riding Pan frequently, so I can’t say all the minor differences, but it had the same feel and was a very similar ride.  Their pirate ship ride vehicles though can seat 4 people.
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After our journey to Neverland we walked around Fantasyland a little and ended up in the castle when Cuz & Uncle D regrouped with us.  You can walk through a part of the castle and relive the Sleeping Beauty story through stained glass windows and tapestries.  You can also go outside and walk along some of the turrets.
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Europe 2013 - 247 - DSC09755 – I just love the styling of this castle
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Europe 2013 - 254 - DSC09780 – Space Mountain 2.0 in Discoveryland

There is another walk-through attraction in the Castle if you go underneath.  La Taniere du Dragon.  You walk through some caves and come into a cavern with an animatronic dragon.  I thought it was awesome.  It’s a very elaborate area you could easily miss, but just goes to show you Disney’s level of detail for their parks.
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Continue with part 14 here.

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 12 – What Did I Get Myself Into

You can read about the end of our Paris adventure here, with part 11

I will warn you the next couple parts focusing on Disneyland Paris will have more text than normal as I describe the parks in a lot more detail.

Our driver from ACS Transfer arrived a couple minutes early in a van big enough to fit all of us and our luggage.  It was a weekday but we didn’t really hit any traffic on our way out of town.  We arrived at our hotel, Residhome Val d’Europe, about 40 minutes later.  Our rooms were ready, so we went up to drop our stuff off.  The Residhome Val d’Europe calls it self an apparthotel and our rooms had a kitchen, living room, a bedroom, and a balcony with a view of Tower of Terror.  The bed dominated the bedroom and you had just enough room to walk around and with the couch opened up to a bed there wasn’t much room left in the living room either.  Jules isn’t the Disney fan the rest of us are, so she was planning on relaxing at the hotel and doing laundry.  She said she might join us in the afternoon though.  The rest of us planned to do our laundry when we got back from the parks.  Residhome Val d’Europe is one stop away from Disneyland Paris on the RER and there is an entrance to the train next to the hotel.  This entrance isn’t manned though and only has the automated ticket machines which I’ve used before to buy Paris Metro tickets.  The RER though uses a different type of ticket and I didn’t fully read what I was buying and our tickets didn’t work.  You put your ticket in the gate, the gates open and you go through and collect your ticket.  When you get to your stop you do the same thing to get out.  For some reason, I followed someone else through the gate and got stuck on the other side.  Eventually, they figured out what tickets we needed to purchase and joined me just as the train was coming in.
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The RER drops you off directly in front of the security gate for the resort.  Which is nice because the parks are close like Disneyland with Disney Village next door and you can go between the three without having to go back through security unlike at Disneyland.  They also have lines with x-ray machines you can set your bags on to make the process quicker.

There are two parks that make up the Disneyland Paris Resort.  Disneyland & Walt Disney Studios.  The Studios is considered to be a travesty and the only redeeming item there is Crush’s Coaster.  We decided we’d hit that up first since we heard lines for it can get quite long.
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Passing through the gates of Walt Disney Studios Park you first go through The Front Lot.  An enclosed building with lots of food and the main shop.  Cuz was already rushing through so we didn’t really spend much time here for now.
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We got to Crush’s Coaster and the ride was down.  Cuz and Uncle D went to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith since he was too small to ride it when they visited Disney World.  I’m not a big coaster guy, so I went with Moms and Nina to ride Flying Carpets Over Agrabah.

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Europe 2013 - 210 - DSC09596 – Flying Carpets Over Agrabah

Crush was still down so we went next door to Cars Race Rally; a kiddie ride that was not made for large people, I had to suck my gut in to get the seatbelt to close and I had to turn my legs sideways since my knees wouldn’t fit.  There’s not much to it, the cars spin around the big disc in the floor like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Disney’s California Adventure, but unlike Mater’s you don’t go from disc to disc.  Definitely one for the littlest kiddies, but they did a good job of getting a lot of Cars theming into the queue.  When we got off that, Crush was finally open, Nina texted Cuz to let them know.  I hopped in line figuring I’d join them for a second go round depending on when they got back.  Turns out they were already in line and we saw each other as they were getting on a ride vehicle.
Europe 2013 - 213 - DSC09606 – Cars Race Rally
Europe 2013 - 214 - DSC09609 – Cars Race Rally queue
Europe 2013 - 215 - DSC09610 – Cars Race Rally queue
Europe 2013 - 216 - DSC09612 – Cars Race Rally queue

The easiest way to describe Crush’s Coaster is that it’s a bit like Space Mountain.  The coaster is in the dark and there are lots of little lights all around.  The difference is your turtle shell spins around as it goes through.  It started off calmly and as it climbed the hill for the drop I was backwards and when we started going down I thought to myself “Oh crap, what did I get myself into?”  It was awesome though!  It felt faster and like it had steeper banked turns than the Disneyland Space Mountain.  Coupled with the vehicle spinning around slightly, makes for one of my favorite Disney rides.

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Europe 2013 - 217 - DSC09618 – Crush’s Coaster load area

After flying through the EAC, we went to Toy Story Playland.  This area is a clone of the same land at Hong Kong Disneyland.  The theming is kind of cool, but the rides aren’t that appealing.  There’s a parachute drop, a half-pipe coaster that has you going back and forth, and Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin which has you riding Slinky Dog as he chases his own tail in a circle.  We rode the Slinky Dog ride.  It was a big circle.
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It was just about time for Cinemagique to start so we decided to watch that.  This is a movie show starring Martin Short and Julie Delpy.  It goes through different periods of film history as the main characters try and connect and find love.  It’s in both French and English and is really easy to follow.  It’s a unique show and I enjoyed it, but I don’t think anybody else in the group really did.
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Europe 2013 - 224 - DSC09665 – Partners statue

By now we were done with this park and were excited to visit the main attraction next door.  We did some shopping in the Front Lot before we left though.
Europe 2013 - 225 - DSC09672 – Nina bought these
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Europe 2013 - 229 - DSC09702 – the entrance to Disneyland Paris

Jules was having trouble getting the washer/dryer at the hotel to work so she wouldn’t be joining us.

The trip report continues here.

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 10 – Where I Geek Out About French Cars

Go back to part 9 here.

With our group whole again we hopped back on the tour bus to continue seeing all those famous Parisian landmarks.

DSC09314 – crossing onto the Île de la Cité
DSC09318 – Nina & Uncle D still love each other after all these years
DSC09325 – the Musee D’Orsay

We got to the Champs-Elysee and the bus stopped right in front of a Mercedes-Benz store.  So while everyone else figured out where to go and what to do I walked in to look at cars.  I was browsing things I can’t afford and Uncle D & Cuz went to McDonald’s to get some food since only Moms & me had eaten at this point.  I walked over to the Peugeot showroom as the others were eating.  They sell Hot Wheels sized cars there of lots of their models.  I bought a few before joining the rest of the family.  Nina was on a mission to find the Chanel store since she had heard they sold small, cheap bottles of the perfume only at the Champs-Elysee store.  We made our way down the street occasionally stopping at stores.  I don’t remember which stores because I was too busy looking for more car stores to go to.  While everyone else was in the Disney Store I went over to the Renault showroom, which was full of crazy concept cars.  I bought a couple more cars before leaving and joining everyone at the Disney Store.  I stopped in one more car store – the Citroen Creative Session Center.  Of course I bought a few more cars here also.
DSC09339 – Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
DSC09355 – Arc de Triomphe
DSC09367 – this waiter asked me to take his picture
DSC09372 – Renault Twin’Run concept
DSC09381 – Renault concept car
DSC09388.jpg – Champs-Elysee Disney Store
DSC09393 – Champs-Elysee Disney Store

 – video of the above Mickey display
DSC09400 – inside the Citroen Creative Session
DS3 WRC – Sebastien Loeb’s 2012 DS3 WRC championship car

The Chanel store wasn’t actually on the Champs-Elysee, it was off a side street.  When we finally found it, but they didn’t sell the small bottles Nina was looking for.  So the myth that the Paris Chanel store sells $25 1-oz bottles of Chanel No. 5 is officially busted.  Moms and I went back to wait for the tour bus while the others took a cab to the Hard Rock to buy some shot glasses.

DSC09430.jpg – a fountain we found while waiting for the bus

We got back on the bus and made our way back to the Eiffel Tower stop to go back to the room to rest.
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DSC09484 – Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero

Our time in Paris was coming to an end, but there was still one thing I really wanted to do before we left.  I might just have to go alone to get it done.

Car haul from the shops on the Champs-Élysées #Peugeot #Renault #Citroën

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my final haul of cars bought at the Champs-Elysee showrooms

you know you want to continue on to part 11 here

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 9 – Moms and I On Our Own

Get caught up with part 8 here.

Moms still wasn’t feeling that great this morning.  The others wanted to visit Notre Dame when it opened.  We’ve been there and with Mom’s illness we decided we’d take it easy today and let the others go out on there own.  We had purchased two-day passes for the tour bus since it was a really good deal, but they ended up taking a taxi since they left before the buses started running.  Moms and I used our passes and started passing by the famous sights of Paris.  I’m not sure where we were planning on going that morning, but as we got to the Louvre, Moms informed me that we would be getting off here.

DSC09097-Edit.jpg – this little pathway on the side of the Eiffel Tower offers a different perspective and in the early morning it’s just you and the joggers
DSC09121 – Les Invalides (military museum and the tomb of Napoleon)
DSC09166 – La Madeleine

We weren’t planning on going here, but Moms loves this place (I’m pretty partial to it myself), so she just had to go in.  After I hastily gathered up all my belongings and made my way down from the top of the bus, we were in this magnificent space.  We took it in for a minute and then I spent the next few minutes taking pictures like crazy.  The line was starting to get more people (who had just finished their picture taking sessions also) so we got in line before it got too long.
DSC09184 – the entrance to the Jardin des Tuileries
Louvre pyramid
DSC07989 – Moms took this picture & I wish I could take credit for it

We bought our tickets and went straight to the Mona Lisa.  Just like everybody else.  We’ve already explored this area on our last trip so we didn’t spend much time here.  We made our way to the Venus de Milo, which we missed last time, and passed the spot where Winged Victory of Samothrace normally sits, but it was out for a major restoration.  (This was the first time Winged Victory had been moved since WWII, there is a great documentary on Netflix [yes, streaming also] about the effort to save art during WWII and you should watch it.)  The Louvre is just too massive to really explore on a vacation.  Last time we spent about 5 hours here and completely missed an entire wing of the building.  We hadn’t eaten breakfast so after seeing the Venus de Milo and the other Greek antiquities, we made our way to the cafeteria.
DSC09227 – you’ve got to work your way through this crowd to see the Mona Lisa
DSC09234 – another view of the Mona Lisa room
DSC09242 – The Coronation of Napoleon

The Louvre cafeteria has different sections that offer different foods, so we split up since we didn’t want the same things.  Moms had roasted chicken and I don’t know what else, while I had a beef empanada and an apple pie.  The Louvre cafeteria does a good job which is good since you can spend a lot of time in the museum and be too tired to try and find food when you finish.  After we ate, we browsed the gift shop and ran into some familiar faces.  That’s right, the rest of our family had made their way to the Louvre after visiting Notre Dame and they were finishing up here as well.
DSC09285 – beef empanada & apple pie
DSC09287 – Moms’ roasted chicken (she ate her sides before I got back to take a picture)

With our group complete again, we all hopped on the tour bus to take us to the Champs-Elysee

The adventure continues with part 10