Last year, the girls and I made a pretty big decision together. 2014 would be our first Christmas as a family of three.
We knew it was going to be an emotive day and realised we had two options; go big or go home! So go big we did, choosing to spend Christmas Day in Disneyland, Paris.
As I clicked ‘confirm’ on our flights and hotel booking, I began to wonder if I had finally gone mad. No friends, no family, no home comforts, no Christmas morning traditions or piles of gifts; surely this was not going end well?!
This would be our second trip abroad with me as the only adult in charge, so I was still a little nervous about the huge responsibility. As it turns out, it was the best thing we’ve ever done!
I had added a few sneaky plans in there for the kids, including a dinner and Wild West show with Buffalo Bill and a luxury Christmas dinner on the 25th December in the New York hotels stunning ballroom, accompanied by Mickey and friends.
On the evening of 23rd December 2014, we exchanged gifts at home. With the mulled wine on tap, Christmas tree decorated within an inch of it’s life and snow on the ground, we began getting into the festive spirit.
By 3am on Christmas Eve, we were en route to Manchester Airport and ready for the adventure ahead. After a short flight, we navigated our way around Charles De Gaulle airport and hopped on to the pre-booked Disney bus to our hotel.
After an hour or so, we arrived at Disneys nautical-themed Newport Bay Club, our home for the next 4 days. We have stayed here before but arriving on Christmas Eve with that impeccable Disney decor was an experience to be remembered.
As we entered the lobby, the excitement kicked in. Surrounded by stunning Christmas trees and with carols ringing through the air, we checked in and got all of the information and paperwork we needed for the duration of our stay from the helpful staff at reception. After a quick shower, we did what anybody would do – headed straight to the parks!
Our hotel was only a 10 minute walk from the main attractions. The iconic Disney castle was soon in the distance and I think that we all turned into overexcited children for a split second. Megan had spotted Minnie Mouse and simply couldn’t contain herself! She ran over at rate of knots, leaving Lucie and I laughing and racing to catch up. I had bought the girls personalised autograph books before we left England so we were on a bit of a mission to meet as many characters as we could find. After the obligatory photo opportunity (and hug) we were also lucky enough to bump into Pluto and Buzz Lightyear on our travels.
By 8pm, we were tired out from our early start so decided to head back to the hotel and rest up, ready for Christmas Day. One tradition that our little family have always had is to read our favourite Christmas book before bedtime on Christmas Eve. I had packed ‘The Night Before Christmas’ in my suitcase, not wanting to forgo this little ritual so we all snuggled down in the king size bed with hot chocolates and this special story book.
As my girls slept, I stayed away for a little while. This was unlike any Christmas Eve we’d experienced before and I began to feel a little bit nostalgic, for our home and the Christmases gone by. My girls were growing up so very fast and I was determined to cherish every single memory we would make together in this magical winter wonderland.
I awoke on Christmas morning before the kids and took a moment alone to adjust to our new surroundings. Despite the luxury, it did feel somewhat strange not waking up at home with two excited children holding stockings full of gifts, telling me that Father Christmas had been.
After a while, I gently woke my girls up. To my relief, they were just as enthusiastic as any other Christmas morning! We headed down for breakfast where everyone we met along the way – staff and guests – were all in high spirits. We enjoyed a cooked breakfast and pot of tea before walking over to the Disney Studios.
The Ratatouille ride had been recommended to us by a friend, so that was our first port of call. This 4D ride took us through the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s famous Parisian restaurant. A unique experience unlike any other. Next up was the infamous Space Mountain rollercoaster; a fast-paced and thrilling ride that left us rather flustered. We then debated tackling the famous Tower Of Tower…before all wimping out!
It was soon time for our Christmas lunch at the New York Hotel. We entered wide-eyed as the doors to the ballroom opened; it was spectacular. With twinkle lights on the ceiling, elegant table settings, Christmas music and fresh Christmas trees filling the room, we were shown to our table. The air was filled with that classic Disney magic through and through.
Megan and I enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and we tucked into to our traditional Christmas lunch. A prawn cocktail starter, a main of roast turkey with all of the trimmings and cheesecake for dessert. We were joined by Alice, The Mad Hatter, Peter Pan, Wendy, Goofy, Chip N Dale, along with a few other familiar Disney faces. Happy, full and in the festive spirit, we left the hotel and headed back to the Studios. Our afternoon consisted of yet more rides before we managed to catch the enchanting and festive Christmas Parade.
With the snow falling and bells ringing, we watched in awe as the characters appeared on their perfectly decorated floats. A fairly new set of faces to the family were Ana and Elsa of Frozen fame. As they arrived in their horse-drawn carriage, the smaller children around us went absolutely crazy! We congregated around the castle as it lit up the night sky and admired the array of colourful fireworks whilst clutching our hot chocolates to stay warm; the perfect end to a lovely Christmas day.
On Boxing Day, we decided to enjoy a lie in and spend some time winding down in the hotel spa. Steam rooms, saunas and a few hours in the nautical themed pool definitely did the trick. I’m fairly convinced that Lucie is part mermaid; she adores being in the water! Eventually, I had to coerce her out of the pool before she shrivelled up like a prune.
After a chat with friends and family via Skype, we went back to the park to meet up with one of my lovely friends for a coffee. She also happened to be in Paris over Christmas so it was the perfect opportunity for a catch-up, given that we live a few hundred miles apart in England! It was quite comforting to see a familiar face and we enjoyed each others company for an hour or so.
Next up was our dinner at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in the Disney Village. We visited here a long time ago, when the kids were practically toddlers so I was excited about the evening ahead. We had fabulous lower tier seats with a perfect view of the arena.
The show began, we donned our stetsons and food was served. As we enjoyed corn bread, chilli, chicken wings and unlimited beers/soft drinks, the venue was awash with live animals, such as horses and buffalo. Along with Minnie, Mickey, Chief Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley and the Rough Riders, we watched the drama unfold. The atmosphere was electric! With fabled adventures, shoot out and chases, we were all highly entertained throughout the evening. The crowd cheered as the show heated up and we giggled a Goofy’s comedic timing.
The next day was our last in Disneyland. We wanted to take advantage of this so went straight to the studios after a quick continental breakfast (aka stuffed our faces with delicious fresh pastries; when in Paris and all that jazz..)
We managed to catch the live action stunt car show. With fire tricks and plenty of stunts, this was definitely a novel way to spend an hour or so! We even got a glimpse of the famous ‘Cars’ character, Lightening Mc Queen.
We enjoyed some last minute shopping in the numerous Disney stores and blew a fair few Euros in the Lego shop along the way. We were even lucky enough to snap a quick selfie with the legendary Spiderman himself!
As we packed our suitcases, boarded our plane and arrived at Manchester Airport, I was saddened to come back to reality. Those few precious days with my girls, in the most magical place in the world, is something that I wish I could hold on to for just a little bit longer. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing you again soon Paris; thank you for the memories. Next stop – Florida!