Saturday, 2 March 2013

Theatre, Tour Eiffel and Theme Park

I’m ill, blog-readers. Whilst I haven’t yet reached a full man-flu meltdown, breathing is difficult and I’m currently rocking back and forth in a corner singing ‘Soft Kitty’ to myself. I am desperately hoping my classes decide to play ball this week or I may just quarantine myself in a stationery cupboard.

Last week I popped back to England to see some of my favourite people. Ellie very kindly let me sleep on her floor for the second time this year and I had such a good time.

On Wednesday we went to Costa in the morning. As much as I like espresso, I’ve definitely missed going to Costa for a latte so this was a perfect start to my stay. In the evening we ate at the newly refurbished Bridge Bar in the student union. SUSU have done a really great job on The Bridge. It looks completely different from how it looked before and the new design is such an improvement. The food was really nice. Pretty cheap as well, which is always a plus! It was nice to have a few hours with Annie and Sera to chat while Ellie was at ArtSoc and there was some good live music too.

On Thursday Ellie and I went to London to see Lift, a new musical by Craig Adams and Ian Watson which was playing at the Soho theatre. Having walked around London for what seemed like hours trying to find somewhere with a seat to get some lunch we eventually collapsed in a Pret à Manger. Inside, I saw on Twitter that there was an extra matinee of The 39 Steps for half term. To cut a long story short, Ellie and I found ourselves at The Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus picking up a pair of last minute tickets for the afternoon performance of the play. A two-show day is my favourite type of day! The 39 Steps is always very entertaining. It’s a very playful piece, gently mocking itself and theatre in general but at the same time being funny and very well thought out. It was also lovely to see one of the current cast’s last shows. From here, we went for dinner at Byron on Charing Cross Road. This is never a bad thing. If you haven’t been, go. You can thank me later. Lift was a really innovative piece – adult, well-written and cleverly staged. I’ve written a full review for The Edge which should be going up any time now; if you’re interested, check it out.

Friday involved shopping, a lasagne and crumble dinner party, and a ferry back to France.

Having arrived back on the continent, it was time to begin work on the dreaded year abroad research project. The YARP has been something which has escaped my concentration for too long. I’ve been reading but not writing and I realised almost as soon as I started that I had read more material than I would ever be able to use. I find writing in French incredibly difficult. I can do it well enough in day-to-day life – I’m perfectly capable of writing letters and emails – but writing academically in another language is incredibly difficult. I’ve had to accept that I just can’t manipulate French in the same way that I can play with the English language but this is really upsetting.

On Monday, Emma-Louise arrived from England on the Eurostar. She’d never been to France before so I went to pick her up from Paris so that she didn’t have to negotiate the RER and the French train system on her own. Over three days in Le Havre, I showed her all of the standard sights. We met with my colleague Céline and a couple of other French people to go for a meal at Au Bureau and speak some English over a few drinks at L’étable (The Cowshed). As promised in my previous post, I remembered to take a few pictures of the décor in the bar.

Thursday morning marked the beginning of our trip to Paris. Suitcases in tow, we arrived in Paris and headed for the Pont d’alma to take a ride on a bateau mouche. The tour along the River Seine was really interesting. Freezing cold weather and a biting wind aside, I enjoyed every moment of it. The bridges of Paris are really beautiful and so many of the city’s most interesting sights can be seen really well from the river alongside which they were strategically built.

Following the boat tour, we grabbed some lunch (again, Pret à Manger – different capital, same seating problem) and headed over to the Eiffel Tower. Having bought tickets online, we saved money and got straight into the tower without having to wait at all. I’m not entirely sure why anyone would choose to stand in the mile long queue to buy tickets when there’s such an easy alternative!

The view from the top of the tower is really beautiful. Seeing any city from above is impressive but there’s something particularly pretty about Paris. After the tower, it was finally time to go to the hotel and get rid of the suitcases we’d been lugging around all day. We stayed at the Campanile Gare du Nord which was really nice and great value for money but actually nearer to the Gare de l’Est than to its namesake. We got slightly lost but by the strangest of coincidences I bumped into one of my colleagues who incredibly kindly walked us to the hotel. France is a big place – I’m not sure what the chances of that happening were but I’d say they were pretty minute!

On Friday, we went to Disneyland Paris. I’d been really looking forward to this so I’m pleased to be able to say that it was, without doubt, the highlight of the school holidays. The end of the low season seems to be an absolutely perfect time to visit the park. Although it was cold it didn’t ever snow or rain and the park was animated but not crowded – the perfect level of busy. The longest we waited for any ride was 30 minutes and for many we waited less than ten. The staff were so happy and friendly and the attention to detail and upkeep of the park are ridiculously high quality. You’d think that a day of being smothered in Disney would be overkill but if anything I left the park loving it even more than when I went in.

Just to emphasise the amount of stuff we managed to get on in one day, we managed to fit in:
Peter Pan’s Flight, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Les Mystères du Nautilus, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril (another great ‘coaster), Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin, Phantom Manor, Big Thunder Mountain, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith AND Les Tapis Volants – Flying Carpets Over Agrabah. Emma-Louise badly hurt her foot at the Eiffel Tower on Thursday and was really struggling to walk at Disneyland on Friday so we managed to do all of this even considering that we were taking the parks at a leisurely pace. Not bad for a day’s work!
Hollywood Tower Hotel, home to The Tower of Terror
I’m torn between two attractions for my favourite ride - The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, both of which are in Disney Studios rather than the main park. Tower of Terror was great because it was impossible to know where you were in the tower until the doors of the elevator opened. At that point, it was a brief view over Disney Studios before plummeting down the elevator shaft into the Twilight Zone. This is a really clever idea, much better than the open tower version of the same ride which can be found just about anywhere. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was also absolutely brilliant. Accompanied by some great music, the ride takes place with minimal lighting and it’s the first rollercoaster in a long time where I’ve lost track of which way is up or down.

The staff really help to make the rides and the experience as good as they are. In Tower of Terror, the guy doing the safety announcements was absolutely hilarious. Putting on the most absolutely deadpan expression and voice I think I’ve ever heard, he said ‘In terms of safety, there is no safety. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. LOL’ and then catapulted us backwards. At the end of the day in the Phantom Manor, the guy moved to the other side of the room during the blackout and absolutely terrified a group of girls by shouting behind them. ‘J’adore mon job,’ he announced, chuckling, as we left the ride. We were lucky enough to meet The Mad Hatter at one point in the day who was equally hilarious.

Towards the end of the day, we watched Disney Magic on Parade. I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy standing and watching the parade and was worried I’d quickly get bored. Oh, how wrong I was! My inner child well and truly escaped as the characters zoomed past us and the quality of the floats was stunning. We were stood right at the beginning of the parade so got to see the gates open, as well as seeing all of the floats first.

To finish, we hit the shops. Disney is surprisingly reasonably priced, much better than anything similar in the UK. Whilst their admission prices aren’t the cheapest in the world (although we got in free through a special offer), they’re actually very reasonable for what you get and once you’re inside the prices really aren’t extortionate. I spent about 40 in the boutiques but unlike, for example, Alton Towers, I really felt like I got my money’s worth. Even the food in the restaurants is well-priced for a theme park – for the equivalent of about £10, we managed to get a good quality, filling meal and a dessert to go with it!

That brings me up to the present moment, sat, struggling to breathe, on a train home to Le Havre from Paris. The last two weeks have been absolutely lovely and I’m now looking forward to going home where a packet of Day Nurse and my bed await me. Ciao!

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