Thursday, July 08, 2010


That's the Twitter hashtag the wife used the morning of July 4 as we were getting our asses up way too early, all in order to go to Disneyland and see some fireworks or something.

It's just a model.
Yeah, that Disneyland, the one near Paris.

We don't do inane touristy things like go up the Eiffel Tower or the top of the Arc de Triomphe, even when we have visitors in town. But there we were, just the two of us, going to freakin' Disneyland. Because it's the only damn fully American thing you can do in Paris. Not that we often want to, but sometimes – especially on the national holiday – we want a taste of the nation formerly called home.

Sure, you can go to some American-run coffee shop/juice bar and pay €6.50 for a lackluster bagel sandwich that would be panned by any New Yorker with half a palate. You can go to an "American" restaurant and spend €65 on a more than regrettable meal of questionable provenance and even more questionable culinary merit. Or (providing you can hook up a discount pass) you can spend practically nothing to while away a full day of 100% genuine USA! USA! USA! Americana at Parc Disneyland Paris. Or whatever they're calling it now.

Yes, the food is crap. And yes, once you're inside – pass or not – they're going to milk you for every crisp Euro note in your pocket. But isn't that what it's all about? For one day, you can take in the crass commercialism, mass merchandising, and continuous hard sell that is America's gift to the world. And hot damn if it isn't FUN.

Very old San Francisco
For something like 14 hours straight we did seriously American stuff like have our spines realigned by Thunder Mountain, queue forever for Indiana Jones, watch janky video that hasn't been updated since 1987 on Star Tours, and sample all the marvels of hallucinogenic-inspired psychedelia in any attraction having to do with Alice in Wonderland. Pirates of the Caribbean brought back a flood of adolescent memories from Southern California, with the plastic artifice of SoCal (minus all the fake boobs) quickly replaced by the genuine faux San Francisco veneer of the Victorian Arcade alongside Main Street USA. It was disturbing how comfortable it all felt, especially the little vignette of San Francisco.

While others were rushing to their favorite part of the park or lining up for one of the umpteen parades down Main Street, I found it perfectly acceptable to park our asses in a booth in the Cable Car Bake Shop and futz around with my camera. Surprisingly, the cheesecake and carrot cake we had were much more authentic than almost all others we've had in Paris and – y'all ready for this? – cheaper.

Alannah about to take her first – and last – bite
of a candy apple. Thank goodness we have
an awesome dentist.
This set up the order of the day. As others ran berserk trying to get on to every ride and see every show, we took it easy and soaked up the America all around us. Cartoonishly giant hot dog? Check. Disgusting, tooth-rotting candy apple? Check. Rolls of fat pouring out over elastic-waisted shorts? Double, triple, quadruple check.

To be fair on that last point, we weren't surrounded by stereotypical fat Americans. Not the whole time.

(Which begs the question: Why do so many Americans come all the way to France to see a carbon copy of what's in California or Florida?)

Because when you leave the rarified air of Paris for even more touristy locales, you will inevitably run into our European cousins, who seem to have equal love for huge waistlines, racing team baseball caps, and talking loud. Really loud. In fact, over the course of the day, I started to suspect that the reason they stopped calling it "EuroDisney" and simply changed it to "Disneyland Paris" is because the former made it too easy to lampoon the park as "EuroTrashDisney." It was like People of Wal-Mart, only we're in Europe. Yet it was all so middle America.

Despite a few chuckles here and there, though, we didn't really mock that much. Yes, I sent out a few snide missives with the #americaFyeah tag throughout the day, but really, we did just have a lot of fun setting aside all the Parisian bullshit pretense and being as American as we could be.

Steampunky Discoveryland
One exception to all the USAiness of Disneyland is Discoveryland, the French version of the woefully outdated Tomorrowland from the original theme park. In a very smart move, Discoveryland is almost completely themed after French sci-fi master Jules Verne's aesthetic – call it Victorian space-age or Steampunk or Art Deco Futuristic. Rather than a stark 1960's-1970's vision of the future, Discoveryland is an almost romantic, dreamy vision of copper and brass and swooping lines and shiny rivets and... Well, it's just pretty. And the adapted version of Space Mountain to go with it is possibly the most awesomely insane roller coaster I've ever been on in my life. Without a single loop or suspended car or stand-up gimmickery, it kicked my ass every which way and then back several times again, combining the classic charm of the original ride with the how-many-Gs-can-you-stand brute force of modern amusements.

Space Mountain – like so many of the things we did – made me giddy all over. And I needed it. We spend so much time in Paris finding the best foods, visiting the coolest galleries, queuing up for sold-out shows, or simply trying to make ends meet. It was liberating to get barely 40 minutes away and suddenly not give a shit. Alannah made fun of me that evening for how I jumped up and down like an excited little kid upon seeing Remy from Ratatouille (or rather, some pimply kid in a furry suit) on one of the parade floats.

I can't remember the last time an exclusive run at an art exhibit or an amuse-gueule at a fancy restaurant made me feel that way. But this is to be expected. Cuz you can take the boy out of America, but you can't take the America out of the boy.

And for one day, all this boy wanted was an ice cold Coke, ballpark quality food, thrill rides and some big fuckin' fireworks. Check.

You can see the whole set of Disneyland Paris photos here:

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