10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

32 Things You Must Do On Your Trip To London

32 Things You Must Do On Your Trip To London

London is filled with hundreds, if not thousands of hidden gems, but if it is your first time visiting - or you simply want to make sure you haven't missed any obvious hotspots, then this list is for you. We may have snuck in a few hidden gems too. What follows are 32 places you have to visit in London.

For a tour guide in London look no further than Private London Tours.

1. Piccadilly Circus
Marvel at the electric signs, the Criterion theatre and the statue of Eros. Plus, you'll usually find some live entertainment in the area too.
Did you know that this was the site of the world' first outdoor electric sign? It was installed back in 1910, over 100 years ago.

2. Trafalgar Square
Just down the road from Picadilly Circus, this square celebrate the battle at Cape Trafalgar in 1805.

That's where Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish forces. Now, you'll find the square itself with the fountains, Nelson's column (135ft tall), the Canadian and South African High Commissions, the National Gallery (and the National Portrait Gallery) next door and St. Martin in the Fields church.
Top Tip: You can get a great view of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace (albeit from a distance) from the side of the square which is opposite the National Gallery.

3. Downing Street
Take a peek into the small section of the road that remains - only composed of buildings number 10 to 12. 
You might even get a glimpse of Number 10, the Prime Minister's office.
Just a bit further on you'll find the Cenotaph the national's war memorial in the centre of the road.

4. Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms
Explore an underground world created in case London ever suffered from an air raid.
Of course this underground shelter came into its own during WW2. You too can explore the place where the country was run - from the huge strategic planning rooms with maps of the world, to the modest living quarters. It is all still there to be seen. This place is an absolute gem.

5. Westminster Abbey
Come see the home of the royal wedding.
Having been the place of coronation for all our monarchs except Edward V, Edward VIII and Lady Jane Grey, the abbey has huge historical significance. If you're an architecture fan you'll enjoy looking at the different styles as the building expanded over hundreds of years.

6. Big Ben
The world's tallest four-faced chiming clock.
The secret with Big Ben, is that 'Ben' is actually the name of the bell, not the clock tower. The tower itself is the Elizabeth Tower. For UK visitors only, you can write to your MP and gets  free tour of the tower. The remainder of the houses of parliament is open to all visitors on select dates for a charge.

7. London Eye
The world's tallest cantilevered ferris wheel.
Located just across the river from Big Ben, you'll get great views of the city. The wheel is 135m tall and it takes 30 minutes for one full revolution. Plus before you board watch the fantastic 4D cinema presentation which we say is as good as the eye itself!

8. Tower Bridge
Often confusingly called by tourists, and even some londoners *tsk tsk*, London Bridge. That's not it's name.
The stunning Tower Bridge is an engineering marvel. Upon paying admission you can learn all about how the bridge was built, learn about its past and even walk across the walkway at the top.

9. The Monument
A bit of a hidden gem.
Yes, we said no hidden gems but we had to put this one down. The Monument to the Great Fire of London is 202 feet tall and stands exactly 202 feet away from where the Great Fire of London started - cool huh? Climb the spiral staircase to the top and you get a stunning view of the City. Well worth a visit and a bargain at only £3 - you even get a certificate with the history of the fire on the way out. Note The Monument is not disabled-friendly with no wheelchair access to the summit.

10. The Crypt Cafe
Located in St. Martin in the Fields church at Trafalgar Square.
If you want atmosphere and a nice lunch or coffee, this is the place to come. There's even a small exhibit inside and you'll see the crypt tombstones themselves all around you. It's less creepy than it sounds and really quite romantic!

11. The National Gallery

Priceless works of art, at no cost to you.
Also located on Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery contains priceless works of art - see everything from Monet's 'Waterlillies' to Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' and so much more. You can spend an entire afternoon in here - and it's free admission. There is also the paid-admission Sainsbury Wing area which contains exhibitions that change periodically.

12. M andMs World
Yes, it's a shop. Yes, it sells Mand Ms.
A relatively young shop in Leicester Square, M and Ms World is filled with chocalately goodness. The best bit however, is all the London touches that you'll find throughout the store. From a giant red London bus at the entrance, to M and M statues crossing a mini-Abbey Road and paintings - it's great fun.

13. Chinatown
Located just off Piccadilly Circus.
Stepping into Chinatown is a culture shock, it's round the corner from one of the busiest tourist destinations in London and yet still manages to maintain an intimate feel. It's well worth the visit but don't expect anything huge - it is a small area made up of only a few streets and is nothing like it's New York equivalent.

14. Leicester Square
A good spot to people watch.
Here you'll find 4 very big cinemas (you must just bump into a star or two at one of the many world premieres that take place here), M&Ms world and in the centre a garden which is surprisingly chilled and a nice place to relax.

15. Covent Garden
A cute square that's filled with shopping and dining.
If you fancy a nice place to eat or just snack, then Covent Garden could be right for you. Make sure to go into the covered building itself and down underground where you will find some incredible little shops that are definitely worth the visit. There's also some name brands too including one of the biggest Apple stores in the world.

16. St Paul's Cathedral

Whether you step inside, or simply admire from the outside, it's worth a visit.
Situated on the highest point of the City of London, St. Paul's is well worth a visit. It is the fourth ST. Paul's to be on the site - this one has been here since 1710. It was the place of Charles and Diana's wedding, Margaret Thatcher's funeral and the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations, amongst many other events. Inside, it is stunning and well worth the price of admission - make sure to get an audio guide too for the best experience. You can even find Christopher Wren's tomb, the architect of this and nearly 50 other churches in the City. Plus, if you want a bit of exercise then climb to the top for the most unique view of London (at almost the height of the London eye, but definitely better situated) - it's only 528 steps to the top.

17. The Millennium Bridge
Great views.
Not much to say about this bridge apart from the fact that you can get some great views looks in every direction, from Tower Bridge on one side to St. Paul's to The Tate Modern. It's worth a crossing. Also, do a bit of research and hear about it's troubled past.

18. The Tate Modern
Modern art at its finest.
A world renowned gallery that is definitely worth a visit. You'll be perplexed, amazed, shocked and probably laugh a few times. Free admission and worth a few hours of your time. Top Tip: Get a lift to the cafe at the top for some great views and a relaxed setting.

19. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
A step back in time.
Admire it from the outside, or go inside and take in a show.

20. The Shard
The tallest building in Western Europe (1004ft/306m).
Designed to look like a shard of broken glass, The Shard is quite the bold statement. It consists mainly of restaurants, offices and accommodation but you can take a lift to the top for a viewing gallery (admission is charged - slightly more expensive that the London Eye) and admire the city at its finest. If you fancy it, you can even stay at the Shangri-La hotel inside too (starting at £450 per night).

21. The Tower of London
My favourite thing in all of London.
This is a must-must visit in my opinion. Miss it, and you've not been to London. This 950-year old castle standards at the heart of the city and is a true reminder of London's gruesome past - hear and see the old royal palace, prisons, the zoo, the area of beheadings, and even see the crown jewels. Do a tour with one of the "beefeaters" once inside (free once you've paid admission) and get some genuinely gruesome history thrown into your holiday.

22. Buckingham Palace
The official residence of Her Majesty, the Queen.
The palace is a true masterpiece. Outside you can admire the Victoria Memorial and the guards.And don't forget to watch the Changing the Guard ceremony which takes place every other day most of the year, and daily in the warmer months - be sure to know when it is on before you go. During the summer, you can actually step foot inside and marvel at a small percentage of its 775 rooms and the royal gardens. Get tickets for the State Room tour (summer only) here.

23. Harrods
The largest store in UK
Harwich is hugely popular in London, featuring luxury goods to either buy or simply gaze at. A typical visit to the store will take in excess of three hours and you'll get to see everything from the Egyptian staircases with their stunning details and live opera singing, electronic sections, an afternoon team room, luxury boutiques and the stunning food court. Harrods is definitely worth a visit.

24. Hamley's
The finest toy store in the world has been going strong for over 250 years. 
Hamleys claims it is the oldest, and largest toy store in the world. It spans seven floors with over 55,000 toys inside. Youll find everything here from model planes to food to books and even the Royal family made out of Lego. For the Harry Potter fans, there is even a place where you can buy a broom to fly on. I recommend you get the elevator to the top and then work your way down.

25. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Larger than Central Park in New York. 
These two Royal Parks join up to make 900 acres of pristine land in the centre of London. The parks are a perfect escape from the busy London lifestyle and are perfect place to go for a stroll, have a snack, people watch, row a boat on the Serpentine Lake, or take in one of the many sights. Near Marble arch, you will find Speakers Corner when people come to exercise their right to free speech: explore the princess Diana Memorial playground, and fountain; find a statue of Peter Pan; go horseriding; or visit the stunning Italian gardens and fountains. During the Chirstmas season, the hype is stepped up one bit further with Winter Wondelans a huge free admission area featuring traditional food, theme park rides, Yuletide singalongs and much more.

26. Oxford Street and Regent Street
Shop until you drop
If you want to go shopping you have found the right place, London is filled with places to spend some money. Oxford Street is Europe's busiest shopping street, at 1.5 miles in length and featuring several flagship stores. Your find the likes of Disney, Marks & Spencers, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Selfridge's and many more on this one road. When you reach Oxford Circus, turn onto Regent Street to find yet more shopping – Hamley's, Liberty's, Swarovski, the Apple Store, Hollister andBurberry just to mention a few.

27. Selfridge's
Second only to Harrods in terms of price and luxury.
Selfridge's is located a little bit more centrally than Harrods, being on Oxford Street, and thus is busy year round. Inside this department store you'll find all kinds of boutiques and even places to eat. It's definitely worth your time. The store has been in its iconic location for over 100 years and was founded by an American, Gordon Selfridge. 

28. The Science Museum
From the past to the future, the science museum has it all. 
See how steam engines work, how space shuttles get to the moon, experience being in a flight simulator, watch a movie at the IMAX 3-D cinema, play in the interactive kids area, learn about modern surgery, and much more. The price? Nothing.

29. The V&A Museum

An incredible Museum of design. 
I had heard about the wonders of the V&A museum several times but it wasn't until this year that I visited it. I was blown away. The incredible rooms themselves and the incredible artefacts inside them really leave you with a sense of awe. Some of the sculptures and designs simply have you thinking "how did they do that?". Whilst you're there don't forget to visit the gardens in the centre of the Museum, these are stunning particularly at night. Admission is free.

30. The Natural History Museum
A favourite for people of all ages
Located just across the road from the science museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum holds worldwide status. The interior is filled with marvellous exhibitions from prehistoric ages to modern medicine. Don't forget to visit the Butterfly house, or the earthquake simulator, but the absolute highlight for us has to be the giant Tyrannosaurus rex animatronic which is really lifelike. Admission is free.

31. British Museum
Artefacts from around the world
The British Museum is located somewhat further away from the other museums, but it's definitely worth the trek. Inside you'll find everything from sarcophagi, to Viking artefacts, to 2000-year-old coins. You will also be amazed by the incredible beauty of the building itself. Admission is free.

32. The London Dungeon
Spooky fun and a little bit of history. 
If you want to learn about London's gruesome history, how about experiencing it for yourself? In the London Dungeon you go from room to room and learn (and experience) London's horrible past, from the Great Plague, to torture devices, and a boat ride from hell, to an executioner's drop. Check out the full review here. Get your tickets at AttractionTix here.

For a private, guided tour of London look no further than Private London Tours.

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 127 to 152 - Halloween Soiree, more training, empty parks, and much more

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 127 to 152 - Halloween Soiree, more training, empty parks, and much more

10th October 2014 (Day 127) to 4th November 2014 (Day 152)

It's time for the latest round-up on what has been happening over the last month or so at work at Disneyland Paris. If you want to see a full index of posts, you can of course click here to see these.

Morning opening of attractions:
So, usually in the morning when I start at 8:00am I am one of at least five people who help to open Indiana Jones, but recently I was asked to open La Cabane des Robinsons...this involves doing some basic safety checks, setting up the queue line ropes and then doing a walkthrough of the treehouse. This walkthrough involves an incredibly long checklist which must easily detail over 200 different items that I have to check for the 'show' part of the attraction - that means making sure that things like lights, spoons, books, candles and many other show elements. It is tedious to say the least but it guarantees that when things have gone missing they can (eventually) be replaced.

Photo: Disneyland Paris

On this day I also had the luck of opening La Plages des Pirates which is an outdoor playground area, and Le Passage Enchante de Aladdin which is a walkthrough telling the story of Aladdin - this also involves another checklist looking at all the items and effects that should be working.

Formation de Bons Gestes:
Disney invests a lot of time and money into training its Cast Members - so while you may think that your initial training is all you will get, it certainly isn't. One of these extra bits of training is 'Les Bons Gestes' which is a two-hour session talking about good posture and practices to take, especially when lifting heavy loads. It was taken by a medical professional and was actually fairly interesting and I did learn quite a bit.

The Halloween Soiree:
I signed up to work the Halloween soiree which ran on the 31st October 2014 from 20:30 to 01:00. I was given a shift finishing at 23:45 which in the end ended up being really great as I was able to get the RER straight home. For anyone finishing late, there are taxis made available to take you home which is great.

Photo: @InsideDLParis (Twitter)
Halloween during the daytime was officially (numbers-wise) the busiest day since I have been here. It felt like a typically busy summer day and although I can't tell you exactly what our maximum wait time was...it didn't feel as busy as weekends in September which are to be avoided.

The soiree however WAS busy...very, very busy and that I can safely say that it was the busiest I have seen the park since I've been here. Although, I can't reveal numbers, the Halloween party was sold out (making me wonder why there wasn't another one on the 30th October like they do in the States). The park closed officially at 19:00 and the party started at 20:30 as I mentioned earlier, however from 17:00 party-ticket holders (who were given orange wristbands) could get in - this meant that from 17:00 to 19:00 party-goers were mixed in with regular park guests and it was at this point that it did start getting busy - from 19:00 to 20:30 all rides were open as usual but only for guests with wristbands and the queue lines got busier and busier and I think we eventually topped out at about a 50 or 60 minute wait time. Considering there were tonnes of characters out, and unique live shows I was very surprised to see how busy the rides were.

One of the fun things about the soiree was that we were allowed to be creepy and I admit to making quite a few guests jump. We were also allowed to be made up so my friend and fellow Cast Camille did a wonderful job of turning me into this...

Halloween soiree make-up
Overall, it was a fun night and it was a different atmosphere and adventureland was done up in a  slightly spooky fashion. There was Pirates of the Carribbean music and projections too which was cool.

Photo: @InsideDLParis (Twitter)
I was not a fan of having Fastpass open during the special event as it meant that everyone tried to get in the line without a Fastpass complaining that the regular lines were too long...which is what happens daily but it was intensified to 10x or 20x more often during the soiree. I understand that the lines are long and there is limited time but asking to skip through the Fastpass lane is unfair on others. At €41 (and Annual pass discounts making the price as low as €28) the soiree is excellent value in my opinion for entertainment from 17:00 to 01:00 (8 hours), especially considering the one-day ticket price is €88 for a few hours more and there were lots of unique bits of entertainment on that evening. I did hear, however, from guests that character organisation was not great.

The parks are empty
Literally 24 hours after the Halloween soiree is over the parks are incredibly empty - they are 10% of the number of guests today (4th November) than there were on Halloween for example. And there are about 20% of the number of guests that were here during a typical summer day. The result is 5 or 10 minute queues everywhere except for the characters. Not bad for the most visited place in Europe. Even Crush's Coaster and Ratatouille have had posted queue times of 5 to 15 minutes!

American Indiana Jones cast came over
Although here is no Indiana Jones ride at Walt Disney World, the Disneyland Resort certainly has an incredible attraction that is not to be missed. A few weeks ago some Cast Members came over from the Disneyland Resort who worked at Indiana Jones and wanted to bring us a present - so they had a frame made with photos of all the Cast from the American ride, and brought us all queue line decoder cards and Fastpasses from the Californian Indiana Jones Adventure attraction.

Our team leader was talking to them about the differences and I don't know what we managed to do for them but we definitely gave them a load of ride height "diplômes"/certificates to take back. In case you've never seen one this is what our diplômes look like (they allow a kid that's too small to skip the line later when they are tall enough and to get straight onto Pirates that day without having to wait):

Photo: Disneygazette.fr

4 hours doing Propreté
In something that is becomingly increasingly frequent at work, people from Attractions are being asked to help out with Proprete (custodial/cleaning). A couple of week ago it was my turn to help out during the afternoon - I have no problem doing this as it gives you a different perspective of your work location and as long as it isn't a daily occurence it should be fine. I learned quite  bit about Adventureland by doing the rounds and discovered little passageways and details I had never seen before.

Propreté is a very relaxed job in comparison to attractions as you work at your own rhythm, but i did notice that these Cast have an incredible attention to detail and can see even the smallest thing on the ground that I would very easily miss. You spend a lot of time simply walking around and sweeping and then once or twice a day you will do the trash and empty all the bins in your sector of the land - this involves moving a big green bin which quickly becomes heavy as you empty the trash cans into it. I noticed as well that in propreté you get a lot of guest interaction and they will ask you about anything and everything. In the four hours I was there two people asked me for the location of the smoking areas, whereas I have been working five months in attractions and the same number of people have asked me the same question. I also learned a few handy tactics for when we are sweeping the queue line and doing the trash that will come in handy. Overall, it was an interesting experience but as I have said it is not something I would want to be long-term.

Parc Asterix for Halloween
We went to parc Asterix for Halloween recently.

I will link to a separate blog post on this subject once that has been uploaded.

Ate at Bistro Chez Remy
Last week I went to eat at the flagship new Ratatouille restaurant "Bistro Chez Remy" which is located inside the Ratatouille: The Adventure ride building itself.

The atmosphere inside is great and the Imagineers have done a great job - as you step inside the restaurant you can immediately see the attention to detail to make you feel like you have shrunk to the size of a rat. The starter consisted of a salad with cheese which I asked for without cheese and came...with cheese, the main which was the steak was excellent as were the fries the ratatouille was alright though I had never tasted this dish before and the chef's sauce wasn't great in my opinion - I much preferred the sauce at Blue Lagoon. Overall, the price was €40 for 3 courses (and €30 with the staff discount) which I felt was appropriate but a tad expensive considering the interior atmosphere isn't exactly premium. Though the service could have been much better and more attentive, the food and decor made up for it.

I went bowling for the very first time yesterday and it was actually really enjoyable. Although, I was worried about not being great considering it was my first time, I had quite a bit of fun and didn't do too badly.

I came third out of five the first round, and then second to last (but only by 3 points) during the second round. I would definitely go back!

Carte Vitale paperwork:
In the never-ending saga of paperwork in France, I am still waiting for my permanent social security number (note that this took process only two weeks in the UK for my cousin). I did get a letter through for my Carte Vitale which I attached and photo and sent it off so hopefully that will come back soon.

New security procedures and the safety challenge
The last update is to do with ride security. As Safety is the most important thing at Disney there is now an updated Ride Access Control procedure which in theory makes it much more difficult to accidentally send a vehicle or power up an attraction when someone is working inside the ride - it's a welcome change though I do remember it already being implemented in the States over a year ago. At the same time this is a company-wide safety challenge which rewards Cast Members for knowing all their safety procedures.

Coming up:

The next couple of weeks are set to be exciting as tomorrow it is Bonfire Night which brings with it fireworks on Lake Disney, and next Monday is the beginning of the Christmas season (and lots of new entertainment). Visitor-wise I am expecting it to be a very quiet season (Excluding Saturdays) until about to 20th December when things should start to kick into gear for the busiest part of the year.

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Working at Disneyland Paris - A Halloween Trip Report - 9th October 2014 (Day 126)

Working at Disneyland Paris - A Halloween Trip Report - 9th October 2014 (Day 126)

With at least a couple of weeks since my last visit to the park as a guest, I thought I should take advantage of my free admission to the parks to enjoy the 2014 Disneyland Paris Halloween season. The Halloween season this year runs from the 1st October to 2nd November, and I visited just one week after it debuted.

I visited with Margaux and we had strategically chosen to go on the 9th October as the kids were still in school and therefore we would have short waits for all the Halloween events.

This year guests can enjoy a beautifully decorated park from the moment they step in.

As you step onto Town Square and down Main Street USA, you can't help but notice the incredible effort that has gone into making the part Halloween-like. Orange is definitely the colour of the season and you can see Pumpkins in every direction you look as you walk in. It was equally nice to have a live band playing to add to the atmosphere, and all along the rooftops you can see ghosts themed to their environs.

Even the horse-drawn streetcars had a Halloween twist.

As you can see below, the rooftop of Casey's Corner features a ghost with a baseball bat, and you will find even more pumpkins along every inch of Main Street, USA. On top of Main Street motors you will see a ghost with a tyre, and another eating ice cream on top of Gibson Girl.

As we walked towards central plaza, we were just in time to catch the 10:30am Halloween opening celebrations. Here the characters walked down the hill of Sleeping Beauty castle...

And then Maleficent came along on her float and directed the villains as they did their promenade around central plaza.

The whole promenade maybe took five minutes at the most and the villains then disappeared. Admittedly, it was a bit of an odd way to introduce the Halloween celebration.

After this, we started hunting for the characters as most of the Halloween entertainment is composed of meet-and-greets. I am not typically a character hunter and in fact I find that taking photos with characters can actually be rather awkward but I had always wanted a photo with Jack from the Nightmare Before Christmas, and that is exactly where we went next.

Before, leaving Central Plaza I had the chance to take some nice photos of the pumpkins in the area.

Then, it was time to go through the Frontierland fort and venture towards Jack. Frontierland is themed as well, if not better, than Main Street USA with pumpkins abound, as well as scarecrows everywhere.

Located between Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain, is the photolocation for Jack and Sally. Unfortunately, Sally wasn’t meeting guests on this day but Jack was still there.

I counted the groups ahead of us and there were 10 groups, so approximately a 10-minute wait. We got in line and about 10 minutes later we were chatting to Jack. It was really good to talk to a face character as it is much less awkward than the fur characters which do not talk in my opinion.

As soon as we said “Hi” to Jack, he took an interest in my black umbrella and began asking “What’s this?” just like in the film. He was determined to find out what it did, was it a decoration? Could it fly?

"What's this?" Jack trying to make the umbrella fly
After two attempts and dropping my umbrella to the ground, and even (accidentally) damaging a bit of his photolocation, he finally gave it back to me. It was really good as he took the time to chat to us even though we were adults and it made for a fun couple of minutes.
Jack hands my umbrella over to Zero - seems he doesn't know what to do with it either

And voilà - the photo!
 After we got our photos with Jack, it was the end of his set so he went to quickly search for some Christmas presents for five minutes after we left. He was so in character which was great and he even walked off in a bizarre manner, just like he walks in the film!

After that – it was time for a quick tour on Phantom Manor (5 minutes posted) followed by Big Thunder Mountain (15 minutes posted).

Then, it was time to visit the castle courtyard behind Sleeping Beauty Castle which had been transformed in Maleficent’s Court for Halloween.

The brambles in Maleficent's courtyard in the form of a dragon

Just as we arrived, and began to admire the great brambles that had been installed in the area, we saw smoke above us and Maleficent came out to greet her guests.

After a brief speech, she was gone and her villains began to appear all around us for photos. This was the big photo meet and greet of the season and several characters came out to play.

The villains come out to play!

Gaston announced his arrival with his booming voice which had everyone smiling
Unfortunately, unlike most other meet and greets nowadays here there were no formal queue lines and instead it was up to the characters to pick who would get the next photo. The characters were for the most part very fair and went around in a semi-circle fashion. In front of us as we arrived was the Evil Snow Queen who did a particularly good job of being in character all the time asking “What do you want?!” to guests and telling kids to move when they tried to skip their turn. She was hilarious and I really enjoyed watching her as we waited our turn patiently. It is really interesting too to see the characters switch from one language to another - we as Cast Members do it all the time but it was interesting to see. The majority of guests this day were French so the characters mainly stuck to that.

After our photo with the Snow Queen, Margaux got a photo with Gaston who had a new costume – his voice was great and he acted perfectly in character but unfortunately the Gaston we had on that day was skinny and the fake muscles in his costume looked terrible on him. It was a shame. No one else seemed to mind, but having seen some of the others I was a bit disappointed that this one didn’t look at all like Gaston even if he acted like him.

 The characters were around for 30 minutes and then switched with others, and the second time round we got some photos with the Old Hag who was really very good – and was the most in character out of anyone I saw all day. She mocked people and scared people as she went around. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to have a system for picking people but she was the funniest of all and was incredibly in character. We even had a small chat about me wanting to keep her apple. She wasn’t impressed.

Cruella de Ville was also there who was fabulously in character too. I can't really fault any of the characters really. They were great. There were also Cast Members in the area giving out small bags of sweets as the Halloween treats are sponsored (and provided free to guests) by Haribo - a nice touch.

Throughout the day we rode Pirates of the Caribbean (the ride is in incredible shape after its recent refurb and had lots of effects I had never seen working), Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, Orbitron, Space Mountain: Mission 2, and we watched Captain EO which was great to watch after having not seen it for a year!

The only Halloween prop in Adventureland. Great theming though!
We also ate at the Blue Lagoon restaurant which is inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I had already eaten at the restaurant in Disneyland in California and was disappointed – here the restaurant really lived up to its image.

I had a steak which was cooked to perfection, the service was great and the atmosphere inside was ten times better at Disneyland Paris than at Disneyland.

Even the lighting, decor and bathrooms were better here, and I particularly liked the touch of a bamboo cup for my steak sauce.

We also watched the Halloween Cavalcade which has a great song ‘Vive la Vie’ and is short at only 5 minutes long but definitely worth a watch. It will be expanded over the coming years but it was worth watching it.

The opening float for Halloween cavalcade

The new float added for 2014.

There were no crowds for the cavalcade or the rides really and the longest we waited was about 10 or 15 minutes all day. Only the characters had longer queues.

To be fair we didn’t see everything at the event and we did skip some characters – we didn’t get a photo with Goofy and his Candy Co, Minnie or Stitch at the Costume Couture, or Winnie the Pooh in his Halloween finest but we saw all of the characters from a distance as we went past. We were only there for a few hours though and we were thorough impressed.

To finish off the day we hopped over to the studios to finish our day of spookiness with a ride on The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror. All in all, a fantastic day out.

Previous Post: Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 71 to Day 126 - Summer is over!

Next Post: Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 127 to 152 - Halloween Soiree, more training, empty parks, and much more

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 70 to Day 125 - Summer is over!

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 70 to Day 125 - Summer is over!

Thursday 14th August 2014 (Day 70) to Wednesday 8th October 2014 (Day 125)

We are just about to hit the four month mark of my time working at Disneyland Paris and of course I have many updates about what I have been up to at work and outside of work.

The Summer Peak
August was a busy month, so busy that I only visited the parks as a guest once or twice during this time. I don't particularly feel the need to wait in 120 minute queue lines and have to push past people to enjoy the parks. Instead, during one of my visits I decided to make the most of my free admission to the parks simply to enjoy the atmosphere.

During this visit in mid-August I only went to the park for an hour and a half and I saw that the park was extremely busy. I didn't feel the need to do any rides, I simply walked around looking at the details around the park, took some photos and left. It was a nice and relaxing way to see the parks with no pressure. It did allow me to take a better look at Frontierland in particular where it is sad to see that the Pocahontas area is cordoned off and everything around the Chaparral Theatre is just dead. There are some fences up so they are working on something though at the theatre though. I'm looking forward to doing the parks when there are almost no visitors - that will be cool.

Despite the fact I did not do any rides on this particular day I have still kept track of all the rides I have ever done using the RideCount.com website - at the time of writing I have ridden 560 attractions around the world. You can see my current ride count below:

I also went with a group to Walt Disney Studios Park where we met Spider-Man which was great fun!

Pirates of the Caribbean ride evacuations
Any time that we have to evacuate Pirates of the Caribbean, it is an enormous operation - with up to 24 boats at one time and 23 people per boat, there can be upwards of 500 people in the flume at any one time. When you add in hundreds of people who are in the queue line and at the restaurant too you can see how big of a scale evacuation this attraction is. I am not trained/'checked' on this attraction and therefore I cannot go inside the rides scenes and evacuate boats themselves but last month I helped evacuate by signalling guests when the came out backstage. It is such a smooth operation and everything has been thought of to keep everyone safe. Great work.

Here are the most common questions asked by guests at work:
- Where is the entrance?
- Where are the toilets?
- Where is the pirates of the carribean?
- So this isn't The Mine Train/Big Thunder Mountain?
- Where is the exit?
- Where can I get a Fastpass?
- Why can't I use my Fastpass yet? Read the ticket.
- *Cast Members stand at ride with a rope* Is it closed? What is the technical problem? Is it going to reopen today? At what time? How long has it been closed? How long is it going to be down for? Is it the rain? Has someone died? Can I get a Fastpass while the ride is closed?
- What time does this ride/the park close?
- What time is the parade? Oh, there's only one per day?
- Can you explain Fastpass to me?
- Incomprehensible thing (to me) in either Italian or Russian.

The Slow Season begins
It is now the start of October and the Seasonal Contracts have all left - it is all now full time Cast Members like myself. The end of September was sad as people left the company - some will come back, others will not.

September signalled the end of the Summer season. At the end of August, Indiana Jones was getting waits of 40 minutes instead of 65 minutes. As of October the wait time rarely passes 5 minutes during weekdays.

September was an interesting time as the makeup of guests in the park was predominantly Spanish (over 50%) as their schools start in mid-September.
As we can see the parks aren't hugely busy right now...
The number of guests in the park on weekdays is a third of what we were getting just 5 or 6 weeks ago and it completely changes the atmosphere of the parks. It has to be said that the Saturdays in September were all extremely busy (even busier than a lot of summer days) and Sundays have been less busy than the Saturdays but still significantly busier than the weekdays.

One of the best things about the slower season is that the park begins to shut much earlier most days - it is now closing at 20:00 instead of 23:00, and this will eventually gradually be reduced to 19:00 over the coming months. This means that we work longer days at this time of year (10-hour days versus 8-hour days) but only work 4 days a week instead of 5. I can tell you now that a 3-day weekend is fantastic and really gives you the chance to relax. The last shift of the day for me now starts at 11:05pm instead of 3:55pm like it did a week or two ago.

Also, in just over a week the peak of the Halloween season will begin with half-terms and holidays, as well as Halloween itself almost here.  This means that on the 18th August, the Seasonal CDD contract cast will be making a return as well as longer park opening hours.

The Weather
Late August and the beginning of September seemed to be a bit of an unpredictable time. September was better than August by a far bit, but October has been a mixed bag with days of 23 degrees celcius and days with highs of 14 degrees and lows of 6 degrees. This is worrying for the winter - but thankfully we now have brand new 'winter' coats which I have heard are very warm!

In search of my ID
Here at Disneyland Paris in order to access the backstages of the workplace you must show your Cast Member ID card which is also used to clock in at work. In September, I managed to lose mine on a backstage bus. When it was found, the bus service called my workplace who passed on the message that my ID was waiting by the bus control depot. This then forced me to go to places I had never been before backstage - I had to go into the Discoveryland backstage area and find the bus depot. I got some directions from a driver though they weren't hugely helpful - I have no idea how I managed it but by following what little directions I had been given, my instinct and pure luck I found the exact place I had to go to including the exact room where my ID was located. In the process I had the opportunity to see things i had never seen before like the parades building, the cast parking lot and all of the Halloween and Christmas decorations which are backstage - there was a lot of orange back that now is in the parks as Halloween.

Paid directly to bank account now
After having to deal with cheque payments for several months, I am now being paid directly into my bank account. Sounds like you have to wait for the month after your probationary period is over to get paid directly. I also got my Eurostar travel to France refunded too.

Pirates of the Caribbean rehabilitation
I was generally quite surprised at the relatively low number of guests who asked me about Pirates of the Caribbean as it underwent a 2-week refurb - most seemed to be aware and accepting that the attraction was closed and only a very small number (probably less than five) have me where the attraction was located.  During this refurbishment we regularly worked La Cabane des Robinsons as part of our Temple rotation. La Cabane is a relaxing position - if, however, extremely boring with the low number of guest we had during the refurb.

In addition, we also did the Galeon/Pirate Ship for one day. There is even less to do there than at The Cabane somehow and this position can be extremely boring. I don't envy that the Pirates have to do that as part of their rotation.

Bought a TV and a bedside table
In an effort to learn some more french and to settle in I bought a brand new 39-inch LED TV from Auchan for under €300. This will be great to stream films and TV series onto when I get the appropriate cables sorted. I also bought a flatpack bedside table and built it myself (first time doing DIY and I'm very pleased) which has come in handy - I'm already wondering how I lived without it.

Social Security done
I finally took the opportunity to do my Social Security paperwork during my 3-day weekend at the start of September. Turns out there is no automatic letter that will come to your house like it says on the paperwork from our induction. Instead it is all up to you to do. The closest social security office (C.P.A.M) is in Bussy - St. Georges (1 stop on the RER from Val d'Europe) where you hand in all your paperwork. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I did not have to wait for longer than five minutes to see anyone to help me the two times I was at the office on that day.

You will need to take with you photocopies of all the following documents: Passport, birth certificate and certified translation, work contract (all pages), your RIB (bank account information) and you will need to fill in a form with your personal details. You then hand this in together to a member of staff.

I did not have photocopies of all the documents so I had to go to La Poste located just by the Bussy - St Georges station and get some photocopies. The price was printed as €0,20 per sheet, but the photocopies did in fact only cost €0,15 per sheet. I was annoyingly caught out by the fact that La Poste closed for lunch...like all French things seem to do.

I was told it would be two weeks to get a temporary social security number and then my permanent one would be given to me a few months later. Apparently I will have to go and look for this SS number as it will not be mailed to me. They said to allow three weeks to be safe. My friends says last time she received her permanent number within a month at her house in the post.

We will have to see if the Carte Vitale (health card) was also automatically done too or if that will involve yet more paperwork. After I have my social security number I will need to make sure to do my mutuelle (health insurance) at work too - but that's a way down the line still.

Update: A temporary social security number finally came in the post about a month after, and I was told by the lady at my residence that the proper one should come in the post eventually, as well as my carte vitale in under 2 months.

CAF/APL details
So at the start of October I finally received my CAF letter telling me that I will be getting housing aid from the government which is great - it is about 30% of my rent but will make a huge difference to me. What's more I will be reimbursed for all the months I've been waiting so essentially next month's paycheck is all mine and the month after will be about 50% of the usual price. Time to put some money aside and be sensible though!

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