20 Days to 20 Years moves the countdown forward to the year 2001. My co-hosts, Beth, Manda and I are very excited to welcome English blogger Ben, from The Brit Traveler. Ben is a student traveler, who though young in years, is clearly experienced in miles! He shares an early travel and Disneyland Paris performance adventure with us today. Make room for DIStherapy’s first celebrity!!
The year 2001 was a year full of ups and downs for the world, however for me, I got to experience something that very few visitors to Disneyland Paris experience, to perform at the magic! For many years I attended a professional theatrical establishment in the South of England and it just so happened to be that my school was picked to perform at Disneyland Paris as part of the “Disney Magic Music Days Program”.
As part of the Magic Music Days program, this included performances on two days at the Fantasyland Festival Stage (which is now turning into a meet and greet for Mickey Mouse), three days worth of park tickets to the Disneyland Park and accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis at Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne. In total, each student paid a small fee to participate, but it was worth it.
When I found out I was so excited, I was bouncing off the walls – yes I was just a mere seven years old, but knowing I would be performing at Disneyland Paris (having visited every single year previously) was amazing. Rehearsals went on for two months prior to the big day when I jumped on the coach over to Disneyland Paris. There was about 20 of us performing a musical theatre calibre to a selection of well-known songs, including the famous “Purple Rain”. Ages ranged from six to sixteen with about four boys (including me) and the rest were girls.
Since I was under twelve, a parent/guardian had to go with me, however sadly my mother was in hospital and my father had to visit her and work, so one of my cousins took me with her boyfriend at the time. The day finally arrived where it was a very early start to catch the coach which took us to Dover where we caught the ferry over to Calais. From there it was a three hour drive to the gates of Disneyland Paris. On the way, our British driver happened to get a little lost, so we ended up going around in circles on the motorway for a little while, but soon enough we were back on track. As we neared the resort, I could see signs advertising Disneyland Paris, I was now getting excited and was jumping in my seat (as any seven year old would). We then turned a corner and entered into the grounds of the Cheyenne Hotel.
This was my first time staying at Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne, seeing as I had always previously stayed in the Newport Bay, Sequoia Lodge, New York and Disneyland hotels, so I was looking forward to something different. My first impressions were “wow”, it was like I was staying in the actual Wild West and continuing the Frontierland experience. After everyone’s bags were unloaded, we all congregated in the lobby and were assigned to our rooms.
My room was in a block along the Rio-Grande, not too far from the hotel’s restaurant and bar which was good. I was on the second floor and one of my teachers was staying in the room next to me.
As soon as everyone was settled, the time was now nearing 4pm and after a boring day everyone was raring to visit the park, grab some dinner and then get some rest prior to rehearsals the next day. So an hour later we all jumped on those famous yellow shuttle buses to the entrance to the park. As soon as I entered I thought I was back home, it was an amazing feeling and just to see the reaction on the faces of those who had never been there before, it was priceless. The first stop was a quick walking tour (led by me) around the park, my friends were amazed how I knew so much – but I liked to think I was a tour guide back then. When everyone saw the castle they were in awe at it’s beauty and the sparkling rooftops, it still gets me every time I enter the park, seeing it is the only unique castle at a Disney Park.
For dinner, we all enjoyed a meal at A Château de la Marionette in Fantasyland prior to enjoying the park until about 8pm and heading back to the hotel.
The next day was an early start, we had to meet in the lobby of the hotel at 0830am having had breakfast with our rehearsal gear to get the bus to take us backstage. Our parents/guardians were not allowed to attend, so they had the day off to explore the park prior to watching the show and then they can enjoy the park again as we would go around in small “school groups”. Everyone arrived promptly and soon enough a very special yellow Disney bus arrived. On the journey backstage, we were told we were unable to take photos but I understood why, however as we were driving along nearing our destination at the theatre, Pooh and Tigger were walking by on their way back to the Cast Members Area from roaming around the park, they saw our coach coming and quickly “sprang into character” and were waving and cheering, it was surely a magical moment.
It was then back under the bridge and to the dressing room to change back into our normal clothes where we were greeted to sweets from Mickey and Minnie wishing us well done, another magical moment. Now the time had come to go and explore the parks, luckily we did not have to take the bus back to the hotel and then another to the parks, but we were allowed to enter the park through backstage.
Everyone split up into small groups, with at least a teacher in one group, my group was with my best friends and we first headed to Peter Pan and “Its a Small World” prior to exploring Alice’s Curious Labyrinth as a whole school, where a few of us happened to get lost, not knowing that the rest of the school had already found their way out and were waiting for us outside the maze! After that brief mishap of getting lost, we all proceeded to the beautiful Main Street U.S.A. to catch the Wonderful World of Disney Parade, my favourite parade at Disneyland Paris! We were all clapping along prior to having our photos taken by the photographers in front of the castle. The time when we visited in 2001 was when fireworks occurred at least every weekend at the resort, so being able to catch “Tinkerbell’s Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks” was great, I loved that show. It was a real good night wish. After the fireworks, I met up with my cousin and her boyfriend again and we decided to take a stroll and grab a bite to eat in Disney Village. We went to Annette’s Diner, I adore this restaurant and love the fact most of the waiting staff skate around on roller-skates! After dinner it was getting late so time to head back to the hotel for bed.
The following day we had our final show around midday, again the show was packed and it went very well. At the end we were very sad as it was then time to pack up our things and head back home to the UK. In review, it was an amazing experience to perform at Disneyland Paris and if I had the opportunity to do it again, I would!
(Note: Sorry I couldn’t remember all the details, it was a long time ago!)
Benedict Montgomery Thank you Ben the child super star! Ben has recently made a transition from Travel With Ben (@TravelWithBen) to his new site, The Brit Traveler , @TheBritTraveler- "Travel Viewed From a British Perspective". Please hop across the pond and say hi!
2002 brings us Keith from The Disney Project, who hails from the state of California. Are we making tracks, or what??