Today Joe woke up at 7am and I followed, at 7:30am. Steve, who had an earlier flight, had left around 6:30am.

After some last-minute packing, we were out the door by 8am and went to our breakfast buffet (in the restaurant this time, not the convention center…I guess they use the convention center for overflow and we had never been downstairs this early?). After breakfast (different location but exact same food…I didn’t have a Nutella-covered chocolate croissant today though; I’m going home today so it’s back to “healthier eating mode”), we went back to room and got our luggage. The hotel concierge said there was a 9:25am shuttle that would bring us directly to Charles De Gaulle Airport, but it wouldn’t actually arrive at the airport until 10:40am – with a 12:55pm international flight, that was a little too close for comfort, so we took the DLP bus to the train station at DLP (it’s actually a walkable distance…we had passed the train station every day on the way to the parks, but now we would have LOTS of luggage in tow), then the train to airport (a 10-minute ride, albeit a cramped one, as we were crammed in with lots of other people and their luggage).

Good karma was with us as we exited the train, as there was a luggage cart right there, which made carrying the 3 big bags, 2 carry-ons and 2 MONDO HEAVY personal bags a lot easier . Unfortunately, you can’t take the escalator if you have a luggage cart. More unfortunately, the one elevator that serviced that platform was ALWAYS crowded every time it got back to our floor. After being bypassed by 3 or 4 full elevators in 10 minutes, we dumped our luggage cart and took the escalator, after all.

Finding our terminal was a trip and a half because there were few signs and we were so early that our flight information wasn’t on the “Depatures” board yet. We had to ask few people and eventually found out that we had to get to Terminal A, which was just past Terminal C (A after C? WTF? Damn French…). It was a long walk just to get to Terminal C so we got a cart guy to drive us to beginning of C (tipped him 2€, which was about $2.75…don’t know if that was a good tip or not, since tipping is not as mandatory as it is in the States, but we didn’t have many Euros to spare), then we walked to Terminal A.

The line for Continental check-in was LONG but apparently boarding Houston was a priority (we now only had about 2 hours until boarding time) so we (and a dozen other people) got brough closer to the front of the line. Their security screening is much better than the US, with more specific questions about what we’ve been doing, what we were carrying, etc.. After checking in, we went through X-ray where, again, Joe’s bag got hand checked (we’ve really got to stop giving him the bag of computer wires as carry-on). Finally made it to Gate 47A and sat the 75 minutes until boarding.

They started pre-boarding about 45 minutes before our scheduled departure time. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, “pre-boarding” out of France means double-checking passports (actually, by this point, I think this was triple-checking) and hand-searching every piece of carry-on luggage from every passenger. From a BIG ASS plane. A 777. And so, of course, we took off 40 minutes late.

I slept for the first hour and a half of being on the plane, so I missed the “mini pretzel and 4 oz beverage” service. I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for the lunch feast though…a 4″ x 6″ container of salad greens (and 1 tomato wedge…oh, the luxury!), Italian dressing, a 4″ x 6″ container of breaded chicken (couldn’t have been more than 3 oz of poultry, but at least it was thoroughly cooked, unlike the French, who eat it pink) with most of the breading and mozzarella cheese topping sticking to the foil cover, 15 cooked carrot coins, some wilted string beans, overcooked rice, a 3″ x 3″ dinner roll with a pat of butter, 2 crackers with cheese and a 2″ x 2″ coffee cake with raisins and cinnamon.

Around 3pm or so, some idiot’s cell phone went off during the flight. Not a welcoming sound in this day and age of air travel (especially since it felt like they had been just one step short of an anal probe back at the Charles du Gaulle airport). It stopped after 3 rings though.

At 7pm (1pm ET), while flying over Canada (somewhere northeast of Montreal), the flight crew handed us small containers of vanilla ice cream. This was a welcomed treat I had never experienced on a plane before and I dare say it was better than the entire 3pm lunch!

10pm (4pm ET) was snack time again, this time with a ham and cheese sandwich on something the size of a dinner roll, a small bag of potato chips and a small round candy bar that reminded me of a 100 Grand bar. The sandwich sucked but the snacks were OK.

We landed safely in Houston, went through Customs, gathered our luggage, gave back our luggage, went through X-ray again and, after the planned layover and an additional 30-minute delay because our plane had come in late, boarded our plane bound for Orlando. I slept that entire 2-hour flight.

Finally, after being on planes for about 13 hours, we were home and our vacation was done. Pity.

So what are my thoughts and opinions (I know, I know…you didn’t ask. Someone else did ). Well, I still love traveling. I love seeing new places and having new experiences. We had been to London and DLP 10 years ago, so neither destination was new to us, but we did new and different things in each location.

I love London. I love how they have pubs that are older than our country. I love how they can have so much history intermeshed with a modern city. I love the architecture of the buildings that didn’t get demolished in WW2. I love that they speak English as a primary language .

Disneyland Paris is something I have a love-hate relationship with, similar to the feelings I often have about WDW. On the surface, it’s beautiful and magical and perfect in every way. But if you look close, there’s a lot of tarnish amongst all the fun, shiny stuff; most of it based in Bad Show. And almost all of it seems to point at lack of money. What else would be the excuse for cracks in the sidewalk that are 4″ x 1.5″ x 1″…or plants and weeds that are so high that they block out parts of the show…or 1/2″ of dust on surfaces…or parts of attractions that are majorly broken and are allowed to stay on stage…or a parade where there’s an obvious pattern of every other lightbulb being out? It HAS to be lack of funding for maintenance and gardeners and equipment and supplies, because if not, then the blame has to be on apathy. And that’d suck.

I think that, had we not gone to Tokyo Disneyland last year, I wouldn’t be so critical. But in Japan, they REALLY have their act together. They take pride in their work, whether they’re a manager or a street cleaner. They always have a smile and an upbeat attitude. The parks are pristine, with everything in working order, and if there’s a lightbulb out one day, you can be sure it’ll be replaced and working by the next day. It’s amazing what a park can be like, if someone is willing to follow the old adage of, “you have to put in money to make money.” God bless Oriental Land Company.

Will we go back? Yeah. But not for another 10 years or so. England is lovely but there is history and architecture in other places too. As for DLP, the Studios really need more attractions to make it be even NEAR worth a day pass. Disneyland Park badly needs maintenance but could use a few more attractions too…there were NO new major attractions there since our last visit in May/June 1996. But we’re making plans for our next “Disney trip” and if anyone would like to join us on our return trip to Tokyo Disneyland in 2008…..

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