Do you know what it sounds like when a French person tries to say “howdy?”
If you want to hear it, stay at Hotel Cheyenne at Disneyland Paris. It used to be a wild west themed hotel, but was recently renovated to be more Woody’s Roundup themed. They make all their cast members great guests by saying “howdy.” Except the French tend to drop their “h” sounds, so when you make them say “howdy,” all you hear is “owdy.” Like Audi. IT’S AMAZING. I would like to thank Hotel Cheyenne for this endless entertainment.
Can you guess that we stayed at the Hotel Cheyenne? It was the cheapest option of all the race/hotel packages, and it was actually pretty good! The hotel is massive but we were the only resort with self-service laundry and we were only like 10 minutes from the parks so I’ll take it.
We showed up Saturday around noon and checked in before walking to the race expo to pick up bibs & shirts. Oh friends, these shirts. I know European sizing tends to be smaller than American, but goodness. These things were really small. I needed a large; usually at US runDisney events I get a small. Apparently the 10k/half marathon challenge shirts were even worse.
They printed every runner’s name on a big wall which I guess was supposed to be cool but to me just looked like the Vietnam Wall.
To the Studios!
We didn’t have a plan for Saturday afternoon other than to head to Walt Disney Studios, the second and smaller park at Disneyland Paris. It reminds me a lot of early California Adventure, before it got the renovations it sorely needed. Everything is Hollywood themed and the park is pretty small. (Maybe even smaller than Hong Kong Disneyland, which is very small.)
We headed straight for the Ratatouille area (in a land called Toon Studio which is, ugh) and took a look through the stands set up for the Food & Wine Festival that was running through the weekend. It looked good, but we decided to save it for the next day – after the half marathon – because we wanted wine. It was literally cheaper than water!
I didn’t think we could walk up and get a table at Le Bistrot Chez Remy, the restaurant next to the Ratatouille ride, but through the magical power of Asking Politely and Eating Off-Peak Hours, we got a table easily! The restaurant is adorable. The Ratatouille ride is supposed to “shrink” you to rat size, so the restaurant is rat-sized, too; it’s modeled after the restaurant Remy makes for his rat family at the end of the movie. The food was also much better than a rat themed Disney park restaurant has any right to be.
After lunch, we jumped into the single rider line for Ratatouille; I’m surprised at how many rides at DLP have clearly marked single rider entrances. Shanghai has these too, but I don’t recall seeing them in Hong Kong. Weirdly, even though they’re clearly marked, the single rider lines are still much shorter than the regular lines.
We also did the Flying Carpets ride, which is just Dumbo but with Aladdin flying carpets instead, and Tower of Terror, which hasn’t yet been converted into Guardians of the Galaxy. (It’s the same as California’s Tower of Terror, not Florida’s.)
I’d agreed to meet up with another runner I met on Facebook to split the cost of a Photopass, so we went into Disneyland Park just before dinner. We didn’t stay long, but we did discover that DLP has real cotton candy – none of that pre-bagged crap, this is the freshly spun stuff.
The options for a pre-race carb loading dinner weren’t great except for a fast-casual pasta place in Disney Village (DLP’s Downtown Disney), which is where we went along with apparently every other runner on planet earth.
We said Saturday was going to be an easy day to save our legs for the race Sunday.
Hahahahaha just kidding we walked 7.7 miles.
You know what’s always fun? Waking up before dawn to run 13 miles! Right?! Guess what makes it even more fun? Waking up with a cold! Hahahahahaugh. Yeah, I woke up with a cold on race day and it sucked.
Good race, though! We went to a very early breakfast at the hotel buffet and then headed for the corrals. They only have 3 corrals (versus Disneyland’s 5-10), maybe because they don’t have the space to separate more corrals? They don’t require proof of time past 1:30 either, so… yeah, a lot of people clearly lie about their expected finish time. I’m slow as hell and we passed quite a few people who started before us.
At the start line, the hosts on stage were… weird. You know what I don’t want to do at 6:45 in the morning? Dance on command while a lady in silver lamé shouts generic encouragement toward me in mediocre English.
But DLP gives you like 4 miles in the park at the top of the race and then finishes with the last 3 miles or so in the park too, with the finish line in front of Tower of Terror. Plus they have TONS of entertainment out in the parks, including cast members at nearly every store and ride you pass. The Disneyland fire department brought their equipment out along the course and we really liked the kitchen staff banging on pots and pans.
And the CHARACTERS, oh sweet baby Jesus the characters they put out… HYENAS, guys. The hyenas from Lion King. I saw Rafiki and Timon. The Three Caballeros. Here’s Stephanie with SCROOGE MCDUCK:
DLP also excels at the sheer number of aid stations, where they had powerade and water plus a whole bunch of different snacks.
Outside of the parks, we ran about half the race through some nice countryside between Disneyland and the closest town, which is the Val d’Europe area of Marne-la-Vallée. In town, there were local school groups and cheerleaders along the course and a lot of families came outside to cheer, too. The only part that really sucked was around kilometer 12, where the course went around a dirt path in a park. Nice idea, except it was a rainy weekend so the path was just mud.
Here is an absolutely great photo of the countryside. Please feel free to leave compliments on the composition of this photo in the comments below.
At kilometer 16 the course comes back on Disney property through the hotels. We ran right past our hotel at kilometer 17, which is terrible when you realize you’ve got to run the next 4km to the finish and then go 4km back to where you currently are. Torture.
Just before the 20km marker, I looked at my watch and realized we were still sub-3:00. (I said I was slow, dammit!) My mom ran the Tinkerbell Half in May in 3:07, so when I told her we had about 1.5km to go (that’s less than a mile!) and our net time was only around 2:50, her exact words to me were “holy shit.” We finished in 3:00 which is, yes, a SEVEN MINUTE PR for my mom. THAT’S INSANE. HOW DID SHE DO THAT.
We got our race medals AND our Castle to Chateau medals (because we ran a race in the US this year, Tinkerbell), and the usual snack boxes and bananas and bottles of water and Powerade and milk. And DLP gave us bags to carry it all in! Take that, US runDisney. They make you carry all your post-race food in your arms like an animal.
We tried to take the bus back to our hotel but the lines were so long that we gave up and walked. That’s another 4km or so. Naturally, Stephanie beat us, and we ran into her while heading back to the hotel for our second breakfast. That’s right. The hotel gave runners a second breakfast.
After slowly crawling back to the room, showering, taking a nap, and sorting laundry, we finally decided to venture back outside into the parks. I was too tired to bother to dry my hair.
But it was worth getting up for the last day of the Food & Wine Festival! We got beef bourguignon, escargot, raclette, cider, wine, and a kougin aman. Then we went to Disneyland for cotton candy and cookies. Basically, we ate super healthy, thanks. We also got 30-minute sport massages at the hotel spa, which I would normally hate because strangers touching you is gross but it was actually fantastic.
I knew I was getting sick, so we went back to the room and I don’t know what happened after that ’cause I passed the fuck out.
Total miles walked & run, day five: 21.8
I have to say it again because it was terrible: 21.8 miles
Guess who woke up even sicker! Me! I went to Disneyland anyway!
As hotel guests we got Extra Magic Hours in Disneyland, so Stephanie and I did Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and Pinocchio before hopping over to the Studios to do Crush’s Coaster. (Crush was the only ride we did all day with a serious line, and I fell asleep while standing up. I cannot believe Stephanie went this whole trip without punching me in the face.)
My mom did Small World while we did Indiana Jones and then we all headed off for Pirates. Except we got distracted on the way by Smee! Smee! They had Smee out! I honestly don’t remember the last time I saw Smee anywhere.
Then I realized the times for Pooh to be out were coming up, so we diverted into Fantasyland where I turned a corner, saw Pooh and Tigger, and ran away from everyone to get in line shouting “it’s Pooh! I see Pooh!” because I am an adult.
I can understand why a lot of people don’t like DLP as much as other Disney parks, especially when just looking at the rides. Paris really likes outdoor steel-track coasters and most of their E-tickets are one. Their Indiana Jones is nothing like the dark ride coaster we have – it’s outside in broad daylight and has a loop. Their Space Mountain is like 100% corkscrews plus 3 loops.
But Paris’ characters are AMAZING. They totally blow everyone else out of the water.
In line for Pooh and Tigger, I pulled my race medals out of my backpack and put them on, so I could show them to Pooh, because I am an adult and I wanted his approval. When I showed them to Pooh and Tigger, they loved it! Those guys know how to mime, I’ll tell you.
I’m a little upset at how much Pooh and Stephanie seemed to click.
Tigger told Pooh he should run a race like we did so he can loose his big belly (from all that
honey hunny). Pooh acted offended, then literally tried to throw himself over a 2 foot tall fence behind him that blocked off some decorative hunny pots. I honestly thought his head was going to fall off, but dude knew what he was doing.
I was kind of hopped up on cold medicine at this point so I can’t remember exactly, but I think we did a little jog together before taking a group photo. We said goodbye to Best Pooh and Best Tigger, but Pooh decided after our goodbye that he wanted to go with Stephanie so he walked halfway down the road with her. I love them so much. I want to live in a world that’s just me and Best Pooh and Best Tigger. I guess Stephanie can come too.
Lunch was at a Tex-Mex place (one of several, why?) but I’d hardly call a chicken wrap Tex-Mex. Weird. Is this what the French think of us? Afterwards, we finally made it to Pirates, grabbed a FastPass for Star Tours, and did Autopia. We tried to walk through the castle, but it was closed for the Halloween changeover.
We did a little shopping and then I, an adult, needed a nap. But not before Stephanie and I bought matching Chip & Dale 25th anniversary Mickey ears! Here they are being modeled by Winnie the Pooh.
When we headed back into the park for the fireworks show, Stephanie and I wore them (of course). Gave my mom some flashbacks to taking actual children to Disneyland. Because, as we established, I am an adult.
To end the night, we brought McDonald’s into the park and ate it on the curb on Main Street while waiting for Illuminations, their nighttime show. This is basically the same show I saw last year in Shanghai, mostly using projection mapping on the castle and supplementing with a few low fireworks. It’s a fine show but much like World of Color, the lack of a plot or story makes it feel really long.
Miles walked, day six: 12.1
Disney Parks of the world now visited: 10/12
Sadly, our train to Brussels the next morning was too early to have time to go to breakfast and hear the CMs say howdy one more time.