beki: (twolumps - feel pretty)
([personal profile] beki Aug. 6th, 2013 08:41 pm)

Trip Report.

Disneyland Paris, 29th July to the 3rd August 2013.

Beki, 43 years old, electric wheelchair user and L. 63, carer, some mobility issues.

Travelled by: Virgin Pendolino and Eurostar, overnight stay in Premier Inn London Euston on return.

Stayed in: Disney Santa Fe.

Ate at: Silver Spur Steakhouse, Casey's Corner, Blue Lagoon, Annette's Diner, the Grange at Billy Bob's, Earl of Sandwich, Plaza Gardens, King Ludwig's Castle and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Batch 1 of photos: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/madwitch/library/PARIS


Monday 29th July

My birthday! 3:30 AM from home. Got to Carlisle station in plenty of time for the booked assistance with Virgin Trains. We had a platform change, but the nice man from assistance loaded us into a big blue buggy and took us and the luggage up over the bridge to the new platform. The ramps onto the Pendolinos are a little fiddly, wheelchair speed up to full, line yourself up straight in front of the ramp, lean forward and make sure your wheels are straight before you start to move. Virgin staff were magic. The wheelchair space is a table seat facing travel direction on the way up to London. There's a mobile charger at the seat. The train was on time and we pulled into Euston with three quarters of an hour to get to St Pancras.

The walk to St Pancras was simple with the directions given on the accessibility site for the station. Good dropped pavements and pedestrian crossings on the major crossings all the way. It took us about 10 minutes, with a large bag each, and didn't drop my batteries by much. Wheelchair accessible lifts are well signposted inside St Pancras station. And the staff are fantastically helpful, kind and considerate.

Eurostar was an experience. We arrived just in time to be taken on board. It's an even trickier ramp to negotiate, with a flat ramp running parallel with the train and then a 90° turn in towards the door. Once again staff were fantastic, helping us on with luggage. The wheelchair space is a gap with a single seat next to it just inside the carriage door. French socket mobile charger available. We arrived at Disney at 14;03 French time, giving us a maximum train travel time of just over 6 1/2 hours. We couldn't have travelled up to Glasgow and flown much quicker than this, and for ease of taking the wheelchair and luggage it suited us perfectly. Especially with the disabled Person's Railcard knocking a fair bit off the price. Pendolino trains run from Glasgow in time to get you to the first direct Eurostar in the morning, but coming back on the direct train you're quarter of an hour too late to catch the train back up, so keep that in mind when looking at cost. They take you off the Eurostar on a lift ramp. You drive forward onto a flat platform which is then lowered to the ground. This was probably the easiest ramp of the trip.

Once we'd phoned home to reassure family that we were safely there, we headed for the park. First stop was the City Hall where we got my green disabled pass. A tip for others getting a pass; always tell them the maximum number that will be in your party at any point in the stay. Once you've got the pass, the number of people allowed to accompany you is fixed and can't be changed without going back to City Hall and getting a new pass. In order to get my pass I showed my Blue Badge and explained that I'm a wheelchair user who is able to walk 20m or less and able to transfer. The only ride that I was not allowed on was Peter Pan's flight. This is because in order to evacuate the ride I might have to climb down a ladder and walk 50m, which is just impossible for me.

Note that you can't go on any ride without an accompanying able-bodied adult who is fit enough to help you should you need to be evacuated from the ride, and who is able to assist you in transferring from your wheelchair to the ride vehicle. As my carer has some mobility issues we were limited in what we could access safely, but more on that on Thursday.

We wandered up Main Street and I was so glad to be back, the music, the atmosphere, the smells even the klaxon horns on the old Main Street transportation cars brought it all flooding back to me. I was back in my favourite place on earth on my birthday. Best birthday ever! We got ourselves a coffee and sat for a little while watching the world go by. The park was really full but I knew L hadn't had her "moment" yet. So I took her up through the castle and into Fantasyland where Tinker Bell finally dropped pixie dust over her and she turned to me and said, "okay, you're right. I'm wrong. I love it!" And stuck her tongue out at me. We wondered about taking in the sights and finally ended up in storybook land which I thought was a nice gentle ride for our Disney Newbie, and would also allow me to see how the disabled pass worked in practice. Unfortunately L couldn't manage the gap on to the ride at the disabled embark point, so another guest volunteered to ride with me who was also part of a group with a disabled person.

I couldn't persuade L onto Casey Jr at that point so we toddled over towards it's a small world and got our time to go back as they were busy. I insisted we go on Pinocchio while we waited to get L's feet wet on a ride after which we went back to IASW, which L adored so I declared Fantasyland rides a success all told. We wondered about soaking up the atmosphere until our dinner booking at six at the Silver Spur Steakhouse which was really good. Prawn cocktail, steak and the house special crème brûlée. A lovely meal and excellent service.

We were both exhausted after little sleep and my chair batteries were at the point of dying. We caught the end of the 7 PM parade and wondered out towards the bus station. On our way we met with a cast member wearing a pin trading lanyard who had a Winnie the Pooh badge on it, so L made the first pin trade of the trip. On our way to the buses we accidentally came across the disabled accessible minibus and our hero Thierry the driver loaded us in via the lift platform for the wheelchair. Later in the week I realised it was easier to swing the chair round inside the minibus, and come out forwards. At this point I was struggling though, trying to reverse out as my chair is temperamental manoeuvring backwards.

Check-in at the hotel was fine but the wheelchair accessible route to the room was unclear. We struggled to get in that first time, but once we'd found the correct route in there was no problem at all. The disabled adapted room in the Santa Fe is very well done. There is only a double bed in the disabled room itself, but they gave us an adjoining room which had a double and a sofa bed in it. My room had a roll in shower with a seat in and grab rails for the loo, drop level peep holes and light switches. I was a little surprised that the vanity unit and mirror were not also dropped, but as you could get your legs in underneath the sink in the wheelchair the sink was at least usable, if not all that comfortable.

We unpacked, and slept, waking up in time for a hotel breakfast at 7 AM for day two.

Tuesday 30th July

Continental breakfast in the Santa Fe is basic, but fine. Tinned fruit salad, ham, cheese, olives, bread rolls, Pain au Chocolate, Croissant, various cereals, tea and coffee, apple juice and orange juice. We didn't find the teabags this first morning, as they are stacked in the breakfast buffet rather than over next to the hot drinks machines. So look out for them if you're looking for tea in the morning. I asked at reception if they could send the disabled adapted minibus in and we were told 10 minutes. It appeared five minutes later and loaded us in. Going in to Main Street for extra magic hours is always wonderful. In the cool of the morning the azure blue sky framed the castle and the empty street looked like it had been polished and handed back to us all scrubbed and new and fresh and magical. There is a beauty to the Paris Park, a certain something different from Florida. But Paris was my first park, so it'll always have a special place in my heart. And getting in before the crowds makes it even prettier. Once again we went through to Fantasyland and at rope drop we went on Casey Jr so that L could say that she'd been on a roller-coaster. She thoroughly enjoyed it, which was a relief. We ambled through Frontierland and Discoveryland shopping as we went and L bought herself a Winnie the Pooh handbag and a matching purse and got me a Grumpy T-shirt. Why yes, we are Disney shoppers, it is an addiction and there is no cure. We had the spending money and I came out of the parks with €25 left at the end of the week, so I don't think we did badly all told.

I had booked Blue Lagoon for quite late on that night and my batteries began to really die at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon so we went over to Casey's Corner and got a hot dog and fries and a big cold drink and charged me up a bit in the Liberty arcade opposite the toilets while we ate. And a lot longer than it took to eat. That spot in Liberty arcade we saw far too much of when my batteries died. Back through into Fantasyland, where coming towards me was none other than Captain Jack Sparrow. He was creeping along behind another guest who didn't know he was there. He was so focused on not being seen that he hadn't seen me coming towards him at his eye level where he was bent over almost double. As I drew level with him I looked straight into his eyes and said, "boo!" Very quietly. He jumped up and span away with a drunken stagger, and I dissolved into helpless laughter. It was one of those magic character moments, and I'll never forget it. Onto the railway for a trip right round the park and then up past it's a small world to the disabled viewing area for the parade. There isn't much seating at the disabled viewing areas for any of the parades or dreams, so be aware that if you need a seat you'll need to be there before they even put the ropes out. I sat on the ground and L sat on my chair, because she can't sit on the ground and get back up again, but I can manage.

The parade was fantastic and L got it all on video with a really good view as the parade comes in to the park through the gates at that particular disabled viewing area. I can highly recommend it. I had booked a time to go on Pirates of the Caribbean before we ate at the blue Lagoon, so we went back towards the ride the long way round after the parade. L was very apprehensive on POTC as soon as it went up because at that point she realised that it had to come down again. The first drop she let out a squeak, and grabbed me and the second drop when our picture was taken I was laughing like a loon, and she looked like she'd just been shot. For the first time in my life I had to buy the ride picture and once L had stopped calling me names and swearing at me, she started laughing and said she would go on the ride again and that she had enjoyed it. I wouldn't taken her on anything rougher than that.

Then we went into blue Lagoon and used standard vouchers against the price of a meal there. They let me charge my wheelchair while we were eating, but it meant having to get out of it and walk to the table, which wasn't ideal. We opted for just a main course each, L had the steak, and I had tenderloin of pork. We split a bottle of wine between us, but for the food itself only paid about €5 more than the voucher value. We came out of the restaurant too late to get to the disabled spot for dreams and so watched it with a very bad view from behind the control box to the left of central plaza.

We bumped into Figgy on our way up to the buses, quite by accident which was a lovely end to the evening, and confirmed arrangements to meet her on Thursday morning. We went to use the bendy-bus to get back to the hotel so that we could explain how that worked for forum users. I signalled to the driver by waving and smiling, pointed to myself and pointed to the bus. He gave me the thumbs up parked his bus and came out to put the ramp down. I went straight up the ramp and into the disabled space. And Thierry the minibus driver turned up at the door to make sure I was all right in the bus. The only problem I had was that they didn't strap me in, so it didn't feel particularly safe. It wasn't too crowded, but with any more than a few people it would be dangerous to take a wheelchair on as an adult. The trip back to the hotel was uneventful but when we got there everyone got off and the driver closed the doors with me still on, which made me panic a little until I realised that he was kneeling the bus to drop the ramp for me to get off. Into the hotel room for a glass of wine before bed

Wednesday, 31st July

Didn't make the hotel breakfast this morning, but as we were heading into the studios we decided that breakfast in the village would be a nice way to start the day. We headed into Annette's Diner for a full American breakfast, which was absolutely delicious and the coffee was so good. Into the studios where we started with the Art of Disney, went on to Animagique, then the studio tour, where they run the wheelchair onto the ride up a ramp. The load ride cast member spotted my unusual Stitch pin badge, and cursed the fact she wasn't allowed to wear a lanyard while ride loading, so I gave her the badge. A hot dog from a vendor was a decent late lunch after that HUGE breakfast, then Stars and Cars in the blazing sun with no shade at the disabled viewing point; bring a brolly! Into Action Moteurs stunt show. On to Armageddon (after an ice cream that was so frozen it was like a solid rock) where a really rude guest decided to use my chair as a leaning post and kept wobbling me about. Away out of the park at closing time to go into The Grange at Billy Bob's for the buffet. The wheelchair access to the grange is VIA the same lift as you use for Buffalo Bill's, but accessed from outside. Food was ok, but the puddings and cheese board made up for what was too spicy for me from the main course, I had the starter and desert in there because even the spare ribs were doused in chilli oil. There is a children's menu there, so don't be put off because I'm a wimp. L said the chilli was fine, but her pallet tends towards the sort of curries that make grown men weep.

My batteries were a little low yet again coming out of the restaurant, so we trundled back to the main park and sat charging them for a long while before moving to the disabled viewing space for Disney Dream. I got chatting to a disabled lassie and her parents while we waited, and introduced her to pin trading with her mum's permission, a spare lanyard and a pin badge. A very nice family, and I wish I'd given them my email address. Disney Dreams itself is fabulous, now we really got to see it, but L's memory card ran out 4 minutes in, which meant that we'd have to do it all again the next night. I was so upset I nearly jumped for joy!

Saw Figgy again on the way out of the park and caught up briefly before heading back to the hotel, driven in style by Thierry, with a cheerful 'bon soir' as he waved us away. Thierry told that it was his last night and that he was retiring. We were sad to see him go.

Thursday 1st August

My good morning text to Figgy read, "Surprise! We missed breakfast. On our way in to the park via the RER station shop for a memory card." We got the memory card without any problems and after missing Figgy twice finally met up outside Salon Mickey where we were taken inside and treated like royalty. Joost, the cast member in charge was wonderfully chatty and knowledgeable about everything in the Park and chatted away to us for nearly an hour while we ate pastries and drank the excellent coffee that they serve to the shareholders in there.

I'd had a bright idea the night before, and asked Figgy if she'd mind pushing me about in a hired wheelchair for the morning if we could leave my electric wheelchair somewhere safe and pick it up later. This seemed like a really good idea at the time, because it would save me having to charge the batteries again and L and I were getting heartily sick of sitting in the Liberty arcade. Joost arranged for me to leave my wheelchair in guest storage and I got to go in through the door. As a note I would like to say that the inside of the storage area is almost as cold a fridge because the air conditioning is turned up so high. I would have no worries storing food or even medicines in guest storage having felt how cold it is.

I was helped over to where L and Figgy were bringing the wheelchair through the park gates by one of the cast members from guest storage. And we set off to spend the day doing thrill rides before meeting up with the TA forum members at 3 o'clock that afternoon for lunch. The wheelchair was very hard to push, both L and Figgy said that it was like it had its brakes on. I thought that my hips were pressing the plastic at the sides of the chair out onto the wheels and tried to sit pushing the plastic in so that the chair could be pushed which was a little easier. I am no lightweight, and I felt really guilty having asked Figgy to push me around because it was a blazing hot day and the clunky wheelchair really wasn't helping. This is when we realised that I had made a mistake when I got my disability pass by not saying that the group size would be two helpers for some rides. I could either take Figgy or L but not both of them, so even on rides that L would have been fine with, we couldn't take a third person with the pass.

We went first to big Thunder Mountain, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then Indiana Jones and the Temple of peril where I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, but still really enjoyed. From there up towards Phantom Manor where the wheelchair gave up the ghost completely. We found a cast member and Figgy explained in better French than mine that I couldn't go back to the wheelchair rental because I couldn't walk that far and the wheelchair was broken and wouldn't move. It was decided that we would go on Phantom Manor, which was a little different from the version I remember before, but still good. When we got off the ride a cast member was there with a different wheelchair and took the broken one away. The replacement chair was a little easier, but still too narrow for me to fit into easily. The Disney hire wheelchairs seem to be "one-size-fits-all" but unfortunately disabled people come in all shapes and sizes, so that policy seems to be a little shortsighted.

We went through central plaza so that Figgy could check the booking and finalise things for later on, then Figgy and I left L sitting in the shade while we went through and went on Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear laser blast. I chickened out of space Mountain as I wasn't able to take my anti-dizzy medications because my allergies had been bad and I didn't think corkscrews would be a good idea. I was also starting to feel the effects of Indiana Jones, as much as I had enjoyed the ride. I'm sure we went on another ride, but I didn't write it down in my notebook and so I've forgotten. I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed going round the park with Figgy and L and going on all the rides that I loved so much when I was fit and healthy.

We stashed the hire wheelchair behind a seat outside the Plaza Gardens restaurant and Figgy and L walked me into the seat at the restaurant. We used our standard vouchers for this meal, and only bought a second round of soft drinks for about €7 on top of the voucher cost. The food was fantastic, and I ate far too much of everything, especially the desserts. It was fabulous to meet up with everybody, and find out that my little dog has got a twin brother. The baby twins are absolutely adorable, if a handful and all the forum children seem to be unusually polite, well behaved and friendly. I had so much fun chatting away with them all. The groups reassembled themselves after we had eaten, Figgy went to spend some time doing rides with other people, and I really didn't mind because I'd done all I wanted to do that L couldn't help me with. So L and I headed off to do some pin trading and shopping and then get my electric wheelchair back from storage. I didn't have to charge the batteries that day, but the hassle of the hire wheelchair probably wasn't worth not having to sit for two hours in the Liberty Arcade again. I met up with a lovely cast member in the Kodak camera shop who promised to do a very kind thing for me. And in Harrington's Franck from the pin trading team promised me that he would find some special Hong Kong Winnie the Pooh badges to trade on Saturday morning at Pueblos trading post.

At about 9 o'clock we went and got a pure greed hotdog with everything on it from Casey's corner, with a huge soft drink each and took them up to the disabled viewing area for Dreams. We bumped into Figgy and the others on their way over to their kerb camp viewing spot. We saw Dreams for the last time for this trip with a perfect unhindered view, and L taped the whole thing. It was absolutely magical. We took the bendy bus back because there was no sign of the disabled adapted minibus. The wheelchair got me back to the hotel on its last red light of battery yet again, but I hadn't had to charge it that day, so it wasn't so bad.

Friday, 2nd August

Another late start, but we didn't mind so much as we had plans for the morning. We went into the village to the Earl of Sandwich and had a lovely breakfast. I had the BLT and L had ham, Emmental cheese and mustard, not a breakfast I could face, ever. The Earl of Sandwich really is fantastic food and good value for money. And the coffee is good. After a really good breakfast we strolled towards the Panoramagique balloon. Electric wheelchairs are not permitted in the balloon, so L was doing this one solo, acrophobia notwithstanding, and all I could do was take off my rainbow hat and salute her.

When we got there we were told that the wind was too strong. And so he was going to do a test flight in 10 minutes. So we sat relaxing and waited with our fingers crossed. Soon enough he came back and took the balloon up. The whole way up and down L was convinced that he was going to say was still too windy. But a cheerful thumbs up had her scurrying for her place in the queue and off she went. Because Paris is to the west of the Park, you really need morning sunlight to be able to see it. With the sun behind her she could see a faint grey shape which was the Eiffel Tower in the distance and she got it on film, which delighted her.

We went and did the bulk of our present shopping in the world of Disney, as the Disney store itself wasn't open yet. We did buy a DLP holdall, on a magic offer, knowing that we wouldn't fit everything in our suitcases. We knew we'd be back at the hotel too late to pick things up that night, and away before the shop opened the next morning, so we used the shopping service to store things there at the shop to pick up later.

From there we went back into the studios to do Cinemagique which we hadn't managed to do on our studios day. We thoroughly enjoyed it, as we did all the studio shows. When we came out it was blazing hot again. I went into Restaurant des Stars and booked us for 1 o'clock the next day without a problem, which was the easiest way because the restaurant booking booth in studio one was closed with no sign of ever reopening. From the studios we walked up through the village and went into King Ludwig's Castle for a leisurely lunch in the cool. I had a Ludwig's burger and L had a German delicacy dish with string noodles, vegetables, Emmental cheese and what tasted like a Jaeger Sauce which was lovely.

From there we headed back into the main park which was crowded and far too hot in the blazing 36° heat. It wasn't too crowded, so we took a chance and went and got the key code from the Christmas shop in the Castle for the lift down into Taniere du Dragon. I know there was another entrance in, but it was nice to just pop down the lift as the cobbled path is a bit steep and bumpy. The Dragon is fabulous, so lifelike. I took loads of pictures and intend to do some artwork featuring the big green lizard. We went into Fantasyland and Frontierland with every intention of wandering through and doing rides, but it really was just too hot. We did go on Snow White but eventually we gave up and I ended up leaving L sat in the discovery Arcade (for a change) while I buzzed around pin trading, meeting people, and window shopping again. I was very glad that I did though, because I found an unusual Winnie the Pooh badge on a cast member lanyard. He seemed to be St Patrick's Day themed, and when Franck the pin trading team cast member saw it later that day he said that it was part of a set and unusual. A little later we ended up sitting charging the wheelchair battery again before a leisurely walk up to Buffalo bills for our evening's entertainment.

I had bought e-tickets from ticketnet.fr before we went, and sprang them on L as a surprise. The cast members were fantastic. Jesse James, totally in character, took us up in the wheelchair lift and got us settled in our seats. I wanted to take him home with me, but I don't think Billy the bird would have approved of this six-foot four giant with a beard and long dark hair. Our waiter for the evening was Andreas, who insisted on looking after us even when he was moved to another section. The show was great, really worth seeing, but still I'm glad we got the cheapest tickets as it did amount to a €35 saving in total. The food was okay, I have it on authority that the beer that they are so free with is Kronenberg 1664. I was shocked to discover that this is thought of as cheap and nasty in general over there. Perhaps people there haven't tasted what passes for lager over here.

It didn't look good for us in the green section when the birthday boy in the red section was picked for Annie Oakley's target shooting challenge. Spirits sank even lower when our medicine ball was amongst the last into the arena, but eventually we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and I rolled out on beer fumes with a hat full of gold coins that some kind person (I won't name him and embarrass him) thought I might enjoy. Quickly stopped into the loos at the sports bar, and then back to the hotel to sleep as we wanted to be up for EMH the next day as it was our last day in the park. We were completely distracted by a cracking thunderstorm rumbling over the park, so we sat and watched for a good half an hour as the rain started to pour, until I realised we were going to get very wet going to the room, and we still had to pack. It took us longer than we wanted, but we finally had everything sorted for a quick getaway the next day.


Saturday 3rd August

Up bright and early, and had breakfast in the hotel for a miracle! Went to the front desk and got another Disney Express tag to go on the new holdall and then put all the luggage into the 'Baggagerie'. On our way into the park I realised that I'd left my famous rainbow Sun hat on the bed in the hotel room. We carried on into the beautifully empty morning park, to go and say goodbye to everything. The first thing I did was go into City Hall and write out my thank you's for cast members who had been especially kind, and to say that in general every cast member we met had been fabulous. I asked the cast member in City Hall if he could phone the Santa Fe and see if the hat was there, and he said that he wasn't promising anything but that if I wanted to sit and write my thank you's, he do his best for me. When he came back I handed him the form and he said that the Santa Fe had promised that if they found it they would put it with my luggage in the Disney Express office, and if not it would eventually be donated to charity which meant it would have a good home. I was quite happy with this, as the man had done his best, and you could never ask for more than someone's best.

We sat in the sun and phoned home sitting in front of the main Street railway station. It was far cooler than it had been after the storm. Then we wandered up Main Street and into Fantasyland, sitting and watching the world go by while we waited for rope drop so that we could go on the Pueblos trading post for the pin trading. We nipped back down to say goodbye to the Dragon by way of the bumpy cobbles and then it was off to Pueblos where we bought some pins, checked on some other pins availability for some friends on pin talk, and traded for the Hong Kong Winnie the Pooh pins with Franck. I'll say here that pin trading in Paris is just as friendly as trading in Florida. Cast members were eager to trade, and disappointed if they didn't have anything on their lanyards that I wanted to trade for.

We went back down towards the river boat landing with time left to go on the Molly Brown, but it was a 40 minute wait for our slot, so I became a woman on a mission to get L a decent cuppa tea in the park. It took me 15 minutes and three tries, but I managed it. Buzzing back to where she was sitting on a bench in the shade with the teabag packet clamped between my teeth like a pirates' knife and the cup of hot water balanced on top of a chocolate brownie in my left hand. I enjoyed the riverboat ride, and it was nice to do something that I'd never done before as my last thing in the main park before strolling back along the length of Main Street and out to the Disney studios for lunch with Remy.

For our last meal we used our last two vouchers in Restaurant des Stars, and oh boy was it worth it. The buffet in there was totally fabulous, and you could keep going back for little tasters of everything on the menu. I will recommend the ratatouille, as you would expect with the star of the dinner show, it was excellent as was the beef bourguignon. The highlight of the food were all the tiny tasters of puddings, so that you could have eight puddings without putting on another stone in weight. If I had known how good it was in there, I would have done this rather than Billy bobs. If you have to choose between those two, pick Restaurant des Stars. It was the best all-you-can-eat buffet of the week. The last photograph I took in the park was of L with Remy, with a happy smile on her face.

Off to the station, and we really didn't want to go. I think it would have been harder going from Main Street, but then I'm such a big kid about that place. We went up and collected our bags from Disney Express with no problems, and the Santa Fe had found my hat and sent it as they had promised to try and do. And then it all went the shape of pears. After such a fantastic week we were not expecting a bad experience getting onto the train to go home. Please note that if you're going as a disabled person, no matter what the booking people say, there is no help with luggage to embark Eurostar at the Disney station. As things stand at the moment this will probably stop me and L being able to go back together. Firstly we went through customs early in order to have plenty of time to board with assistance and a ramp. We were left sitting the other side of customs without access to a loo or a drink for an hour and a half. Eventually two brusque and curt women appeared and escorted us down in the lift to the platform. They then proceeded to vanish at a far faster walking speed than we could manage. L was struggling with our cases. You remember that she had difficulties getting over the gap to get onto the storybook ride? The gap between the station edge and the train is wider, and is also a step up. Eventually we caught up with the women, and they loaded me onto the train in my wheelchair. They then brutally refused to help L at all, removed the ramp before she could get on and use it, refused to help with the bags and left her to hurt herself getting onto the train.

It was a muscle strain in her bad leg, and it doesn't appear that there was any lasting damage, but it was only seven months ago that she had the knee replacement, so it wasn't good and at the time we were both very worried that she done some nasty damage. I reported it at once to the train manager, who told me we shouldn't have been told that luggage assistance was available for embarkation at M le V, and with the attitude of station staff we were "lucky to get a ramp". My feet and ankles were up like balloons at this point, so all I could do was sit on the floor of the train and try and let the swelling go down a little. Eurostar staff kept bringing me cold drinks, and the trip doesn't last long so we were soon back in London. Customs was fine, the Eurostar staff must have been told that we'd had a bad experience, we were found a trolley immediately for our luggage and customs officials motioned us through to a short queue to let us get out quickly. Coming out of the station I had one little flashing red light, but we decided to risk the battery on a last-ditch to get to the hotel before it died. It died inside the door of the hotel 2 feet from the check-in screen and one of the hotel staff was kind enough to push the chair into the lift and up to our room.

We then found that we had been given a double instead of a twin, which really didn't suit us at all. Reception told us that it couldn't be changed as the hotel was full of families when we went back down. The air conditioning had also failed, but as the wheelchair was already plugged into charge and I didn't want to disturb it until it had fully charged having drained the batteries completely, we didn't accept a room change as it still wouldn't have given us a twin bedded room. I had one of the most uncomfortable nights I have ever spent in a hotel, through no fault of L's and the hotel staff really couldn't do anything to help. Breakfast was really nice though, our last all-you-can-eat buffet of the trip, and as we knew it was back to the diets when we got home we made the best of it.

The Virgin Trains assistance staff member met us at the top of the ramp down to platform 15, took all our luggage and drove it down to the front of the train where he had the ramp set up to let us board. L was assisted up the ramp, and our bags were stowed for us. The treatment here was what we should have had at the Eurostar. Coming off at Carlisle we were met by the station manager in the courtesy car and were taken all the way out of the station with our luggage, which he then proceeded to help load into the car. That's what I call help. I will definitely travel with Virgin again.

And that's it! Back to the dull humdrum, and missing Disney like crazy. Oh Tinker Bell, please can you spread a bit of pixie dust, and magic me back there without the traveling.


PS: Pintalk folk can comment on this thread: http://www.pintalk.com/showthread.php?7743-Pin-Trading-in-Paris-a-dream-come-true

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