I went . . . I sneered . . . I was conquered: Euro Disney astonished Geraldine Bedell - she actually liked it

'BUT isn't Euro Disney terribly American?' asked a friend disdainfully, as he set off for the Dordogne. At my first Euro Disney breakfast last Saturday - pancakes in the Wild West Saloon - I could see his point. Hell must be like this, I thought - vast, teeming, noisy, stuffed with beguiling images which, close up, turn out to be totally fake. We were only half an hour from the restaurants, architecture, culture of Paris: why ever had we driven hours across France to park ourselves somewhere so completely ersatz?

Euro Disney shares hit an all-time low last week, and analysts were predicting a pounds 30m first-year loss. British reports, blaming poor attendance rates, carried a strong whiff of schadenfreude, as if this was no more than Euro Disney deserved. Who did this Disney Corporation think they were, plonking down a theme park in the middle of France? France is the place you go to complain about how Peter Mayle has inflated the price of a daube. It is not where you expect to find roller-skating waitresses, fast food and a lot of other English people.

The whole point of Europe is supposed to be to allow sophisticated people to identify with the chic, baguette-eating, wine-making French, rather than the vulgar, shell-suited, loutish British. So the other Brits, who were swarming all over Euro Disney, were dismaying. 'I bet half these people never even came to France before this place was built,' I thought grumpily. 'It's perfectly obvious no one with any taste could possibly enjoy something so artificial, such a vacuum-packed atmosphere.'

I had no sense of being in France. After breakfast served by pretend cowboys, we walked along an artificial river called the Rio Grande, past an artificial lake called Buena Vista, down an artificial street vaguely got up to look like Las Vegas. Inside the park we could choose to wander around Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, Futureland - but they were all basically the same: fakes.

There was, I said crossly, something rather Fascist about the way the Disney Corporation had its tentacles round every last detail: even fallen leaves were swiftly brushed away by an army of themed cleaners. There was something even more distasteful about all this marketing to children. Especially when it cost their parents pounds 750 for a weekend.

And then we saw Mickey Mouse. He was on a veranda, waving. My five- year-old son's face lit up. All our faces lit up. 'Is this where Mickey Mouse lives?' breathed my son, awed. A bit further on, both children shook - actually shook - Donald Duck's hand. They went red with pleasure. So did we. I began to feel secretly rather excited.

Gunfire spattered over our heads during lunch: cowboys were having a rooftop shoot-out. We wandered through an Arab bazaar, with views of leaping African dancers and the spires of Sleeping Beauty's castle. And it struck me that Euro Disney isn't fake or ersatz at all, because it isn't actually trying to be anything except itself.

In the end, it's just a confection, with its own distinctive charms - one of which, amazingly, is queueing. If someone had told me I'd happily spend seven hours in one weekend queueing with two children, I'd have scoffed. But there is obviously a great queueing expert at Disney, who has worked out a way to keep the queues moving, even if round in circles, and had the bright idea of putting up notices at the start of the lines that make you think you'll have to queue longer than you actually do. By the end of the weekend, I was feeling so benign about the queues, I began to think perhaps you couldn't relish Big Thunder Mountain properly if you hadn't waited 90 minutes for it.

I stopped seeing the British as vulgar and decided we were actually less culturally constrained, more fun-loving than all those other uptight Europeans who were staying away. I stopped feeling pompous about whether all this laid-on entertainment might stifle the children's imaginations: my son got into the spirit of things by himself becoming themed, spending the entire weekend as a pirate. So now we won't hear talk of Euro Disney being any kind of failure. We know it's great: we've met Mickey Mouse.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower