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Disneyland Paris: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

If you want to see a show over dinner, lasso a horse, saddle up, and gallop along to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show... with Mickey and Friends. Or, y'know, simply walk there from wherever you are in the park. Located in the Disney Village, the show runs twice a night at 18.30 and 21.30.

Ticket prices may seem expensive, but they include a ninety minute show, a cowboy hat and dinner (which includes drinks, too). Category 1 seating costs £58.70 for adults, £46.60 for children; category 2 seating costs £47.70 for adults, £35.60 for children. We had category 2 seats and had a great view as you can see from my photos below but you're, obviously, closer to the action if you're in category 1 seats.

When you arrive at Buffalo Bill's, you're assigned to a team and given your colour-coded cowboy hat to wear - we were the mighty yellow team. You then head to the bar area to get a drink and enjoy some music before you're allowed into the arena. It's recommended you get there around an hour to forty-five minutes before the show starts. (The sooner you get there, the more likely you are to get a seat nearer the front.)

It's all go when you take your bench in the arena and you're in for ninety minutes of gun-slinging, cattle herding and rough riding competitiveness, along with a bit of a sing-along and various visits from Mickey and friends.

Food is continuously brought out and drinks refilled, but you have to be quick as there's so much to get through. Adults get corn bread, chilli, tortilla chips, chicken, sausage, ribs, new potatoes and a dessert of apple crumble and ice cream, followed by tea or coffee. Drink choices are beer, coke or water, but you can get a really reasonable jug of wine from the bar for €9.

The food was actually better than I expected it to be, and it was a fun show to watch. My nephews and niece really enjoyed it, though if you have allergies, think twice. My poor sister-in-law completely didn't twig that it's a show involving horses... yep, she's allergic. Ah-choo! x

PS: Our team's cowboy won, so we all got a gold chocolate coin. Yee-haw!

Disneyland Paris: Meeting the characters

Let's face it, it's the characters who make Disney, and I was more excited this time round meeting them than I was when I first went to Disneyland as a seven year old. (They really scared me back then - I was so shy!)

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are obviously, it goes without saying, the number one and number two characters on your to-meet list. You'll find Mickey in Fantasyland, where he hangs out most of the day; Minnie can be found on Main Street in the morning, and in the Studios in the afternoon. (You can pick up the schedule at the park entrances which will tell you when and where everyone is.)

Not all characters have a PhotoPass photographer waiting to snap your picture, but usually some nice person will take a few pictures of all your group if you ask. Just remember to return the favour if someone asks you to take a snap! Woody can be found in the Walt Disney Studios, and we also spied Buzz hanging around in Andy's room - we quickly got his autograph, but no photo with him.

Chip and Dale were probably my absolute faves because of how they interacted with my youngest nephew. Joshie wanted to show them his Jedi Stitch toy - the cheeky chipmunks pretended that Stitch had attacked them with the lightsaber and a few minutes of high jinx ensued! We were all highly delighted.

You can be in a queue up to an hour to meet the characters but they really do spend a good few minutes with everyone taking photos, signing autographs, and making you feel like you are their new best friend. Promise me you'll queue to meet at least one character if you visit the park - you'll be glad you did! x

Pre-order B-Side (Arielle Lockley series)

Just a quick post to say that B-Side (Arielle Lockley series book 2.5) is now available to pre-order in Kindle format on Amazon for 99p/$0.99. (Cover coming soon; B-Side will also be available in paperback.) You can buy the rest of the series here.

"What do I honestly know about the music industry? I'm just another idiot with a dream who is naive enough to hope that I might be the next big star." 

 Etta Millhouse has always had big musical ambitions to match her big voice, but she's also got three very big problems - the addiction she won't admit to, her godmother's illness that she can no longer ignore, and her godmother's useless business partner (who she wishes she could ignore).

Keeping an eye on Arielle's bad business decisions is the last thing Etta wants to do when she's offered the chance to record a demo with a top producer. But, a promise is a promise, even if it has her reaching for another pick-me-up... And then another. And then one more.

When the secret she must keep for her godmother, Felicity, sends her drug habit spiralling out of control, can Etta battle her demons in time and make her dream happen? Or, will her music career be over before it's even begun?

B-Side is the third book in the Arielle Lockley series - read Etta's version of events in this gritty Lost spin-off.

*

Pre-order US | Pre-order UK | Pre-order Canada
(Search "B-Side Elle Field" to order on your local Amazon website.)

Madame Tussauds

Ah, Madame Tussauds - the place to go to pose with famous (or sometimes fictional) people (and ogres). I headed there last weekend with my friend, though it's not the first time I've stepped foot into the famous waxworks museum.

Located on Marylebone Road, just off Baker Street, Madame Tussauds has had its home there since 1884, though originally was on Baker Street itself in Marie Tussaud's time (pictured top left).

I wonder what she'd make of taking a selfie with Kim and Kanye? It's so interesting to think that the reason people like Marie Tussaud made waxworks was to show what people looked like - nowadays we can access billions of images and videos in seconds; we don't need to see their likeness in wax!

But, even though we don't have to go to a waxworks museum, we still do - Madame Tussauds was very busy as people lined up to take a smiling selfie with their favourites, or do a ridiculous pose with the celebs they didn't like.

From the British Royal Family to Barack Obama, Miley Cyrus to Mahatma Gandhi, Madame Tussauds is full of both historical figures and modern celebrities. It's eye-opening to see who the flavour du jour is - I thought Rihanna or Michael Jackson would be super popular, but neither had anyone by them.

Last year YouTubers Zoella and Alfie Deyes were added to the Madame Tussauds London collection, which prompted some interesting reactions/admiration, depending how you feel about them. My friend who I visited with is an orthopaedic surgeon... she had no clue who they were! (Sorry guys.)

After you've peered, posed and wondered whether that man standing there is a waxwork or real - nope he just sneezed; he's real - you hop in a black cab and follow London's history on the Spirit of London ride. I will say here that we had a lovely photo taken of us on this ride, but the cost to buy it? £13. I don't mind paying for that sort of thing, but £13 for one digital photo is ridiculous!

Once you've stepped out of your black cab, it's time for Marvel Super Heroes 4D, which is housed in the old London Planetarium. I used to love visiting the planetarium, so I'm super sad it has closed down, but the film is good fun. After you've hung out with Spiderman and company, it's time for the Star Wars section.

Ticket prices to Madame Tussauds vary, though it is cheaper to book online and you will only have to queue for around ten minutes this way. (If you rock up without a ticket, you could end up queueing hours.) Our 4pm timeslot cost us £22 each: 4pm is when the cheapest timeslots begin, and we found that two hours was more than enough time to comfortably see everything. The earlier in the day you visit, the more expensive it is. x

Madame Tussauds, Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LR
Open daily. Tickets now cost from £23.79, and can be booked here.

Disneyland Paris: Walt Disney Studios Park

The Walt Disney Studios Park opened in 2002 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. Divided into four areas - Front Lot, Toon Studio, Production Courtyard and Back Lot - the Studios focus on the production side of Disney's cartoons, shows and films.

Whilst a lot has remained the same since my first (and only) visit to the park in 2005, there are quite a few big rides in the park now. These include the Toy Story Playland area, Ratatouille, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Crush's Coaster.

Sadly, my favourite ride - Rock 'n' Rollercoaster avec Aerosmith - was closed for refurbishment, and we didn't get the chance to go on Crush's Coaster because it always had around a ninety minute queue time. (There's no FASTPASS option either. Booooooo!)

But, it was actually the Ratatouille ride that had the longest queue time in the Studios - up to two hours, most of the time. However, you can book a FASTPASS slot which solves the mammoth queue time issue. The ride is a lot of fun as you shrink down to Remy's size to have quite the adventure! (Head straight to the ride as soon as the Studios opens to get your FASTPASS ticket as there are only a limited amount available.)

Another fun ride was Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic, though I do seem to remember the Armageddon ride to be better than it was. I'll confess, I didn't go on the Tower of Terror - drops are not my thing, especially when you're hurled back up to be dropped down again - but my eldest nephew loved it.

Show-wise, we watched the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and Stitch Live, but there are a lot more shows than this in this park. Our timing was a bit off - we'd get out a of ride and a show would have just started, so we'd go on another ride and then miss the next show. And so on.

If you're hungry and near the car stunt show, look for Café des Cascadeurs - it's a genuine American diner that was built in the 1950s, converted from an airstream caravan. We ate lunch there, and also at Restaurant en Coulisse. Café des Cascadeurs is a little pricier, but the food is nicer - both have the typical burgers and fries on their menus.

The Walt Disney Studios park seemed busier than the main park, but that might be because it's smaller and there are less rides. There's still the opportunity to meet-and-greet characters though, so keep those autograph books and cameras out - I'll be giving you the low-down on the character meet-and-greets next week. x

Disneyland Paris: Fantasyland

You may think Fantasyland is just for children, but you'd be wrong. OK, the rides aren't the fastest or the steepest or the scariest in this land, but they are still a lot of fun - whatever your age is!

Walk through the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle to get into Fantasyland, but have a nosey around whilst you're there. You can head under the castle, but don't wake the dragon! (My youngest nephew was thoroughly fed-up of photos by the last day when the above photo was taken!)

The first ride we went on in the park was Dumbo's Flying Elephant, which I reckon is a firm favourite of anyone who has ever been to Disneyland. There's often a big queue though for it - if you don't have Magic Hours, we found the queue was super short just before Fantasyland closes for the evening. (It shuts an hour before the other lands so they can set Disney Dreams up.)

Speaking of Dumbo, there's the Casey Jr. Circus Train which really young children will enjoy, right by the Storybook Land Canal Boats - whether you opt for the train, a boat, or both, both rides take you through miniature scenes from well-known fairy tales.

If you prefer your boat scenery to be a little bigger, and accompanied by the world's catchiest tune, then you want to take a ride on It's a Small World.

Sure, some people say it's creepy - they'd be wrong - but I bet by the end of the ride you'll be singing along and wanting to go on it again. I know we definitely did!

The Mad Hatter's Tea Cups is another fun ride, and you also have the carousel in Fantasyland and three little rides that take you through the stories of Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty.

Speaking of the Mad Hatter, don't discount the maze as being a mere maze. This is an Alice in Wonderland maze, which is so much better. Split into two parts, your goal is to reach the Queen of Hearts' Castle.

Your reward? An awesome view of the park. You can see, pretty much, the entire park from the top of the castle, as well as the taller rides in the Walt Disney Studios park. I'll tell you all about the Studios next time though! x

Disneyland Paris: Discoveryland

Another day, another land, and today I'm telling you about Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris, known as Tomorrowland at other Disney parks around the world. Discoveryland has a heavy Jules Verne influence, incorporating his vision of the future, and you can actually walk through his submarine, the Nautilus, from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I was ridiculously happy to spot WALL·E and EVE lurking behind Videopolis because I love the film WALL·E so much. OK, I couldn't give you my definitive top five Disney/Pixar films, but WALL·E is *definitely* in that top five.

This is Videopolis, which is where the Jedi Training Academy is. This is currently the only Star Wars attraction in the park because Star Tours - sniffle - is closed at the moment. (It reopens in March 2017.)

I have something to confess: Despite visiting the park many times over the years, I've never braved Space Mountain: Mission 2, or the original Space Mountain ride... until now. I have absolutely no idea why - it's such a smooth rollercoaster, and I loved the effects. Definitely one of my favourites! If you're a hotel guest use the Magic Hours to get on the ride with barely a wait, or pick up a FASTPASS ticket to reduce your queueing time during the day. We also went on at around half past nine at night and walked straight on.

Other rides in Discoveryland include Orbitron, a gentle rocket ride, and Autopia, a car ride. My sister-in-law queued up for Orbitron with my niece and youngest nephew whilst the rest of us went on Space Mountain: Mission 2; we went on the ride and were waiting twenty minutes before they made it to the front of the queue. Often the children's rides have longer queue times than the big rides!

Finally, Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast is a fun ride, though really tricky for someone like me who evidently has zero hand-eye coordination. I think at this point when the ride photo was taken I had given up trying to blast the targets and was busy enjoying the scenery. Olly, on the other hand, is taking defeating Emperor Zurg very seriously!

It didn't use to be, but after this trip I think Discoveryland is my new favourite land. Well, apart from Fantasyland, maybe, which I'll tell you about next week. Have a lovely weekend! x

Disneyland Paris: Frontierland and Adventureland

I've lumped Frontierland and Adventureland together in one post because during our visit most of the attractions in these two lands were shut for repairs! (Disneyland Paris is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year so the park is getting spruced up, plus rides do get shut from time to time for general repairs or reinvigoration.)

Frontierland:
One of my favourite rides in Frontierland is Big Thunder Mountain and, yep, it's closed all year. Never mind, I thought, I'll go on the one in the Magic Kingdom when I'm over in Florida... yep, it will be closed when I'm there. Doh!

Phantom Manor was pretty much the only thing open in Frontierland - you can check planned closures here - and I went on it twice. Both times I was sat with my eldest nephew who told me how the effects were done... What do you mean it's not real?!

It's right by the Silver Spur Steakhouse, which is where we went for dinner on Easter Sunday. I found the service to be quite poor, to be honest, but the food was nice enough. You can book restaurants up to two months in advance, which I recommend you do to avoid queuing.

Adventureland:
Adventureland is a bit more promising at the moment, though Pirates' Beach, Adventure Isle and the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse areas were all closed.

The meet and greet for Peter Pan, Captain Hook and company is opposite the ship, and you'll find the Aladdin characters in Adventureland, too. There's also a passage near the main entrance of Adventureland which tells you the story of Aladdin as you walk through it.

One ride was definitely open when we visited, and I went on it three times. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Pirates of the Caribbean! The films are actually based on the ride, not the other way round like you might think. If you buy a PhotoPass+ card, this is one of the rides that takes a snap.


Finally, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril is one of the two upside down rollercoasters in the park (the other is Space Mountain: Mission 2). It's very rickety, which I'm not keen on, and at the moment the mine carts go forwards on the track - I've been on this before when they went backwards! (I prefer forwards!)

What do you think to Frontierland and Adventureland? (And can't you just tell from the photos that we had such mixed weather on our visit!) x

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