It has always been a childhood’s dream to visit Disneyland – “the happiest place on earth”.
But during my childhood, I never had the opportunity to realize that dream, which only remained in the pages of my mind fed by comic books that I would hire at Fred’s Magazine Store at a corner of Lower Mabini St.
The images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, stories of Peter Pan, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio, and other characters fed my youthful yearning.
However, as we grew older, our comic books were replaced by history and science books, life stories, and learning tools on living.
Our Disneyland dream faded into the background only to reappear and awakened by the voices of our children, Carla and Chantal, who would update Nena and I on the new Disney characters and stories on television, Betamax, and VHS tapes.
Sra. Carmen, my mother-in-law, provided that opportunity for Nena and Carla when she won the jackpot in bingo at Camp John Hay Recreation Center and brought them to Disneyland sometime in 1986. Chantal was yet to be born in 1987.
My childhood dream to visit Disneyland was realized when, as a family, we went to Disneyland Paris in 1999 to celebrate the birthday of Chantal. The visit was not planned. We actually flew to Barcelona, Spain to visit Iggy, Nena’s brother, who migrated there. While in Barcelona, a travel agency persuaded us to visit Disneyland Parisat a big discount.
Disneyland Paris was the first Disney theme park to debut outside of the United States in 1992 and it was thus relatively new then. The Disneyland package tour included an overnight train ride on a sleeper coach to Paris for the family, two nights stay in a Disney hotel and entrance tickets to the Disney park.
As we excitedly entered the park, we were awed by the sight of the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle – “Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant”, which symbolizes the Disney magic of the fairy tale realm. The song “When You Wish Upon a Star” started to play in my mind as the different Disney characters came alive as if they jumped out of the comic books and roamed around the streets of the park, notably the main street that led to the castle.
The characters we met obliged us with picture taking with them, although the hi-tech cameras of cell phones then have yet to be developed. We also entered the “Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant” (it underwent renovation during the pandemic in time for the 30th anniversary of the theme park this year).
Then came the exciting part. We would join the long lines of visitors who, like us, wanted to take their turn to each fun and thrilling ride or watch shows to enjoy. At the most then, it took us “only” 20 minutes before it was our turn to the rides. Each ride took only three to five minutes to finish. The shows were only 15 minutes long. The cost of a day pass to the park included all the rides and shows we could enjoy for the day but did not include the food and snacks that visitors could buy at tourist prices at sit-down restaurants, snack counters, and food stalls found all over the park.
Souvenir shops were in everywhere you look and in exits of the rides and shows catching the attention of kids, some of whom hassled their parents to buy them souvenirs of their recent ride or show. At the day’s end we watched the night parade of all the Disney characters and dancers in colorful costumes dancing on the street, many on board awesome lighted floats, to the tune of a variety of familiar Disney music played by marching live bands. At the end of the evening parade, we witnessed the breathtaking fireworks display illuminating the Sleeping Beauty Castle – as depicted in comic books and magazines and imprinted in my dreams. Truly, it was a dream come true.
For two days, Nena and I were kids again leaving all our cares and woes behind and joined Carla and Chantal to all the thrilling and dizzying rides that carried us high above the ground and abruptly coming down to earth.
We experienced with them the horror and fright of watching scary life-like shows. Then to calm our nerves, brains and stomachs, we binged on various flavors of ice cream, pop corns, soda, multi-colored cotton candies and big sandwiches and burgers.
We savored the tastes and flavors of westernized European cuisine. But this was not the end of our Disneyland adventure. In spite of the high cost of visiting Disneyland, the hassle and the inconvenience of joining very long lines just to enter the park and longer lines to the rides and shows, as well as, to buy foods and snacks or waiting for a vacant table, Nena and I made it a point to prepare for the next adventure and bring our children to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, U.S.A.