Guest post by Zoe Sandell
After our visit to London, we decided to visit Paris for a few days. We took the underground that took us to the Eurostar Paris Station. The station looks a bit like an airport; we still had to check in and go through security and wait to board. Our autistic son, Brodie was getting well. With a simple stamp on our passports, we got to hop on the train. Well, not literally, as Brodie would follow my exact direction and jump if I told him to.
Taking the Eurostar
The Eurostar, like all trains, has half the seats facing forwards and the other half backwards. Of course, we ended up getting rear facing seats that Brodie dislikes. He was fine until the train started to move. I have to say he didn’t get upset, but I could see the panic in his face. Luckily, we found two seats facing the right way and moved. Once settled all was well.
The actual tunnel through the channel only goes for about 20 minutes but was still exciting. Brodie watched “Madagascar” on his DVD player, and we took a walk to the café carriage for the experience.
For a reason, only Brodie knows when we did arrive in Paris, he threw himself to the ground and started banging his head (I received a few hits too). However, he made a quick recovery. A fellow passenger who sat in front of us on the train felt the need to come up and reassure us; we were doing a fantastic job Brodie and added that her grandson had autism. I thanked her and replied that at times like these. We wondered whether we are crazy for traveling with him around the world. She reassured me we were giving Brodie unusual experiences. Her answer brought tears to my eyes.
So we finally arrived at Paris-city of lights. My first impression was I needed to hold onto my handbags and watch my pockets! There were posted signs all over the station warning travelers of pickpockets. We were approached by several girls pretending to be collecting donations for disabled kids.
Finding our next train (the regional RER) was quite an ordeal too.We needed to get change for the ticket machine. My dad (who was traveling with us) had me worried when he headed off with some young boys trying to sell used train tickets as a scam! Our older son, Harley as I have mentioned before was a superstar – fantastic at helping work out which lifts we needed to take and where the train platforms were.
The train (when we found it) took us directly to the Eiffel Tower. If you want to go to the top of the Tower. I would advise you to book tickets in advance to skip the long lines at the register. The caveat was that we arrived too early for our time slot, so we were stuck sitting around waiting. So we passed the time getting lunch and some souvenirs. A few trips to the restroom and we were ready to hit the line up (yes, there was a separate one for the pre-booked tickets)
Visiting the Eiffel Tower
Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower isn’t as easy as it may sound! Many times the weather can be windy or cold, so they close the top off to visitors. Some days the top may be open, but there is no view if it is cloudy.
On the day we visited, it was a perfect! At one point during our lining up, the sign said the top of the tower was closed due to congestion, so we weren’t sure if we would make it! Congestion also meant elevator rides with hoards of strangers, but Brodie managed to behave wonderfully on both elevators (first and second levels).Certainly worth a ride on the carousel as a reward afterwards! The view was incredible, and just the fact that we had a child with severe Autism ON THE TOP of the Eiffel Tower was enough to blow our minds!
The train back from the Eiffel tower to the central train station where we had left our bags was incredibly crowded too. We squeezed onto the train, and there was a woman in front of me with a pusher with a small child in it and another young child holding onto it. She kept saying to me “no space, no space” while people behind me were still pushing me forward into her so that they could get onboard.
At this point, I was expecting Brodie to lose it! But no he dealt with being a human sardine so well! You just cannot imagine the amount of people on that metro train.As we got off more and more people just piled onto the train, and all I could think was that woman, and her small children were still in there somewhere!
We picked up our bags from the lockers and boarded the train to Disneyland Paris ( quite far from the actual city ).It was at that point Brodie said “you know what, I’ve had enough” and proceeded to lie down on the floor in the station and cry!
By this point, we had all pretty tired and were relieved when we arrived at our apartment one train stop away from Euro Disneyland. It was almost magical to put Brodie to bed that night and show him in his social story where he would be going to the next morning.
EuroDisneyland was incredible! We had a marvelous time riding the rides for two days straight.We decided NOT to hire a wheelchair for Brodie but did buy him a well deserved “Mickey Mouse” balloon for walking that long.
What we did get was Disney’s disability access pass. This is incredible and if you ever take autistic kids to Disneyland, do get one of these (we also did it in Los Angeles). The staff in EuroDisney was helpful but this time, we did have to show a doctor’s note stating Brodie had Autism. The last time we visited he was in his wheelchair, so we didn’t have to do that. The pass was easy to get and cast members were only too happy to explain how it worked.
The pass works a little different in Paris than in Los Angeles. In L.A, you walk up to the exit and wait until they have a spot to put you on the ride thus avoiding the line. In fact, we could all go with Brodie on the ride which was great, so we could all stay together. In EuroDisney, each ride had a number next to it, and this was the number of people plus Brodie, who could use the exit to access the ride. There are some rides where you could go to the exit and book a time to come back and do that ride. No matter, matter the systems it meant lines were shorter, which helped us get to the parks quicker! Honestly, we didn’t even have to use the pass so much since most weren’t that long, but we still liked having it as an option.
What a wonderful initiative from Disneyland -we can’t thank them enough for making our lives easier!
Our Mentionable EuroDisney Highlights are:
Dad noticed that one of the rollercoasters was going to close the following day for maintenance, so we went across to Disneyworld and had three turns on that one before it closed the next day.
The Tower of Terror was Harley’s and my favorite in LA, and I think this time it turned into Brodie’s favorite too.It features a sharp drop.Here I’m sitting telling Tim to hold onto to Brodie since he doesn’t know it is about to drop.I the meanwhile Brodie is pushing Tim’s hands away and as soon as the ride drops-Brodie lets out a hilarious giggle and signs he wants more as soon as it was done.Totally priceless! Of course, I had to buy them both a Tower of Terror T-shirt!
I don’t remember the official name, but we called it the turtle rollercoaster ride. It featured a character from “Finding Nemo” based on the turtles riding the East Australian Current. This ride was a “kids” rollercoaster, but it was quite extreme (a part we forgot to mention to mum before she had a turn on it.)
We enjoyed lunch in “pizza planet”, watched some shows and a Parade.AAfter all, you can’t go to Disneyland and not see a Parade!
Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
The third day after visiting “the largest shopping mall you have ever seen” and an adjacent “sea life” park, we enjoyed a short cruise on the Seine.Mum and I decided to take the boys for a walk to the famous church of Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur.The walk was a little scary at times but fascinating.We liked the cable car ride up the hill.As we entered the Church, we saw the signs asking visitors to keep quiet. We were half way through our tour and remembered thinking to myself that Brodie must have known he has to be quiet since he was so good. The very next minute he made one of the loudest noises he possibly could! Harley and I both told him to stop which further set him off.Guess he enjoyed our reaction so much he decided to do an encore.Needless to say, we all made a very quick exit.Later that evening we re-joined the men and caught the EuroStar back to London.
I can safely say we officially rocked Paris!