Our Honeymoon: Cuisine

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Naturally, one of the many highlights of our honeymoon was enjoying the French cuisine. We had a great variety of classic dishes, as well as some new ones we had never heard of. Here is a sampling of some of our favorites, at least some that we managed to take a picture of before gobbling it all up.

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All of our breakfasts were fantastic. Our meal at the famous bakery Ladurée in Paris was perfectly suited to meet our expectations of this gorgeous dining room. Every element from the perfectly cooked poached eggs to the elegant tea cups made the experience even more enjoyable.

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As much as we loved the delicate poached eggs from Ladurée, I found that oftentimes the simpler foods were just as delicious. This warm egg and toast breakfast at Café Charlot was one of my favorites from our whole trip, and one that I know we’ll re-create at home many times.

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On a colleagues recommendation we tried out Breizh Café, which turned out to be just a short walk from our hotel in Paris, to try out their famous buckwheat crepes.

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Neither one of us had ever tried foie gras (it’s actually illegal in California), so we decided to take the opportunity while in Giverny. The soft pâté was rich in an unexpected but pleasing way.

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At Bistrot Paul Bert, we tried a few classic dishes that were perfectly executed.

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By far our favorite meal of the trip was at Le Mouton Blanc, the hotel we stayed at in Le Mont Saint-Michel. The charming atmosphere, great service, and fantastic food and wine made the evening romantic and memorable.

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Throughout our trip we tried just about every classic French dessert, and they never disappointed. Each restaurant we went to had impeccable presentation and offered a welcome variety.

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Of course we couldn’t return home without bringing a treat back with us. We wish we could bring back more of the amazing cuisine from our trip (particularly the bread which was consistently amazing), but delicious French macarons would have to do the trick.

 

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Our Honeymoon: Accommodations

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A big part of our honeymoon, and the planning phases before our trip, were the hotel choices. James and I take our time to choose hotels not just for their comfort and cleanliness, but also for their overall aesthetics. We enjoy the dedication placed into making guests feel at ease while they are away from home, while providing an elevated visual atmosphere. As we toured northern France we stayed at several different hotels, many of which are part of the prestigious Châteaux & Hôtels Collection. Here are some of our favorites.

Hôtel Napoléon

We spent our first night in Paris at Hôtel Napoléon, just a stone’s throw away from the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. The hotel was given as wedding gift by a Russian entrepreneur to his Parisian bride, and it was the perfect place for the first night of our honeymoon. We had a wonderful view of the rooftops of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the top floor. After a long day of walking around Paris, we came back to a bottle of Napoléon brand Champagne courtesy of the hotel waiting for us as a honeymoon surprise.

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Hôtel Restaurant La Musardière

Giverny was probably the most calm and peaceful place that we visited, and our hotel there was no exception. Hôtel Restaurant La Musardière dates back to a time when Monet lived in Giverny. There is a restaurant with outdoor seating right at the front of the hotel where you can dine while enjoying the pastoral views.

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Hôtel de Bellefontaine

Just outside of the center of Bayeux lies Château Hôtel de Bellefontaine. After driving through the gates, we came upon the 18th century château surrounded by gardens and a pond filled with black swans. While sitting in the gardens, we could just barely make out the top of the cathedral on the horizon.

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Auberge Le Mouton Blanc

We spent a night at Le Mont Saint-Michel at the foot of the abbey in the Auberge Le Mouton Blanc. Like the rest of the historic site, our 14th century hotel felt like something straight out of a fairy tale. From our second story room, we could open the latticed casement windows to peer down upon the crowds walking the narrow streets.

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Château Hôtel Du Colombier

Our hotel in Saint-Malo, Château Hôtel Du Colombier, felt very similar to Château Hôtel de Bellefontaine in Bayeux. This particular château was built by a ship’s manager of the East India Company. We walked around the grounds and found a chapel, as well as some goats in a pen around the property.

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Our accommodations added a whole other level of romance to our fairy tale honeymoon. From the most lavish to the quietest, we found relief in calling these hotels our temporary homes, if only for small glimpses of time for each.


Our Honeymoon: Saint-Malo

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We left Normandie and drove into Bretagne towards our final destination before heading back to Paris for the remainder of our honeymoon. I was very eager to visit the little walled city of Saint-Malo, a world distant from all that is outside of it, yet open to the vast waters of the English Channel resting against it.

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Walking through La Ville Intra-Muros reminded us so much of our recent trip to Québec.

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There are quite a few references to Québec throughout the city. Here is a statue of Saint-Malo native Jacques Cartier, who set sail from the city to claim Canada for France. James did a report on Cartier when he was in elementary school.

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We tried to go to the bar at the Jules Verne themed Hôtel Le Nautilus, but it was for hotel guests only.

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We walked along the ramparts that encircle the old city, looking down upon the people filtering through the city gates.

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The ramparts culminate at the Château de Saint-Malo. Its difficult to believe that the city was mostly destroyed during the Second World War. The extensive restoration has done such a wonderful job of maintaining the character of the original city.

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The sight of boats bobbing in the water fondly reminded me of New England views.

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The Feu Du Môle lighthouse and a small fort on the island of Petit Bé can be seen from the walled city.

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We walked down to the beach and I waded into the English Channel. That’s Fort National behind me on a tidal island.

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We were very glad to end our tour of northern France with Saint-Malo; touching the water felt conclusive and satisfying. We enjoyed every bit of our honeymoon, and although we were ready to return home by the end, I can already tell we will forever feel nostalgic for all of our adventures in France.


Our Honeymoon: Le Mont Saint-Michel

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Our final stop in Basse-Normandie was Le Mont Saint-Michel. This was the destination that James and I were the most excited to visit. I had been there for part of the day during my school trip ten years ago and longed to go back and spend more time on the enchanting island. James had fantasized about visiting for many years, and insisted that we stay the night on the actual rock which was absolutely perfect.

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No cars are allowed on the mount, so we took a shuttle bus from the mainland across a newly built bridge. The old causeway was still in the process of being demolished.

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The town really feels like a fairy tale village with heavy stone walls and half-timbered houses leading up to the imposing structure of the abbey at the top of the mount.

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The extremely narrow streets keep a sense of mystery. Who knows what you’ll discover around the next bend?

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All of the shops and restaurants have colorful painted signs hanging over their entrances. This one shows a ship with the coat of arms of the abbey on its sail.

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There are so many alleys and pathways to explore off of La Grande Rue. In some spots, the abundance of staircases at different elevations give it a maze like quality.

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The site is filled with wonderful bits of character, some of which predate William the Conqueror.

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A golden statue of Saint Michael reaches for the sky atop L’Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel.

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We toured the abbey from the lowest, oldest parts to the top most sections built in the 13th century.

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Here I am in the cloister of the abbey.

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From the abbey, we could see the town and fortifications below. It’s fun to imagine a proud Frenchman standing here, looking down on the English besieging the city during the Hundred Years War.

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The way that nature has discolored and worn away the stone creates the most amazing textures.

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We bought a bottle of calvados apple brandy, even though we had left the département of Calvados the previous day, because we couldn’t resist this lovely bottle as a perfect souvenir. 

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At night we were able to explore the tiny island with significantly less people around and experience the small town without the pressure of needing to leave in a rush. We were so excited to visit Mont Saint-Michel and our expectations were not only met, but exceeded. No matter what countries we travel to in our future, we strongly believe Mont Saint-Michel will always remain one of our favorite places on the globe.


Our Honeymoon: Normandie

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After enjoying Monet’s Garden in Giverny we continued our drive into Basse-Normandie. This was one of the busiest days on our honeymoon as we had several sites to hit before the day’s end.

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We temporarily returned to American soil at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

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At the cemetery there is a small chapel with a mosaic tile ceiling.

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From the cemetery, we drove to Pointe du Hoc which lies between Utah and Omaha beaches. Here I am looking out over the cliffs to the English Channel.

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The site is filled with bomb craters and ruins of German gun emplacements that were destroyed 70 years ago.

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After visiting the World World II historical sights, we arrived at the city of Bayeux, and explored the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux and the surrounding area.

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The light was coming through the stained glass just right to project dazzling colors on the interior walls.

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The crypt in the center of the cathedral dates back to the 11th century.

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In a nearby museum is the Tapisserie de Bayeux. Commissioned at the same time as the cathedral’s construction, it tells the story of how William the Conqueror won the throne of England. We were not able to take pictures of the actual embroidered cloth, but there were reproductions in the gift shop.

The cemetery and the tapestry were two sites I was able to visit ten years ago when I traveled to France on a school trip. It was wonderful not only to relive those memories, but to also have a deeper appreciation of their significance as an adult. James and I look forward to taking our future children to these locations someday, and share in those experiences with them as well.


Our Honeymoon: Giverny

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After touring Versailles we drove from Île-de-France to Giverny in the Haute-Normandie region. This quaint little town is the home of Claude Monet’s Garden, which was my personal favorite tourist attraction from our twelve days in France. We spent an evening walking around exploring, and then toured the famous garden the next morning. Every single area of the enormous garden was filled with lush flowers and greenery, creating an ethereal atmosphere unique from anything we had ever experienced.

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Ever since James was a small boy he always wanted to visit Monet’s Garden and stand on the Japanese Bridge. It was pretty crowded, even in the early morning, but we were able to get a few photos.

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The water lilies were beautiful in the early morning light.

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A few months back, I bought this purse and James commented that it was very similar to the wallpaper in his grandmother’s bathroom. It was the perfect accessory for the gardens.

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We toured the house, but photos were not allowed inside. In the gift shop however, there were models of each of the rooms. Pictured above is the kitchen. We purchased a replica of one of the kitchen tiles to use for a coaster as a souvenir.

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Giverny is such a quiet romantic town. We took a walk down Rue Claude Monet admiring the scenery.

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Paris is often hailed as the city of love, but to us Giverny absolutely trumped Paris on that notion. The charming houses, gardens, pathways and surrounding farmland made for a lovely and romantic day.


Flower Pressing

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James and I flew out to France the day after our wedding, which meant we had no time to ship anything to ourselves from the wedding details and had to leave everything behind, including my flower bouquet. I left the bouquet in water with my parents so that they could enjoy the pretty flowers and their scent, but I did take a few little flowers from it before we departed. I placed the flowers I took from my bouquet and James’ boutonniere flower in some books so that they could press safely in our suitcase during our honeymoon. I also found a couple of loose flowers in Monet’s Garden during our travels that I decided to press as well. When we returned from our honeymoon I gently took out all of the flowers and decided to frame them all together as a sweet keepsake of our wedding day and honeymoon.

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I used a blush piece of paper to lay the flowers out flat, and then carefully positioned them in a small frame that we found at a dollar store.

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I wasn’t able to keep my entire bouquet, but am thrilled with this little project to commemorate our special day in a subtle and unique way in our home.


Our Honeymoon: Versailles

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After our two days at Disneyland Paris it was time to begin our planned tour of northern France. We rented a car at Gare de Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy at Disneyland and made our way to our next destination outside of Paris: Versailles. The palace was more lavish and grand then we could have ever expected. Walking through each room and hallway was more than just breathtaking, it was surreal.

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There’s certainly no shortage of gold at the palace. So much of the moulding and ornamentation is gilded, such as this representation of the sun god, Apollo.

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La Chapelle Royale is spectacular. We were not able to enter, so we had to settle for this view through the doorway.

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Some parts of the palace have not been recently restored, and the weathering of the chapel’s exterior roof adds a wonderful bit of character.

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There is a series of models showing the evolution of the palace over four building campaigns. We always love looking at models, especially ones as detailed as this.

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The Salon d’Hercule is filled with interesting textures including a very grand trompe-l’œil ceiling.

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These beautiful chairs are on display in the Grand cabinet de Madame Adélaïde.

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The bibliothèque de Madame Victoire is one of our favorite rooms in the palace. It was one of the few rooms with books, and the only one with this many. It also has a certain intimacy that differentiates it from all the other rooms.

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Here is James climbing one of the King’s private staircases.

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The Galerie des Glaces is probably the most famous room in the château. James could hardly believe that he was walking through the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

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Here is a reconstruction of Marie Antoinette’s bed hangings. The bed chamber has been beautifully restored and feels like something out of an opera.

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The Salon des Nobles is not so outlandish by comparison. I love the combination of the green wallpaper with the dark wood furniture and gilded trim.

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Another one of our favorite rooms is the Galerie des Batailles. The room is filled with large paintings depicting French military victories. The color of the ceiling paint is wonderfully subtle, and the light filters in so softly through the skylights.

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The gallery was commissioned by King Louis-Philippe I, and his initials can be seen around the oculus.

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Once we ended the tour of the interiors of the palace we walked out to explore the gardens, but first we ate lunch at a restaurant right off of the Grand Canal called La Flotille.

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The gardens are quite a sight and they cover well over one thousand acres. We were short on time and could not fully explore them, but we did walk through a few sections.

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None of the fountains were turned on, so we could not get the full experience here at the Bosquet de la Colonnade.

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The entrance to the Bosquet de la Salle de Bal was closed, but we were fascinated by the tiers of sea shells that we could glimpse through the gate. We would have loved to have seen the water cascading over the shells.

There is so much more that we would like to see at Versailles, such as the Hameau de la Reine and Grand Trianon. We certainly plan on returning to France again at some point in our lives, and Versailles and its gardens prove they are definitely worth another trip some day.


Our Honeymoon: Disneyland Paris

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Naturally, James and I could not pass up the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris on our honeymoon to France. Anyone who knows us is aware that we are passionate fans of Disney Parks, and we were very excited to visit one in a foreign country. We spent two days there exploring the curious yet enchanting parks, filled with their own mysteries to discover. Being that this was on our honeymoon, we brought with us bride and groom Mickey ears featuring ‘Mr. Dastoli’ and ‘Mrs. Dastoli’ embroidery on the backs to celebrate our recent nuptials.

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The Disneyland Hotel is a breathtaking structure that creates a very different feel when entering the park compared to the other Magic Kingdoms. The rooftops of the hotel contribute to what we consider to be the most beautiful version of Main Street, U.S.A.

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This stained glass ceiling inside of the Emporium is an example of the ornate details found throughout Main Street.

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There are two arcades that run parallel to Main Street. This one is the Discovery Arcade, which has artwork depicting futuristic projections of American cities from the late nineteenth century.

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Discoveryland is the Tomorrowland that Jules Verne would have envisioned. For me, all of the lands contained elements that were familiar, but with new subtleties and twists. It felt similar to when I visited Walt Disney World for the first time after having only gone to Disneyland.

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Here I am in front of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Columbiad cannon featured in From the Earth to the Moon as part of Space Mountain. Seeing the Nautilus was particularly nostalgic for James, since the Florida version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was closed in 1994.

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Walking through the Nautilus was one of our favorite experiences in the park. The intricate details found throughout the submarine truly transports the guests imagination into the novel.

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Another nostalgic experience for James (but new to me) was riding the original version of Star Tours. Here he is in front of the attraction’s entrance wearing a Star Tours – The Adventures Continue shirt. It was very strange for him hearing Captain Rex’s voice in French, but fun and exciting nonetheless. I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to ride the original version and meet Rex for the first time.

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Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is an interesting take on other Magic Kingdom castles. The landscaping around the castle draws direct inspiration from the film Sleeping Beauty and the interior features a giant dragon animatronic.

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The story of Sleeping Beauty is told through stained glass windows inside the castle.

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From the balcony of the castle you can see the rooftops of Fantasyland. Similar to Main Street, Fantasyland in Disneyland Paris is a grander, more beautiful version than in other Magic Kingdoms. Meandering landscaped pathways take you from one attraction to another in a less linear fashion.

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One specific example that involves quite a bit of meandering is Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. Here the Cheshire Cat is overlooking the maze.

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We were able to experience seeing a dark ride with the lights on after it temporarily broke down. This was not the first time we have seen a ride with the lights on, but regardless it is always bizarre. This is the forest scene in Blanche Neige et les Sept Nains.

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Rather than housing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, there is a restaurant inside of Toad Hall. It certainly cannot fully replace the allure of the ride, but it’s an interesting and charming way to feature the story of The Wind in the Willows.

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Much of Adventureland is dedicated to Adventure Isle, a giant walkthrough area taking the spot that is usually occupied by Tom Sawyer Island in other Magic Kingdoms. Here is another instance of going back in time through Disney history with Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock, which have not existed at Disneyland for over 30 years.

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Frontierland has an elaborate backstory based around the town of Thunder Mesa that ties all of the attractions together.

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The story of Thunder Mesa culminates in Phantom Manor, which is our favorite ride in the entire park. The atmosphere is much more macabre than the American Haunted Mansions.

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We had a table service meal inside the opulent Silver Spur Steakhouse in Frontierland.

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We didn’t spend very much time at the Walt Disney Studios Park, but we did go on the recently opened Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, and we also enjoyed our lunch at Le Bistrot Chez Rémy, a restaurant that scales everything so that you feel like the size of a rat.

We weren’t sure what to expect out of Disneyland Paris, but we can say that we were very pleasantly surprised by its charm and amused by its differences. I will always have an emotional and nostalgic connection to Disneyland USA, but look forward to visiting more of the international Disney resorts. After the wedding and honeymoon we likely will not be traveling internationally anytime soon, but hope to visit Tokyo and its Disney parks next.