Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bonjour, Mickey!

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland Paris, 2nd Edition, by Bob Sehlinger. New York: Hungry Minds, Inc. (Wiley and Sons), 2001, 229 pp.

The birthday of The Happiest Place on Earth is almost here, so I think it's about time that I review another book about... Disneyland Paris. (Sorry, folks - when you engage in the "eeny meeny miney moe" method of pulling a book from the bookshelf, you never know what you're going to get.) Although I enjoy reading and doing reviews of just about any guidebook to the Disney theme parks, I especially enjoy finding and reading guidebooks about the overseas parks, because there just aren't that many books out there to help the armchair traveler/Disney fanatic to experience or plan for visiting those parks. Let's face it - if you want a book to plan for your trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, even the smallest bookshop will have something available for you to browse and buy. But if you'd like to visit one of the parks in Paris, Hong Kong, or Tokyo, lotsa luck. Today, we'll be looking at an older book that provides tips on visiting Disney's first European theme park that carries the name of a well-regarded series of guides to Disney theme parks and other vacation spots. But does this book live up to the Unofficial Guide name? We'll see...

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland Paris was the second attempt by Bob Sehlinger, the author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to offer a guide to one of Disney's overseas parks (the first attempt was The Unofficial Guide to Euro Disneyland, published in 1993). The book provides helpful information on planning a trip to France to visit Mickey and his pals, including the best times of the year and the week to go, the various ways of getting to Disneyland Resort Paris, how to get to and from the resort to the City of Light, hotel options, attractions, and dining options. While the book's nowhere near as hefty as its more famous cousin The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (which I'm convinced could kill small animals if dropped carelessly), it's got a lot of useful information, all presented in that famous unbiased and slightly snarky Unofficial Guide style. The book even has a brief but concise writeup on the history of Disneyland Paris and French attitudes toward the park, which is one of the better articles I've seen on the subject.

I'm a big fan of the Unofficial Guides (as can be ascertained by the fact that I have quite a large collection of them!), and I'm glad to say that Bob Sehlinger and his team did a very good job with this book. The book provides a lot of good information and helpful tips for enjoying your Disneyland Paris vacation, including a few touring plans for the park. The book provides some good information about hotel and dining options in the villages surrounding the Disneyland Paris Resort, which I think is a nice touch (it's always good when guidebooks to Disney parks recognize that there are plenty of good options outside of Disney property). The book is a fun and easy read, and should feel familiar to the folks who have read the Unofficial Guides to the U.S. parks (maybe a little too familiar, but more on that in a moment).

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland Paris does have a couple of problems. The biggest one is that the book hasn't been updated or reprinted since 2001, which means that you may want to verify any information in the book, especially as far as lodging and dining options, before you use it to plan your vacation. (I've heard that a new Unofficial Guide to Disneyland Paris may be in the works, and I certainly hope that's the case). While Bob provides a lot of unique information in this book, fans of the series will recognize passages that were cribbed from the U.S. park editions of the Unofficial Guide. That doesn't make the advice in these passages invalid - certainly the Disneyland and Walt Disney World editions share a fair amount of information - but it's an unwelcome distraction.

Unlike the Unofficial Guides to the U.S. parks, the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland Paris is relatively light on park maps - even for touring plans. That's disappointing, because the maps in the Unofficial Guides are among the better maps of the Disney parks that I've seen. My last quibble with the book is about something it has that the other books in the series don't have anymore - a brief guide to the attractions that are unique to the park. This is a really cool thing to include, and it'd be great to have something like this available again in all the Unofficial Guides, if only just to have something to show non-Disney fans that if you've seen one park, you have not in fact seen them all (Jay Rasulo's attempts to attempt to homogenize them notwithstanding).

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland Paris is an informative, helpful, and opinionated guide to the Magic Kingdom in France. While it does take some information from guides in the series to the U.S. parks and is in desperate need of a new edition, it can still provide a Disney fan heading for Europe some good advice and suggestions for making the trip a little less expensive and stressful and a lot more fun. The book can be very tricky to find nowadays - it'll occasionally pop up in used bookstores or some of the online sites specializing in older and out-of-print books.