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2006-04-18 The magic of Disneyland

The open-top railcar made its steep ascent up the near-vertical rock-face. Not entirely at ease, I was by now deeply regretting my spur-of the-moment decision to embark on this nail-biting journey.

 

Running with the what-goes-up-must-come-down theory, I began to brace myself for what was surely going to be a sudden plummet from the summit, but instead, the little train trundled through some enchanting Alpine scenery, meandering further up the peak. We came to a halt. Horror of horrors  the track ahead was broken, buckled out of shape. The only way down was to reverse, down that vertical rock-face, backwards, at about 150mph. After all, that is the adrenalin-rush, and nappy-needing thrill of the roller-coaster. Never again. Well maybe, once.

 

Finding ourselves with a day-off in Orlando, our touring party were all determined to make our Disneyworld débuts. Earlier in the day I had been tossed about at high speed through a black cosmic void on Space Mountain, and had still been somehow convinced to try the newly-opened Expedition Everest  the roller-coaster to end all roller-coasters, and potentially my life.

 

In 1964, Walt Disney flew across Florida, spotted lots of vacant land near the crossroads of two huge highways, and decided it was the perfect place to build his theme-park capital of the world. The Everglades, the Kennedy Space Center, Miami, manatees, alligators and year-round-sunshine are all reason enough to vote the Sunshine State one of the worlds most popular holiday destinations, and then on top of all that, twenty miles south-west of Orlando lies the 43 square-mile expanse of Disneyworld, entertaining on average 100,000 visitors a day - think about it.

 

Having opted for the Park Hopper ticket, which gave us access to all four Disneyworld parks, we still knew we could only hope to take away a tiny taste of what Floridas Number One Tourist attraction had on offer. Disneys MGM Studios, Downtown Disney, the vast water-parks, and most of the Epcot Center all had to be left for another day. We wandered up a buzzing Main Street USA in the direction of Cinderellas Castle, the Magic Kingdoms trademark. I almost plucked up courage to have my picture taken with Goofy, but chickened out at the last minute. The queues for Mickey and Minnie were too long. In fact the queues everywhere were too long. About three of our seven hours at Disneyworld were spent queuing.

 

I never flew with Peter Pan over Neverland, or spun with Buzz Lightyear in his space-ship. I didnt take part in the Cinderellabration pageant, the Dumbo-ride, Snow Whites Scary Adventures, or Winnie the Poohs Playful Spot. I had to leave Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean and Swiss Family Robinson for another time. I did however get spun around in a giant tea-cup at the Mad Hatters Tea-Party, to the point of extreme dizziness and virtually vomiting. I remained calm and collected as I took a carriage through the Haunted Mansion, even when at one point I inherited an unwanted ghostly guest in my carriage. I was totally taken in and charmed by the 3-D delight of Mickeys PhilharMagic Show.

 

In the Animal Kingdom Park, we hadnt time to visit Dinoland, or to take in the Kilimanjaro Safari through real African Savannah with real wild animals. Another exceptionally clever 3-D show  Its tough to be a bug  helped us see life from an insects point of view, as well as giving us the unwelcome scent of a dung-beetles bum, and the shock of an insect bite!

 

Almost out of time we made our way to the Epcot Center  the one with the giant golf-ball as its symbol. Along with Mission Space and Test Track, one of Epcots highlights is a World Showcase which allows you to walk around selected nations, admiring their unique architectural styles, cuisine and customs. Among all the nations represented Ireland doesnt even get a look-in - so we decided to try something else.

 

A two-hour wait for Soarin ( a free-flying hang-gliding trip over California) was just not in the equation - we were queued out. Sadly, we opted for a fairly weak 3D show called Honey I shrunk the audience. But despite ending on a bit of a downer, there was no doubt in my mind that I had just sampled a small seven-hour taste of the mother of all theme-parks.