Most of you will have spotted that yesterday’s Travel Challenge picture was Paris and of course you were right but it may not have been the Paris that you were thinking of because this is Paris at the Walt Disney World’s EPCOT theme park in Florida USA.
I visited World Showcase in May 1990.
This, it has to be said, is an odd place – at the same time both intriguing and disappointing. In the beginning it was the vision of Walt Disney himself – to build a new city of the future but after he died the Disney Corporation accountants gained control, declared it self indulgent, too expensive and not commercial enough and everything was downsized until it became nothing more than an add-on theme park to Magic Kingdom without any of the Magic.
World Showcase consists of eleven countries from around the World. The French Pavilion had a boring film about how wonderful the place is and some external sets representing Paris with an elusive Eiffel Tower seen in the distance from every angle and authenticity provided by men in striped shirts and berets and playing the accordion.
For people who imagine that Paris is full of men in berets, black and white hooped shirts, a string of onions around their necks, playing the accordion and speaking like Peter Sellers in the ‘Pink Panther’ films then EPCOT is wonderfully accurate but actually I think I have to say that it is probably one of the worst representations of all in World Showcase.
There were the obligatory French restaurants, a patisserie and an ice cream parlour and a stroll along the Seine lined with shops and hand carts. My only recollection is that I was seriously underwhelmed. I had only recently been to real Paris and that had been far more satisfying.
That’s because I believe that the only way to see Paris is to do it properly as I did when I visited the French capital in 2002 and rather like EPCOT, where you can see a whole country in just a few minutes, I saw the major sites in a foot-slogging, energy-sapping half a day and invented what my son subsequently called ‘speed-sightseeing’!