Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Disneyland Paris.
Growing up in Southern California, about a 40-minute drive from Disneyland, I have had an annual passport for more of my life than I haven’t had one, and I know the park comme ma poche (like the back of my hand). I have never needed a map.
The layout of the two parks is basically the same. You start off on Main Street, which leads you to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, beyond which lies Fantasyland. If you veer off to the right you find yourself in Discoveryland/Tomorrowland (Paris/Anaheim). On the left you can enter either Fronteirland or Adventureland.
Le plan (the map) of Disneyland Paris.
The first and most obvious difference between the parks is that there is no Toon Town in Disneyland Paris. The next one is that the Matterhorn is conspicuously absent. The last major landscape difference is that there is no Critter Country in Paris, either.
Then there are all the small differences that make each park unique, such as different tracks for Space Mountain, the placement of rides (for example, Star Tours is in the back of Discoveryland, but in the front of Tomorrowland), different restaurants, and of course different weather. Despite going in the middle of July, it rained during FBF and my visit. This explains why more of the lines are found under a roof in Paris.
The physical differences aren’t the only things distinguishing the two parks, however.
I was surprised by how much French was spoken. Instead of being in English and then Spanish, the announcements of how to behave properly before and after a ride start with French, are followed with English, and then continue in other languages I don’t speak.
Even the animatronics speak French! Imagine my surprise to find C3P0 speaking in French with R2D2 (who speaks in beeps, even in French).
C3PO talking in French to his buddy, R2D2 at Star Tours, Paris.
I realize it was silly to think that Disneyland Paris would be in English, but finding myself in a Disneyland remarkably similar to that which I came to know as a child, I kept forgetting I was in France.
But language wasn’t the only reminder that I was in France. Even if the buildings and attractions look similar, the people do not act the same.
When at Disneyland at home, I know which hours to avoid going to the restaurants if I don’t want to wait in lines, as most Americans eat meals around the same time. This is not possible at Disneyland Paris. People come from all over Europe and have such different cultural norms for when to eat that there are always people at the restaurants.
When meeting a character, instead of people forming a line based on who got there first, it's a mad dash to greet, take pictures with, and receive autographs from Disneyland Paris’s various inhabitants.
Although it happened less often in my experience, people even try to cut in the lines for attractions. An Italian family just up and walked past at least 7 people before deciding that was where they would be waiting for the ride.
Despite linguistic and cultural differences, I had a great time visiting Disneyland Paris. The most important thing stayed the same. It still felt like the Happiest Place on Earth.