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Marne-la-Vallée: Life outside the magic kingdom
You may wonder why you would want to visit a new town, planned in the 1960s, 25 kilometres to the east of Paris. The home of Paris-Est University and the HQ to many large companies, sounds more like a French version of Milton Keynes than a tourist destination. However, when you discover that Disneyland Paris ® is located in this emerging district you'll realise why it now has such a large concentration of hotels. Marné-la-Vallée, has continued to expand since the creation of the mega-theme park in 1992 and now offers a variety of leisure attractions and hotels.
A magical new town
When French politician Paul Delouvrier conceived his plans to create five new towns around Paris in the 1960s to ease pressure on the French capital, he could never have imagined how one of them, Marne-la-Vallée, would prosper. Easy access to the A4 motorway and a RER - Réseau Express Régional (Regional Express Network) - rail link certainly helped make the area attractive to for businesses and employees to relocate to.
However, it was the joint public and private initiative to bring Disney to Paris in the Val D'Europe sector of Marne that really transformed this industrial area. The EuroDisney (now Disneyand Paris®) park finally opened in 1992, a year after the brand new University of Paris-Est Marne-La-Vallée. The massive Val d'Europe shopping centre, just five minutes outside the park, then opened its doors a few years later in 1998.
There are now direct rail connections from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Eurostar services from London Saint Pancras to Marne-la-Vallée as well as regional RER rail services from Paris Gare du Lyon.
More to Marne than Disney
If you're considering staying in Marne-la-Vallée, the chances are you are planning a visit to Disneyland Paris®. You may be so entranced by the magic of the park, its spectacles and fantasy rides that you never want to leave it - even for a moment. A stay in one of Disney's own themed hotels within the resort then will probably be non-negotiable. However, if you've not got an unlimited budget, you will find cheaper hotels in Marne-la-Vallée itself. The vast Val d'Europe shopping centre, just outside the park and where the RER regional rail station is located, offers a variety of accommodation, including even the odd budget hotel. You'll also find a hyper-market and a variety of boutiques and food outlets that are easier on your wallet than the flashier alternatives in the heart of Disneyland.
Right next to the shopping centre you'll also find a shopping outlet village offering bargains on designer clothes. There is also a wide variety of leisure attractions nearby, including spas and bowling.
Disneyland Paris® isn't the only theme park in town though. You can also pay a visit to Walt Disney Studios® and enjoy the behind the scenes action from some of Disney's most memorable films. Alternatively you can tee off in one of the three nine-hole golf courses at Gold Disneyland® and enjoy a bite to eat in its club house. In case you're wondering, Disney doesn't have the monopoly on leisure attractions around Marne-la-Vallée. You can escape its fantasy realm for a moment and uncover the exhilarating reality of the earth's underwater world at the Aquarium SeaLife. In the heart of the Val d'Europe centre you can come face to face with sharks, octopus and piranhas in this educative centre.
Real palaces to visit
You may also find that apart from visiting Disneyworld Paris®, your Marne-La-Vallée hotel is a convenient base for popping into Paris for the day. Staying here means you can avoid the capital's expensive hotel rates and constant noise too. The red RER A line can take you to the Gare du Lyon railway station in 45 minutes, where you can catch the metro to the city's main sights, such as the Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triomphe and Les Champs Elysées.
Whilst Louis XIV's glorious Château de Versailles, on the opposite side of Paris, may be a bit of a trek, you could discover a less well-known alternative around Marne : Le Château de Champs-sur-Marne. This elegant 18th century national monument and presidential residence was once a home to the Marquise de Pompadour and a series of writers such as Voltaire and Prouste, it is a lot less crowded and a whole lot cheaper to visit than Versailles. You can enjoy a quiet walk around its exquisite gardens and admire its collection of antique furniture, constructed by some of the best cabinet makers of the period.
If you have your own transport, the gardens and woodland around the majestic Château de Ferrières, a 15 minute-drive from Val d'Europe, also make for a pleasant stroll.
So if you're planning a visit to Disneyland Paris®, remember there is another world to explore and a whole range of hotels, without the fantasy price tags, to stay in outside the park in Marne-la-Vallée.
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