Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Travels around the World (Showcase) - France

For a while now I have had an idea: why not contrast my experience of the countries in World Showcase with my experience of the real countries? I have visited enough of them to make this relatively interesting… and I even thought that this might make a good scrapbook album but it would make an even more interesting series of blog posts.

So we start today, rather arbitrarily, with France. But first of all, some background into my experience with World Showcase as a whole.

I seriously can’t remember the first time I went to EPCOT but it was fairly early on – it opened in 1981 and I do recall that we went in 1986 (to celebrate my 15th birthday!) and I had already been before so let’s say I probably went through those turnstiles in 1983. I remember being dazzled by the architectural varieties as well as the unique shopping and even some of those movies. It definitely was love at first sight and EPCOT quickly became my favourite park.

Some years later I applied and was accepted as an International Representative and I had the chance to work in WDW from 1995 to 1996. My main role was as an attractions and merchandise hostess in the Mexico pavilion but I did get the chance to pick up some overtime in other pavilions. I also spent a lot of my free time in the parks and I became very familiar with the ins and outs of Epcot. So I guess you could say I know this park intimately and World Showcase in particular as this was ‘my office’ for over a year!

France was one of those pavilions that, on my first visit, didn’t exactly bowl me away but was nice to look at anyway. The pavilion itself felt like little more than a few shops and some very popular restaurants so I wasn’t instantly taken with it. I do however remember watching “Impressions de France” and thinking it was a gorgeous film with amazing music.

In 1994 I had the opportunity to travel to France as part of a group of students that performed in various events throughout Europe. I then spent a week in Paris and while it was an amazing time and a great opportunity, I think I was still too young to appreciate the city. I liked it but I didn’t really rate all that mess, all that rain and all that rudeness. But I thought this would be my one chance to ever travel to Europe and I took it all in (little did I know what awaited me!)

During my time as cast member I explored the French pavilion a lot more and discovered all those nooks and crannies – and ate at most of the restaurants! I can honestly say that the Bistro serves the best bread in all of Epcot and that the perfume shop ("Plume et Palette") has the most delicious and decadent perfumes in there. I delighted in knowing that it was just like being in Paris but without the mess, the bad weather and the rudeness. I even had the chance to be French for the day when I picked up some overtime as an attractions hostess, welcoming people to view that film that had so charmed me a while ago!

When the Flower and Garden Festival is on, the pavilion usually has a display of various plants and flowers that are used in the creation of some of the most famous Guerlain perfumes. It is a very interesting display and one that led me to switch to this brand instead of what I was using before (and I remain a Guerlain devotee to this very day, so don’t tell me that experiential marketing doesn’t work!)

As you know I eventually married a Brit and moved to the UK, which gave me more of a chance to explore this side of the world. The first few years in the UK we went to Paris quite a bit, to the extent that I know this city now almost as well as I know the French pavilion, and finally appreciated it for the jewel that it is. I have also come to have a lot of affection for the country as a whole and would love to explore it further, including some of those amazing sights featured in “Impressions de France”. It is a very big country with amazing diversity which doesn’t really come across in the French pavilion. France isn’t all about food and perfume but also has some of the best trains in the world, the cutest villages and the most interesting markets.

So while the French pavilion is very reminiscent of Paris and has some very authentic touches, I think it’s almost a shame that this very famous of cities has overshadowed what the rest of France has to offer. But it is a very good advertisement for the country and hopefully has made people want to know the REAL France (or at least make them want to wear nice perfume!)

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