Minimalist Disneyland Paris Haul

Minimalist Disneyland Paris Haul

What does a minimalist buy at Disneyland?

For our first trip to Disneyland Paris, I limited myself to one souvenir for me, one for us, and one for Steve (who tried not to buy anything).

I find the fewer souvenirs I bring home, the more I cherish them. So while there were many contenders, I will remember our first trip to Disneyland Paris in these objects – and our subsequent trips in others.

Minimalist Disneyland Paris Haul

Ratatouille Fridge Notepad

The Ratatouille section of Walt Disney Studios was my favourite part of the park, as it WAS Paris! While most of the rides provide Europeans a local substitute for American parks this corner felt special and exclusive. 

The ride is imaginative and immersive, and we treated ourselves to a lovely lunch at Chez Remy. Steve complained that the experience would be far better if the waiters were dressed as rats, and now that the idea is in my head I can’t help but agree with such ridiculousness.

We brought home a fridge notepad from the Ratatouille shop, which we display in our new kitchen. The notepad is meant to be a shopping list, but we chose to be more sparing with its use, keeping it instead as a menu card for planning our meals, adding some fun to the weekly task.


If you think that being a minimalist means less time shopping, you would be mistaken, at least in my case. Instead, I spend hours poring over every option to make the most informed decision before making each rare purchase. 

In our haste, I had forgotten to bring a doudou to Paris, so Steve suggested I collect one at Disney. (He may have been even more invested in this project than I, just as I was more invested in his selection of souvenir.) We scoured the shops for a cuddly toy that was huggable but not too large, and featured an accurately portrayed character I love. 

We finally settled on Baymax, who I overlooked at first as he’s part of the Disney Babies collection, which come swaddled in strange fringed blankets. We discovered that these are detchable, and I’ve even grown fond of Baymax’s traveling cloak. If you’re unfamiliar with this white squashy blob, do watch Big Hero 6, perhaps the most overlooked of recent Disney animated films!

Buzz Lightyear Mug

The highlight of the trip for Steve – by far – was Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast, an interactive moving shooter game in Discoveryland. He asked for “his own copy of the ride” for his birthday which makes my sister’s graduation present request (a Nando’s restaurant in Los Angeles) seem suddenly achievable. 

We rode the attraction 7 times over 2 days, exchanging tips and discoveries in the queue each time around. We found a special Space Ranger mug in the shop, but forgot to purchase it until 20 minutes to closing, when we were in the other park. Steve said it was fine, but I insisted on going back for it. 

We passed the entrance on the way to the shop, noting that the ride was closed, but the Cast Member let us in anyway. The best tip for this ride is to go in by yourself, with literally no one else around, and hope that it stops a few times, giving you extra chances to fire at the targets. 

We may have missed the Star Wars Galactic Celebration, but left with Steve’s score maxing out on the counter, the happiest night in the happiest place on Earth (or at least in Europe).

P.S. You can see more pictures from my Disneyland Paris adventure on Instagram!

How to Get the Best Travel Advice for YOU

How to Get the Best Travel Advice for YOUI’ve done a fair bit of traveling recently.

For our first American Christmas together, Monkey requested we extend our travels beyond Massachusetts, so we journeyed through Washington, DC and New York, seeing friends and sites along the way. By the time this post is published, we’ll be on our winter holiday in Paris, our essential out-of-Scotland February break. So as I compile itineraries for myself, I have also compiled my tips on making those itineraries for you!

How to Get the Best Travel Advice for YOU

Find a global guide you can trust.

Start by doing your own research. I swear by the Wallpaper* city guides and 36 Hours guides, and tried them out on my hometowns first to ensure they aligned with my preferences. The 36 Hours guide to Oxford was about a 90% match, so I knew their tips on other cities would be a safe bet. At first I avoided Wallpaper* because I didn’t recognise their picks in the Boston guide, but I realised it’s because they tend to skip the obvious and cite more hidden gems – this often means forgoing the tourist traps as well. Wallpaper* tends to feature major cities, while 36 Hours has more extensive geographic coverage, so between the two I’m sorted!

How to Get the Best Travel Advice for YOU

Get recommendations from friends, keeping in mind your common interests.

Often people will list places to their taste, which is fine, as long as you take note of what you have in common. One of my favourite traditions is getting my friends to fill in their own recommendations in the extra pages of my compact Wallpaper* guides. I get a range of suggestions based on my range of friends and their unique interests!  

Ask with a purpose: Narrow down your requests for travel recommendations. 

Know what you’re looking for. For cuisine I like to sample a bit of everything, but prefer healthier, lighter dishes with vegetarian options that aren’t too cheesy. 

When I went to Prague for the first time, a friend of mine told me I “had to try the svickova!” For some reason I thought it was a pastry, and got really strange looks when I would ask for it at bakeries. I finally found out that it’s sirloin, available at pubs. She must have forgotten that I don’t eat meat!

When getting restaurant recs, here are some ways to narrow down your request:

  • A few types of cuisine you’d like to try
  • What you don’t want to try – when I lived in Boston, New York’s array of European cuisine was appealing, but from the UK, we’d rather not have what’s more readily available on our doorstep
  • dietary restrictions/preferences
  • location/neighbourhood
  • atmosphere: cosy, funky design, formal, theme/experience
  • features of the experience important to you. Do you love wine? Cocktails? Or would you skip the drinks menu but never dessert?

Ask yourself, what do you want to get out of a dining experience?

  • Sample haute cuisine?
  • Try and amazing cocktail?
  • Discover a new favourite beer?
  • Grab something quick but authentic en route to your next adventure?
  • Try something quintessentially location-specific?

Define what you enjoy most about travel.

I love finding favourite restaurants and local designer boutiques around the world, seeing theatre and art, and also exploring bookstores and coffeeshops. So I will specifically request these kinds of suggestions. “Somewhere we can sit down and read books and sip tea”. 

What I enjoy doing in new cities seems obvious and unoriginal to me, but I have to remind myself that everyone travels differently. I’d prefer to avoid bus tours, and have very specific shopping interests based on what I’m looking for at the moment. I am always up for live jazz, but never night clubs. I adore visiting my faraway friend’s favourite local coffeeshop, even though to that friend it may seem utterly normal.

How to Get the Best Travel Advice for YOU

Every moment of travel is about learning what it’s like to live in someone else’s world.

I want to get everyday glimpses into people’s lives, whether through seeing local haunts or attending exhibits that tell me stories about how people live or lived in the world.

I travel to gain perspective on how others live. What is obvious to me becomes questioned in a different culture, and heightens my awareness of my own habits. I love discovering new things exclusive to certain places – I keep a list. I love collecting exclusives, my favourite jelly from Wellesley, Massachusetts, tea from San Francisco, facial spray from France. One of my favourite moments from Gossip Girl is when Chuck jets around the world, collecting Blair’s favourite things from different countries. 

Plan your day, but don’t over-plan your day.

Centre your day around one main event, and allow plenty of time to wander and explore. I aim to collect one Wallpaper* adventure per day, which tends to take me down streets I never would have found, stumbling along other spontaneous treats along the way.

I’d love to hear your travel tips and wanderlust wish lists. We share them weekly in the Heroines in Training Facebook group – care to join?

P.S. Going somewhere? See if I have a guide for your destination and step into the footsteps of other heroines in my fit for a heroine travel series.

Reader, You are a Part of Something

Reader, You are a Part of Something

“Clever marketing, wannit? Now the Americans can feel like they’re a part of it too.”

This single British accented comment I overheard behind me at opening night of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them stabbed me in the heart.

I wanted to get up and slap him, Prisoner of Azkaban Hermione style.

Then I thought maybe that would be an overreaction. But I was nonetheless hurt by his comment, and spent the evening figuring out why.

Here’s the thing, English chap. Harry Potter does not belong solely to Britain.

What Hogwarts represents is a safe place that collectively celebrates its students as different. It is a space where people who feel disconnected can feel like they belong.

We are introduced to Harry as a boy who was told by his guardians that he was different and unworthy. Through his Hogwarts letter he is told that he is different BUT worthy – cherished, even – and that there is a place that will celebrate his abnormality (more on this in my TEDx talk, “How Harry Potter Saved My Life”).

Both Voldemort and Grindelwald’s regimes are about preserving their exclusive dominance, through personal immortality and favouring pureblooded wizards over non-magical people. They are motivated by ensuring that the groups in which they feel prominent remain powerful. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am ALL ABOUT the importance of place in literature.

When Monkey and I watch a film based in Boston we can hardly follow the plot because I keep interrupting to astutely comment, “oo look it’s Boston!” And of course, I chose Oxford because I wanted to live in the place that inspired so many fictional places. That said, I’ve never been to actual Hobbiton or Wonderland and I still feel a part of those places. 

English chap, how can Harry Potter possibly be successful in America by your logic? “Wow this is a great story. Shame I can’t feel I’m a part of it because I’m American!”

English chap, I give you permission to feel a part of any American story and setting you desire. Not of course, that any permission is necessary.

“There is no frigate like a book”, wrote Emily Dickinson.

By opening its cover you are transported to another world. You can feel part of that world. You can feel like you’re friends with the characters. You can feel real feelings inside the pages of a book that shape your world outside of those pages. So beyond present sensitivities to nationalism (as explored in my Katniss Was Not an Activist piece), I think what stung me with this comment is a dismissal of the fictional world AS the real world. 

Because I knew you, [Harry], I have been changed for good. And yes, I can mix fictional worlds and references because in my world, they all exist. They are all available for me to explore. For you to explore. It’s cool when worlds converge. It’s cool when I see my Exeter College on camera in Dr Strange and The Golden Compass. But the setting is just one thing we happen to have in common, those stories and me. There are so many things: like Rory Gilmore and her bag full of books or Jo March and her living room plays and handwritten manuscripts. Yes they were New England girls like me, but that detail is just one of many that define who we are.

So go explore, heroines. The library is your oyster, no passports required.


P.S. You don’t have to be English OR living in the 19th century to enjoy Jane Austen. Join me for a year of Regency-inspired letters and training with Letters from Jane Austen.

Letters from Jane Austen