Toy Story 4 Review – The toys still have it

When rewatching Toy Story 3 in the lead up to seeing Toy Story 4, you have this sense that it was the perfect ending to a wonderful franchise, how could you top that? We had, with those final scenes, a bow being put on top of the franchise when the torch was passed from Andy to Bonnie.

Toy Story 4 doesn’t quite top Toy Story 3, but it does a very good job at telling an emotional story that also feels like a logical next step in this series – and yes, you will need tissues because the ending will break you.

The Toy Story franchise is an odd one in where it sits itself, having been around since 1995 it has found itself grappling with the audience and its adolescence and now young adulthood; and, much like the previous outing, it manages to balance this wonderfully. The plot isn’t overly revolutionary – toys start off happy, something happens, toys go off on an adventure, then the film serves up an emotional kick at the very end. It’s simple and it works.

This new installment introduces interesting new characters with Gaby Gaby as well as Ducky and Bunny (who provide the comedic relief) and Duke Caboom. Of course the star new character of the film is Forky and, whilst I did enjoy watching the character, I do wonder what larger role Forky could have played, it does feel that there is some lost potential. Bo Peep returns, and with it the explanation as to why she was not in Toy Story 3; it is very clear that she is not the same character as she was, and with it she has become a much more developed character with a good deal of depth and the Toy Story franchise is all the better for it.

For all the Pixar fans out there (myself included) keep an eye out for a number of really quite brilliant references and throwbacks to previous films and shorts including Up and Tin Toy. These hit a brilliant sweet spot and fans will really get a kick out of these moments.

The thing that really works for the Toy Story films is the emotional connection we have to the characters, and that is the genius of the original creators of Toy Story: taking inanimate objects that we can all connect to, and giving us an emotional connection to them. Here we are, 24 years on and it still works.

Toy Story 4 is not the best of the Toy Story films (for me, that’s still the original Toy Story) but it does do an excellent job of being a funny, emotional and enjoyable film. These Toy Story films are very likely the closest we have to a perfect film franchise, they don’t skip a beat.

Review: Breakfast with the Disney Princesses

Pastries next to a menu during the Disneyland Paris Princess breakfast at the Auberge de Cendrillon

Who doesn’t want to wake up with breakfast in the heart of Fantasyland with the Disney Princesses? From July 1st 2019 this popular breakfast offering is returning to Disneyland Paris, I had the chance to try it during its Spring 2019 run and it was such a wonderful experience that I’m so glad is making a permanent return to the park.

The food

Upon arriving at the Auberge de Cendrillion in Fantasyland, a friendly Cast Member will take you to your table in the restaurant; already set up on the table are a range of pastries including Croissants, Pain au Chocolat, Breads. These pastries tasted fresh and were a great way to open up the meal.

Pastries next to a menu during the Disneyland Paris Princess breakfast at the Auberge de Cendrillon

At this point you will also be brought your choice of hot drink and fruit juice. These are pretty basic, but fine, they are never going to be the highlight of the meal.

After a few minutes, you will be brought a selection of sweet items including yoghurt, salmon and a few other bits. These felt mostly forgettable in the great scheme of the breakfast, an afterthought and not the most tasty one at that.

A breakfast dish at the Auberge de Cendrillion including an egg, 3 sausages, potatoes and assorted vegetables. The plate is finished with a Mickey Mouse waffle

The main dish is a good mix of eggs, sausages, potatoes and a Mickey waffle. These were all delicious and tasted like the premium offering that this meal is. The potatoes are cooked in butter and taste richer for this, whereas the sausages are the usual veal sausages that you’ll find in the hotel breakfasts. Whilst I enjoyed the Mickey Waffle, and it does make for a good photo, it would have been nice for some form of accompaniment to it, perhaps some maple syrup? Without it, the waffle lacks something.

The Disney Princesses

Whilst a delicious breakfast is one part of the breakfast, you’re really here to meet some of the Disney princesses! At the breakfast 3 princesses will be present – no princes or other characters. Whilst this is not a large number of characters, you never feel rushes in your interactions, it always feels relaxed and that the princess has time for a good conversation.

Aurora posing in a medieval castle looking doorway at the Auberge de Cendrillon at Disneyland Paris

Cast Members will always be walking around to ensure that you get to see each of the 3 as well, you’ll never be caught short. On my visit I had the chance to meet Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White. Getting 3 princesses in quick succession with no wait time can be worth its weight in gold during the peak seasons!

I felt that 3 was the optimum number, I came away feeling both satisfied with my meets but also that I had the chance and opportunity to have a relaxed breakfast meal.

Practical Information

The Princess breakfast at the Auberge de Cendrillion returns on 1st July 2019. Bookings can be taken via your travel agent or via the Disneyland Paris dining line.

The meal is priced at €49 (with annual pass discounts applicable as usual) and is broken into two sittings – 8:30am and 9:45am.

Should you do this meal?

If you are wanting to have a more upper-end breakfast or meet the Disney Princesses without the wait, then almost certainly yes, you should make time for this. The Princess Breakfast is a truly special experience and will make many faces light up with joy.

It would be nice for the breakfast to have photographers with the characters to add to the Disney PhotoPass+ service, but unfortunately this does not happen – make sure you bring your camera to immortalise those memories!

An empty dining room in a castle-like setting at the Auberge de Cendrillon in Disneyland Paris

Cépages: Restaurant Review

Cépages wine - Villages Nature Paris

On the Lakeside Promenade at Villages Nature Paris sits a cluster of a few restaurants. From my reading and research, a lot of excitement and hype seems to surround the Cépages Wine Bar and Restaurant. Luckily, as part of the InsidEars Hotels and Resorts Discovery Weekend, I was given the chance to take a look around Villages Nature and the chance to try a meal inside this restaurant.

From the outset, Cépages is a distinctly French affair playing loud live performances of French music outside as you approach. But this is no traditional old bistro, Cépages is distinctly modern in both look, food and sounds.

Cépages at Villages Nature

Design with a modern French flair

Cépages, as previously mentioned is very modern in outlook, this suits the Lakeside Promenade down to the ground; everything here is about the large glass fronts allowing for enjoyable vistas over the main lake. The airy modern feel means that you never really feel like your fellow diners are on top of you.

The wine cellar at Cépages, Villages Nature

For those wanting a private dining experience, there is the private wine cellar area. This closes off to be protected from the rest of the restaurant and offers intimate group dining away from the crowds.

Food that prioritises shared experiences

Food at Cépages is a very traditional affair. Most dishes are inspired by classic French cuisine with plenty in the way of sharing dishes.

For starter, I opted for the Butternut soup. The dish was plenty big enough for a starter portion and had a very rich and creamy taste. I was unsure about having the seeds inside the soup dish, I ended up eating around them and leaving them. This was slightly annoying as it obviously caused avoidable food waste; whilst the seeds are good from a presentational perspective, I think practically it does not work so well. However, the taste was very good and overall I still enjoyed the dish.

For my main course I opted for the Bœuf Bourgignon which was served on top of a bed of Tagliatelle  pasta. Mains are presented in sharing hot pot dishes which you are able to share amongst your table; the concept works really well and encourages a shared dining experience – as a quirk of this restaurant, I think this is a great idea and adds something quite fun into the mix.

Taste wise, this dish was sublime. The beef was delightfully tender, the vegetables and potatoes were slow cooked until soft and the sauce flavouring was rich.

Bœuf Bourgignon at Cépages - Villages Nature
Desert, for me, was the Pomme façon tatin (Apple in the tatin style). Having expected the presentation of this to have been more like a tart, this was a bit of a surprise. The apple, in a caramelised sauce on a bed of ice cream, pastry and crumble tasted delightful. As a picture, it looks a bit messy; but don’t let the photo deceive you, the taste of the warm, soft apple really does work well. It’s not a tart, but it is good.

Obviously, in a wine bar you’d expect to have a range of wines on offer. Cépages is no different, as part of the tour we had a red wine – selected by the restaurant – to try (unfortunately I did not manage to catch the name I’m afraid); the wine was light and packed a good taste. I would be confident in saying that Cépages would be able to guide you to the right wine for your meal and for that wine to be of a good quality.

Cépages wine - Villages Nature Paris

Final thoughts

Cépages is a restaurant to try if you are passing through Villages Nature. Its location, close to all the central facilities of the resort, means that even if you are just passing through for a day that this is a viable option for a meal.

Inside you will have an enjoyable meal in a sleek modern environment which mixes modern French life with its traditional past. I look forward to one day returning and trying even more dishes.