Bienvenue to EPCOT’s France Pavilion. Lauded as one of the most beautiful pavilions along World Showcase, the France Pavilion was one of the nine original lands to open in EPCOT on October 1, 1982.
When leaving the United Kingdom, guests cross the famous “Seine,” via the Pont des Arts-inspired bridge. Did you know that the Pont des Arts was the first iron bridge in Paris, also known as the Passerelle des Arts? To the right there is the Eiffel Tower.
The replica was created after the blueprints of Gustave Eiffel and is about 1/10th the size of the most photographed landmark in Paris. Did you know that the original Eiffel Tower served as the main entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair?
At the end of the bridge, be on the lookout for a park inspired by Georges Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Unfortunately, the park is not accessible to guests. Using pointillism, Seurat’s largest and best-known painting represents people from different social classes relaxing in the park La Grande Jatte, which is located west of Paris on an island in the Seine River. The original painting can be seen in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The central part of the pavilion features a lovely fountain, street artists, restaurants, and shops; in short, it’s the Paris of the Belle Epoque.
From here cobblestone alleys lead to different parts of the pavilion, somewhat creating the atmosphere of a small French village.
To the right of the pavilion, the entire area of Remi’s Ratatouille Adventure is reminiscent of the Paris of Hector Guimard, known for his ornamental Art Nouveau glass Metro entrance canopies. It is the Paris of the post-impressionists, such as Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Now that you have the lay of the land, you can discover attractions, restaurants, and, of course, shopping!
When it comes to attractions, the France pavilion has come a long way. Back at EPCOT’s opening, the pavilion only had Impressions de France, an 18-minute movie showing at the Palais du Cinema, projected over 200 degrees onto five screens. The gorgeous scenery of the movie is only outdone by the equally beautiful music by Camille Saint-Saëns, Jacques Offenbach, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas, and original music by Buddy Baker. Impressions de France only plays in the evening. While outdated, the movie will make you want to pack your suitcase.
Earlier in the day, the theater is home to the 15-minute Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, which was added January 17, 2020. This is the third current Walt Disney World attraction to tell the Beauty and the Beast story, along with the Magic Kingdom’s Enchanted Tales with Belle and Hollywood Studios’ Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. It’s also the lowest-rated version, lacking the intimate charm of Enchanted Tales and the production value of Live on Stage. Kids may enjoy the sing-along; I was not impressed.
Check the My Disney Experience app to find out which show is running at what time. The theater is air-conditioned, which is très civilisé, as you get to sit down and rest your weary feet.
Another addition to the Palais du Cinema (2020) and absolutely worth your time, even if you do not want to see any of the shows in the theater, is the Tale As Old As Time: French Storytelling on Stage and Screen display. The small exhibit is dedicated to the adaptation of French literature in cinema, theater, ballet, and opera.
Also featured inside the Palais du Cinema is a reproduction of the chimera most commonly known as the Spitting Gargoyle. It is made from an original casting of the gargoyle of the same name sitting on his perch at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, overlooking Paris. The figure inspired the gargoyle Laverne, one of the three gargoyle friends of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The headliner attraction is, of course, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which opened on October 1, 2021. On this trackless ride, modeled after the original Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy ride at Disneyland Paris, you’re shrunk down to the size of a rat and whisked through Paris for a quick retelling of the Ratatouille film.
As one of Remy’s rat friends, you watch his ascent from a rodent with a dream to one of Paris’ celebrated chefs. The storytelling combines 3-D films shown on room-size screens with large, detailed ride-through sets, including water and heat effects. A couple of frenetic scenes, including one in which Remy is chased with a meat cleaver, may frighten small children.
The ride is based on the 2007 Pixar Animation Studios movie featuring a rat that aspires to become a great chef. Remy’s hilarious adventures are a delight. In 2008 Ratatouille won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Belle meets her fans by the water’s edge at the France Pavilion, while Princess Aurora welcomes visitors at the Gazebo along the way to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
FOOD & WINE
Les Chefs de France
Entering the restaurant is like stepping into a busy bistro. The smells are delicious, with baguettes from the on-site bakery on every table. White cloth napkins and padded banquettes accentuate the classic bistro decor of the main dining room, where window tables make for fun people-watching on the World Showcase Promenade. The family-friendly restaurant opened in 1982 and is owned by world-famous Chef Paul Bocuse. It was the first Bocuse-affiliated restaurant in America. His son, Jerome Bocuse, owns the company behind Monsieur Paul. Dishes are inspired by the three French chefs for whom the restaurant is named: Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre, and Roger Vergé. For the classic French experience, try the Boeuf Bourguignon. For dessert, have the Crème Brûlée or Mousse au Chocolat.
This upscale signature dining experience may be a bit formal and high-priced for many park guests, but if you can get past the sticker shock, this is the spot for a quiet dinner and conversation. Chef Nicolas Lemoyne, who worked at l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges in Lyon, France, wows diners with classic French tastes. The restaurant located above Les Chefs de France is only open for dinner and serves a Prix Fixe Menu de Dégustation at $195 per person, plus tax and gratuities.
Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie
Les Halles is the highest-rated counter-service restaurant in EPCOT and one of the best in Walt Disney World. Bread and pastries are made on-site. Think croissants, Pain au Chocolat, fresh baguettes, and French roasted coffee for breakfast. Quiche Lorraine or a cheese platter is perfect for lunch or dinner. On a lighter side, try the Bisque de Homard. Make sure to leave room for “les patisseries.” Go for a Créme Brûlée, a Mousse au Chocolat, an Éclair, or my all-time favorite, the Napoleon.
L’Artisan des Glaces
Here you’ll find a flavorful variety of handcrafted frozen treats, including ice cream and sorbet. Ice-cream flavors change but can include vanilla, chocolate, coffee, coconut–white chocolate, mint chocolate, candied peanut with chocolate–peanut butter fudge, and cinnamon with caramelized pecans or apples. The dairy-free sorbet flavors may include mango, strawberry, and piña colada. Over-21s can enjoy two scoops in a martini glass, topped with Grand Marnier, rum, or whipped cream–flavored vodka. If you can’t decide, go for the the macaron ice-cream sandwich. It is a gift from heaven.
La Crêperie de Paris
Celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse offers sweet and savory crêpe options in this new sit-down restaurant located near Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
In a hurry but in the mood for crêpes? Try Crêpes À Emporter by La Crêperie de Paris, a food window outside of La Crêperie de Paris.
Next door is Les Vins des Chefs de France, home of the world-famous Grand Marnier & Grey Goose Orange Slush! Wines are sold by the glass. If white wine is your thing, try the Vouvray Sauvion or the Pouilly-Fuissé. Red wine lovers should go for the Beaujolais Duboeuf.
There are shopping opportunities galore at the France Pavilion. At La Maison du Vin, for a fee, guests can sample wines and purchase their favorites to take home. Here you can also find fine chocolates and cookies from Maxim’s de Paris, Emile Henry cookware, Marat d’Avignon kitchen linens, and E. Barrett & Co. soaps.
Plume et Palette is home to famous French perfumes such as Chanel, Givenchy, Lacoste, and Escada. Two Parisian perfumers Annick Goutal and Jean Patou are also represented at the store.
La Signature by Guerlain features Guerlain’s fragrances and full line of cosmetics. If you’re unsure of what would work for you, indulge in a makeup consultation.
Want to feel très français? Head to Souvenirs de France located inside Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. Here you can purchase a traditional beret, as well as all sorts of French souvenirs, including food items.
From the traditional T-shirts to a miniature Eiffel Tower, it is just a matter of what to pick. And your youngster for sure will want to go home with little Remy plush—complete with a wooden spoon and a chef’s hat!
Children will also love the Kidcot Fun Stop, where cast members share information about the country and provide stickers and activity cards free of charge. The backs of the cards provide information on the country visited. Kids will also learn a few words: Hello in French is “Bonjour” (Bon-jure), and Mickey Mouse is “Mickey” (Mee-keh ). The Kidcot Fun Stop is located inside the Souvenirs de France.
CHRISTMAS AT THE FRANCE PAVILION
The France Pavilion is the home of Père Noël, which literally means Father Christmas. Gather around him and listen to the story of a letter that a child wrote to him.
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. Also, read the first post in this series, which takes you to Mexico! Our next stop will take readers to Bella Italia!