It’s been far too long. This time last year I was bemoaning those first world problems that 2020 brought to the realm of theme park trips, telling some lowly tales about dusting off minor European coasters (oh, and Zadra), while silently hoping that 2021 would be the one to turn it around.
The same trip plans I back then had were cancelled again not once, not twice, but three times over.
Turns out it’s actually harder to go anywhere this year than it was last. There’s now a lot more hoop jumping, many more unfathomable rules and plenty of persistent website checking to be done. But where there’s a will there’s a way and Eurodemption 2 – The Revenge was born. Bigger, badder and more burdensome than ever.
The primary chunk of the trip revolved around France this year, which was a nail biter in itself as they had barely made it off of the UKs ‘amber plus’ list in time. Two weeks had been pencilled for what was basically a loop of the country, along with some cheeky bonuses to finish. As more borders sprang into life the itinerary grew even more adventurous and sporadic, and it’s fair to say that the trip wasn’t without issues. But that’s the fun part.
Day 1 – Parc du Bocasse
Bastille Day, 2018. The tour de France was in town and the Gendarmerie were breathalysing us in a layby at 2 in the afternoon. Freedom was in the air. Those were the days.
We had visited Bocasse before for a quick +3 and a surprise Soquet log flume with elevator lift, while somehow skipping a dark ride that may or may not have existed at the time (it did). The park have been keeping themselves very busy since then, adding another 2 coasters and completely changing the face of another and so they seemed like the perfect starting point for a post channel tunnel journey.
I’m already feeling too wordy, but what are these reports for if not to be educational? If you want to do anything in France right now (from England at least) you’ll want to get yourself two vaccines, an NHS Covid Pass QR code and a healthy supply of ‘medical masks’. Oh, how we’re going to have fun with that term. All (legit) parks like to scan this code on entry and you may even find yourself needing all of these things to even get into a McDonalds, while they smoke in your face.
With the revelation that French phone apps recognise said code and the system actually works, it was straight to the newest and most major coaster.
#1 Orochi is the 600th Orkanen to have been built since 2013 and though it’s a really good layout and experience for what it is, with all the forces in the right places, they’re definitely starting to wear me down, as all clones do.
It is particularly nicely presented, that pale green is rather striking in a way that makes me wonder how we’re still discovering new colours for coasters in this day and age and the big snappy dinosaur is a nice touch on-ride, though hard to capture in any great detail from afar.
They’re not quite done with the finishing touches, some of the queueline is yet to be built and there’s a pond on the way, but I’d say they’ve done well with this one. It just doesn’t seem that popular yet with a bit of an awkward dead end location on park. Like the Swarm.
I was playing around with this superwide lens on a different phone for the other new-to-me coaster in the park before deciding I don’t like it that much. This Prestion & Barbieri classic, #2 Pirate’s Coaster was struggling to park itself on multiple occasions, resulting in far more laps than strictly necessary for the checklist.
Ah yes, there it is. I can forgive myself for missing out on Apiland before because it looks like the building for a children’s play area and not a major attraction. The dark ride is actually surprisingly elaborate and themed to bees, bees existing happily in many different environments. It has a catchy onboard tune and meets just about every requirement to be a quirky and fun indoor attraction. Don’t miss it.
There was still time for a token lap on the park’s previous star rollercoaster, now Fort D’Odin. The before and after shot shows how much effort they’ve put into this thing and it was surely worth it. I’d forgotten how secretly good a lot of these medium Soquet coasters are. They’re like the Japanese jet coasters of Europe, an unpredictable frolic through weird and wonderful forces that you just don’t get from your stock models.
Other highlights from this ride include overhearing a man awkwardly describe to his children how this park was a warm up to Disneyland and that they should be looking forward to ‘that Space coaster designed by Michael Jackson.’
Poor Jules Verne. And that’s not the only time I’ll be saying that on this trip.
I always get the name wrong for this park and have been meaning to visit for at least 7 years now, never quite getting round to it for various reasons ranging from laziness to lack of effort. The drive into Paris was surprisingly pleasant, with no accidental trips round the Arc de Triomphe and though my planned car park didn’t appear to exist there was plentiful metered parking on the road that runs along the top of the ‘garden’.
Parking with flawed increments of money at least. It suddenly gets very expensive if you choose over 4 hours, but there’s no indication of a no returns rule. We paid for what we thought should be enough (see if you can guess where this is going) and headed in, QR codes at the ready.
The epic sounding ‘grand huit’ was our ticket of choice for the visit, which grants entry and huit (8) attraction tickets. It’s also the name of multiple coasters elsewhere on this adventure, stay tuned for that excitement.
Hadn’t really thought about it, but the place felt rather busy. The queue for the main draw, #3 Speed Rockets, was spilling just outside of the entrance but in reality it just can’t hold that many people and the operations are pleasantly swift. We were on in under 20 minutes.
I’m so glad these Gerstlauer Bobsleds are becoming so diversified over time because they can be cracking little rides. There’s tons of character in this one, from the multiple lift hills, weird double down drop, whippy overbanks and solid pops of unusual air. I really liked it and quickly thought to myself it could be the best one yet.
After the pleasant reminder of Soquet earlier, #4 Machine à Vapeur killed, in the best way. A janky powered coaster with speed in all the wrong places is punctuated by a ridiculously violent plummet into, and subsequent ejection from, a small concrete tunnel that marks the final stretch of each circuit. There’s only one setting to the lap bars on these things and the result is absolute carnage.
The Kinetorium had recently come onto my radar after learning that not all 100 of the Alterface interactive theatres in the world have to be Desperados 4D, ones like these have pre-shows, custom theming, the works. (More here if you’re interested in that stuff).
‘Plants grow big and evil, by mistake, and you have to shoot them with chemicals’ is the general gist of the experience, which combines the fun of both a communal competitive atmosphere with everyone else in the room and a surprisingly energetic ride-on seat that makes it a right romp.
Trouble was afoot. The rare baby Reverchon spinner wasn’t open for business and I really wasn’t planning on being spited this early. There were however signs of life, even though it was getting pretty late in the operating hours. Someone was in the control box and at one point a test car was sent.
There are gardens here too, as the name would suggest. The Korean garden had me reminiscing about better times again, but never mind that, let’s focus on the highlights of the here and now.
Further down the path, the final coaster of the park was also ‘temporarily closed’ and undergoing some test laps, with a significant queue forming outside.
It was clear that any hope of success was not going to be immediate and that our parking was going to run out in due course, so while they warmed the various seats for us it was time to quickly pop out and rectify that particular situation.
Upon leaving the park at the far exit we asked the nearest member of staff about the re-entry policy, something which you’re not technically allowed to do for whatever reason (money). As it was a literal 2 minute ‘pop out to the car’, she kindly stated that of course she’d let us back in, so long as we were quick. While passing several other admissions staff on the way out I remarked about how nice that gesture was and jokingly hoped aloud that she wouldn’t suddenly change shifts or go home on us.
2 minutes later, she was gone. The four other staff members that had also been there at the time were suddenly acting like they had never seen us before in their lives. Our admission tickets with half their active ride tokens still available on them were suddenly a source of great suspicion and after a failed attempt to reason with what had literally just happened, we were forced to buy another set of admission only tickets while one of the staff was adamantly warning the sales office not to ‘let us get away with anything else’, like we were out to commit some heinous crime.
With that unpleasantness out of the way, it was time for more Soquet goodness in the form of #5 Dragon Chinois, with it’s pleasant landscaping and overdose of lift hills for such a small layout.
The mini spinning mouse, #6 Souris Mécaniques, had come back to life by now and felt weird with all the proportions being off from what I’m normally used to with these things. The ride had a bit of a slow start to proceedings but managed to get sufficiently violent by the end. Always nice to try new models.
Believing the day was done, it was out of Paris and off to the first hotel for the night. Hang on a minute, is that a cred at the side of the road? Braaaaaake!
Yes it is. By complete chance, we had stumbled across this temporary setup about halfway on route. Never mind that it’s for enfants.
Le Festival Des Enfants
The cred in question was this piece of magnificence, #7 Le petit train de la mine. Fully prepared to not even find it on the sacred coaster count database, detailed pictures and notes were being taken before, surprise, it already exists, under one of the seven possible combinations of words printed on and around the ride. As an added bonus it had only been previously documented in photo form, closed in a field and there were no registered riders. I’ll take those 10 rare points now, thanks.
You know it’s not a good sign when riding rollercoasters causes you grievous injury on the first day of a long trip. The seatbelt mounts happened to be sharp, protruding and located at shoulder blade height in the centre of each car. On the fastest corner of the first lap I let out an involuntary scream as the laterals of the ride tried to cut me open. The operator looked concerned, but he had bigger things to worry about as one of the lap bars further up the train wasn’t down properly, prompting a quick on the fly fix as it came through the station for the second lap.
After endless laps of fear and defensive riding, I discovered later that the ride had indeed drawn blood and given me the ugliest graze imaginable. It’s far from the first time I’ve suffered for my art and I’m sure it won’t be the last.