I truly believed 2021 was going to be very different from the awful year that preceded it, the more I think about it though, the more I realise just how similar they were.
First off, yet again me and Heartline had to cancel our trip to the US. I was convinced things would be sorted enough to make the journey by June 2021, but it just wasn’t to be. Neither was it when we rescheduled the trip to July, heartbreaking doesn’t quite cover it.
Secondly, much like the previous year, once things finally did start to open up again the only obvious course of action was a multi week trip across Europe, this time though it was going to be even longer, 22 days to be exact, a new record.
In my mind at least the trip would be split into 4 clear sections…
Ticking off coasters in French parks I’d never heard of.
Exploring many of the so called “Summer Funfairs” in France.
Finally getting to visit parks that Heartline had visited and I was dying to see.
Heading back to previously visited parks to experience their new coasters.
That’s enough set up, now grab your medical mask and meet me at the border.
I remember the days of moaning about having to wake up at 3am to drive to the Channel Tunnel, but after being trapped on this island for what feels like forever I was buzzing with excitement to make the journey. We were expecting issues thanks to Covid and Brexit but we flew straight through onto the train, still hands down the best way to experience Europe.
Parc du Bocasse
The first park of the trip was Parc du Bocasse, a small family park a couple of hours from Calais that we had visited before in 2018. We were back today because the park had since opened 2 new coasters and we had managed to miss their dark ride on our rushed previous visit.
Things were tense when we arrived at the park entrance to see a large rabble of people queuing to show their Covid passes. I’d read many stories online of British people having issues in France with both their digital and paper based Covid passes. My logic here was, if this works we are set for everything the trip has to offer, if this doesn’t then things are about to get very awkward and expensive. Thankfully though all 3 of our digital passes were accepted almost too easily and we were cleared to enter the park.
Orochi is the park’s newest coaster and depending on who you ask their new star attraction.
The coaster is a Vekoma SFC, the 10th clone of the currently largest layout, a layout that’s just about large enough for even the most jaded of coaster fans to find some enjoyment in.
What impressed me most about Orochi though is just how great it looks. The theming around the coaster looks fantastic and for reasons unknown I’m incredibly attached to it’s interesting colour scheme.
With Orochi tamed, it was time to tick off Bocasse’s other new (to us) coaster, Pirate’s Coaster. This tiny Preston & Barbieri coaster was struggling to stop in the station (I doubt it’s got anything to with us though…) meaning we were treated to countless laps while the poor ride operator tried her best to regain control.
Next up was Apiland, the previously mentioned dark ride that we missed last time and looking at the exterior you can see why, it looks more like an educational exhibit or a soft play area than the park’s only dark ride.
Despite the less than inviting exterior, Apiland was great. This huge dark ride themed to bees was long, fun, full of charm and most importantly had a kick ass soundtrack.
We ended our re-visit to the park with a courtesy lap on Fort d’Odin, this Soquet coaster had recently been fully rethemed and much like Orochi looks fantastic. This is my personal favourite coaster in the park, there’s just something fun about sliding around in the deep seats of a Soquet that you can’t do anywhere else. Odin would thankfully be the first in a long line of Soquets on the trip and was the perfect place to start.
With that our quick re-visit to Parc du Bocasse was over and once again I had a great time at the park. While they have nothing all that exciting attraction wise, the park looks great, the staff are friendly, the atmosphere is spot on and that counts for a lot these days.
About an hour and a half from Bocasse, in almost central Paris, is a park that we’d been forced to put off several times over the past few years. It’s name is Jardin d’Acclimatation (I can’t say it properly either) and today we’d finally get to experience it.
Being a city park, and that city being Paris, we were slightly concerned about finding parking nearby but thankfully there was a road near the park with plenty of spaces and better yet it was reasonably priced.
Jardin requires a ticket to enter and then tokens or a wristband to experience the attractions. We went with the package called the Grand 8, mostly because we found it funny but also because it granted you entry and just enough tokens to do everything we wanted.
The first of which was Speed Rockets, a custom Gerstlauer Bobsled that I’d had my eye on for a while.
I’m pleased to say it more than lived up to the hype.
This trip featured many custom Gerstlauer Bobsleds and the running joke was each one ended up being the best yet.
Why was Speed Rockets the best yet? Because it was designed by a crazy person who managed to take a generally meh family coaster and turn it into a twisted mess of wtf moments. This short but insanely snappy coaster has among other silly twisty moments, a double-down first drop, high speed Immelmann and multiple sideways airtime hills.
It was a real shame that due to the limitations of the Grand 8 we were only able to ride Speed Rockets once but it’s more than fair to say that it left its mark on me.
We noticed now that due to the park being busier than we expected that our reasonably priced parking was starting to get tight, we should be fine though, as long as there are no hold ups anywhere…
Next up was the second Soquet of the day, this time a powered one named Machine à Vapeur, I honestly think it might accidentally be the best coaster at Jardin.
What starts off as your typical sliding about and loving it Soquet experience quickly turns into something absolutely terrifying. Nearing the end of the lap (yes you experience this multiple times) you gain massive speed before you drop down into a tunnel, this provides a nice pop of air and was way more intense than I was expecting, but that wasn’t the best bit. It’s as you fly back up out of the tunnel that things go very wrong. You are violently ejected and then immediately thrown left in hilarious fashion and there’s literally nothing you can do to avoid it. It’s brutal, it’s stupid, it’s amazing and I love it.
After checking none of our bones were broken, we checked the time, things were still looking real tense in regards to parking but we’d probably still make it right?
Thanks to Heartline’s new ties to the Dark Ride Database, this trip we’d end up experiencing attractions that we might have otherwise overlooked, the first of which would end up being Le Kinétorium. This interactive theatre style attraction has you shooting at targets on a screen while the seat you are on moves around to match the action on screen.
It was really good fun and the seat moved around way more than I expecting providing some truly funny moments of me coming inches from falling off. At the end of the attraction your photos are taken and your rankings are displayed on the screen, me and Heartline came 2nd and 3rd respectively, which isn’t bad going when I spent most of the time laughing and trying not to fall off.
It looked like we had just enough time to do the last 2 coasters and briskly leave before the parking ran out. With that in mind we quickly headed over to Souris Mécaniques, only to find out that it was temporarily closed…
Knowing that we now had to top up the parking we decided to leave via the opposite end of the park than where we entered, in order to see if Dragon Chinois was open or not. Earlier in the day we looked on the website and it stated that the coaster wouldn’t open again till March but we weren’t sure if we believed it or not.
The coaster was testing with a large crowd queuing up outside when we got there, so we left Heartline’s wife to assess the situation while we went to sort the parking.
We got to the other entrance and asked a friendly member of staff if it would be OK to quickly run out and sort the parking. She told us that it’s not policy but she’d gladly let us back in if we were quick. 3 other members of staff were watching this interaction, this is important information…
So we went and put another hour or so on the parking and quickly headed back to the entrance, on route I got a text from Heartline’s wife saying she was in the Dragon Chinois queue and that we needed to hurry.
On arrivial at the entrance, the lady we had spoken to 10 minutes ago had left and been replaced by another. We told the new member of staff that we literally just ran to the car and we were told it wouldn’t be an issue. She looked confused but also willing to help, she just had to ask the other members of staff, you know, the 3 who just watched us leave.
“Have you ever seen these 2 before?” we think she asked, “never in my life” we think one of them replied. He then decided to storm over, look at our tickets which said they were purchased 1 and a half hours ago and then start ranting at us about how he cannot let us back in the park and that we needed to buy 2 new entry only tickets if we wished to re-enter. Thankfully we managed to get our original tickets back because they still had valid ride tokens on them.
12 Euros and 5 minutes of parking wasted, an unpleasant experience all round and all because 1 man needed to go on a power trip… I’m not going to let this affect my opinion of the park but my opinion of him is that he’s an asshole.
Back in the park and reunited it was time to experience the 3rd Soquet of the day, Dragon Chinois.
I wasn’t feeling this one anywhere near as much as the other 2. It was too short to have the sliding about jet coaster feel of Odin and it was nowhere near as brutal as Machine à Vapeur, although it did have moments where it felt as though it was trying it’s best to throw us about. Either way it must be noted that I like his face and nothing will ever take that away.
Finally Souris Mécaniques was open and after a rather unpleasant and long queue it was time for me to experience my first ever Reverchon junior spinner and it was far better than it had any right to be. Riding on my own, due to 2 adults max per car, I managed to get an insane spin going, that coupled with not knowing the layout led to me laughing uncontrollably until I hit the brake run. I can only imagine what passers-by must have thought but it didn’t matter because I was loving it.
With everything we wanted to ride complete, we had enough tokens left on our Grand 8 for 1 more ride on the slightly disappointing Chinese Dragon with the long queue, the insane spinning mechanical mouse with the even longer queue or the steam train of death with no queue at all, it’s a no brainer right?
Back to Machine à Vapeur we went and if anything it was even more brutal this time, with even less chance of averting the carnage, did I say that I loved it already?
Still choosing to ignore the idiot on admissions, I rather enjoyed my visit to Jardin. The ride line up is solid and very unique, the park is very well presented and the staff while not exactly friendly were extremely efficient and worked hard to keep the queues down on all the rides.
On the way to our hotel for the night I spotted a small kiddy coaster set up at the side of the road and shouted, half jokingly, at Heartline to pull over, he did and it led to us obtaining possibly the best +1 in the industry.
Apparently it was some funfair exclusively for children, or as far as we could tell at least, but it was almost completely deserted and had a real ghetto feel to it. What’s the harm in asking we thought, surely only comedy can come from this, and it did…
Le petit train de la mine
I was concerned at first that the coaster wouldn’t be on Coaster-Count and that we would have to get it added, which would have involved taking pictures at a ghetto childrens funfair, which wouldn’t have been ideal. Thankfully though, and almost unbelieveably, the coaster was on there and better yet it had no riders to it’s name. That settles it, we must ride it now.
The coaster itself was clearly designed for children but also appeared to have been designed by a sadist. It was tracked all kinds of wrong, with transitions that didn’t even appear possible, nevertheless we took our seats and were taken on the ride of our lives.
I was thrown around in hilarious fashion and at times was struggling to breathe through unstoppable laughter, which only got more intense when one of the train doors opened mid-ride and the operator booted it shut as we came through the station.
The situation got even funnier when out of nowhere, mid-lap, Heartline let out an intense scream of real pain. Upon turning around to see what had happened he could only respond to my many questions with “I think I’ve drawn blood” and that was enough to put me out of commission for the next 3 laps of intense comedy.
Later on in the day Heartline showed me his wounds and they were rather impressive, but it was all worth it, because to this day, we are still the only 2 people to have ridden the coaster on Coaster-Count.
Thanks for reading, click here for day 2, where we visit Papéa Parc and Festyland.