Europe 08/21 – Jacquou Parc, Parc Fenestre + Vulcania

Day 5

Jacquou Parc

Today began with what was meant to be a short visit to Jacquou Parc, a small park seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Things were off to a strong and very loud start thanks to a French Airforce Rafale performing a low pass right next to the park as soon as we got out of the car. Sadly this would be the only thing worth remembering from the park.

Ears ringing and adrenaline flowing we now joined a massive queue to buy tickets, a queue that was barely moving and had nowhere to hide from the blistering sun. The park only had 2 ticket counters to deal with the rabble of people and the staff inside of them were moving at the speed of erosion.

Sombrero

Once we finally made it into the park we first stumbled upon Sombrero, a coaster(?) that felt questionable in almost every way imaginable.

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After a quick toilet stop we next made our way over to the back of the park where they keep their other 2 coasters, a Wacky Worm and a spinning mouse.

On approach to the spinning mouse the operator closed the queueline in our faces and we immediately knew what was going on.

The coaster was scheduled to close at 12 for lunch and he was being extremely cheeky with that rule. It was currently just before 11:30 and he was closing the queue now to make sure he could leave at exactly 12. The thing was though, there was nowhere near half an hours worth of people in the queue…

At first we stood at the closed queue sign and kept trying to get his attention, expecting him at any moment to notice that he didn’t have a half hour queue to clear and to wave us through. It wasn’t working though, he was trying his best to ignore us, looking guilty and ashamed but unwilling to do anything about it.

Other people were clearly upset too, and can you blame them? Like us they got here for opening, queued forever to get in, rode maybe one ride and now they were closing rides in your face, it was actually insulting.

We decided our best plan for redemption would be to complete the park now, sans the mouse, then be the first people in the queue when it reopened.

Speedy Gonzales

Completing the park would be easy, all that was left was the Wacky Worm, where a much nicer operator was positioned, one who actually cared about the paying customers.

Well, we’ve got 90 minutes to kill, fancy some lunch?

The nearest shop was about 20 minutes away, we had time to spare though and the drive there was great fun, there are some advantages to being in the middle of nowhere.

Crazy Coaster

Five minutes before the queue of the spinning mouse was due to reopen we arrived and immediately took our place at the front.

We had hoped the same operator that closed the queue in our faces would be the one who would drop the chain and taste our discontent, but sadly the nice operator from the Wacky Worm took that responsibility and we can’t be mad at him.

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Now let’s get out of here.

Parc Fenestre

Clearly running late now, we needed to complete our visit to Parc Fenestre as quickly as possible. Yeah that didn’t happen…

The park was nothing like we were expecting, this became clear when the sat nav ended its guidance at a car park in the middle of a pretty town. So we parked up, next to an abandoned cable car station and continued on foot.

There was a faded park map at the bottom of a set of stairs, so we climbed them assuming it would take us straight into the park, nope. At the top there was a station for a miniature train, a ticket office selling I’m not sure what and absolutely nothing else.

We were fairly certain the park was free entry and went with the logic that the ticket office was probably for the train, so we continued walking in search of other attractions.

Soon the path we were on opened up into a massive wooded park area with no indication of which way to go. At first we headed left because we saw a building that from a distance looked like the Haunted Mansion, it wasn’t and it turned out this way led us back into the town.

Next we headed right and after walking a considerable distance through more beautiful scenery found a less faded and up to date park map, we were heading in the right direction but weren’t even halfway there.

When we finally arrived at Parc Fenestre we noticed 2 things immediately, that the train we saw earlier would have taken us straight to the park and that the park itself was really busy.

We powered straight to coaster to find out how many jutons (tokens) it required and then consulted yet another park map to see where we could purchase them. There were four places if my memory serves me right, a hut that was closed, the exit of the actual Haunted Mansion, that ticket office we saw when we first entered and the hook a duck stall, which is the one we opted for.

Cacahuète Express

Jutons in hand it was finally time to experience the newest Soquet in the World, Cacahuète Express. This powered coaster was great fun, smooth, forceful and full of charm. Not only did I have the pleasure of sliding about in my seat over multiple laps, my phone decided to join me. On 2 seperate occasions it slid out of my pocket, onto the seat and then almost out the side of the car, nothing can resist the power of Soquet.

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Time to finally get back on the road and head to Vulcania now, but not before interacting with donkeys that were literally chilling in the ride area of the nearby car ride, I think I like Parc Fenestre.

Vulcania

Vulcania isn’t just themed to volcanoes and how amazing they are, it is actually located in an area that used to be full of volcanic activity. This meant the final leg of the drive to the park was absolutely spectacular, with beautiful scenery on display in every direction. What really blew my mind though is that we drove past the volcano that’s printed on the Volvic bottles. It was crazy to think that the volcano from the label I stare at when I’m bored at work was now right there infront of me.

Despite losing time at seemingly every opportunity today the first thing we did when we arrived was sit on a bench outside the park and watch K-Pop videos. This was because when we arrived we noticed the park had a cheap evening ticket just like Futuroscope and you bet we were going to get that discount.

When it was finally time we purchased our cheap evening tickets from a friendly lady and made our way into the park.

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Vulcania’s layout is really fun but also really hard to explain properly, I’ve been and I still don’t fully understand it. Instead of confusing us both it’s easier just to say that the park is split into several floors. The highest floor is the outside section, which is home to Namazu. Every other floor is in a big central building that’s built into the ground.

Namazu

Speaking of Namazu…

After getting lost, see I told you the layout was fun, we arrived at Intamin’s newest Family Launch Coaster.

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Namazu immediately wins points from me for its theme which manages to be both educational and mythological. The coaster is themed to earthquakes in general but also leans into Japanese mythology, with the Namazu name being shared with a giant catfish who brings earthquakes to Japan when he’s not kept in line.

After a small outdoor queue next to the second launch you head inside the lab, where after another short queue you enter Namazu’s awesome preshow.

This preshow has 4 different sequences it can show you, based on 4 different real life earthquakes, which all had different characteristics. Namazu isn’t content with just explaining how those earthquakes went down though, you get to experience them for yourself, minus the massive destruction of course. I loved it, it was interesting to learn about the different types of earthquakes and the earthquake effect the room uses is really quite effective.

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Next it’s onto the ride station, which still had that new Intamin smell to it.

Namazu begins with a drop track section, exactly like Objectif Mars should have. It isn’t anywhere near as forceful as Objectif Mars’ drop track but it is one of the nicest themed drop sections I’ve ever seen on a coaster, themed to experiencing an earthquake while being inside of a cave.

After the drop you hit a small dip before rolling into the first launch of the coaster. The launch is quite punchy and sends you into the first section of Namazu which is great twisty floaty fun.

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Just before you have time to question “is that all you’ve got Namazu?” you hit the second launch of the coaster and things are taken up another notch.

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While it doesn’t suddenly start kicking your ass like Juvelen does after its second launch, this added boost in speed makes the second and final section of Namazu great fun. The twisty bits throw you about nicely, the floaty bits get a little more aggressive and now you are treated to nice positive moments too.

If you couldn’t tell I’m quite the fan of Namazu and I don’t want to imagine what the park would have been like before it’s addition in mid 2021.

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Before we move on I’d just like to show you the view you are presented with when looking back towards the rest of the park from the Namazu entrance area.

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Stunning isn’t it?

Volcans sacrés

Next we headed into the central building that houses the majority of the park’s attractions and took the elevator to the floor that’s home to Volcans sacrés, Vulcania’s only true dark ride.

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Volcans sacrés is a trackless dark ride that’s themed to volcanoes, but more specifically the relationship different cultures around the World have with volcanoes. It’s full of animatronics, special effects and tons of heart. I really enjoyed it, especially a moment near the end of the ride where the trackless system is put to full effect in one of the greatest moments I’ve ever seen on a dark ride.

Premier envol

Premier envol was the next attraction we headed to and I’m disappointed to say it was rather crap.

The attraction is a 4D cinema of sorts that takes you on a flight with a bunch of eagles. Issues arise from the fact the ride film is pretty boring and simulation effects come in the form of a moving platform you’re standing on that gently tilts you from side to side and isn’t all that relevant to what’s being shown on the screen.

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Thinking we had now ridden everything we wanted, we went for a few more laps on Namazu before grabbing something to eat.

Nearing the end of our makeshift meal Heartline suddenly jumped up and ushered us over to the open elevator. When we asked what was going on, he could only reply with the statement “Dragon Ride 2”.

Dragon Ride 2

Somehow both me and Heartline had missed the existence of Dragon Ride 2 in our trip research and it wasn’t on either of our to do lists. I had seen the name for the first time earlier on a souvenir coin and at that moment had foolishly guessed that it must be the name of a previous attraction at the park.

The legend and existence of Dragon Ride 2 was coming to life before our very eyes and it left us with many questions.

What happened to Dragon Ride 1?

Was it personal this time?

And most importantly what the hell is Dragon Ride 2?

It’s a pretty crap 4D cinema…

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We didn’t want our night to end on that disappointment, so we made a spur of the moment decision to sprint up many stairs for 1 more go on Volcans sacrés. Heartline managed to make it into the queueline seconds before it closed, me and his wife were not so lucky, but thanks to an amazing member of staff we were all able to enter the queue and be the last riders of the day on this awesome dark ride.

The only thing left to do now was to head outside and watch the park’s night time show, which they were billing as a pyrotechnics spectacular.

This meant taking a seat with thousands of other people in a ghetto makeshift grandstand which was unnerving on both counts of it collapsing or giving us covid.

I don’t want to be too negative because I did enjoy it, much more than Futuroscope infact, but it wasnt really what I had in mind. More pyros and less gyrating neon dragons next time please.

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I enjoyed my visit to Vulcania, it’s always nice to experience something a little different from time to time, even more so when you’re 5 days into a 3 week coaster holiday. Namazu and Volcans sacrés were great and the park in general had a nice atmosphere throughout, which combined with friendly staff and stunning views made for a great time.

Thanks for reading, click here for the next part of my report, where we visit Anatolia Parc, Naturland(ia), Lou Bac Moutain, Pirat’ Parc, Parc d’Attractions Marseillan-Plage, Lunapark and Fabrikus World.


Europe 08/21 – Parc Ange Michel, L’Île aux Géants + Futuroscope

Day 4

Today began by righting the wrong that was forgetting Ange Michel’s existence on the second day of the trip. This would come in the form of driving a considerable way off-piste. This upset the car enough to kickstart oil issues that would plague us for the rest of the trip.

Parc Ange Michel

Let’s hope this place is worth the emergency oil change we performed in a supermarket car park.

It wasn’t looking promising at first, as we joined a rabble of people getting sunburnt in an attempt to buy tickets.

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Tourbillon

Once in though we were able to run between shade until we stumbled upon Tourbillon.

This would be the second of these stupid Gosetto spinning coasters that I’ve ridden, and the worst, but only because it was a whirlwind of large bugs and blinding sun.

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Tacot en Folie

Tacot en Folie sucked and stains the great legacy of Soquet.

This coaster bored me enough to start contemplating if it was worth driving hours out of our way and breaking the car to visit Ange Michel. The worrying thing is I still think it was.

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Flash Tower

Thankfully we were able to find something to cheer us up and it’s name was Flash Tower.

We figured we might as well as we wandered past the park’s Zamperla tower ride and it turned out to be a fantastic decision. This ride doesn’t work like a conventional drop tower, instead it pulls you up and down the tower repeatedly throughout the cycle. That doesn’t sound that impressive but you need to understand that every time it pulls you down it delivers absolutely outrageous ejector airtime. At least 8 times during the cycle you are thrown up into the restraint so hard that it almost feels wrong. By the fouth time I was sure I was used to it, but no, it kicked my ass every time and I loved every second of it.

For once I am legitimately upset that I forgot to take a photo of the ride.

Tornado

We ended our visit to Ange Michel with a ride on Tornado, another spinning mouse, this one tame enough that it’s suitable for people who hate spinning and going backwards.

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With wrongs now righted we could finally put Ange Michel behind us and move onto bigger and better things.

L’Île aux Géants

Like a park exclusively for children…

On one hand L’Île aux Géants is located a short distance from Futuroscope and it felt almost rude not to pay it a visit. On the other hand we weren’t sure we’d get in and it would cut into our Futuroscope time. Decisions…

In the end we took the plunge and I’m glad we did because it was certainly an experience.

From the very second we arrived everything was screaming that there was no way we were going to get in without children. The place couldn’t have looked anymore children only if it tried and the pricing structure implied adults couldn’t enter alone.

It was therefore rather tense as we approached what you could loosely call a ticket counter and asked for “2 adults please”. To our surprise and without a strange look or single question from the staff member we were granted our request and made our way into the park.

Avengers Roller Coaster

And straight to Avengers Roller Coaster, yet another Zyklon Galaxi. What this one lacked in immense theming, it more than made up for in copyright infringement.

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Being a very small park, with a small team behind it, attractions operate on a rotational basis. Because of that the second and final coaster of the park was currently closed and would remain that way for another 15 minutes, this is where the true genius of L’Île aux Géants shines through.

The park is littered with plastic lawn chairs that are free to use and free to be taken anywhere you please.

In the future, when I look back at my life in this hobby, I pray that I never forget the time I sat on plastic lawn furniture in a children’s park waiting for a Wacky Worm to open.

Brocomela

At exactly the scheduled time of reopening the operator of the Zyklon walked over and we swapped our lawn furniture for seats on the back of the Brocomela, if only it was always this convenient.

Well that went far better than it had any right to, let’s head over to Futuroscope now.

Futuroscope

I’m going to be completely honest, until recently I had never heard of Futuroscope. Heartline tried his best to get me up to speed though, informing me that the place is extremely popular and focused on learning, that probably wasn’t the best way to sell it to me.

The park, if you could call it that, feels like what would happen if you combined Epcot, a World’s fair and a museum. Many massive impressive buildings everywhere with one or two attractions in each. In my opinion this led to a serious lack of atmosphere while bouncing between attractions but we will get back to that.

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Objectif Mars

Because first we need to talk about Objectif Mars, the only reason I’d heard of the park and the sole reason for our visit.

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Objectif Mars is an Intamin family spinning coaster and it opened at the park in mid 2020. I’d been wanting to ride the coaster ever since it was first announced, with promises of the project costing insane amounts of money and the indoor sections being spectacular.

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I’m disappointed to announce though that the experience as a whole was quite the let down and I rate it as a whole experience because if you were to judge it on the coaster alone you’d be even more disappointed.

The queueline was no where near as impressive as I was expecting, in fact it was one of the least exciting queuelines in the park, which isn’t great when you consider the coaster is pretty much brand new. I was getting serious Smiler but not as crap vibes throughout the tedious “warehouse but with some optical effects” themed queueline.

Now onto the coaster itself, or lack thereof. You start with an indoor section which to me at least just played out like a series of unlinked special effect demonstrations. Here’s some Telsa coils and here’s some fire effects, don’t get me wrong I love to see this kind of stuff but it was hardly presented in a spectacular way. The indoor section ends with an admittedly great effect though as you are tilted onto your back via a trick track, while looking up at screens mimicking sitting in a space shuttle engaing warp speed.

Then you very slowly and awkwardly come off the trick track and turn a corner in silence to go outside and start the main coaster section.

Next up you engage a launch that barely gets things moving, go over an airtime hill that doesn’t have airtime and then float around a couple of corners barely moving before you hit the second launch.

This section of Objectif Mars is a lot better. The launch is quite punchy, the cars start spinning properly, the twisted airtime hill provides actual airtime and the following couple of corners provide some nice forces. It’s just a shame this section lasts about 14 seconds from entering the second launch to hitting the final brakes.

Objectif Mars does end on a high though, with probably the best drop track in the World. I feel it would have worked so much better to have this section at the start though. It feels very disjointed and like another showing off of effects to have the drop track at the end of the coaster.

I think disjointed is great way to sum up the entire experience actually. From the mediocre queueline promising you a trip to Mars, to the unlinked special effects show inside, to the snail pace boring first half, to the pretty great second half and finally to the intense drop track section, nothing really flows properly in my opinion. It’s such a shame really, I really wanted to love Objectif Mars but sadly it wasn’t to be. Don’t worry though, there are 2 more very similar Intamin coasters on this trip that I loved.

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Arthur, l’Aventure 4D

Next we headed to the Arthur 4D cinema, which was located in its own huge building.

Coming from someone who doesn’t like the Arthur film series or normally enjoy 4D cinemas, this thing was fantastic!

The theming inside was amazing and the 4D film itself was insane. I couldn’t stop laughing from the combination of comedy on screen and the relentless aggression from the 4D ride system. Arthur was awesome, but wouldn’t be the best 4D cinema at the park…

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La Gyrotour

As we passed the park’s observation tower we noticed that it closed earlier than the rest of the park, so with it being quiet at the time we figured it was now or never.

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La Vienne dynamique

That crown of best 4D cinema in the park? In Europe? In the World? Ever? Belongs to La Vienne dynamique, which from the second we passed through its beautiful waterfall facade escalated comedy to heights previously unknown to me.

Heartline had convinced himself and me that this was a leaning on a bar simulator experience about nature that we only need to experience for the sake of the Dark Ride Database, how wrong he was…

At first we were ushered into what looked like a dank and dark cinema from the 90s, but the screen wasn’t a screen at all, it was a solid sheet of high pressure water. Wait what is this ride again?

Then as best I can remember, an advert played on the water screen, nothing else happened and the house lights came back on. Was that it?

Doors to the left of the water cinema then opened and we were ushered into an even bigger cinema, this one clearly the main event, with a massive screen and what looked like at least a hundred 2 seater simulator pods. What actually is this man? I’m getting nervous now.

I cannot explain even a second of what happens next and do it justice, you wouldn’t even believe me if I did. All I can say is that the ride film was hands down one of the greatest motion pictures ever etched onto film and that physical comedy was redefined 6 times over, all while the simulator pod tried to murder me several times.

I couldn’t tell you how long the ride film lasted, all I know is that I couldn’t breathe for more than half of it and I haven’t cried that much from laughter in my life. What a find this ride was, I can’t believe we almost didn’t experience it, the best ride in the park without a second thought.

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La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps

Still trying to regain our composure we next headed to La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps, a tracked screen based dark ride themed to time travel and those annoying Rabbid characters no one likes from the Rayman universe.

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Futuroscope goes 2-0 in creating rides from franchises I don’t like and making them enjoyable.

The interior queueline for this ride was pretty special and incredibly detailed, further throwing shade on the half arsed job over at Objectif Mars.

I was quite sceptical on what I’d make of the ride itself, Rabbids and screens aren’t high on my list of dark ride preferences but to my surprise I really enjoyed it. The ride goes a lot harder than I was expecting and little surprises here and there really helped make it a memorable experience.

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L’Extraordinaire Voyage

Talk about ending on a low…

While we were always of the understanding that L’Extraordinaire Voyage was a flying theatre, which I’m not really interested in, the park more than once led us to believe that it was going to be much more than the usual flying over the blurry landscapes of the World…

The exterior of the ride takes your past illustrations based on creations from the fantastic mind of Mr Jules Verne.

The beautiful interior queue has you waiting in a room inspired by M.C. Escher, with all the various extraordinary voyages we could possibly go on today.

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Then it all goes wrong…

Next you get led into a generic preshow room to watch a generic preshow about how we are about to go on a generic blurry flight around the World…

But it gets better. We need to board a shuttle thing to take us to our aircraft. Cue a hundred people in a cramped room that simulates us crudely making our way over to it. Note that the room doesn’t have any motion or vibration effects, so it’s just a hundred people crushed together while screens pretend we are moving.

Wait we are having too much fun now, so let’s stop here for 5 minutes after that ends before we make our way to the flying theatre itself.

Oh you thought that killed the ever fading momentum of the experience? You’ve seen nothing yet.

Take your seat on the flying theatre but please don’t expect to move for another 5 minutes because this is the slowest loading simulator in the World.

Then, as expected, it is finally time to go on our blurry flight around the World, what a rip off…

To pick our spirits up we were thrilled to see we had time for 2 more laps on Objectif Mars, it ain’t great but it’s better than what that just was.

On the first of our 2 laps the legend of the medical mask struck again.

A ride host came over to an already restrained Heartline to inform him that he wasn’t wearing a mask, when he was wearing a mask, the same mask he has worn all trip so far and all day at Futuroscope.

When Heartline asked what he was meant to do about it while he was already strapped in and ready to go, the host shrugged and walked off in a huff, right OK then.

It was tonight that we started to slowly come to the conclusion that certain people only consider you as wearing a mask when you are wearing the blue medical masks. None of our current masks were this spec, in fact they were proven as better than that. We had a pack of medical masks in the car though and we would of course wear them if requested at the park entrance. To get to this point in the day though and be told by one man that your mask isn’t suitable is an insult and really frustrating, and it wasn’t even me being told off, don’t worry though, that day will come…

After finding something to eat in the very lacklustre “food court”, we opted to watch the evening show from the footpath as opposed to the designated seating area just incase someone else decided to find fault in Heartline’s mask at the end of a 6 hour visit.

The show was fine but not even close to what I was expecting from the park if I’m honest.

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I think Heartline said it best with a statement about the park that has now bled into my everyday life, “it wasn’t without its issues”.

The park itself did little for me atmosphere wise. Like I said earlier there is very little going on between rides, thanks almost entirely to most of them being hidden away in big buildings.

Then the rides. Objectif Mars let me down, Arthur and the Rabbid time machine were great, La Vienne dynamique changed my life and the flying theatre was awful.

The evening show was meh and that one bloke from Objectif Mars sadly ruined my opinion of the staff there.

I’ll say this, I’m so glad we were able to get stupidly cheap evening tickets. I feel like if I paid full price I’d be even more bitter but as it stands I’m happy to think of Futuroscope as a good time but not without its issues.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 5 of the trip, where we visit Jacquou Parc, Parc Fenestre and the much better than Futuroscope, Vulcania.


Europe 08/21 – La Récré des 3 Curés, Kingoland + Luna Park La Palmyre

Day 3

The initial plan for Ange Michel redemption was to add it onto today’s already stacked line up, this meant today we’d have to get extra fruity.

La Récré des 3 Curés

Which was why we were knocking on the door of Récré 3 at opening.

La Récré des 3 Curés is yet another small family park that I’d never heard of. This time I felt extra stupid though because it turns out that the park opened a brand new custom Gerstlaurer Eurofighter last year and I managed to completely miss it.

Vertika

It’s name is Vertika and after a brisk scenic walk to the back of the park we were now standing in the shadows of the beast waiting for it to open.

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At exactly 11 a friendly member of staff opened the queue and it was time for the first “major” coaster of the trip. So how was it?

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It was great! You’ll never find me getting too excited for a Eurofighter but this is certainly one of the best that I’ve ridden. It’s smooth, forceful, snappy and has some good airtime moments.

4 rides back to back, with every intention of riding again if we weren’t in a rush is probably the strongest compliment that I can give Vertika.

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Can I just say before we move on, olive green supports and bright red track shouldn’t work, but it really does.

Grand Huit

Whilst clearly not up to the standards of 1066, Grand Huit still offered a fun time, this time devoid of the Soquet shuffle but only because I was sharing a deep seat with Heartline.

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With that our time at La Récré des 3 Curés had come to an end and although it was brief it was certainly enjoyable. The park looks nice, the staff are friendly and Vertika is great, what’s not to like?

Kingoland

2 hours from Récré 3 was the next park of the day, Kingoland, a small park that was, at least in the case of today, hot as hell.

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Apollo Steamrocket

Avoiding sunburn as best we could, we first ventured over to Apollo Steamrocket, the World’s most heavily themed Zyklon Galaxi.

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The queueline had multiple intensely themed walkthrough sections and the ride station was also heavily themed.

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I still don’t know what to think of it honestly. Yeah it’s great that the park have gone to the effort of making the coaster look nice but also it really feels like time and money wasted going to this extreme on such a underwelming throw away coaster.

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It became apparent once we reached the very much unthemed final 40 minutes of the Apollo Steamrocket queue that Ange Michel would not be possible today and I began looking for possible alternatives almost immediately.

Speed Chenille

With that unpleasantness out of the way we knew we needed to cheer ourselves up with some more Soquet goodness, so we headed over to Speed Chenille.

Speed Chenille swaps the Soquet standard deep seats with padded benches with no restaints and then sends you flying around swooping bends and an airtime hill multiple times at speeds which feel too fast for the set up, it was pretty great.

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Next we headed to Kingoland’s only dark ride, Old West Shooting, it was nothing special but it did get us out of direct sunlight for a couple of minutes.

Gold Rush

The final attraction on our must ride list was Gold Rush.

This Pinfari Mini Mega Coaster had only been installed at the park last year and both looked and rode like it was brand new. I was not at all ready for this thing to be butter smooth. Did it make it a decent coaster? Not at all, but I’m not complaining that I came off bruise free.

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Thankfully we could now get back to the car, out of the sun and head to our replacement for Ange Michel.

I had found a funfair nearby that officially didn’t open until 8pm but they promised that “some attractions” would be open from 4 which was perfect timing. They had a couple of coasters and I assumed, being their star attractions, that they would be the ones to open at 4, little did I know…

After getting lost several times we finally rocked up at the funfair, which was twinned with a sketchy looking supermarket.

There was absolutely no activity at all visible from outside of the fair, so we ventured in. Inside all we could find of life was a few other groups of people walking past clearly closed attractions and getting annoyed, this may have been a waste of time…

To add insult to injury we next tried to get some snacks from the nearby supermarket. It was in a state of disrepair, had a rather interesting smell to it and worst of all had almost nothing worth buying.

Heartline’s wife comes up to me, “the staff keep staring at me”, “nah surely you’re just being paranoid” I replied, but no it became clear when we got to the cashier that she was right and a whole new saga was about to begin.

The saga of the medical mask, a statement and frame of mind that would end up haunting us for the rest of the trip, we just didn’t know it yet.

“You’re not wearing a mask” the haggard woman said to Heartline’s wife, who was wearing a mask, the very same as Heartline’s infact. The 4 of us entered a hilarious stand off of pure confusion, that only ended when fed up she left the store and the cashier finally continued with our transaction.

Let’s get out of this hellhole…

As we still had time to kill until tonight’s Summer Funfair opened, we went on a rather fitting pilgrimage.

On mine and Heartline’s very first Eurotunnel trip to France, we were flicking through channels in the hotel and landed on Fort Boyard, an insanely entertaining game show that takes place in a real fort off the west coast of France. We were hooked straight away and now try our best to watch the show whenever we can.

Today we had the pleasure of seeing where the magic happens with our own eyes and it was moving, massively helped by the beautiful sunset.

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Luna Park La Palmyre

Reignited, we now made our way to Luna Park La Palmyre, our first ever French Summer Funfair and we were excited about what we’d find when we got there.

These kind of ‘parks’ generally start operations at 7pm and then stay open until 2 in the morning, so even with it now being almost 10:30 at night we still had plenty of time to explore.

Upon entering the atmosphere was absolutely electric and I completely forgot that I’d been awake for 14 hours. There were thousands of people, countless attractions, enough lights to rival the sun, pounding music and something happening wherever you looked, this might not be for everyone but I was loving it.

Jet Star

Speaking of loving it.

Jet Star is one of only three operating Schwarzkopf Jet Star 1s in the World, it was my first time experiencing one and I was not at all disappointed. After me and Heartline wedged ourselves into the single car we were taken on one hell of a ride.

Jet Star delivers what Schwarzkopf does best, brutally crushing positives and vicious changes in direction, all while being as smooth as glass. It took my breath away both literally and figuratively, honestly scared me in places and was the perfect start to what would be a great night out.

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While Heartline and wife rode the Thriller haunted house I soaked in the atmosphere of the place and was reminded of a time long ago when Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland used to be good.

Le Dragon

Next up was Le Dragon, a Wacky Worm, but it’s a dragon. The operator ended up giving us 6 laps I think. I spent all of them trying to see where the final coaster of the park was, in the sea of lighting packages, smoke machines and vicious looking flat rides.

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Wild Mouse

In the end we did find it though.

Even though my mind was perfectly awake, buzzing even, my body was tired from the days events, this perfectly worked in the favour of Wild Mouse, which was a standard spinning mouse affair. When you’re tired and it’s dark suddenly spinning around on these things becomes 10 times more intense.

I forgot to take a photo of this one, so you’ll have to picture it yourself. You can decide if it was a Reverchon, Zamperla or an exciting exotic brand, I honestly cannot remember, it was fun though.

Mega King Tower

Despite it now being almost 11:30 and us having a 2 hour drive to tonight’s hotel, we just couldn’t turn down a ride on Mega King Tower, the massive drop tower ride that was our beacon for finding the park earlier.

My research leads me to believe it is manufactured by Funtime, one of my favourite drop tower manufacturers, and stands over 260 feet tall. All I can tell you for sure though is that it scared me to death on both the cycles we got on it and that the drop itself is fantastic.

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Le Splash

Heartline had read on the Dark Ride Database that a ride named Le Splash at one of the Summer Funfairs had a so called dark ride section and he really wanted to verify this for himself. While walking past tonight’s Le Splash we noticed that it did have some kind of indoor section to start the ride off, this lead to us needing to ride and comedy ensuing.

We boarded our boat, me in front and set off into the great unknown. The indoor section would end up being filled by halloween props and lasers, a dark ride it was not, as for hilarious, it certainly was.

Maybe it was the excitement and electricity of the fair speaking but I really enjoyed the following log flume. Not because it was good but because it was just fun getting into perilous situations with my friends. The highlight of which was the final drop where ejector airtime led to the World’s most brutal water braking, sending everyone behind me violenly launching into my back.

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Our first Summer Funfair had been great and we were looking forward to the many more than we had planned for the trip. All we had to do now was stay awake on the almost 2 hour drive to the hotel.

Thankfully we’d be staying in many B&B hotels while we were in France. Thanks to their machine based check in system you could show up at anytime and still get in, a real life saver.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 4, where we finally visit Ange Michel, as well as L’Île aux Géants and Futuroscope.


Europe 08/21 – Papéa Parc + Festyland

Day 2

Papéa Parc

Today began with a visit to Papéa Parc, a small park located near the town of Le Mans, the town World famous for being home to the Le Mans 24 hour endurance races.

On route to the park I had a great time watching all the various aircraft flying in and out of the town, no doubt on track related duties. The highlight was getting to see the Goodyear airship again after watching it fly over my head on the way home from work just a couple of months before.

Chenille

The first coaster of the day would end up being the first of far too many Wacky Worms on this trip. I forgot to take a picture of this one but rest assured that there’s more than enough to come.

Chenille was riding really badly, almost as if it didn’t have wheels. It was intensely vibrating and louder than a B&M invert. Oh and it kept starting and stopping randomly on the lift. I’m not sure this caterpillar is going to last another winter…

Roller Coaster

Up next was the imaginatively named Roller Coaster, a Zierer Tivoli that looked brand new and this time was installed on concrete instead of the usual “in some trees” setting, I quite liked it.

I spent the entire ride sliding about in a car to myself while practicing the Soquet shuffle, and I liked that too.

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We’d just ticked off 2 of the 3 things we visited the park for in less than 20 minutes, so we decided it would be best to slow down a little and check out some of the other attractions at the park. This would come back to haunt us…

The first of which was La Grande Roue, the park’s Ferris Wheel, which offered nice views of the park and surrounding area all while also setting the mood by blasting party music. There was some kind of event on today, despite the park being almost empty, and it would culminate with an “exceptional concert” later in the day.

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La Rivière Enchantée was the next and final of the “might as well” rides we stumbled upon. It was a slow moving boat ride past pretty scenery and gnomes, operated by a friendly Irish man. Isn’t it nice to find time to relax in parks these days? If only we knew what was going to happen…

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Train de la Mine

Another day, another Soquet.

I’m pleased to say that after the slight let down of Dragon Chinois, that the French boys were back on form today and that I had a great time in the deep seats of Train de la Mine.

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With that our visit to Papéa Parc came to an end, but not before we’d accidentally walk past the “exceptional concert” in all of its glory.

One man on a small stage DJ’ing for a crowd of 4 people, who weren’t paying attention, while 2 people, we think his parents, were sitting on the stage infront of him, also not paying attention, and it was at that exact moment that I knew in my heart that I liked Papéa Parc. A chilled morning of fun rides and a nice atmosphere indeed ending with an exceptional concert.

Festyland

The second park of the day would be Festyland, another small family park, located around 2 hours from Papéa Parc. We were still doing great for time in our minds so once again foolishly opted to take things slow.

Drakkar Express

2 Soquets back to back, are you teasing me?

Drakkar Express was great fun, adding a little bit of intensity to the expected and excellent sliding around experience I demand from my Soquets. The coaster also looked fantastic, with a nicely themed station and queueline and well presented coaster section.

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1066

Now though it was time for the main event. All the Soquets that came before it were merely warm ups compared to the might of 1066. The tallest (jointly) and fastest (probably) non travelling (we will get back to that) Soquet in the World!

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Themed to the well documented moment in history when William The Conqueror defeated Harold Godwinson and conquered England by deploying a large ram onto the battlefield. The coaster’s station contains the actual Bayeux Tapestry as well as a wheelbarrow used during the battle itself.

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Joking aside, 1066 is awesome and it was great to see the boys at Soquet dabble with adding more speed and intensity to their layouts, this coupled with the picturesque setting made for a great experience. I’d love to have gotten another lap in but as you’ll find out soon things didn’t go to plan.

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Park complete and time to spare we decided just like at Papéa Parc to experience some of Festy’s “might as well” attractions. The first of which was Eretic, a large Zamperla frisbee flat ride that was pretty great and offered good positives and plenty of airtime moments.

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The next and final would be Kaskade, an elevator lift Zamperla rapids ride that intrigued us offride by how insanely fast the boats were spinning as they made their descent.

While queuing, 20 minutes if I remember rightly, we all got chatting about the park schudule over the coming days. There was 1 park that Heartline couldn’t place on any day, it was Ange Michel and it was about to cause us a world of hurt.

Kaskade was indeed insane and span us to the point of uncontrollable laughter.

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While me and Heartline’s wife were laughing, discussing the previous peril and examining the damage as we got off of Kaskade, Heartline himself launched off into the distance with a look of pure panic on his face. When I managed to catch up to him I asked him what was wrong, “we need to leave, we should be at Ange Michel…”.

With that we all left the park as fast as we could and made our way back to the car. Time for some maths… If we leave right now, we will reach Ange Michel 15 minutes before it closes…

Clearly that wasn’t the best of plans, so we began frantically moving things around to make sure Ange Michel could happen, not because we really wanted to visit the park, more so because we took it personally that we’d made such a stupid mistake.

After we confused ourselves for 10 minutes and still got nowhere, Heartline remembered something I mentioned earlier. There was an alpine coaster not too far from here, so let’s put a pin in Ange Michel and get the second bonus cred of the trip.

Oh wait yeah, Festyland, I enjoyed it, nice park, fun rides and a chilled atmosphere, now let’s break out of here.

Clécy Gliss

The sat nav took us on a brutal drive to Clécy Gliss, up many tight single track mountain roads before it finally took us to effectively a dead end. Half a mile from the “park” we were faced with another single track road, a 30% decline and this time a no entry sign.

As tempting as it honestly was to ignore the sign we thought better of it and decided to leave the car at the top of the hill and continue on foot. It became apparent just how steep this hill was as we shuffled down it, the real challenge would be getting back up though, but that’s for future me to worry about me.

Clézy Gliss

At the bottom of the hill we found the alpine coaster, named Clézy Gliss and almost nothing else.

Clézy Gliss would be our first Brandauer made alpine coaster, we had more planned for later in the trip so this would be a nice introduction to the new set up. More so because the layout was nothing special and was basically a series of zig zags back down the hill.

So how was it? Was it better than a Wiegand? Well yes and no. Yes because the single rail aspect made everything feel even more unsafe than a Wiegand and yes this is a plus point. No because the design of the Brandauer cars made it very hard for someone with short arms to operate the controls properly. We would become aware later in the trip when we rode another Brandauer that when single riders use the cars a booster backrest needs to used, so actually this was Clécy Gliss’ fault, so actually Brandauers are better than Wiegands and I’ve just wasted everyone’s time.

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Thanks for reading, click here for day 3, where we visit La Récré des 3 Curés, Kingoland and the first of many Summer Funfairs, Luna Park La Palmyre.


Europe 08/21 – Parc du Bocasse + Jardin d’Acclimatation by Mega-Lite

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.

Day 1

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

Orochi is the park’s newest coaster and depending on who you ask their new star attraction.

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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.

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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.

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Pirate’s Coaster

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.

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Apiland

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.

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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.

Fort d’Odin

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.

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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.

Jardin d’Acclimatation

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.

Speed Rockets

The first of which was Speed Rockets, a custom Gerstlauer Bobsled that I’d had my eye on for a while.

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I’m pleased to say it more than lived up to the hype.

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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.

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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…

Machine à Vapeur

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.

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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?

Le Kinétorium

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.

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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.

Dragon Chinois

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.

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Souris Mécaniques

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.

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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.


Ride Review – El Toro

Located at Six Flags Great Adventure, El Toro is in my opinion the greatest wooden coaster on the planet, it is an absolute masterpiece of modern engineering that turns the much loved wooden coaster into something truly incredible.

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First a bit of history before I start gushing over perfection. El Toro was the last coaster built by Six Flags during their era of excess. This era brought the World the coaster legends Kingda Ka, Tatsu and X, as well as countless highly regarded Inverted, Floorless, Hyper and Flying coasters.

El Toro is an Intamin Prefabricated Wooden Coaster, this means the track is laser cut in a factory and then delivered to the park and assembled much more like a steel coaster would be. Intamin to date have only built 4 prefabs, with El Toro being the 3rd and the only one in the US.

Both of those previous facts make El Toro’s very existence seem rather unbelievable. What if Six Flags had ended their spending spree 1 coaster earlier? What if Six Flags hadn’t taken the risk and added such a rare and untested coaster model? It’s obvious isn’t it? We wouldn’t be blessed with wooden perfection and the World would be a much sadder place.

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Other than making construction much easier what are the other benefits of these prefabs from the point of view of a park? Well it’s not the cost that’s for sure. A prefab of this size is easily equal to the cost of a similar sized steel monster, if not more. In theory, prefabs require much less day to day maintanence than a traditional wooden coaster, but still much more than a steel one, further adding to the mystery of El Toro’s existence.

While not fantastic from a park’s perspective, the prefab technology is amazing from a riders. The precision cut track sections offer 2 major advantages over traditional woodies in terms of ride experience. The first being the coasters are much smoother, as smooth as steel in most cases. The other, the more important, is thanks to the track construction prefabs are able to handle much greater positive and negative forces than a traditional woodie. In El Toro’s case this means one thing only, ejector airtime at it’s finest.

Yeah you heard me right, El Toro has the greatest ejector airtime on Earth. While Skyrush may deliver slightly more, it almost goes too far in it’s approach and turns being ejected into a test of endurance. I still love Skyrush to pieces, mostly for said brutality, but I prefer El Toro’s slightly less aggressive but still absolutely insane approach to launching you into orbit.

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Now join me as we climb aboard the bull and discover why it’s the greatest wooden coaster ever built, just try your best not to be thrown off…

After making your way through El Toro’s rather uninspired queueline, you eventually ascend stairs into a well themed station building. This station building was recycled from Viper, a Togo Looper that used to sit where part of El Toro does today.

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It’s here where you and 35 other lucky riders board the amazing Intamin prefab train. These trains are incredibly open and feature Intamin’s fantastic T bar restraints, the perfect combination for the airtime filled madness that is coming.

Restaints locked and clear all cars. Enjoy your ride on El Toroooooooooooo…

After taking a left hand turnaround to get things pointing in the right direction, you find yourself looking up at El Toro’s massive lift hill. You won’t have long to regret your life decisions here though because soon you are hauling up the structure thanks to the always fantastic cable lift hill.

And here’s where things get really crazy…

I’m a sucker for amazing first drops on coasters and El Toro’s might just be the best in the World. Thanks to the momentum created by the cable lift hill and the insane length (you can thank the prefab tech again for that) of the trains, taking El Toro’s near 200 foot 76 degree drop in the back car almost shouldn’t be legal. You are ejected so violently into that drop that you’ll find yourself questioning if this is real life. One of the strongest elements on a coaster ever and we have only just started.

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Now for something I wasn’t expecting. Once again thanks to the wonders of the prefab, El Toro is able to hit you with seriously strong positive Gs as you bottom out at the base of the World’s greatest first drop.

Here comes the first airtime hill and Christ are you in for something special. The greatest ejector air on Earth sustained for a sickening amount of time. You’ll have enough time to turn to your neighbouring rider, exchange a look of true fear, shout something offensive, wish it was over, wish it wouldn’t end, while all 36 of you and the train are taking off and the upstop wheels are quite literally screaming.

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You liked that didn’t you? Let’s do it again then! More crushing positves at the base of the first airtime hill, followed immediately and violently by more thigh crushing sustained ejector air over the equally as insane second airtime hill.

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We’ve run out of room now, let’s turn this bull around. It’s here where El Toro calms down a bit but it’s far from boring. You’re treated to a decent blend of floater air, laterals and positives in a turnaround manoeuvre that starts and ends with large hills.

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Next up is a speed hill that provides yet another enjoyable moment of floater airtime, before things pick up again in spectacular fashion.

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If you thought El Toro was insane before, which it was was, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s now time to experience the infamous Rolling Thunder hill. Named after the wooden coaster this element used to pass over, this airtime hill isn’t as sustained as the previous 2 but is 10 times more aggressive. If Skyrush didn’t exist this would be the strongest pop of ejector ever created, it is quite literally the definition of too much.

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There’s no time to catch your breath after that brutality though, you now enter the so-called bucking bronco portion of El Toro. This is a series of intense low to the ground turns designed to viciously throw you about. Some coaster snobs consider prefabs to not be real woodies because they are “too smooth” and “only focus on airtime”, I feel the bucking bronco section was added to El Toro to shake some sense into them, it’s fast, it’s fun and the perfect ending to a fantastic coaster.

It’s almost law for the whole train to burst into applause as you re-enter the station, on some coasters this act feels forced, on El Toro it feels earned.

Hands down my favourite sensation in the coaster World is ejector airtime and for that alone you can’t do any better than El Toro. While I’d listen to the argument that El Toro is JUST airtime and nothing else, when the moments of airtime are the best you’ll ever experience can this truly be considered such a bad thing?

9.5/10


Top 25

After riding over 1100 coasters in 23 different countries, this is how I currently rank some of the greatest coasters in the World. Unlike Heartline, I’m choosing to stick to a strict Top 25 for the sake of simplicity. In time I plan to do an in depth review of most of these incredible coasters, so stay tuned and please click on the coaster names to read more.

#1 Helix
Liseberg

#2 Ride to Happiness
Plopsaland de Panne

#3 El Toro
Six Flags Great Adventure

#4 Skyrush
Hersheypark

#5 Eejanaika
Fuji-Q Highland

#6 T-Express
Everland

#7 Iron Gwazi
Busch Gardens Tampa

#8 Steel Vengeance
Cedar Point

#9 Twisted Timbers
Kings Dominion

#10 Zadra
Energylandia

#11 Taiga
Linnanmäki

#12 Untamed
Walibi Holland

#13 Storm Chaser
Kentucky Kingdom

#14 Kondaa
Walibi Belgium

#15 Wicked Cyclone
Six Flags New England

#16 Lightning Rod
Dollywood

#17 VelociCoaster
Universal’s Islands of Adventure

#18 Schwur des Kärnan
Hansa Park

#19 Twisted Cyclone
Six Flags Over Georgia

#20 Wildfire
Kolmården

#21 Outlaw Run
Silver Dollar City

#22 Hyperion
Energylandia

#23 Taron
Phantasialand

#24 Maverick
Cedar Point

#25 Intimidator 305
Kings Dominion


Europe 08/20 – Phantasialand + Öcher Bend Funfair

Day 12

Here it was, the last day of the trip that saved 2020 from being completely awful. As I enjoyed my morning shower a concerning idea popped into my head, why don’t we ditch our planned schedule for today and instead give Phantasialand yet another chance. You see our plan for today was going to be grabbing a +1 from a park we had no real interest in visiting, then doing 2 funfairs back to back with neither of them having anything that exciting. This trip was probably going to be the only fun we’d have all year, so the thought of just killing time at places we didn’t really want to be at just seemed wrong. Phantasialand is only 20 minutes away and even if it’s awful to us like it’s been in the past at least they have decent rides and if worst comes to worst I can just moan about them on the internet again.

Phantasialand

Taron

Straight into the park with no hassle this time and straight to Taron.

Thanks to the park being by far the quietest we’ve ever seen it we were able to finally get a decent number of laps on Taron today, sadly however this didn’t help the coaster much. Taron seems to get weaker for me every time I ride it and this trend continued today. While technically an amazing coaster that I do still rank highly, Taron slips more and more every time I visit and at this pace it won’t be long before it falls out of my top 25.

River Quest

River Quest next, I freaking love this thing.

It was amazing to witness Heartline’s wife take her first ride and be as terrified as I was when I first stepped onto this insane Hafema rapids ride.

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Chiapas

While we are still wet, let’s go ride Chiapas.

This Intamin flume ride didn’t do all that much for me last time, other than ruin my shoes… Today however, it still ruined my shoes, but it also delivered an extremely fun ride, one that all 3 of us spent laughing the whole way through. Seriously though guys, sort out those stupid restraints.

Colorado Adventure

When me and Heartline rode Colorado Adventure last time we thought it was awful and laughed in the face of anyone who dared to call it the best mine train coaster in the World. Today though, in the last couple of rows, it was outstanding! Standing airtime throughout and uncontrollable laughter until it hurt, yeah this is the good stuff, we were wrong, sorry.

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Black Mamba

I convinced myself, as you would, during our midnight mid-fireworks display rides, that Black Mamba is one of the better smaller B&M Inverts out there. Today however, in the light of day, it’s really good but maybe not quite as special as I thought on that night.

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Maus au Chocolat

Next up was a re-visit to Maus au Chocolat, I’m happy to announce it remains probably the best interactive screen based attraction out there.

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Winjas

Thanks to the current situation you weren’t allowed to choose which track you’d like to ride on Winjas, thanks to bad luck we got the weaker one twice… Never mind though because both sides of Winjas are awesome and they remain one of my favourite attractions at the park.

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Crazy Bats

New to us was Crazy Bats, but since they weren’t using the VR headsets it played out much more like a re-visit to Temple of the Nighthawk, which I’m totally OK with. I found Nighthawk rather endearing and this was exactly how I remembered it, coasting around in silence in pitch black with a lifthill every 10 seconds.

Geister Rikscha

We headed to the China Town area of the park for lunch and while we were there we couldn’t help but take a ride on Geister Rikscha. It’s outdated and I don’t understand half of what’s occuring but I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the park’s Chinese ghost train.

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After lunch we headed for a few more laps on Taron and it was there that we decided we were more than happy to leave early and visit one of the funfairs after all.

So I finally had a good day at Phantasialand! Don’t get too excited though, I’m far from going to claim it’s one of the greatest parks in the World and I’m not going to pretend all of the previous negative experiences didn’t happen. Today I had a great time, but we’ll have to see if the park can continue that when we visit yet again now that F.L.Y. is open.

Öcher Bend Funfair

Winter Wonderland and a previous school trip to a German funfair had me believing we were going to be stepping into an all out party at Öcher Bend Funfair. Sadly though it was a rather tame affair but I’ll put that down to visiting when it was still light out and being the only ones there.

Alpen Coaster

A Schwarzkopf Wildcat was the first of the two coasters we rode here. It was far more violent than I was expecting and for that reason I rather enjoyed it honestly.

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Crazy Jungle

And the other was a Wacky Worm where the train was a lion, no really.

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After that we headed back towards the Channel Tunnel. We were all expecting to be intensely questioned about where we’d been, where we were coming from, who we saw, where we stayed, but thankfully it ended up being very friendly. We chatted about the various coasters and parks we visited on the trip and even informed the heavily Irish officer that the back row is almost always better than the front in the coaster world, this was enough to let us back in.

Thank you so much for reading.


Europe 08/20 – Serengeti Park + Fort Fun Abenteuerland

Day 11

Serengeti Park

While doing research for the trip Heartline discovered something wonderful, the elusive and legendary Höllenblitz was currently residing in a safari park in Germany. We’ve been waiting years for this beast to come to us at Winter Wonderland, I think it’s time we made the effort.

And an effort it was, but that was mostly just putting up with going on my 2nd safari experience, which was an absolute slog from beginning to end. Drive through safari experiences can be best described as stand still traffic involving animals. I’d much rather just be walking around in a zoo than in a queue of traffic not moving while I can’t see anything, I can’t really recommend them to anyone if I’m honest.

But we’re not here for the animals…

Safari-Blitz-Kids

SBF spinner first, while getting blinded and seriously sunburnt.

Höllenblitz

The park had strangely renamed this monster as Safari Blitz on all their official publications but thankfully had made no effort in changing the coaster itself to match this new name.

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Höllenblitz was everything I wanted it to be and more.

First there was the thrill of finally getting to ride such a legendary coaster, one I’d been waiting years to experience. The theming inside and out was insane and the whole thing just screamed that this was something special.

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Then there was the fact that Höllenblitz is more than just a statement, it’s actually a seriously kick ass coaster as well. The spinning is insane, some sections are super intense, but most of all Höllenblitz is incredible fun. If it wasn’t for time restrictions I could have kept on riding this legend all day.

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We wanted to experience some of the other attractions at Serengeti Park, but thanks to stupid one way systems and long queues we simply didn’t have enough time if we wanted to get to the next park we had planned today.

Fort Fun Abenteuerland

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The drive to Fort Fun, much like yesterday, was annoyingly full of endless hold ups, meaning that when we finally got to the park time was extremely tight. Fearing we possibly wouldn’t have enough time to ride all the coasters, our plan was to just ride anything we stumbled on.

Devil’s Mine

And first up was Devil’s Mine.

This custom Vekoma Junior had one of the longest and most intense queues I’ve ever experienced. It went on for miles and around every corner was immense danger. Heartline’s wife has bad knees and ankles so me and Heartline went out infront and had to keep shouting back to her to watch out because something insane was about to happen. Tight stairs in almost complete darkness, funhouse style bouncing floors in almost complete darkness, passages you could smash your head on in almost complete darkness, Devil’s Mine had it all and it was great fun.

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How was the coaster though? I preferred the queue honestly but it’s not without it’s charm. There’s a few decent airtime moments and it’s nice to see a custom Vekoma Junior in the sea of clones.

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SpeedSnake FREE

Next up was SpeedSnake, a Vekoma Whirlwind that had been fitted with new lap bar only trains in 2017. It puzzles me why they bothered fitting this thing with semi decent trains when the coaster itself is beyond pointless as layouts go. Corners and corkscrews mate, it’s what they want…

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Our plan was the ride the park’s Zierer Tivoli next but it wasn’t going to be. As we got to the coaster the operator closed the entrance gate infront of us and started to walk off. It turned out he wasn’t being mean, neither had we reached the stated ride closing time, there simply just weren’t enough people in the area to run the coaster. A sign on the op box told us that in order to run the ride we’d need 12 people minimum and despite the operator attempting to round up enough people for us it just wasn’t possible.

Feeling down but not out we were now determined to make it to the park’s last coaster before that closed too.

Trapper Slider

After running up many hills and with all 3 of us gasping for breath we just made it to Fort Fun’s alpine coaster before it closed. I’m happy to announce it was more than worth the effort and is easily my new favourite alpine coaster, which says a lot considering how many great examples I rode on this trip.

Trapper Slider was insane and took all the elements I loved about other alpines and then upped the intensity even more. This thing absolutely hauled and came seriously close to hitting many of it’s overgrown surroundings. I was laughing, screaming, shouting and violently throwing the brakes on and off on the entire descent, it was amazing.

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After this we ran 1 last time to get a ride on the park’s Ferris Wheel moments before it closed.

Thanks for reading, click here for the final day of trip, where we have a completely satisfactory day at Phantasialand.


Europe 08/20 – Majaland + Many Karls

With so much spare time on our hands thanks to France and the Netherlands being no go zones, the next 2 days were spent at what I’d best describe as might as well parks.

Day 9

Majaland Kownaty

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And the first of them was Majaland, a park only recently added to the Polish coaster scene, located not far from the border with Germany.

The park is operated by Studio 100 and originally started life as another one of their indoor only parks, recently however they have expanded outdoors and added Poland’s only true wooden coaster, this is where we come in.

Inside stuff first though.

Rollercoaster Wikingów

Zierer Force Two clone that Studio 100 have added to almost all of their parks by this point. It was really well themed in places and thanks to being new and indoors was glass smooth.

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There was nothing else of interest to us indoors so it was time venture outside.

Wilkołak

And straight to the aforementioned woodie, Wilkołak.

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Wilkołak is Polish for Werewolf, which is a fantastic name for a coaster and the park have done an amazing job theming it as such. The station building looks amazing inside and out, the queue looks great and the train being covered in claw marks is great attention to detail.

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Sadly the coaster is a mirrored clone of an almost clone, but as we didn’t get to experience enough of Heidi The Ride to form a true opinion, Wilkołak will be fighting for it’s own honour as well as Heidi’s.

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And it’s good! Wilkołak offers a experience that is purely fun, it doesn’t bring anything special or particularly exciting to the table but you could keep riding it all day and have a good time.

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Next up we went to get the rare points from riding but not counting the park’s brand new Disk’O and with that we were done with the park, so after many more laps of Wilkołak we called it a day and took our leave.

While the park only had 1 attraction worth the effort, it was a pleasant enough visit, which is more than can say for my previous visits to Studio 100 parks…

Day 10

Today’s plan was to hit as many +1s as possible on our return to Germany.

Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Elstal

Starting with the first of the many Karls parks today. These parks are part theme park, part working food factory and part massive store selling all the tasty treats they make there. The indoor part of these attractions smell absolutely amazing and are guaranteed to make you hungry. We’d promised ourselves we weren’t allowed to have any treats until we had completed all 4 of the Karls parks however.

K2

The main attraction at this site and currently the best attraction at any of the Karls is K2, AKA Potato Coaster.

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K2 is the largest Tube Coaster ever built by abc rides and is honestly awesome. It starts with a long and extremely well themed dark ride section before it travels outside, climbs 80 feet and then takes you on a far more intense ride than you’d imagine. Minimal restraints is an understatement so when this beast starts tearing around the track it is slightly concerning.

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If it wasn’t for the slightly pricey pay per ride cost and the massive queue I’d have loved to have gotten in a few more laps.

We’ve also got places to be, not that Germany wanted us getting there… Between Karls Elstal and our next location we crawled and turned a 3 hour drive into a 4 and a half hour one…

Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Koserow

But of course we made it!

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None of the other Karls parks could match the quality of K2 but they did all feature some of the nicest looking Wacky Worms I’ve ever seen. They all had insane entrances, massive animatronics, crazy theming and gift shops.

Erdbeer Raupenbahn

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Next up we planned to visit Rügen Park but it wasn’t to be. Though we arrived with over an hour of their operating day left, the entrance was padlocked shut and there were no staff in sight. We could see guests enjoying their day out through the fence, so they certainly weren’t closed yet. We decided to phone the park and explain the situation but this led nowhere. First time they laughed at us and then hung up, the second time they outright refused to answer the phone… Fair enough, I guess you don’t want our money then, thanks for nothing, oh and wasting our time…

Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Zirkow

You can always count on Karls though!

Erdbeer Raupenbahn

Round 2 lads.

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Far too many hold ups and the bastards at Rügen Park had us now running extremely late, if we had just 1 more hold up we’d fail our quest.

Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Rövershagen

We arrived around 15 minutes before closing, would we have time to get both of the creds?

Yeah you read that right, this Karls site had 2 coasters and this threw a bit of a spanner in the works. We’d learnt the quickest ways to get to the rides at the previous Karls but with 2 coasters up for grabs and a much bigger location things were going to be extra tricky with our already super tight time limit.

Kaffeekannen-Express

After running around completely lost for a while, we finally arrived at Kaffeekannen-Express. This SBF Visa creation is currently exclusive to this location and offers an interesting experience as you ride around up high passing lots of special effects that are triggered as you approach.

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Things were super desperate now and we were almost certain the other coaster had already closed, but with nothing to lose other than our dignity we sprinted in the direction of the final strawberry worm.

Erdbeer Raupenbahn

And we JUST made it! 30 seconds to a minute later and we’d have missed out, I couldn’t believe our luck, sometimes the coaster Gods shine on you. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so content on a Wacky Worm and the operator gave us a bonus lap to help us celebrate.

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The prophecy had been fulfilled and we were now allowed to purchase some of them sweet smelling snacks.

But don’t eat too many because tonight we’ll be dining at Hamburg’s Rollercoaster Restaurant.

Mine and Heartline’s experience of the one at Europa Park was awful. Packed arm to arm with rowdy Germans, no food we actually wanted to eat and everything cost the Earth.

But tonight in Hamburg I really enjoyed it. Being the massive child that I am, the idea of ordering food on an iPad then watching it coast to you was amazing. So were the immense risks involved in getting the insanely hot pot of food off the track without burning yourself or dropping it. The food was fantastic too, as were the friendly members of staff, what an improvement, I am honestly a fan of these places now.

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Thanks for reading, click here for day 11, where we visit Serengeti Park and Fort Fun Abenteuerland.