Some weeks ago Parc de la Vallée announced a new coaster for 2018, widely believed by enthusiasts to be the Schwarzkopf City Jet that has operated at Nigloland since 1995. Under ordinary circumstances this knowledge would have led us to reschedule our planned visit today, but we decided it was worth proceeding as both of us were interested in riding a unique Togo-built shuttle coaster that once operated at Odakyu Mukogaoka Yuen in Japan. Unfortunately it was closed today due to a leaking water pipe within its safety envelope, a definite candidate for the most abstruse reason for a missed credit yet. On the plus side, we now have a second good reason to return to the park in the near future.
We began our day at the very back of the park, where we found Western Luge, my first encounter with a Turbobob from local company Polyplast. Riders push individual plastic tubs to the top of a hill, then climb on board and wait for a start light to illuminate. From that point a gentle push is all it takes to begin an experience that is probably best described as a hybrid of a roller coaster and a water slide; the cars accelerate gradually as they traverse a layout that turns from side to side on its way back to the start point. There are no brakes or controls of any kind in the car, and as a result heavier passengers hit the station quite hard at the end; it would probably be unwise to disregard the posted weight restriction. The experience was a lot of fun, and we rode twice.
There were only three people on board the Pomme when we approached despite a lengthy queue. My immediate thought was there must be a technical problem of some kind, and it turned out that there was; when the train was fully loaded the front car was overshooting the station brakes. In some parks this might lead to a maintenance closure, but here the train was being sent round for three laps, partially unloaded, then sent round for a final lap so that car one could be emptied. This didn't help throughput very much, to put it mildly, but it was better than a missed credit. After nearly thirty minutes in line we had a free choice of seats and decided to take the front so that we'd get in our bonus lap. By the time we'd disembarked it was almost lunch time, and the various rides were beginning to close for lunch. We spent a few minutes taking photographs before deciding that it was time to hit the road for the three hour drive to our next target.
6th August 2017
Kingoland is a family park in the Plumelin area of Brittany that premiered in 2014. It was set up by local entrepreneur Dominique Leroux, who reportedly spent almost ten years acquiring and refurbishing rides before he was ready to open, a process that is evidently continuing as the park continues to grow. Though the place has no stand-out attractions as of this writing it does include two relocatedcoasters, a walkthrough haunted house, a target shooting dark ride, and a good selection of flats, notably a Huss Enterprise and a Fabbri Pirate Boat. The various rides are backed up by a colourful home-spun theming package that looks very good despite having obviously been created on a minimal budget.
We decided to begin our visit at Apollo Coaster, now the only Pinfari Z64 in Europe following the closure of the version in Wales at the end of 2007. The hardware dates from the early seventies before guest throughput became a serious consideration, and despite upgrades remains hobbled by the fact that it can only run two cars at a time. The operators were doing their best today, achieving something close to the theoretical maximum of one hundred and fifty an hour, but we nevertheless had to endure over thirty minutes in a queue filled with smokers and locals whose understanding of personal space was broadly equivalent to my understanding of particle physics. The wait wasn't made any more pleasant by the distorted pop music coming from a nearby speaker.
As with many coasters of this era the trains are afflicted with over-the-shoulder restraints despite the lack of inversions. We thus boarded in the full expectation that we were in for a beating, but much to our surprise there wasn't a single jolt around the entire course which was negotiated with a level of finesse more commonly associated with B&M. Though this gave it some bonus points it's worth recording that the lack of violence was matched by a lack of forces of any kind; there was no airtime, no perceptible laterals, and only two brief moments of speed at the base of the first and second drops. The remainder of the layout was eminently forgettable, to the point that I doubt we'd have gone back for a second lap even if the queue had been shorter.
We decided that we'd tick off the powered coaster before seeing what else the park might have on offer. Speed Chenille was operating as we approached, and both of us immediately noticed how fast the train was going; despite a diminutive height of just a few feet the figurehead of a bug on bad acid was clattering around the course at a speed that looked to be at least double that of the common Zamperla Dragon. There were no restraints at all, allowing a solitary ride operator to complete an unload and load process in about thirty seconds. We ended up in the front seat, and though there was no airtime in that location the three circuits we were given were lively and several orders of magnitude more thrilling than the Pinfari.
Our third stop was at the walkthrough Maison Hantée, one of seven attractions added to the park last year. Eight people were allowed into the building at a time, starting in a pre-show room where a skeletal animatronic near the ceiling recited safety rules in a funereal monotone made only slightly less impressive by the squeaking of its motorised jaw. At the conclusion a sliding door opened and we were free to explore. The interior was particularly dark even by the standards of this sort of attraction; though there were occasional animatronic scenes along the route most of it was in almost complete blackness with only tiny LEDs for illumination. There was a small outdoor section for respite at the half way point, followed by another indoor area that concluded with a vortex tunnel that exited back out onto the midway.
The nicest looking attraction at the park was Old West Shooting, a target shooting dark ride with a lengthy layout and hugely elaborate scenery that looked fabulous. Unfortunately it was let down badly by its hardware, which was apparently acquired from the defunct Parc Avenue in the south of the country. The targets were much larger than those seen on the various Sally rides, but despite that they were extremely difficult to hit; I found myself missing from as little as three feet away. There was no scoring on board the car, and though there was a scoreboard at the exit there was absolutely no way to figure where we placed on it. If we'd known that ahead of time we'd probably have sat back and enjoyed it as a dark ride rather than trying to shoot; perhaps next time we'll do just that!