We were slightly delayed in our arrival at Parque Espana, but this turned out to be not a big problem as the park was largely deserted. On the positive side, this meant short waits; on the negative side, two rides were closed for the day including the Bullfight Roller Coaster Matador. The first thing to catch the eye on entry was the theming; walking through the park felt very much like the various theme parks in Spain two years ago, even down to the heat. The only thing missing for true authenticity were hordes of Spanish children talking excitedly in loud voices, and the occasional mother pushing her little darling in front of half a dozen other people queueing for the front seat on coasters. Additionally, I noted that the announcement of park closure over the PA system at the end of the day was made in two languages, Spanish and Japanese, and it was a pleasant discovery to realise that I remembered enough of my Spanish to comprehend the first version in full.
Sparse crowds were crucially important on the first coaster of the day, Pyrenees (#647), mostly because of the speed of operation. I timed how long it took to unload, load, and check a train on three separate occasions during the day, so as to get a fair impression. These times were 4:44, 4:30, and 5:30 respectively. For ease of calculation, lets assume that these average out to five minutes per train. With one train operation that equates to thirty two people every seven minutes, or less than three hundred per hour, assuming (incorrectly) that every seat on each train was full. A more typical figure for rides of this class is 1500 people per hour.
There was one oddity about the operation of this coaster that was different to every other inverted coaster I have seen; riders were not allowed to go barefoot. Sandals and other footwear which might be launched into orbit had to be secured with rubber bands, which the crew provided to riders who required them. They actually made a point of removing footwear from the lockers beside the ride to bring it back to the owners for it to be secured. I found myself wondering whether the various bands were disinfected or recycled after being used.
Factoring the above out of the equation, though, it was clear to me from my first ride that Pyrenees was superb. It was substantially better than newer generation rides from B&M, thanks to sustained forces through the various elements. The inline twist between the two vertical loops left me with slightly blurred vision on each occasion, which serves as an example of the intensity of the design. There was only one black mark in my view; a violent snap on the way into the Cobra Roll element. Other than that, this ride was without question a top ten coaster.
Our next stop was at Gran Monserrat (#648), a rare example of a non-powered mine train from Mack Rides. Once again the layout proved to be quite intense, with a highlight being a powerful shove off the top of the lift hill that I had not been expecting. After disembarking we worked our way through the rest of the park:
- Flying Don Quixote, an Intamin Flying Island.
- Batalla del Alcazar, a Senyo shooting dark ride.
- Shining Luminous Castle Sparkling Carnival Ride, an attraction which demonstrates clearly how the people here like to names to describe rides to the full. This one was a dark ride with an awful lot of light bulbs within; it was really pretty, though I did spend quite a bit of time contemplating how many light bulbs they must go through in a year.
- Bosque de Cuentos, which the park map describes succinctly; A trail featuring Spanish fairy tales.
- Don Quixote's Magical Flight, almost a direct copy of Peter Pan at the Disney parks though obviously with slightly different characters therein.
- Adventure Lagoon, a rather good splash ride/dark ride combination with an unusual ending. The boats splashed down from an indoor area, rather like Jurassic Park at the Universal parks, but rather than ascending up a brief ascent, the boat moved onto a section of support structure which then tilted downwards onto the splashdown track, locked into place, and then released the holding brake.
- Mystery House, a fairly standard crooked-house attraction.
The above list neglects what was arguably one of the most interesting rides in the park for its sheer what the heck is this value. The Escalator Ride is not marked on the park map, nor is it officially recognised as an attraction, but it sure as heck should be. It consists simply of up and down escalators, with flashing lights all around and a catchy soundtrack that is still whistling away in my head a few hours later as I type this. I'm pleased to say that I caught the whole thing on video for posterity. If anyone missed it altogether let me know and I'll see if I can send you a brief clip.
We walked briefly through the Castillo de Xavier museum, a full blown exploration of Spanish life and history which would probably have been fascinating given two prerequisites. The first would be an ability to read the Kanji descriptions of all the artefacts and photographs within. The second would be an absence of nearby theme park attractions competing for my attention.
The Ice House was an up-charge attraction, but it was so unbearably hot that I swallowed my pride and paid the ¥300 to walk into a deep freezer for a few minutes. This one was actually worth the money, with sculptures and the like that were quite different from the others I have come across here. There was also a bed of ice for anyone feeling tired, although it would probably not have been a good idea to fall asleep on it!
On walking into Musical Circus I assumed I had entered a 4D theatre or a simulator, but in reality this was more like a dark ride, which moved the whole auditorium down, across, and up to different scenes. When one tuned out the soundtrack it was quite an enjoyable attraction, and it probably has a fairly high capacity thanks to multiple motion bases moving through the attraction at any one time.
Our final planned stop was at Splash Monserrat, a log flume that lived up to its name, thoroughly drenching me and the two others in the boat. This apparently was not the norm, but with three substantial adults on board the extra weight increased the water displacement significantly. To spin dry, and also to conclude the day, we managed three more rides on Pyrenees, trying both front and back rows out. All things being equal I preferred the back of the train, as the sheer intensity was far superior to the view from the front row.