As per usual, a coaster expedition began with a late-arriving flight, this time courtesy of Aer Lingus and Paris CDG airport. New to me was the experience of Terminal One, an unusual piece of architecture that would surely be more impressive if the building was clean. One might have hoped that a late arrival would have brought some urgency to the process of baggage reclaim, but it was not to be; I waited another thirty minutes there. My original plan was to come meet George at the car rental in Terminal Two, his flight being scheduled to land after mine, but as it turned out armed police had closed off the pedestrian route (it's Deja Vu all over again!). In the end, he got on a bus over to Terminal One, by which stage I had spent ten minutes in the queue for Hertz Car Rental and moved along it by precisely zero spaces.
As a fairly frequent international traveller it never ceases to amaze me how slow and inefficient some airport staff can be. The Hertz check in staff, however, set new standards in mediocrity. It is probably beneficial at this point to consider the steps involved in renting a car. One must show a driving license, sign ones life away, flash a credit card, and get the keys. With the advent of online bookings, such as the one I had made, one might reasonably expect for the first three steps to be expedited; after all, all the essential information could have been pre-entered by the customer, correct? Anyway, it took a total of seventeen minutes for me to be handed the keys to an Opel Corsa, and that was from the time I hit the front of the queue - which by this stage had expanded to a dozen people. It was fortunate that none of them were in a hurry.
The cumulative effect of the associated delays was that we hit the road towards Parc du Bocasse just over an hour after our projected worst-case departure time. It was a very pleasant surprise therefore to see that the satnav was estimating a much shorter journey time than we had allowed for. It was only when we were supposedly twenty minutes away then it suddenly clicked. The clock was still set to Irish time, and we were actually an hour and twenty minutes away. Whoops.
Parc du Bocasse
29th April 2006
Parc du Bocasse doesn't present a particularly impressive appearance at first sight, which just goes to prove that one should never judge a book by its cover. It is a family park with no particular thrill rides, but it also impeccably kept and spotlessly clean, with bright colours everywhere and the unmistakeable appearance of fresh paint in places. Though it is not a park that we are likely to return to any time soon, George put it quite well; the only downside is that the ball pit is restricted to under fives!
RCDB listed two coasters in this park, a powered coaster dating from 1980 and a relatively new mine train. It didn't take long to locate the site for the former; a few concrete footers and construction markers being the principal reminder that a roller coaster had once stood on this location. The other reminder was the park map, which clearly had not been updated in a while; the mine train didn't appear at all, and the non existent powered coaster was clearly marked. Train de Mine (#683), however, made for a more than adequate replacement. Though a family ride it was nevertheless somewhat larger than the pictures on the park web site might have suggested. The layout was reminiscent of the standard Vekoma family coaster, but a bit taller. During our visit every train was sent around the course twice; presumably this is done on quieter days only.
Next to the coaster was a set of Reverchon-built portable rapids, the same model as that frequently seen on the fair circuit. Once again riders were allowed to stay on for two laps if they wished, though due to leaks mid course we elected to turn this down. We would actually have managed to stay completely dry if these had not been present.
29th April 2006
The biggest disadvantage with satellite navigation is that it does precisely what you tell it to, even if you've entered something unintentional into the system. Our unit had been programmed to avoid toll roads, which today made for a journey that was considerably longer than it should have been. Things were not helped by the fact that we didn't have a precise address for Festyland, and worse yet, the park wasn't signposted properly. When we finally arrived, it was just three quarters of an hour to closing time and the staff were reluctant to allow us in at all. They consented however, and we ran through the gate with the objective of at least getting one ride on each coaster before close.
The first credit we came to was Drakkar Express (#684), a family ride very similar to the one we'd ridden three hours earlier at Parc du Bocasse. It was distinctive only because of its landscaping, with the track making good use of the natural terrain for a slow paced and family friendly journey. The second proved to be much more worthwhile; 1066 Spirit of the Conquerer (#685) featured a fantastic first drop that took advantage of some sloped terrain to descend quite a bit further than one might have guessed from looking at the lift hill. Unfortunately the rest of the ride was a let down after such a fantastic beginning, with just two additional drops and a small helix before the final brake run, giving a ride time of just one minute including the lift. We rode twice more for the first drop, but found ourselves wondering what the ride could have been with a little more money.
Foire du Trône
29th April 2006
It was already after ten in the evening by the time we arrived at the Foire du Trône, the largest travelling fair in Paris. The fairground was, as always, enormous, with at least a hundred individual attractions including six coasters:
I was too tired to form proper impressions of each coaster on its own merits, so I will concentrate on just one; King. The first time I came across this coaster, some eight years ago, it was a fantastic ride. It was exactly as I remembered it on my second encounter, just two years ago. Unfortunately, since then, it has been refitted with horrible over the shoulder restraints, with solid unforgiving bars that sit just an inch or two from your ears. The result is inevitable; severe headbanging, approaching the worst I've experienced on any coaster anywhere. The new restraints have turned the machine into a torture device worthy of the Bastille. It is now an utter embarrassment; scrap metal; a useful addition to the park. Unless these restraints are removed or reworked it seems unlikely that I'll ride what was once a favourite coaster again.