Boudewijn Seapark is aimed at a young audience, and doesn't have a whole lot to keep the attention of anyone over the age of twelve. While it does have shows at set times during the day there were none within two hours of my arrival, resulting in a much shorter visit than planned. I did take the time to thoroughly walk around the place. I'd expected to find a park like the Sea World chain but in reality this felt more like Garden World, with the sea references limited to a Dolphin show and ride theming. One of the highlights was the ferris wheel, which was themed as a collection of submersibles similar to those made popular by the Titanic movie. The coaster in the park is Orca Ride (#1342), the extra large member of the Tivoli family and not particularly noteworthy except as a way to while away a few minutes.
Plopsaland De Panne
9th May 2009
Plopsaland De Panne is one of largest amusement parks in Belgium. Despite having several roller coasters the target audience is definitely the under twelves, with the Mack-built SuperSplash standing as the most adventurous coaster in the park, at least until this year. Its place has now been usurped by Anubis: The Ride (#1343), a LSM launched coaster with three inversions built by Gerstlauer.
The new ride has an elaborately themed building for its station that seems almost reminiscent of Efteling, containing a small walkthrough, a cattle pen, and the boarding platform itself. The park has bought three six seater trains, and based on the dispatch interval the capacity would appear to be somewhere around four hundred per hour, short of the published value but not unreasonable for a park of this size. It was perhaps telling that there were far more people watching proceedings as riding, making me wonder if management might have misjudged their audience. Be that as it may, the ride opens with a short drop out of the station leading to a bank of linear synchronous motors. The launch to ninety kilometers per hour takes place over a very short length of track, being on par with Kingda Ka for a sheer sense of acceleration. From there the ride crests a hill loaded with airtime before dropping into a twisted and thrilling layout.
There are too many good things about this ride to list; with apologies to Paul Ruben it is a definite candidate for Belgium's best coaster, and it's well up there with the top rides in Europe. The only thing that makes me hesitate about an all out endorsement is the rather unforgiving stops both on the mid course block and also the final brake run, the former in particular being akin to a minor car crash. Plopsaland De Panne has really put itself on the enthusiast map this year; if this problem can be sorted out (and even if it can't) I'll have to consider a return visit later in the season.
Though I walked around the park for a few hours the only other attraction on my list today was the SpringFlyer which had been under construction on my last visit. It was too windy to take any proper photographs but I did at least try!
Lille Grande Fete Foraine
9th May 2009
George had texted me earlier in the day to advise about a fun fair he'd found my accident in the centre of Lille. He didn't have any available coordinates, but advised that it was right in the city centre and thus easy to spot. I decided to go look for it with a certain amount of trepidation, remembering my experience at Cannes, but with two hours to spare it seemed like a reasonable use of time. After driving around for a while and failing to see anything I decided to park the car and explore on foot. Moments later the friendly people in the tourist office pointed me in the right direction, allowing me to add 1001 Pattes (#1344) to my record.
9th May 2009
I'd been feeling progressively worse over the course of the afternoon with what was almost certainly food poisoning. An upset stomach mingled with a mild headache did not exactly help my frame of mind as I entered the gates of Paris Beauvais airport. This backwater shed in the middle of nowhere could not have developed without Ryanair, who retain the vast majority of the routes, and the inevitable tight control of costs has resulted in utter misery for passengers.
The problems begin landside, where the two restaurants are among the most expensive in the known universe. This didn't stop all the hot food choices being unavailable except for one solitary plate of sausages and chips that looked to have been under the heatlamp for hours. Preferring not to risk it I went instead for a single apple and packet of crisps, which combined came to five euro. Though expensive they at least served me well in the hour long queue for security. Most of this delay was due to the staff checking every single cabin bag to make sure it fit within the regulation space, though bizarrely allowing at least one through even though it clearly did not fit. Once airside, a new problem presented itself; there were barely enough seats to take the contents of one aircraft, let alone the six that were due to depart that evening. Many people chose to sit on the floor or lean against any available surface. Others were left with no choice but to stand, including some families with young children. The sound of screaming babies added no end to the general ambience.
On boarding, we were treated to a safety announcement that all mobile phones, including those with flight mode, must be turned off and remain off for the duration of the flight. This turned out to be the incorrect announcement, as our aircraft was fitted with a mobile phone base station. We were advised after take off that phone use was now permitted, and the gentleman beside me immediately launched into a loud and angry conversation with what sounded like his ex-wife. I've got to ask at this point; how is it that phones in flight mode cannot be used on some Ryanair aircraft, yet those without it can be used on others? Would it be dreadfully cynical of me to suggest that Ryanair doesn't want passengers distracted from their on board sales pitch when they can't make money out of it? The last straw was landing in Dublin a full fifteen minutes walk away from baggage reclaim.
Ryanair's flights can certainly be cheap, but no amount of money is worth the amount of ancillary bullshit that passengers are forced to put up with. As this recession continues I'm going to make an effort to fly where possible with airlines that treat their passengers like human beings, and if that costs a little bit more than so be it.