My first trip to Le Pal just over eight years ago was marred by a planning error that left me very short of time in an unexpected gem of a park. I was determined not to repeat my mistake, and as such my itinerary today gave me the option of staying until closing time if necessary. As things turned out I didn't need that long, but I'd still advise any enthusiast visiting this park to allow an absolute minimum of four hours.
Only one of the six car parks was in use today, which I took to be a good sign until I arrived at the main entrance to discover at least five hundred people queueing to buy tickets. I'd just psyched myself up enough to join the back of the scrum when my eye was drawn to some ticket machines to the right of the gate that nobody seemed to inclined to use. Nonplussed, I wandered over to one, inserted my card, tapped the "English" button, and purchased a ticket in less than thirty seconds without having to negotiate in broken French.
It was fifteen minutes after the scheduled opening time by the time I made it through the gate. Despite this, morning safety checks had yet to be completed on any of the three roller coasters, and lengthy queues had formed in front of each. Rather than join one right away I decided to take advantage of the clear blue sky to take a few photographs. I spent the better part of an hour walking through the entire ride area and most of the zoo, taking extra time to admire a baby elephant that barely came up to the knees of its parents, as well as a particularly cross-looking baboon.
In due course I made my way to Twist (#2068), a spinning coaster constructed three years ago as part of a substantial expansion to the north of the park. Coasters from Mack Rides rarely disappoint, and this one was great, with the train of free spinning cars delivering an intense and thoroughly disorientating ride. There wasn't much of a difference between front and back of the train, with both being equally thrilling, and efficient operations kept the queue moving.
I've previously written about Azteca, a superbly themed terrain coaster from Soquet. It was perhaps telling that the longest wait of the day could be found here, with a fairly steady three quarter hour line despite the staff keeping the trains moving at maximum throughput. My first ride was a somewhat bumpy back seat, but I followed that up with a front seat that was fantastic despite the person next to me having forgotten to wear deodorant. I particularly liked the fact that almost the entire ride was hidden from the midway.
The queue for Tigre de Siberie didn't look awful at first glance, despite it stretching outside of the designated area. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that operations were sluggish at best, with the fastest dispatch I saw coming over five minutes after the previous one. Worse yet, there was someone smoking in the queue line, something that seems to be socially acceptable in France. My previous review of the ride ("unremarkable to the extreme") was perhaps a little harsh, but even from the back seat this coaster was average at best, being short and not terribly exciting.
The clouds had been darkening all morning and let go in spectacular fashion shortly after I disembarked. The coasters remained open, but rather than get soaked I decided to take the hint and head for my next stop.