Our itinerary for today was planned around the need to be at Charles de Gaulle Airport by early afternoon. We'd intended to get to Mer de Sable for opening, but Bruno decided it was worth swapping things around to visit Royaume des Enfants Cergy first, mainly because it was further away. This was definitely the right call, albeit for a different reason; it meant that we didn't have to allocate a set window of time to a place that was always going to be a quick hit. We lost perhaps twenty minutes of our morning due to a small typo when programming the GPS, but it actually made no difference to us in the end as we got to the coaster before an operator did.
The park is one small part of the Île de Loisirs Cergy-Pontoise, a large recreational facility in the outskirts of Paris with an assault course, a boating lake, mini-golf, an outdoor cinema, pony rides, and a lot more. It was mildly annoying to be hit for a €6 parking fee, though it was perhaps understandable given the range of activities on offer. Those making regular visits have the ability to purchase a season pass for just €39, and that option is evidently popular as three of the five vehicle lanes are reserved for passholders.
The amusement ride area is targeted almost exclusively at young children. The largest attraction by space is Safari Aventure, a custom convoy ride with dinosaur theming, followed closely by Canoe Aventure, a flat boat ride with pirate theming. The imaginative naming scheme continues with Souris Aventure (#2352), a standard layout Wacky Worm with a tyre drive lift and a striking black and yellow train that was barely making it around the course today. The undulations on the upper level were negotiated with almost comical slowness, and we had plenty of time to laugh about them as we were treated to a total of five laps.
The park has about a dozen inflatable slides that take up one whole side of the facility. Beyond that the only other attractions are a full size Bateau Pirate and the Zozo Caroussel, an antique machine dating from the 1900s with hand-carved wooden horses and a barrel organ. Today the ride was in need of paint, but despite that managed to look far better than the characterless modern equivalents with shiny fiberglass horses and no soul. With luck the hardware will get the refurbishment it so richly deserves during the off-season.
Mer de Sable
29th July 2017
We arrived at Mer de Sable with precisely two hours to play with. This was longer than I'd had for my last visit thirteen years earlier but dissatisfying given a crowded park and a €25 admission fee. Though we managed to hit our target coasters there were two whole areas of the park that we didn't have chance to explore, and it might have been fun to see one or two of the shows. Our rushed departure was made all the more frustrating when we ended up waiting almost an hour for bag drop to open at the airport, despite clear language on my boarding pass saying that it would open two and a half hours prior to departure and a request from the airline to arrive early due to peak summer congestion.
There was a thirty minute wait to ride Bandidos (#2353), an installation of the extended version of the compact spinning coaster from SBF Visa, the longest I've every put up with for the genre and at least three times what it deserves. There were no ridiculous rules requiring us to remove glasses, and indeed the operator on duty wasn't bothered by the drawstring bag Megan had wrapped around her shoulders. We chose the third car today instead of our usual front or back, and I can report that the experience there was exactly as expected: a small amount of spinning accompanied by a large amount of clunking.
The park is one of many in France to feature a swing on a rail that can be thought of as a close relative of the roller coaster. Sadly Accro-Liane was clearly labelled as being suitable for five to fourteen year olds only, and though it was tempting to ignore that sign we'd probably not have gotten away with it given a steady queue of young children and a lot of other people in the immediate area. It's worth noting that the ground clearance at the end of the course was definitely not designed with those over six feet tall in mind, to the point that disregarding the rules could have led to some embarrassing injuries.
The main coaster in the park now is Tiger Express, a Mack-built mouse that once operated at Walibi Holland. The average visitor would never realise that the coaster was second hand, as it has been repainted and themed to a very high standard. The queue follows a landscaped path, much of it decorated with packing crates that manage to look remarkably good despite their obvious simplicity. The station building is decorated with Chinese lanterns and a wide variety of objects from a homeware store, including buckets, baskets, and cooking equipment. The ride itself was running as well as any mouse I've been on, with no braking to speak of and smooth tracking from start to end.