My first attempt at visiting Jacquou Parc was during a three day trip to France in September 2012. I'd planned to be there on what was advertised both online and in print material as the final operating day of the season, but the park was closed when I arrived with no staff or guests in sight. Rather than risk a recurrence I decided that it would be safer to aim for a weekend in the middle of August when there was a better chance that things would be open. The park was indeed operational today, though sadly without the unique Technical Park powered coaster which was under obvious maintenance (pictured below). Readers attempting to retrace our steps should be aware that the various rides close for lunch for ninety minutes between 12:00-13:30, despite only opening at 10:30. Only in France.
There was a light drizzle falling as we entered the park, and though it cleared quickly the seats on Speedy Gonzales (#2357) remained dripping wet. We made a spirited effort to remove the worst of the moisture before sitting, but this was never going to be entirely successful without a towel, which (with apologies to Ford Prefect et al) we'd inexplicably forgotten to pack. The desire to credit whore was always going to win out over the desire not to sit in a puddle, though the latter did serve as yet another timely reminder of just how stupid this coaster counting hobby actually is. Our two laps went quite slowly, the top speed presumably reduced by having only two people on board for what was almost certainly the first dispatch of the morning.
Our next stop was at the Roue Panoramique, a twenty-five metre tall Technical Park installation with eighteen embossed cars with space for up to six guests apiece. Its location at the western boundary of the park made for good aerial shots of the non-functional Sombrero powered coaster and four flat rides, namely, Ali Airport, Gabarrots, Pirat, and Swing. There was a clear view of the surrounding countryside in the other direction, though to be fair there really wasn't all that much to see. Unusually for a relatively small wheel we were given just one rotation, though we were happy enough with that as we were stopped at the apex for almost a minute while another group was loaded.
One of the more unusual features of the park is the fact that many of the attractions are run by remote operators housed in strategically located cabins around the park. Each of these has the controls for at least two machines, reducing the number of staff required for day to day operation. We initially assumed that the SBF-built Circuit 24 car ride had been configured for automatic dispatch, and it was only on reviewing photographs subsequently that we spotted the camouflaged control booth placed between it and the nearby Sieges Volants. Our journey around the W-shaped track lacked the expected rendition of Under the Sea, a major omission, and rather than suffer its absence I located a copy of the Samuel Wright version on my iPhone and started playing it on speaker.
Our next stop was at a ride labelled as the Carrousel Venitien du XVIIIéme Siècle, a description that we quickly determined to be a load of cobblers not least because it carried a plate crediting it to Bertazzon, a manufacturer founded in 1951. Subsequent research has revealed it to be a 10.5/2P Double Decker model that spent many years touring in France under the ownership of Manèges Hoffmann prior to its installation at Jacquou Parc for the 2010 season. It looked at first glance like there was a actual organ console in the centre, but closer inspection revealed it to be a painted fake. On the positive side, however, the embedded sound system produced a virtually indistinguishable facsimile of the real thing.
Our final stop was at Tour Magique, a set of Zamperla Magic Bikes. Though we'd seen similar installations before in different parks we'd never bothered to queue for them, and likely would not have done so today had the they not been walk-on. The experience proved to be very similar to that of the Windstar at Tayto Park, the only real difference being that ascent required energetic pedalling rather than the more simple expedient of pushing a bar forward. The positioning of the pedals was not designed with adult riders in mind, but Megan managed well enough. The only negative really was the noise level, which was loud enough to impact conversation thanks to enormous fans on the back of each seat. These were obviously added for visual effect, but badly; quieter motors would have constituted a significant upgrade.
5th August 2017
We'd made arrangements to meet Bruno and Anita at La Coccinelle in the middle of the afternoon, and though we were a little late leaving Jacquou Parc we still had what we thought was enough time to make our planned rendezvous. Unfortunately we'd not allowed for an enormous traffic jam in the vicinity of Bordeaux that brought virtually all of the roads in the vicinity to a complete standstill. I was expecting the root cause to be a serious accident, but it turned out to be far simpler than that; we'd inadvertently managed to schedule our trip for one of two peak weekends for French holidaymakers and a good number of them were apparently en route to the various resorts across Aquitaine. Our friends hit the same embouteillage from the south, and ended up arriving just twenty minutes before we did despite aborting planned stops at Animaparc and at a fairground location in the city.
After six hours in the car they were more than happy to join us for a re-ride on Tren de la Mine, an eight year old installation that remains the newest gravity coaster from Soquet as of this writing. Each car on the twenty-four seat train was decorated with a bright yellow protruding ladybird, a charming yet subtle reference to the park name that a non-Francophone could easily miss. The ride had been upgraded with some new theming when compared against my visit in 2010, namely a stone bridge and a rock structure in the middle of the descending helix. Better yet, a fully loaded train and warm weather combined to deliver a significantly more forceful ride than I remembered, making the two laps we were given a joy.
There was nothing else on my list other than a walkabout, but Megan was anxious to spend some quality time in the Mini-Ferme as it had a relatively unique opportunity to cuddle with cows (the farm animals, not the in-laws). I was quite content to watch and photograph as one of the animals playfully chewed on her fingers, hair, and shirt, an experience that she later described as the best thing ever.
5th August 2017
It took us almost ten minutes to walk the two hundred and fifty metre distance between the entrances of La Coccinelle and Kid Parc, but only because we narrowly missed the perfect photograph of the Tren de la Mine on our first attempt and decided to wait for a second dispatch. The track was protected by a wooden fence for both safety and security reasons, but fortunately it was low enough that four enthusiasts had no trouble reaching over it with cameras. The cashier at the ticket desk appeared completely unsurprised at the appearance of four adults in coaster shirts, suggesting rather strongly that staff are well used to credit whoring enthusiasts stopping in for a quick tick after a longer visit to the bigger park next door. The sole coaster in years past was a Big Apple, limiting visits to the truly obsessive, but since last year the park has also been home to a respectably large family coaster.
Boulets de Canon (#2358) is only the second installation of the Junior Spinning Coaster from Reverchon, coming fourteen years (and one bankruptcy) after the first. The ride operates with cars that have been scaled down from the manufacturer's full size spinning coaster product, seating four children or two adults. The restraint is a simple pull down lap bar that spans the entire width of the car, and it locks away from all but the largest bodies allowing an unencumbered ride. The layout is a gentle one, consisting of shallow drops of no more than a few feet at a time, but despite that the cars pick up quite a bit of speed and spin rather well when balanced correctly. Our first lap was the most successful in that regard, though that worked out fairly well as we shot some on-ride pictures on rounds two and three.
Our second stop was at the Pomme. In years past this ride had a brightly coloured name sign adorned with two caterpillar heads, but this was conspicuously absent today, perhaps reflecting the fact that the well-meaning prop might have been better suited to a ghost train somewhere. There was more leg room in the back half of each car, though I managed to shoehorn myself into the front of a car with some effort. We were given three full cycles that were memorable chiefly for the fact that there was a real-life birds nest inside the fiberglass apple.
Lunapark La Palmyre
5th August 2017
It was actively cold when we arrived at the fourth Luna Park of our trip, making a dramatic and not entirely pleasant contrast to the beautiful weather we'd had in Agde. I made it about one hundred metres away from our car before deciding to go back for my coat, realising belatedly that a short-sleeve shirt was insufficient to cover a drop of fifteen degrees celsius over the previous evening. The walk into the park brought us along the side of the Schwarzkopf Jet Star, now one of just three operational examples of the original design following the closure of the two at Lunapark Lodz and Holly Park in recent years. This particular machine was manufactured in 1972 for a travelling showman in Germany. It was exported to the United States and briefly placed at Coney Island in 1976, but repossessed soon afterwards and resold to Knoebels Amusement Park where it operated for fifteen seasons. It was moved to Morey's Piers for the 1993 season, where six-year-old Megan rode and loved it, declaring it on video to be great! great! great! great! great!
The ride has stood at the north-western corner of Lunapark La Palmyre since the turn of the millennium, remaining there all year round even as almost all of the other rides travel the French fair circuit. When first installed it wore a yellow and white paint scheme, but it was resprayed into a deep pink last year. At the same time the final turn prior to the brake run was fitted with a tunnel and the cars were retrofitted with seat belts, though fortunately these have no real impact on the comfort level which remains every bit as good as it would have been when the hardware left the Münsterhausen factory forty-five years ago. The experience lacks the intensity of later Schwarzkopf rides, but it was exciting and enjoyable and well worth riding a second time.
Our second stop was at Mouse Coaster (#2359), a Reverchon spinning coaster that I'd seen in pieces on my last visit to the park five years before. The ride had a distinctive colour changing sign at its apex, but otherwise looked much the same as the many other examples of the genre. Megan suggested that we should load our car in order of weight in an attempt to get the best possible ride, which by my reckoning resulted in roughly a sixty/forty balance between the two sides. This resulted in some respectable spinning, which compensated somewhat for the fact that the upper portion of the layout was a little on the rough side. With that done we headed to Dragon, the beautifully themed Pinfari with a bright red pagoda above its station. We were given three laps tonight in contrast to the enormous number on my last visit, but that was more than enough for us to appreciate it in full.
The group decided to finish the night with Pouss-Pouss. Fatigue had caught up with me and in the interests of not repeating previous embarrassment I decided to watch proceedings from the ground. This was at least as enjoyable as riding would have been, as watching people kicking and throwing each other in the direction of the target was hilarious. I found myself wondering just how popular swing rides would be if passengers were allowed to push the chairs in other parts of the world.