24th September 2017

Our original plan for today had been to drive to the Principality of Andorra, home to the world's longest alpine coaster. Unfortunately just days before our trip we learned that Tobotronc had been closed for maintenance, necessitating a last minute rethink. There were a few possible alternatives available even with the constraint of an early evening flight, but the only sensible option was Tibidabo, a family park set high in the mountains over Barcelona. I'd enjoyed my two previous trips to the park immensely, but I'm sorry to report that today's visit was a definite contender for the worst day I've had in a park in recent memory, so much so that we gave up on the place after three hours and relocated to the comfort and relative luxury of the nearby Hard Rock Café.

The root cause of our issues was the clientele. Time and time again we saw individuals in queues on their own being joined by their entire extended families of ten or more, and attempts to call people out on this behaviour made us the bad guys. At one point we ended up in a shouting match with one of the locals who, when politely asked in English to wait his turn, responded by describing my mother in very colourful terms. Even aside from the queue jumping it was quickly evident that those around us had no concept of personal space and absolutely no volume control, making our stay an endurance contest rather than the joy that it ought to have been. As with several years ago it was painfully obvious that a very large percentage of Spanish people have absolutely no respect for those around them; the contrast against our experiences in Japan could not have been more dramatic.

How not to park

Our day began with us laying claim to the final marked space in the parking lot roughly ten minutes after the advertised opening time. The staff at the gate had evidently limited the number of vehicles to the number of bays, a common approach though one doomed to failure in a country where it is entirely normal to park across the middle of two (or more) spaces if you want extra room to get out of your car (or space to set up deck chairs and a picnic table for a late breakfast, sadly not pictured in the interests of avoiding a diplomatic incident). We spotted at least five other cars behind us continuing to hunt for somewhere to stop, and when we departed a few hours later there were a number of vehicles blocked in by creative parking. (It's worth noting that we did briefly get stuck at the exit when someone decided to stop on the ramp to rearrange something in their car boot. Fortunately this was temporary and cleared after we made prolific use of the car horn).

There was a twenty minute queue to buy ride wristbands, which today was entirely due to demand rather than inefficiency. Under ordinary circumstances we'd have avoided this by prebooking online, but this was accidentally missed with the late change to our schedule. Once through we made our way to Tibidabo Express, the Zamperla powered coaster downgraded earlier this season with the addition of virtual reality headsets. The video in use was very similar to the one found on Alpenexpress Enzian, and featured Euromaus and friends sliding through a mine and caverns before ending up outside on a pink dragon flying over a land that looked very much like the opening scenes of Super Mario 64. The effect worked well enough, though as with many VR rides the queue moved extremely slowly, dramatically cutting capacity on what was a perfectly decent ride in its own right. The designated queue space was nowhere near long enough, resulting in a line that snaked quite a distance down the midway with predictable results.

We were far more enthusiastic about Muntanya Russa, and not just because the narrow spiraling queue made it difficult for would-be line jumpers to ruin our day. Two trains were in use, and they were being run efficiently with the second being dispatched just as the first arrived at the brake run. The ride is made up almost entirely of helices and is not particularly intense, but neither fact is a criticism; in fact I'd argue that the 2008 installation was one of the first really good custom layout coasters from Vekoma, and an early example of what they have since learned how to do with their improved track fabrication technology. We were assigned to a back row after waiting less than ten minutes, which was absolutely fine with us.

The third and final ride today was Avio, a plane ride dating from 1928, which Megan declared to be her highest priority. The vehicle was designed to be a virtual replica of an actual aircraft that just months before had made the first domestic flight in Spain from Barcelona to Madrid. The wait time was signed at thirty minutes, but the actual time was almost double that as those pathologically opposed to waiting their turn had a disproportionate effect on a ride that can at best handle two hundred guests per hour. The on-board experience was interesting and a definite novelty, though it certainly wasn't worth what we had to go through to enjoy it.