Parc Astérix

12th April 2024

Paris is one of the most popular direct destinations from Dublin Airport. At the time of writing there are 58 weekly departures to CDG, 20 weekly departures to BVA, and 13 to ORY – collectively representing somewhere in the region of two thousand seats in each direction every day. Despite the volume however it’s hard to find a deal, especially if you want to go to CDG – and for my available date window the best price I could find for a round trip was €250. That might just about have been tolerable if it included priority boarding, lounge access, and seat selection, but with none of these on offer I decided it was beyond what I was willing to pay.

After some contemplation I decided instead to do a long weekend in Germany. In deference to my revised approach to trip planning I started with three interesting coasters – a B&M at Legoland Deutschland, a custom Gerstlauer family coaster at Bayern Park, and if happened to be open, the shiny new Mack Stryker coaster at Europa Park. With these targets in mind I started looking at one-way flights to airports in the eastern side of Germany, figuring that I’d do a one way trip coupled with a low-fare return. Within moments Google Flights popped up an extraordinarily cheap ticket between Dublin and Nuremberg with a twelve hour layover in the City of Light. This was too good of an opportunity to miss, even if it did mean a very long day.

My morning started with a brutal 4:00am alarm call ahead of a 6:05am flight departure. This was definitely suboptimal, but I rationalized it on the basis that the 8:55am landing (with a +1 time difference) should give me a fighting chance of getting to Parc Astérix in time for opening. This proved hopelessly optimistic in practice; my flight landed on schedule only to dump me at the back of a 55 minute queue for self-service passport control. It could have been worse, mind; a European Union passport meant that I was in the faster moving of the two queues. The screen on the machine i got to had a popup warning telling me about a missing Windows Update, though fortunately this didn't preclude my border crossing.

By the time I’d cleared formalities it was just after 10:00am, and I decided that I might as well have a very early lunch before collecting my rental car. Hertz had thoughtfully upgraded me to a MG4 EV, my first encounter with the type and my first experience renting an electric car. The agent told me that I didn’t need to recharge prior to returning and that I had an all inclusive price – conveniently neglecting to mention the €28.80 supplement added to my bill for the electrons stored in the 51KWh battery. This was roughly three times what I needed for my planned distance, and even if I had been able to use it all the €0.56 per kilowatt price feels more than a little excessive given that it’s essentially impossible to return an EV with a completely full battery. Hopefully this is something that will be figured out as the world moves away from combustion engine vehicles.

The drive to Parc Astérix took just twenty minutes, and once through the gate I made my way directly to the park’s newest roller coaster. Toutatis (#3118) is a custom-designed Intamin LSM installation with three inversions, a swing launch, and 1075m of track. The majority of the layout stays close to the ground, with only a top hat element standing significantly above the tree line, resulting in a ride that is both fast and furious. I'd watched an on-board video ahead of time and it's fair to say that I was really looking forward to experiencing things for myself.


The queue was signposted at thirty minutes, and this was more or less on the money. Load and dispatch procedures were as efficient as they could reasonably be, aided by assigned seating with a slight twist: a three way split at the station entrance allowed a choice between row 1, rows 2-4, or rows 5-10. Though complex, this did seem to work fairly well, even if the enthusiast in me would have liked to have seen a dedicated back row queue rather than leaving a prime seat to the luck of the draw.

My first lap was in row two, and from that location my immediate thought was that Toutatis was indeed the top-tier coaster I’d expected, albeit one a little too aggressive for my liking. I do like the occasional stupidly powerful airtime hill, but when you encounter a whole series of them in sequence I find the resultant discomfort and nausea detracts from the overall experience. It was impossible not to draw a mental comparison against Batman Gotham City Escape, also an Intamin product, which has spacing between its two powerful airtime moments making them much easier to enjoy.

I’m also not entirely sold on the merits of a swing launch, namely accelerating forward, backward, and then forward again on the same piece of track. I’ve ridden quite a few coasters with this feature now and the novelty has well and truly worn off for me, mainly because you spend a lot of time going in a straight line. I’ve found that I much prefer a short strong one-way launch. Intamin's acceleration has never quite reached the sheer insanity of the two S&S Thrust Air designs, but the major ones are close enough and have the added advantage of not hurting those on board.

If the reader would forgive me one additional nitpick, it is that that Toutatis has no theming whatsoever after the top hat. The train drops to ground level and spends almost thirty seconds racing across grass with only trees, a service road, and the rear of park buildings to keep it company. A few decorations and perhaps a tunnel or two would have added immeasurably to the overall experience, as would an on-board soundtrack. The whole Festival Toutatis area reputedly cost €36 million; it's a shame they couldn't have spent a few hundred thousand of that on polishing up the coaster.

I took a second lap in the back seat, which confirmed my overall impression; Toutatis is a solid attraction and I can see why some people salivate over it, but it wouldn’t crack my top five hundred for the same reason that I don’t rate Ride to Happiness: it leans too far towards thrill seekers at the expense of enjoyment and fun for those whose preferred intensity setting isn't Ultra-Extreme. For me at least Batman Gotham City Escape is a vastly superior experience all round. I will almost certainly ride it again at some point, but I won’t be going out of my way to make a return journey.


I next made my way across the park to the park’s wood coaster. The Gravity Group did a great deal of work on the original Tonnerre de Zeus between 2019-2021, replacing virtually all of the track and altering a few portions of the layout to add additional airtime. The rebranded Tonnerre 2 Zeus should have been absolutely superb, but I’m sorry to say that the result was a mixed bag; some areas were great, but other areas were awfully rough – not least the first drop, which actively hurt. I found myself bracing rather than enjoying myself, which is a huge shame given how good the ride once was.

With my two main targets ticked off my next hit was Discobelix, a Zamperla Disk'O Coaster with a stone superstructure and flame effect. The ride experience here was exactly as expected; pleasantly fun, if not something I’d make the effort to do more than once. I followed this up with Menhir Express, a log flume with a coaster drop and airtime hill at the half way point giving it an “undefined” entry on I found that the smaller of the two splashdowns was wetter for some reason, but it didn’t matter all that much as the weather was warm enough for me to dry off quickly.

I finished up my visit with a glorious lap on Trace du Hourra, a twenty-three year old Mack Bobsled that for whatever reason only had a ten minute wait time. I’m privileged to have ridden all six of these over the years, and honestly I wish there were more of them out there; they really are fun.


Jardin d'Acclimatation

12th April 2024

When compiling my itinerary for today I worked out two distinct options. The first was to stay in Parc Astérix until closing time, while the second featured a mid-afternoon departure and two bonus credits in central Paris. In the end the decision was made for me by Toutatis; though a top tier ride as I’ve mentioned, I’d hit my limit for one day, and with that in mind I retreated to the air-conditioned comfort of my rental car for the forty minute drive into the city.

Fils du Dragon

At the start of last year the Jardin d’Acclimatation decommissioned Dragon Chinois, a Soquet-built family coaster that had been a staple of the park since 1987. A somewhat larger replacement has been ordered and is now under construction, but is not expected to premiere until early 2025. In the interim, the park has installed a temporary coaster acquired from Turkish manufacturer Kiliç Lunapark.

Fils du Dragon (#3119) is a copy of the Pinfari Super Dragon MD31 with embedded theme elements. It has a figure eight layout and footprint similar to the ubiquitous Big Apple, but it’s considerably more boisterous thanks to a first drop and climb that uses most of the available potential energy. Was it life changing? No. Am I glad to have gotten to ride it before it disappears into history? Absolutely.


Fête Foraine Puteaux

12th April 2024

My final stop for the day was at a small fair located about ten minutes drive from the Jardin d’Acclimatiation. The Fête Foraine at Puteaux was definitely geared at younger visitors, but the operator was quite happy to sell me a ticket for La Pomme (#3120). The ride, owned by Tony Vancraeyenest, is one of a very small number of examples of the type to use tyre drives on the lift rather than a chain lift, but aside from that it was pure vanilla.