The first unwritten rule of any good coaster trip is a stupidly early departure from an airport on a full flight which ends up running late. This morning's Air France flight to Paris departed twenty minutes behind schedule thanks to several tardy passengers, and the resulting missed slot at the destination left us with a full three quarters of an hour in a holding pattern. The delays continued even when on the ground, as we stopped at a remote parking area at least ten minutes drive from the terminal building. The pilot told us that remote parking is standard practice at the airport at the moment, thanks to the recent collapse of part of the terminal.
The second terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport is a large H-shaped building that currently features six halls, three on each side. My flight brought me into Hall F, and I quickly began walking towards Hall C where I'd arranged to meet George. The pedestrian route between the different halls has moving walkways, and it didn't take me long to reach my destination. Unfortunately, a large barrier stood in my way, as did a security guard jabbering away at anyone who would listen in high velocity French. Rather than try to figure out what was going on, I made my way to Hall D, hoping to walk across the car park, but the same scenario greeted me. In desperation, I boarded a shuttle bus, which drove about ten metres and then stopped dead. Yet more high velocity French ensued, though in this case I was rescued by a sympathetic local; it turned out that there was a bomb scare covering those two halls, and nobody was allowed to enter.
At long last the alert was lifted, allowing us to meet at the car rental. A few minutes later we had hit the road, armed only with some computerised directions and a local map. We quickly realised that a local map was not sufficient to navigate, as the motorway signs only showed the final destination of roads rather than the many places that it might lead in between. Our plan to hit two parks in the same day suddenly seemed like a long shot, especially given that it was already noon. We were rescued by a sign for Parc Asterix, which gave us a good excuse to rearrange the trip; our planned parks would have to wait.
27th August 2004
We'd bought tickets for Parc Asterix on the Internet before our visit, both to save a few euro and a few minutes queuing. It turned out that all we'd managed to buy was a voucher which could be exchanged for tickets, and the wait in this line was actually longer than the main admission window. Be that as it may, we simply had to show photo identification to collect our actual tickets. My work card was accepted without question, making me wonder just how many eircom employees have pre-purchased tickets for Parc Asterix in the recent past. But I digress.
It was only walking through the gate that I remembered that this park was home to what is widely considered one of the worst roller coasters in the known universe. Goudurix (#337) is memorable for all the wrong reasons, though it didn't seem anything like as jarring as someofthe Arrow-built looping coasters I've ridden in recent years. Part of this might have been the considerable padding that appears to have been added to the trains of late; after all, being savaged with a cushion doesn't tend to hurt too much. One circuit was still ample, but it is a ride that I'd be willing to repeat in the future.
Our next ride was on Vol d'Icare (#338), a nicely themed Zierer family coaster marred by horrible capacity; though nominally this ride should be capable of well over a thousand people per hour it was doing nothing like that today. The staff were doing their best, ensuring that two people were in each row, but at the end of the day they could only do so much with a single operational train. Icarus did indeed seem to be falling into the sea.
Of all the rides in this park the one that I'd been looking forward to most was Tonnerre de Zeus (#339). While the CCI-built attraction was not the first wooden coaster in France, it was the only one to make it to number one position on worldwide roller coaster polls. The queue line begins beneath a huge statue of Zeus holding a thunder bolt, albeit with a somewhat odd touch pictured, er, below. The designers clearly had a somewhat quirky sense of humour. We were lucky enough to get a front seat for our first ride, and while it was fun the experience was distinctly underwhelming. The back seat, however, was something else entirely, easily deserving of a top ten coaster ranking. We had an English woman and her daughter in the row in front of us, and the resultant sound effects in a middle English accent made for a hilarious background to a truly wild ride. Look at my hay-re!
The longest wait of the day was strangely enough to be found on the coaster with the largest theoretical capacity. Five trains were in use on the Trace du Hourra (#340), the only Mack bobsled coaster in the world that isn't painted white. One doubts that the park could use this as an effective marketing slogan, but given the ride name they likely have more serious problems! I really do like bobsled coasters, and this one is up there with the best of them; it is surprisingly long too, taking two and a half minutes to cover its trail of hooray!
We quickly credit-whored our way through Périférix (#341) and the Ronde des Rondins (#342) before heading across to the Transdemonium ride, a rather unusual take on the ghost train genre. The ride vehicles constantly change their speed while an evil puppet constantly tries to scare you. The ride finishes with a coaster style drop that works really well.