Travel Note

23rd August 2008

My third trip to France in less than two months was initially planned as yet another attempt to track down the wretched R2000. On this occasion, my route took me down through the summer fairs on the Côte d'Azur, spanning broadly the area between Nice and Marseille. There are a total of six parks in that area, and my paper plan had me hitting them all before arriving in my overnight hotel at midnight. Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events put me a total of three hours behind schedule, and while I still made everywhere on my list the day could not have been described as fun. George did mostly the same trip as me but over two nights, which was a much better idea.

Ireland no longer has a traditional full fare airline, with both Aer Lingus and Ryanair engaged in an ongoing race to the bottom. One major casualty of cost cutting is customer comfort. Any reasonable person would realise that passengers on early morning flights are on balance probably not interested in purchasing scratch cards, perfume, gift items, and other paraphernalia. They are much more likely to want to sleep. On today's flight, however, the volume had been turned up to piercing level, ensuring that anyone daring to shut their eyes even for a moment would be dragged back to reality by yet another chance to be a millionaire!

After landing in Nice to the self-promoting trumpet fanfare of another on-time Ryanair flight I made my way to the Europcar desk. After waiting twenty minutes to be served, the friendly and apologetic staff member indicated that because I'd booked with Car Trawler I'd have to go to the main office in the other terminal, a ten minute bus journey away. Swallowing my irritation (a sign would have been helpful) I made my way there, to be greeted by a queue of almost one hundred people. The reason for the queue length became evident almost immediately; the staff were working with a complete lack of urgency, chatting with each other in high velocity French while the customers waited with increasing irritation. One of my friends shot me a text message saying that France was much better in 1940 when it was run by the Germans, and while this might be a little unfair (there are plenty of helpful and friendly French people) a little leistungsfähigkeit would have gone a long way. It was a full two hours later that I'd finally signed my life away, promising myself for the second time this year that I'm not going to rent from Europcar again.

 

La Colmiane

23rd August 2008

La Colmiane is a resort village high in the French alps, buried amidst some of the most picturesque scenery I've ever had the pleasure to drive through. The roads to get there are quite challenging and need to be taken at a sedate speed, but there is so much to see en route that even the impatient are likely to forgive slow progress. The main draw for the place has traditionally been its ski slopes, but in recent years it has morphed into a year round attraction thanks to the addition of the Luge d'Ete.

La Colmiane

The ride in question is an alpine slide built by Brandauer, only my second encounter with one of their designs. My first one was at Mieders three years ago, and in the trip report that day I wrote about how the ride seemed almost impossibly steep. Amazingly this version was if anything steeper, with some individual descents of fifty feet or more that would be intense enough on a standard roller coaster. Riders balanced on a sled feel more than a little trepidation, to the point that this coaster enthusiast felt compelled to apply the brakes on several occasions during the course. Even with that I still managed to catch a convoy of teenagers three quarters of the way down the track despite them being given a five minute head start. To describe the Luge as stunning does an injustice to the word; anyone even vaguely in the area should make the trip.

 

Koaland

23rd August 2008

Only a coaster counter or a family with young children would ever bother visiting Koaland. Those who do make the effort should be aware that La Pomme (#1241) only runs once per hour on weekdays and every half hour on weekends. Due to singularly bad timing I missed a run by no more than thirty seconds, though on the positive side it did give me time to eat my dinner!

 

Antibes Land

23rd August 2008

Antibes Land is home to arguably the best selection of roller coasters of any of the parks on my trip today. The best of these was always going to be the Bat Coaster, relocated from Nigloland two seasons ago. My report of the ride then remarked that the second half of the ride was far too slow, and this remains the case. Oddly this is not a problem that afflicts its brother, making me wonder if the two nominally identical rides are in fact different. The Magic Pomme (#1242) and Miami (#1243) were quickly ticked off, allowing me to move on to my next target.

Miami

 

Lunapark Cannes

23rd August 2008

Lunapark Cannes was an accidental addition to this trip. George had sent me a text advising that he'd spotted signs advertising a park on the main road into the city, and while he didn't have coordinates it would be impossible to miss. The only problem with this otherwise cunning plan is that Cannes is not a small place, and he hadn't mentioned which approach road he'd used. After twenty minutes of driving down the seafront I'd decided that the park didn't in fact exist and that the message had been a wind up. I was heading back towards the motorway when the lights of a large funfair suddenly caught my eye. It only took five minutes to add Jungle Road (#1244) to my count.

 

Lunapark Fréjus

23rd August 2008

The most interesting looking coaster in Lunapark Fréjus was a slightly oversized butterfly ride featuring a twelve seater car. Adults were allowed to ride the Cobra, but only with a €10 handstamp that the park staff refused to sell to me. My limited french hindered my understanding, but it seemed to me that this stamp was only available to children or to their accompanying parents. The thought of child protection raised its ugly head again briefly, until I realised that this was nothing of the kind. The entire park was a wide open area where anybody could walk around. Instead, it was a true case of the bizarre; somebody French refusing to take my money.

Grand Huit (#1245) was the best of the two adult coasters by a large margin. Though generic, it had one key advantage; it didn't appear to be trying to kill its passengers. Magic Mountain (#1246) was built by Top Fun, and the problems start even as you approach the ride. Several of the joints in the track are not visibly not quite flush, and bumps like that taken at speed frankly hurt. The problem was compounded by an awful restraint design that guaranteed that riders necks and shoulders would take the full effect of each impact. The ride experience rates among the most uncomfortable I've ever had on a roller coaster, making me hope that this ride is decommissioned permanently before it seriously injures a rider.

Lunapark Fréjus

Bizarre ticketing arrangements were in evidence on the Train de Mines (#1247). Rather than have a booth next to the ride, as seen in every other attraction all evening, tickets for this coaster were sold at a booth near the park entrance. This might have made more sense if the resulting tickets were usable anywhere, but they were not; only a small subset of rides in the place took them. Go figure.

 

Azur Park

23rd August 2008

The two larger coasters at Azur Park were both rides I'd done before in other places. Jamming was being run on a particularly boisterous program that was a lot of fun. Much to my surprise, King was also running fairly well; the over the shoulder restraints that had ruined it have been improved somewhat, to the point that riders now only experience the occasional thump rather than continuous bashing from start to end. It would be nice to see a return of the original and inherently satisfactory lap bars, but at least the ride is heading in a positive direction. I caught a quick lap on the fifth La Pomme (#1248) of the night before leaving.

 

Magic World

23rd August 2008

A flat tyre and a necessary coffee stop resulted in me walking through the gate of Magic World well after midnight. The late arrival might have been more palatable had it been my projected arrival time at my hotel located almost ninety minutes further up the road. As it was I'd already made the decision to ride the coasters and run, and I quickly ticked off Cobra (#1249) and Magic Pomme (#1250).

George showed up just as I'd bought my ticket for the third and final credit of the night. Banzai (#1251) is the latest creation to hit the French fair scene. It can be thought of as a massively oversized butterfly, and it has to be said; the ride is quite frankly no fun at all. The presence of both a lap bar and an over the shoulder restraint should have been a hint unto itself, but fatigue had made me blind to such things. At any rate, the ride begins with a backwards winch to the heights, followed by the expected thrilling drop. So far, so good. Unfortunately, on each pass through the middle of the ride the train vibrates so much as to be uncomfortable, and after the fourth direction change the nausea factor has begun to rise. After the fifteenth direction change I'd had enough and wanted to get off, but there were still two more full cycles to go. It was all I could do not to throw up on disembarking, making this ride a definite useful addition to the park.

Magic World

2008


La Colmiane

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Koaland

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Antibes Land

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Lunapark Cannes

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Lunapark Fréjus

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Azur Park

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Magic World

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