I took my first big post COVID trip to Europe last june, with many plan changes along the way. Eventually, I ended up going with an intense schedule that would revisit two classics for me and visit new parks to me.
First, I arrived in Paris at the Charles de Gaulle airport and from there, took off to La Foire du Trone. La Foire du Trone is France largest fair and one of the largest in Europe, featuring 4 adult coasters, two flume rides, 2 wacky worms and all the spinning flats you can imagine. Unfortunately for me, the Schwarzkopf Jet Star didn't open that day, but I did ride a Reverchon Crazy Mouse (ran in crazy mode, with spinning as severe as a rotor), a Galaxi (ran good) and the infamous King. The King is an intense knock off of the Schwarzkopf Alpina Bahn that has shoulder restraints even if it doesn't go upside down. It wasn't as violent as I though, but Soquet (french coaster manufacturer) could not design smooth curves then.
After that, a friend picked me up and I visited Le Parc du Bocasse, a regional theme park that does around 200 000 guests in the normandy region of France. 5 coasters, one of which was of particular interest: Orochi. Orochi is a beautifully themed Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster installed in 2021, same layout as Dollywood Dragonflier. The theme here is dinosaurs and the theming was amazing. Carved and painted cement statues and sculptures fill the ride area. The ride was glass smooth and the theming even extended to the lift hill with a rousing musical score that played whenever a train went up. The rest of the park is a lot of Zamperla rides, a prototype Soquet log flume with a backward drop and elevator to the main drop. Ride was rough for what it was, but was unique.
Next up was La Recre des Trois Cures (3 priests recess, it ties into a local legend about 3 priests having to meet in a tavern where 3 towns met). Located far west of Paris, in the far end of Brittany, this park surprised me. Similar attendance to the park above, but they still installed in 2020 a custom Gerstlauer Eurofighter. Vertika as it is known is smooth and fun, using the terrain to its advantage. The station goes back to the local legends, inspired by celtic architecture. The rest of the park consists of a lot of flat rides, a spinning rapids ride (like SFA has, but by a dutch waterslide manufacturer) a crazy alpine slide and a Soquet mine train coaster. Again, the wacky turns strike, but its smoother and intense for its side. Bonus point for a gorgeous forest setting too.
After La Recre, I returned to Paris and rented a car to head north. Next park stop was to Parc Saint-Paul, a park with a checkered past. It is the park that purchased three russian made Pax Rides in the early 2000s, one of which ended up killing riders on two occasions before it was mercifully shut down for good. The guests were horrible, but I still managed to have an ok time. The signature ride is Wood Express, a Gravity Group family wooden coaster installed in 2018. Great fast layout with lots of airtime and good turns. I also rode the log flume, which was much shorter than I was expecting and looked better than it rode. The Disk'O Coaster looked amazing though, with another great example of dinosaur theming.
Plopsaland was the park I was expecting the most of. It is located in Belgium near the french border in the flemish portion of the country. Plopsaland is owned by Studio 100, a media company that purchased many older european IP's in the 1990s and 2000s as they aged and revitalized them. The first Plopsaland was created when they purchased an old bee themed amusement park and transformed it. It is mostly a family park, with the GCI wooden coaster a near clone of White Lightning in Orlando. Unfortunately, it doesn't ride like White Lightning: it washboards and vibrates constantly and it is not a fun experience in any ways. Anubis The Ride started the day in my top 10: it is an intense Gerstlauer launched coaster where somehow, Gerstlauer was able to tune an LSM launch to be as intense and fast as an hydraulic launched coaster from Intamin. Unfortunately, while it was great "cold", the more the ride ran, the more it become violent and unrideable. By my third ride, it was in my bottom 10.
The Ride To Happiness presented by Tomorrowland was the main reason I went to the park. Tomorrowland in Europe is a huge electronic music festival and Plopsaland is like Six Flags in that they love to have sponsors for everything. So, Ride To Happiness has a strange queue where they promise some extraordinary experience and the station is beautiful. The ride is a Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster, with similar trains to Time Traveller at Silver Dollar City. The ride itself is intense, fun and one of the world's greatest experience. Onboard music add a lot and the setting with most of the ride over water adds a lot. Merchandise prices hurt though... 40 euros (42$ US) for a t-shirt. The park also has the most expensive food in Europe: 16 euros (17$ US) for a tiny portion of the local beef stew and bad fries. Add 5 euros for a bottle of soft drink, which Disneyland Paris charge 3,80 euros for the same thing.
Next up, Bellewaerde Park, Located 45 minutes east of Plopsaland in Belgium still, the park combines family theme park with a zoo, along with a small Premier Parks influence. The park was owned from 1998 to 2004 by Premier Parks/Six Flags and their 1999 ride package will look familiar to anyone who has visited Six Flags New England or Six Flags Great Adventure. That year, the park added 3 rides: a Vekoma mad house, clone of the one at SFGADV/SFNE), a Zierer Wave Swinger and a Huss Shot n Drop freefall ride. That Huss freefall was originally meant to be installed at Six Flags Fiesta Texas for the 1999 season, as detailed in the press release that park sent out in 1998. Its Premier Parks, so, Fiesta Texas then was to receive an Intamin drop tower (as shown on a brochure), but when park goers arrived at the Texas park in 1999, the Huss tower was in Belgium at Bellewaerde and a triple S&S Combo Tower was at Fiesta Texas!
I went for two reasons: ride the soon to be removed ladybug coaster that I talked about on another park with the insane clearances. Second, to ride Wakala, a Gerstlauer family coaster similar to Firechaser Express at Dollywood. The backward section is different on Wakala, where you have a small launch on a lift hill, then you head over the water for a backward spike. You roll briefly backward before stopping and returning to the station after a track switch. Fun ride, not too intense. Next to Wakala is the odd Dawson Duel: picture your Mountain Coaster as seen everywhere in Pigeon Forge or Branson. Build two of them on flat land, using massive supports and a long seemingly mile long ramp to reach the top of the ride to board. Too short for the annoying walk with bad capacity.
The Ladybug coaster was in better shape than expected, but I can understand the park wanting to move on after 41 years. The new 2024 Intamin prototype will completed the existing Vekoma river rapids well.
After Bellewaerde, I drove 3 hours south to Disneyland Paris. I had dinner at the Hotel New-York Art of Marvel at the Downtown Restaurant and its in my top 3 Disney restaurant worldwide. It is a buffet, but the food selection is fresh, unique and quite authentic. The fun desserts were a highlight, one of which was a chocolate Thor Hammer.
I went to Disneyland Paris for a single day this time and it was crowded. Crowded as in both parks were sold out and every ride in the afternoon had a full queue with minimal paid magical access. Space Mountain sadly was down for refurb, but I had a blast on Big Thunder Mountain, Phantom Manor and the other classics. I had lunch at the Walt's, a restaurant overlooking Main Street. I was seated in the Frontierland room and enjoyed their french take on american classics. Deconstructed chili, french corn soup were a highlight.
I ended the trip at Parc Asterix, which is building a massive Intamin quadruple launch coaster for 2023. Tonnerre 2 Zeus is the reimagined CCI wooden coaster, now reworked by Gravity Group. The new elements make for a faster and better ride, but the backward car was a little too much given the ride pace and airtime. Basically, picture a 13 cars Timberliner train with the last car running backward, which you can access for a 8 euros (9$ US) upcharge on the park app. OzIris, the 10 years old B&M Inverted coaster aged fabulously and ran amazing. Pegase Express is another Gerstlauer family coaster with backward section, much longer and faster than both Wakala and Fire Chaser Express. The medusa scene was not effective sadly which is where you are launched backward.
Good mention to the park app virtual queue system: for 10 euros per person, you can add Filotomatix where you can reserve rides to skip the line. More money mean shorter queues, but in my case, for a 30 minutes queue at Tonnerre 2 Zeus, it was still registered as only a 5 minutes queue. Plus, its unlimited.
I’m jealous of this itinerary. Much if it represents bucket list items for me.
I’ve taken several YouTube tours of La Foire du Trone and it looks like my kind of day. More rides than you can shake a stick at.
Ride to Happiness presented by Tomorrowland (best name ever, btw) looks like a blast. SDC’s ride is one of my favorites and this one seems like a one-up. Mack is one of my favorite manufacturers and I wish we had more of them.
One question- what was wrong with the guests at Parc Saint-Paul? I’ve always been curious about that park, it looks interesting but so sketchy, and understandably so.
Its a lot of teenagers and young adults who are rude, obnoxious and in some cases... thieves. While riding the Zamperla mouse, one of them just reached to the unload side of the ride near the operator and stole my cap. Reaction of my local friends: "that's the Parc Saint-Paul experience." Parc Asterix used to have the same issue with a certain crowd, but they beefed up security, raised admission prices and reduced discounted tickets given to communities. It worked and the guests there are a lot more mellow and not as obnoxious.
Nice TR. I’m on a Europe tour myself and was at Plopsaland a few days ago, Ride to Happiness was incredible! It can be disorienting as hell but I couldn’t get enough. The soundtrack really adds to it! And those merch prices, yeah, oof. Maybe it’s the Tomorrowland licensing? I’ve never seen T-shirts so expensive.
"We need more 'Bort' license plates in the gift shop. I repeat, we are sold out of 'Bort' license plates."
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