And now the big one, Day 4 - Parc Asterix! And this was, in fact, my first visit to Asterix.
I'll start as ever with the Covid measures
Face coverings were obligatory on all rides and in queue lines. There were hand sanitising points at the end of every queue (just before you board the ride), as well as at ride exits and dotted around the park. There were social distancing markers in queues, but no one really followed them much tbh. However, park security had a major presence in queue lines, regularly walking through queue lines, making sure everyone had coverings on, and were covering their noses. This went to the extreme where I witnessed a security guard watch someone have a drink and not move on until they had finished their drink and put their covering back over their face. A little OTT in my opinion, but equally I can't argue with results: seeing everyone in queues masked up did give a good level of reassurance.
Interestingly as well, the park were very hot on filling up every seat - single rider was still in operation, and they were happy to get smaller groups matched up in queues too. The only exception was on water rides, where they weren't trying to fill boats to the full. There are questions about the point of social distancing on rides in my opinion, especially if everyone is wearing a covering, but it did feel odd sitting next to strangers again.
Anyways, onto the park. First time I've experienced metal detectors at a full on theme park (Ja-Dar isn't necessarily a 'full on park' imo), but it was done smoothly and easily. Anticipating it would get long queues, we headed over towards the back of the park, where the first stop was Tonnerre de Zeus..
We were on in under 15mins which was nice. Zeus is a ride I'd heard a lot about for many years. Whilst I'd seen a lot of people say it's a bit of a love-or-hate ride, most reviews I'd actually read were that it was good, which gave me some quiet optimism. Sadly though, it did nothing for me. It's got a long layout, yet manages to feel like it does nothing with it. It's not rough, but doesn't have enough fun / classic woodie laterals to give it that sort of edge. I don't remember there being any air time either. It just sort of goes around for a while and ends?
Even riding it later in the day, it did very little for me. I remember feeling a bit more positive about it, but not much. I just don't really get it? Why do people like this?
Is it because of Zeus' underpants? I bet it's because of Zeus' underpants.
A quick stop to the neighbouring Goudrix was of course in order. Similarly, this is something I'd heard a bit of a mixed bag of, but mostly negative reviews. In particular, @pluk's review of it from a few years ago stuck in my mind (spoilers for those who don't know: he's not a fan of it..). And, of course, it has regularly been near the bottom of several coaster polls over the years. So I wasn't looking forward to it. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The ride was smooth, the right level of intense and reasonably fun. It's not something I rank highly, as a layout of inversions is ultimately a bit meh, but it was fun enough.
Again, a ride was had later in the day. And frankly, I don't know what happened - was a riding a different ride? It was rough and jerky and I did not enjoy it from the third inversion! Perhaps not as bad as some had described it, but still pretty bad. Really not sure how I could have such different reactions to it.
My first ride was in the front of a car, and the second in the back of a car, so I guess that could have something to do with it. Could also be different trains too I guess. After that second ride though, I didn't want to risk a third to try and figure it out. But it's just crazy how different the ride experiences were.
A ride on L'Oxygenarium ("the good Storm Surge" I believe us Brits are required to call it by law) followed, en route to the next cred: Trace du Hourra. I've only ever done Intamin Swiss Bobs before, so it was intriguing to see how the Mack equivalent would ride. And it was alright. Layout is solid, theming around is good and the operations were outstanding. It'd be nice if it swayed a bit more, as it did feel very restricted, but I guess many of these rides feel like this.
We collected the +1 of the Zierer bum rattler, SOS Numerobis (which has an excellent, almost B&M-like roar might I add), before arriving at the highlight attraction, which is of course Oz'Iris.
Just looking at the area you can tell it's something spectacular. It just looks stunning, from the theming, the dive under the pathway, to even things like the track colour. Everything just blends beautifully. The queue wasn't too long, no more than 30mins, which was long enough to appreciate the stunning indoor queue line too. And once you get into the station, you see they've capped off the atmosphere perfectly. Even the little lighting sequence on dispatch is just great. Everything works. Also, fair play to the staff, who worked their nuts off loading and unloading the ride - jumping inbetween rows to unclip the seat belts whilst the train was still moving(!), and checking bars insanely quickly. Something like that is an art.
As for the ride itself, it was brilliant. A lovely mix of forces, floatly moments, great inversions, decent length and perfectly paced. First drop is fantastic. My highlight has to be when you dive underground past the waterfall, and then come out into the inversion, which is wonderfully profiled. It's just fantastic all round.
My issue with B&M rides, which may be a bit controversial, is that when their rides age, they seem to become more intense and forceful. I've noticed it particularly with Inferno at Thorpe, but even my experiences on the likes of Nemesis, Baron 1898 and even Galactica suggest this 'more intense with age' trend. They're like cheeses: they mature and get stronger flavour. As someone who's not a fan of high-G intense rides usually, it's meant some of those rides have gone down in my rankings as time goes on (particularly true with Nemesis).
Oz'Iris was intense, but it was the right level for me. It'll be interesting to see how it feels in a few years (ie - when I go back for the Intamin), and whether it's experiencing the same 'growing intensity with age' thing! But for now: 4 rides throughout the day, including a wondrous front row ride, puts it as my favourite B&M, and slides into my Top 5..
The random fountain show was fun too - never saw it in its entirety though!
Another water ride was in order before lunch, and with the log flume closed for technical difficulties, Le Grand Splatch was the port of call. I'm not normally a fan of big boat / big splash rides (too wet too quick), but this was surprisingly decent, since the finale was more for show, and it was water effects which got you wet.
In case you haven't been able to tell, I really like water effects
With stomachs grumbling, lunch was needed. I'd heard not-good things about food options at Asterix, but ended up being pleasantly surprised at the quality of the restaurant by the log flume (Le Relais Gaulois). A canteen-style restaurant where all the food options looked really good, and ended up being great too. Reasonably priced too, so would recommend!
Explored some of the kiddie area, including their decent boat ride, before heading to their Vekoma madhouse, Le Defi de Cesar. I'd heard wonderful things about this, including the pre shows, but knew before visiting that because of Covid, they weren't running said preshows. I was intrigued how it would operate, and the short answer is: badly. It didn't help we went on the ride just after a shutdown, but you enter the ride through the exit and just go straight into the ride. Sadly there was no audio and half the screens weren't on either, creating a really awkward experience. From what I've heard, it sounds like the complete experience is a good one, but this was just rubbish. Hopefully the lack of on ride effects was a blip, but I do wonder if they should just keep it shut whilst they're running the pre shows.
This chap gave me some serious moustache-envy...
Keeping within the Roman area, we cooled off on the rapids, which look stunning but could do with being a bit wetter in my opinion, before braving Pégase Express. Unsurprisingly, this had a long queue pretty much all day, but I guess a 40 minute queue for the park's newest coaster in the middle of July isn't too bad. Again, queue was magnificent, giving great views of the ride and the rapids, and the indoor section was brilliant. The ride itself is solid too. The launch out the station took me by surprise, the section after the lift hill is good fun with some nice twists and turns. The shed is simple but effective, and the backwards section is the perfect length and style. So all in all, a fantastic family coaster.
Also worth saying they weren't using the bag drop; don't know if that's just because of Covid (it seemed in an awkward space) or if they're just not bothering with it (let's face it, if you can keep your bags on Goudrix, you can keep your bags on this easily).
The final cred was ticked off after this. Another +1.
Something I'd been really looking forward to at Asterix was L'Aérolaf, the park's 'rotating bar'. You buy a drink, then take a seat at a table at the bottom of a tower. You then go up 35m and slowly rotate, taking in views of the park and surrounding area, whilst enjoying your drink for about 10mins, before coming back down. Awesome concept for a theme park, and I'd always wanted to do one of those 'have a meal in the sky' experiences - so this was very much a discount version on that. Great views, really nice and open (you just have a seatbelt in your seat of course), and was a great way to break up the day.
It's on the pricier side - my mocktail was 7,90€ - but I'd say it's worth doing. For reference, a bottle of Coke was 6,90€, which I think was about a 3-3,50€ mark up compared to elsewhere at the park. So if you view it in that sense, you're paying about 3,50€ for the experience, which isn't bad. You even get to keep the themed cup your drink is served in!
One weird quirk for this though: You had to wear a covering whilst the table went from the bottom to the top. You were then told you could remove it. When it was ready to go back down, we were told to wear a covering again. Felt very odd and pointless given everyone had their coverings off/down for the past 10 minutes and we were the same distance away as before.
Ahh, the face covering hides that fear...but just makes me look like a confused middle-aged man who has no idea how the selfie mode on his phone works...
Final major ride to do was Menhir Express, their log flume, which was back open and had a reasonable queue. It was a decent log flume, good level of wet and the surprise shed moment took me completely off guard and I loved it!
This took us to about half 4ish, leaving the final 2 and a bit hours for re-rides and just admiring the park. Things really died down in the last half hour or so; Oz'Iris was basically walk on for example! Really awesome way to end the day.
Final thoughts: Asterix is bloody brilliant. I really enjoyed it and, all in all, it's up there as one of my favourite parks. I may not be a fan of two of their major coasters, but it's clear they serve a purpose and people do enjoy them. Their water ride selection is brilliant. And they have a good selection of other rides which will suit most people's tastes too (I never bothered with their flat rides for example, but they were always busy and look sublime). Their quality of theming is amazing as well, along with all the staff being top notch too! Would love to see the park get another dark ride or two, and can't wait till 2023 for the Intamin (or whenever it gets pushed back too..!)