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Parks of Paris


pluk
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Myself and Mrs pluk found ourselves with a free week and a desire to do something, so with basically no planning it was decided Paris would be graced with our presence, taking in both Disney and Asterix. I hadn't really known where to start with doing this without leaving myself stranded someplace where no one understood me, so I'll include here a few bits I think others might find useful if doing something similar.

I'd never driven on the 'wrong' side of the road before but we decided we wanted the freedom of a car and besides, how hard can it be?! So after an early Saturday morning drive down to Dover we found ourselves floating towards the other side...

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We sailed with P&O which only cost £45 one way with about 3 days notice. The ship was a disgusting cramped rust bucket, but got us there safely and you're only on it for a little over an hour. If you are bothered by these things book yourself onto the Spirit of France or the Spirit of Britain, which we came home on and are new and sexy.

The complete list of things I did to be safe and legal driving in France:
-buy a fluorescent jacket to keep in the car
-buy a GB sticker for the rear
-buy a set of headlight beam adjustment stickers
-buy an AA map of France
-made this sign
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and put it on my dashboard. It really did work!

The drive from Calais towards Paris is simple and easy even without a map, and as the ferry dumps you directly on to a duel carriageway you have a few hours to get used to driving on the right without having to tackle any confusing junctions. All along the motorway are little picnic areas, complete with hole in the floor toilet blocks, but actual services are very few so some snacks in the car and a full tank of petrol are a good idea. The motorway is also a toll road, but the whole journey there only cost 14 Euros. By the time I had to pull off onto side roads near our first hotel it felt quite natural to be doing things in reverse. If you are a confident driver I'd recommend giving it a go - don't be scared of it!

We had booked a little hotel for three nights in Orry-la-Ville, mostly for it's close proximity to Asterix without being a grotty little Formula1 sort of place, and also as it is on a direct train line to the centre of Paris in just 20 mins. At 65 Euros a night I thought it was very good value considering its location. Arriving about 3 hours after leaving Calais I was ready for my first beer of the trip.

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It is a great base for this sort of trip but you'd struggle to get to Asterix from here if you're not driving. It is not a party town either, if that is what you are after. It is a lovely little French village with about 3 bars and 3 restaurants which in the typical French way seem to open as and when they fancy so it is not always convenient. It's not for tourists, it's for locals living their little French lives, but those are the sorts of places I like.

After a stroll into the village for a meal and a couple more drinks it was back to the hotel for an early night, as the next morning it was time for Asterix. Little did I know I'd need all the rest I could get to make it through a day there...

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So the next morning it was an early start to try and make the most of our single day at Asterix. Full of hotel continental breakfast (why is it acceptable to eat a pile of cakes first thing in the morning across Europe?) we set off across the French countryside with our AA route planner print out in the general direction of the park, planning to arrive around 30mins before park opening. It was a Sunday, and it was hot. Normally I wouldn't entertain a weekend park visit, especially at a place that will be a bit of a one off for me, but as Asterix helpfully only open weekends outside of main season there wasn't much choice in the matter. The first frustration of the day was finding our directions to the park were entirely wrong, leading us to the back of the place but with no actual access. Turns out the only way in is directly off of the motorway where the park has it's own exit, not from the villages it is actually local to. So a 30 minute detour resulted us arriving with everyone else, and so from a bad start it went downhill fast.

Every frog within a few hundred kilometers had clearly decided to make the most of the sunshine, the motorway ground to a halt just by the '3km to Asterix' sign, my heart sank with the realisation this was the queue to the park and not some random traffic, and we crawled in from there. The 8 Euro charge for parking is paid on the way in, which is a much better way than on the way out like we do it as it manages the pressures on the entrance gates and doesn't leave you with a bad taste at the end of the day by getting it out of the way at the start. Infact, the whole car park operation was run really quite well with a constant flow as the queue splits multiple times to individual lots. It was the only well run thing we'd find that day.

As our visit was a last minute arrangement we had not been able to book good value park tickets online, which must be purchased at least a week in advance, but we had managed to pick up a discount voucher from our hotel. Money paid and through the turnstile, but without being given or being able to find a map, we wandered through the rather nicely themed main street and it didn't seem too packed. Maybe it could handle this amount of people after all.

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I had heard before arriving that they were bizarrely opening their new ride OzIris late each day as part of staggered opening and as it could be seen to be not moving at 10 minutes after opening as we drove past so we headed left instead, using the crappy little map our discount vouchers had been attached to as a rough guide. The first thing we came across was the rapids, which to our amazement was walk on (but you'd never know it as there is no live queue time signage anywhere in the park). Even though it was walk on and the occasional boat was empty we were squeezed in with randoms so every seat was full. We tried to protest the pointlessness of this but to no avail. I'm not small, nor were the randoms, so it was a painful and uncomfortable few minutes. I'm sure the ride was good enough and I know I got at least a little bit wet, but I couldn't enjoy it and have no real memory of it.

Leaving that we continued to one of the big three coasters. Before going it was OzIris, Zeus and Goudurix I had been looking forward to, in that order, so we decided to build up to the best and start with Goudurix.

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Again with no indication of how long the queue might be we waited in about half of the built queue line, which amounted to about 20 minutes, and on we got. I had heard some bad things about this ride and it's roughness, but nothing could prepare me for how truly awful it is. Never again will I grumble about Saws jolt or Ritas restraints, this is in another league of horrible uncomfortable roughness. At one particular point near the start it tosses you one way to get your head moving to the left but before it stops you are violently slammed to the right creating a massive jerk in your neck which I genuinely thought had done some damage until I got off and realised I was not paralyzed. Never again will I get on Goudurix, and I think it is the only ride I've ever said that about.Tear it down.

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Once we had rearranged our vertebrae into something resembling a spine we left the ride station and noticed something had quite suddenly changed for the bad. The park had already started to fail at coping with the volume of guests with the queue line for that heap of junk now spilling out of the entrance to the queue line and down the path in a totally unmanaged scrum, I'd have guessed it would have been well over an hours wait.

Coming away back towards the centre of the park we stumbled upon the entrance to something called Transdemonium. We didn't know what it was and to a large extent still don't. After a long and thankfully empty walkthrough queue is a ride of random that's too light to be a dark ride and too crap to be worthwhile. It's strange, clearly a lot of thought and effort has been put into the queue line which has some nice touches, but the ride itself is very very poor. Oh wells, three rides down, three disappointments.

Battling our way through the crowds we went towards Zeus, but we didn't get close. The queue line spilling out of the entrance a good couple of hundred meters long and 5 or 6 people wide did not look fun so we thought we'd try again later. Nearby was a spinning thing (in the background below) which was actually very good, I don't know why these sorts of rides have gone totally out of fashion at UK parks, great fillers. On the bad side the single operator working at a snails pace with a miserable face and a fifth of the rides capacity roped off made me want to start hurting people.

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This was followed by a large kids coaster, apparently called Vol D'Icare, which again was enjoyable. Both of these though had queues spilling out of the entrance causing a scrum, but extensions within the queue closed. Just stupid frustrating operations made nearly intolerable by the queuing adverse French. It is also I'm sure no revelation or controversy to note a lot of French people smell bad, really bad, and being stuck in close proximity for ages in the queue was nauseating. I've got a strong stomach, I've eaten my lunch in the company of a rotting cadaver on many occasions, but some of the pong kicking up from these made me feel quite ill. I was getting weary of it all and wanted some lunch.

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But even lunch wasn't something Asterix was able to provide without a huge unmanaged queue snaking across one of the main throughways in the park. It was clear they weren't expecting it to be busy (they obviously don't watch weather forecasts) as most of the little food and drink booths were closed, but again there was a lack of any attempt to to manage the queue with some barriers or serve people with any sort of speed. This is just a little booth with the total number of options being hotdog or tradition sausage with a drink but they still couldn't manage it and it took nearly half an hour to get our snack. It was decent value and tasty though.

Now I was starting to get worried I we wouldn't fit in both OzIris and Zeus before the day was out so we decided regardless of queue length to just do them, Oziris was nearest and just as we had seen at Zeus the queue was spilling out of the entrance and even out of the ride area all the way past the the pathway under the logflume. That is a long long way. As ever totally unmanaged, people cutting in all over the place and infuriating to be in, it took us about 50 mins just to get into the main queue.

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After about two hours we made it to the ride itself. There is no denying the area and ride itself are stunning. Beautifully themed, especially once in the indoor queue. I didn't much care though, two hours wait is too long for me in any conditions but surrounded by the stench of the French in over 100 degree heat with no cover whatsoever I've probably never been in a worse mood getting on a ride.

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Look at the huge amount of space there. Why are there not tensa barriers or something used to make some sort of queue line when it is this busy. They just make no effort with operations whatsoever.

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After all that moaning I can't deny the ride itself is near perfection. Enough people have said enough good things about it without me being able to add much insight but the standout for me are the zero g rolls, which are just so perfectly executed. I've never felt anything like it, they seem to last forever in a little bubble of floatiness. The whole thing flows beautifully and is so much fun to ride, I'm not sold on the lack of pre drop but that is probably just a case of getting used to it, other than that there is not a single moment that does not feel just right. Our back row seat was almost worth the two hours wait. Almost.

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After this we were desperate for a drink but guess what? Asterix didn't want to sell me one. It took ages to even find a stand open and then 20 minutes to get served, all the time fighting off people who wanted to push in front of me. We had only a couple of hours left so decided we had to do Zeus and from what we had seen of the queue earlier, that would be about it. Walking back down to the other side of the park we took a look at what we were missing out on which included a kiddie barrel coaster, a StormSurge-a-like (meh) and a decent looking log flume. Coming across the bobsled coaster 'Hourra' with only a small overspilling queue and a sign declaring '20 minutes from this point' we thought we'd be fine.

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Just over an hour later when we finally got on I was properly worried about not getting to Zeus on time, again taking away from how much I could enjoy the ride itself. I have something of a soft spot for Mack bobsleds and this was the best I've been on, I loved the length and feeling of out of control speed it gives. Why aren't there more of these about?

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Not knowing the queue close policy we quickly made our way to Zeus, again going passed things we wouldn't get a go on; Grand Splash, a magic carpet (meh) and a dolphin show which just started to spill out hundreds of people into a narrow pathway causing utter chaos (who the hell designed this place) to find Zeus looking exactly as it did earlier in the day but with no one telling us not to join, we did. This time there actually was someone at the entrance stopping the constant parade of queue jump attempts and as a result after 15 minutes or so we were through the legs of Zeus in the queue proper where we found every extension closed and we were on within 45 minutes. What a stupid way to run the place - build a queueline, keep it closed and let everyone line up zig zagging across a busy pathway. Utter morons.

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I love wooden coasters and had been looking forward to this for a long long time. Having said that considering its age I didn't expect Zeus to be right up there with the best of the modern stuff. How wrong I was. Again heading for the back I could not believe as we crested the lift hill how huge it was, so much of it being hidden away. The first drop into the tunnel is a stunner and it does not let up until the final brake run with huge amounts of airtime and a pleasing roughness giving it some real character. I seemed to spend just as long out of my seat as in it and as it pulled into the station I had the most ridiculous grin on my face. My top ten would be very much troubled by this ride.

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I could have ridden in over and over again. Except I couldn't as we emerged to find the queue line had been closed even though it was still about 10 minutes to park close. Assuming the day was over we wandered back towards the exit where we found Grand Splash was still open with very little queue, so we had a go on that too, which felt like a bit of a bonus really. Not a bad ride with some good water effects on the way round but ends with a poor and anticlimactic final drop.

And with that our day was over so it was back to the car for the short drive back to the hotel, which may have included me getting entirely lost and finding out that driving on that side of the road in the dark in small villages is less easy than in the daytime.

So what do I think of Asterix overall then? It is a very good looking park, a lot of the theming is spectacular, immersive and well maintained and it has two of the very best rides I have ever been on with Zeus and OzIris. But what is the point of all that if it is absolutely impossible to have a good time there? I know I was unlucky with the weather causing crazy busyness but when you are visiting from so far away, with all the cost and effort involved, it is a risk that is not worth taking if the park can be run that badly when too many people turn up. Most annoyingly it is very much designed and run with the queue jumper in mind, but unfortunately for helping them rather than stopping them.

I vowed at the end of the day I'd never go back, which is kind of shocking for a park that has rides entering my top ten twic, but I don't feel like I have actually been to Asterix and experienced what it has the potential to deliver, I've merely been on some of the rides there. Now I've thought about it a bit I probably will return one day but I won't ever base a trip around it. If I am passing I will consider it but if I turn up to 3km queues on the way in I will drive right by to somewhere that can be bothered to actually run their park rather than just open the doors and hope for the best.

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Ahhh, so basically your view of the park was done in by how horrendously busy it was (which happened to me on my first visit of the park, but I still manged to enjoy it)...

It didn't help mind about the whole sat nav issue, this is why sat navs are silly, and should be ignored...

I think any busy park makes for an awful day, but when the French are involved, it makes things a bit more awful... Cos they're French...

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Ahhh, so basically your view of the park was done in by how horrendously busy it was.

I think any busy park makes for an awful day, but when the French are involved, it makes things a bit more awful... Cos they're French...

Kind of that, yes. But a park can still be busy and run properly and although it is never ideal I've had many a good day at busy parks, even parks that I'm visiting as a one off. There are just so many issues of totally basic service and operation being wrong or nonexistent here that I imagine anything other than totally dead will be frustrating at best. The list of why? includes:

Closed queue extensions when overspilling

No overhead cover in any queue line

No staff / barriers / attempts to manage queues and queue jumpers

When it is quiet ramming small boats to capacity

No live and very very few static queue time markers

No maps and little directional signage

Poor layout creating pinch points at Dolphins and Grand Splash and a lot of dead ends

No places that sell only drink, so you have to wait for food ordering faff ahead

Painfully slow operations on anything that is not coaster shaped

Goudurix existing

Overall, too much is wrong with the place to make up for the good bits and with a few hundred miles between me and it I can't ever plan to go there again incase the same thing happens again.

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At Disneyland Paris, you queue for like 40 mins just for a McDonald's, just saying...

My Disneyland Paris report follows on from this and is incoming.....

As a preview, the longest I queued for anything was 15 minutes for Thunder Mountain without fastpass once, walk on every other time. McDonalds, the one time we went mainly for the wifi, was practically instant with their fancy touch screen ordering system.

It is not a race to the bottom, one place giving you poor service does not give everywhere else licence to be ****.

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The longest I queued was 40 minutes for a McDonalds when I went, I wish McDonalds had fastpass. The touch screen ordering system was broken, everywhere else was too expensive for us seeing as we didn't have much money then so you complaining about queuing for foods a bit :S besides in any other theme park/ thrill park etc etcc if you go around peak times you will get massive queues.

It is not a race to the bottom, one place giving you poor service does not give everywhere else licence to be ****.

Try telling English parks that, they all seem to think it's a race to the bottom...

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After that we really needed a day no where near a theme park, which was handy as we had one planned. The 20 minute train ride to the centre of Paris was a pleasure on a clean, fast, busy and incredibly cheap double decker train with a guard in each carriage, makes you realise what a pathetic train system we have in this country. On to the metro, which is very easy to navigate yourself around even if it does feel a bit dingy, we wandered around Paris without any agenda other than taking in a few of the sites and a couple of drinks.

It was my first visit since a school trip in the mid 90's as a 14 year old, of which I remember very little anyway as on that trip I discovered lager and that Frenchmen would serve absolutely anyone, so I was eager to try and take a bit more in this time. No one needs telling that Paris is a nice place to be and that there's plenty to see and do, so here's a couple of the bits we got up to.

 

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Notre Dame Cathedral. A beautiful building which remains remarkably peaceful even when it is huge cavernous space is packed with people. Religion is not my thing but at all, but this does feel like a special place.

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Drinking is more my thing, and there are a plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants along the Seine. This one was opposite the Notre Dame and very pleasant, where we got chatting to some Americans travelling Europe. This sort of thing happened a lot in Paris, with other travellers and the French themselves, something I rarely see in London. I can't work out how the French have got such a bad name for being miserable and unfriendly, that stereotype appears to be bollocks.

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This might be well known, but it was new to me. One of the bridges over the river has attracted some sort of tradition of people attaching a lock to the mesh with a message written on. Such a quirky little idea and fascinating reading some of the messages, we loved it.

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Another stroll along the Seine, another bar. In this one my 20 year old GCSE French failed me and I accidently ordered 1.5 liters of beer. Shame that!

Paris feels like a much more lived in city than most others I have visited, it is alive and vibrant and full of people going about their normal French lives with tourists among them, whereas many cities feel like almost like a theme park, like they exist only for tourists and the natives are only there to serve the tourists and find a way to take their money. We approached the Eiffel Tower just as children were leaving a junior school, literally in its shadow. The Mums, all immaculate and stylish, collecting their kids, walking to the boulangerie to pick up their fresh bread for dinner then walking or cycling off home weaving between the sightseers. It amazed me to see them going about their lives in such a typically traditional French way right in the heart of Paris.

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You can't visit Paris without doing the Eiffel, this incredibly wonky photo was taken by more friendly Americans we stumbled upon.

 

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Some sort of development work is going on in the tower, resulting in only one of four lifts working and a huge queue for that lift, so we took the stairs, all 1336 of them. The views from the top though are well worth it.

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After all that climbing felt we deserve dinner, so we went back to the Latin Quarter which was on our way home and took our pick of the many lively and inexpensive restaurants lining the narrow streets, settling on this one.

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It seems the French will not put up with crap food but the competition keeps the prices down, the food was delicious and cheap in a restaurant in the heart of Paris.again something I think you'd struggle to find in London or many other big cities. The meal was of course accompanied by a bottle of red

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or two!!

And then with a quick stop for supplies at a supermarket and it was back on the train out to our hotel, feeling entirely safe with the guard presence on the train even with the train leaving from an undesirable part of town with a couple of slightly unsavory looking characters on board, and our day was done.

If you're planning a trip to Asterix or Disney it would be criminal not to make the time for a visit into Paris itself while you are so close. A day isn't really enough and we plan to return. The other thing I got from this day of our adventure was a feeling of total faith in the French train system. I would be more than happy now to take a Eurostar into Paris without planning the onward journey and just take it from there, it is very easy to get around and travel out of the city to Disney or anywhere really.

That was the end reality on this trip for us though, and tomorrow the fantasy land of Disney awaited.

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Indeed, although I was more than happy driving around rural France, if I had driven into Paris itself I have no doubt I'd have abandoned my car there and walked back to Calais. Absolute chaos!

Around main tourist crossings there were police traffic control standing in the road waving their arms around incomprehensibly. I would have had no idea what to do with them had I been driving, but they kept the traffic flowing well. Another thing you just don't see in London where we let it all just snarl up instead. The more I think about it the more this country sucks at everything compared to France.

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I'm interested to see what you make of Euro Disney. I went quite a long time ago and even though the Studios have expanded since, I haven't heard great things about upkeep, staff, etc. I've heard that Space Mountain is getting new restraints at some point as it's ridiculously rough now. It was already pretty bad in 2005 when they cut costs for Mission 2 and didn't get new trains.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After trying to fit in more than possible for a crammed couple of days we headed off to Disney with a different frame of mind, having 4 days and 3 nights booked at the resort we knew we could relax, go at our own pace and take it all in. In fact, from what we had heard, we were a bit concerned we had too much time for the size of the place.

Driving around the edge of Paris and to Disney should be simple enough, but the signage is piss poor in places - what is the point in signs saying 'For Disney follow Marne-la-Vallee' when you then get to a junction (presumably already in Marne-la-Vallee) and the exit says it is both directions? So after some driving towards Paris instead of away from it and lost rural McDonalds staff direction translation faff we made it to our hotel by about 11.00hrs.

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We had booked the Cheyenne for one reason alone - it was cheap. Cheaper even than any off resort option we found. Having not heard great things, combined with the price, expectations were low but we were pleasantly surprised. Clean, well maintained simply but effectively themed rooms in a very pleasant western setting and a 15 minute stroll or 5 minute bus to the action. It's not classy, it's not spectacular, and I suppose it is not really Disney magic, but for our purposes it was great. The one thing we found actually bad was breakfast - the continental food is decent enough if a little dull, but the buffet area and seating is just chaos in a big cavernous room that fills with screaming din. If they are making it as unpleasant as possible to make you move on quicker and eat less they are achieving. I saw it come very close to actual fights over tables a few times, despite the timing system supposedly spreading the demand. And the sheer volume of food passing though there actually made me feel quite ill, people stuff a disgusting amount of stuff in their face when it is 'free', couldn't wait to get breakfast over with each day.

On the plus side Jessie turned up after breakfast each day!

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Check in takes a bit of time with a slow snaking queue of chaos, but on the flip side we were given a room straight away when it shouldn't have been ready until 16.00hrs. Unfortunately, after leaving out passport, park tickets and money in the room safe we went to get our baggage from the car only to find our room door jammed. When the maintenance man turned up, fiddled with the door then exclaimed "dizzasteeer!" we didn't need a translation dictionary to get the idea it was stuffed. More language barrier problems meant the staff had trouble grasping we couldn't go off to the park and have fun while they fixed it, we were stuck with them because our tickets were in there. Little things like this make you realise how stuck you can get in non English speaking countries when things go wrong if you don't speak the lingo, if something important went wrong it could be a real problem.

Anyway, after a 30 minute delay while they smashed the crap out of the door and changed our room we were off to the parks. Now no one wants to read a 4 day we did this then we did this then we did this as I take my 20th ride on Thunder Mountain, so from here I'm going to go round the park maps with my thoughts.

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We started with studios, mostly because having checked the ride opening schedule day one was the only day the tram tour was open on our visit. It really is a great tool to plan your visit with. http://news.disneyla...ar/index.xhtml#

Unfortunately for this report we didn't take many photos, we were just enjoying ourselves and not thinking about such things. Oh wells, dull report ahead.

As a term time week day we weren't expecting it to be busy, and it wasn't. Pretty much everything was walk on, except Crushes Coaster and Studio Tram Tour which hovered around 30 minutes.

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From the front, studio 1 is not the nicest start, just an outsized fast food place really, that you are forced to walk through and was getting congested even when it wasn't a busy day.

Dead ahead is the Tram Tour, set up with a very well done forced perspective which you can't really see properly here!

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The ride itself is not great to be honest - lots of props and a 'scene' from films no one has seen (something about a dragon in London? No idea) and the same special effect set piece from America which can be great but half of it doesn't work. Our carriage had no TV working so for the long gaps between much happening we had nothing to do but take in the views of the staff car park and plain construction fencing twice as the route is double backed on. Not good enough really. 3/10

Rock and Roller Coaster is something I'm not keen on in the first place, a bit of a shoehorned concept that I don't think fits Disney in any way.

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Having said that the American incarnation is a decent enough coaster, the French one though is rough as hell, like dying corkscrew rough in some seats near the back. The variations in lightshow are nice, though some are a bit too bright so the whole building seems lit up. A couple of times the building was absolutely full of dry ice, and that was superbly disorientating and improved the light show no end. The batching/preshow room does nothing, you all stand there as if you are supposed to watch something but it just is just on a loop without a start or end and you see it from different points each time. As walk on our ride count was well in the double figures so it can't be that bad. It's OK, but inconsistent. 6/10

Next door to that is the Action! stunt Show, another thing I'm comparing to its American equivalent, and again the French one comes out worse off. This time it is purely a language barrier thing, with everything being said a few times in different languages, the show can not achieve the feel spontaneity it is clearly aiming for and too much time is taken up with annoying presenter woman rather than action. The stunt show itself buried beneath all this is pretty damn impressive though, some fairly spectacular and genuinely dangerous stuff going on there, I don't see how it doesn't go spectacularly wrong occasionally. A great show slowed down to a frustrating pace with laboured presenting 7/10

The last attraction in this area is Armageddon Special Effects, something which I think is actually unique and certainly new to me.

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This was good.The pre show talk thing seems a bit daft and no one seemed to know what it was supposed to be about (practicing acting ready for the set I think), everyone was looking at the presenter with a kind of bemused look, he didn't take us with him. The set itself is good, with plenty going on and a very impressive explosion finale which really feels like you are in the middle of it, in a very real way you are - the flames are huge and very close. I can't help drawing comparisons with Backdraft as it pulls all the same tricks together in a different way, the biggest difference being the circular set with things happening on all sides. This does make it is easy to miss things compared to the all lined up looking one way Backdraft set, but the immersive feeling it gives is worth it and makes it more rerideable. Great main event, shame about the pre show. 7/10

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The Studios park sometimes feels like it loses it's way with having any kind of blend between areas / attractions. I know that is kind of the thing with a studio park - the whole premise is they are in production doing one thing here and another there, but it is so physically small that it sometimes feels a bit jarring and cramped. In a park that has been designed from scratch I don't know why they've done that. This is worst in the area loosely clustered as Toon Studio.

The star attraction here, and if queue times are to go by the whole park, is Crush's Coaster. So this MS spinner simply can't cope with the numbers required at a Disney park and the constantly full queue is a dull cattlepen which, like Asterix, leads to many queue jumping opportunities gratefully seized upon by hoards of French. They also dont stop smoking and the staff don't have any problem with any of this, we were truly grateful this ride was pretty much it for us queuing in either park, I can imagine it descending into Asterix level torture quite rapidly on busy days. As soon as we entered the building though, it was all worth while

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Mine! I've got a thing for spinners anyway, but we both LOVED this. The station and slow section of the ride are beautifully done, a mixture of animatronics and video screens blend tell the short story with care and humour leading up to a fun and decent length coaster. I've heard some people on forums give this a bad review but I don't understand that, the ride itself is superb, it's just they should have built two of them to cope with the demand. 9/10

Next door is Flying Carpets which is like Dumbo but tilting themed Aladdin style. Is what it is, 6/10

While riding that you are looking down over both Crush and Cars Rally which is a shrunken clone of those Disney figure of 8 teacups in a tiny car. Yeah it's a kids ride, but man those seats are needlessly small and uncomfortable The figure of 8 set up Disney use is good though, and they actually got a good spin on them sometimes. 6/10

Animation Academy is another direct import from USA, but they've messed this one up. It is still interesting but it doesn't work with the translations being pumped in to some headphones off of tape while the host tries to do it live in French. The hosts speakers in the room are far too loud so can be heard over the out of sync English recording and the whole thing is a headache and a mess. They should just do English an French show times, the simplest solutions are usually the best. 4/10.

The only other thing around here is the small meet and greet area consisting of two small queues to met characters with photographer. I kind of like the stumble upon meets more than this, feels a bit like a cheat to me choosing who to meet and queuing up, you should have to find them. There star was Woody btw, much longer queue than for Mickey. Poor Mickey, we gave him some company.

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I think you're the first person I've heard say that they like Armageddon. I just remember it being mostly a host trying to work out what language people spoke.

Rock 'n' Rollercoaster was so good when all the effects in the show building worked. It was way better than MGM's cardboard cutouts. There are some videos on YouTube showing it when it was new and a making of documentary as well. The outside has always been very tacky though. I see what they're going for but it doesn't work.

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Crush is pretty much that, yes. After the small drop outside of the ride building the 'show' section is short but takes you through some scenes from the film including jellyfish and sharks where you get 'blown' out of the shipwreck scene up the lifthill into the main ride. I guess having the main ride in pretty much pitch dark with nothing other than sound effects will piss off some who want the theming of the first half continued throughout, but that would defy the point of it being a spinner in the dark and the disorientation and feeling of speed that isn't really there that that brings. As a fan of spinners anyway, the coaster itself is solid. For me the queue and possibly the shortness is all it is away from being perfect. I love it.

As for Armageddon I guess the attraction as a whole is worse than I have remembered it, the pre show is actually an awful mess and some of the effects show is a bit drawn out. But the finale is so good I can't help but remember it well. If someone blows a huge fireball that close to my face I'm going to love it!

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So on to Toy Story Playland, another much derided area of DLP amongst geeks everywhere. It may just be three flat rides in a small area, but it is well themed with a lot of nice touches and just feels like a fun place to be to me.

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Probably helps that it wasn't busy, these rides look to be further throughput fails, but that didn't affect us.

To get it out the way, Slinky Dog lives up to its name and is an absolute dog of a ride. Slow, clunky, rattly and very worn taty paintwork in the seats after just a couple of years. Just awful. I don't know what the problem is, it feels like it might be a refurbed 20 year old ride, or maybe the theming on it is too heavy, or maybe it is just cheap crap. 1/10 just for the big dog head...

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With that rubbish out of the way, I didn't have too higher hopes for the other two rides as clearly they are both aimed at the kiddies. Toy Soldiers looks from off ride to be very tame, almost like a sightseeing exercise rather than a drop ride, but it actually feels rather good and the drop is just quick enough to give you the stomach being left behind feeling. It's one big downfall is the seating being in threes leading to plenty of faff even when the queues are short, and currently overlooks a building site which isn't ideal. Was the only unplanned downtime I saw on the trip too, and that was on a couple of occasions, so I'm guessing it is not the most reliable. Excellent introduction to bigger drop rides for the little ones 7/10.

The other ride here I'd always thought looked like a massive waste of time is RC Racer, which looked like a lot of effort to give a ride akin to a pirate ship, but again I was pleasantly surprised. It is quite punchy in its movement and gives a decent amount of floaty time at its extremities. It also eats through the modest queue at quite a rate. 7/10

So, Toy Story Playland - better than expected. It does feel like it lacks a central attraction and it is a bit of a crime it didn't come with a MidWay Mania, but most of what's there is decent enough.

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Raaaaar.

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Mild spoilers ahead.......

Back to the front of the park are the two shows which you'd expect Disney to do well, and they do!
CineMagique doesn't give much away from the outside, plenty of people were asking the entrance girl what it was and when told it was 'clips from old movies' didn't bother going in. It is so much more than that, telling the story of cinema through the ages by magic-ing the guy from Inner Space into the film because he is using his mobile phone in the theater. Genius. The film itself is a fantastic blend of classic cinema with our hero mixed in as he falls in love with with a black and white starlette. The real life effects, as the characters pop in and out of the screen a few times, are subtle but very effective making the whole thing blend seamlessly. Nothing I write can do it justice because to describe it as bunch of old clips, which is really what it is, goes nowhere to describe the magique it creates. 10/10

The parade coming only once a day is Cars and Stars, which if my memory is correct is near as damn it the same as the American Studios parade.

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It is quite a nicely done thing, not as spectacular as in the park next door, but a bit classier. The smaller crowds in the park mean pretty much everyone can get to the front so it feels quite personal.

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Animagique is the other proper show on offer, and this one is full on acted (or mabee puppeted) rather than projected but sometimes it is hard to tell that that is the case. It is an incredibly clever thing they are doing here, a completely dark theater with the actors wearing black suits moving luminous sets and characters around under blacklight. How they don't all run into each other I do not know, and the effect is stunning as the stage fills with movement apparently coming from nowhere as Donald dances around Mickey's imagination of Disney films (or something like that). Anyway, it's so clever I wanted to love it but it somehow left me a bit flat, maybe getting some sort of coherent story going on would help, or maybe at the end they should pull their black hoods off so we can see them (the effect is done so well I'm sure a lot of people don't even realise quite what has happened). It should be full marks and I can't quite put my finger on why it is not. 8/10

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