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TR: AJ's 2012 Summer Adventures


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LeviaTHON: Day 4 (July 29th, 2012)-Leviathan Bash at Canada's Wonderland

 

Of all the parks on the LeviaTHON tour, Canada's Wonderland was the one I was most excited about visiting. I'd heard the park referred to as Cedar Fair's second flagship park and the best former Paramount Park, plus Leviathan was my most anticipated new for 2012 coaster. In fact, I'm pretty sure that is the main reason this trip happened, and the main reason I went on the trip.

 

The event began at 8:30 A.M. with morning ERT on Leviathan. I was on either the second or third train out.

 

Leviathan: I know a lot of people were disappointed by this ride, but in my opinion this is Canada's Wonderland's best coaster. It is very smooth, has a decent amount of airtime, and maintains its speed throughout the course. Although the ride does end abruptly, I didn't feel that the coaster was too short. If you're looking for the most intense, forceful, airtime filled coaster out there, this isn't your ride, but if you want a coaster that is just pure fun, you'll love it. Definitely a top ten coaster on my personal list. A

 

At 9:15 A.M., Fly and Vortex also opened for ERT. We were scheduled to have Wild Beast as well, but due to track maintenance it wasn't available. I think the park may have opened up a substitute coaster (I believe it was Bat), but I may be incorrect and don't know for sure as I never went to find out.

 

Fly: I don't know why, but this ride seemed slightly better than the equivalent versions I've been on elsewhere. Maybe it had less braking or maybe it was just a little smoother, but I preferred this to the identical Technic Coaster and Ricochet. It's still just a wild mouse, but it's probably my favorite Mack mouse. B-

 

Vortex: Now that Eagle Fortress is closed, this may be the best suspended coaster left. The ride is short, but it flies through the course and doesn't let up until the brakes. Although the ride was a bit rougher than the other two Arrow Suspended Coasters I've been on, and the ride is about half as long, this is easily my favorite of the three. B

 

After getting a couple rides on Vortex, I waited with a group of people for Windseeker ERT at 9:45 A.M. Once the ride was open, the security guard walked us over to the attraction and we rode.

 

Windseeker: I ride the Knott's version of this attraction all the time, so I knew what to expect from this ride. I think Canada's Wonderland provides a better view, but other than that the two rides are the same.

 

We were then instructed to meet at Shockwave at 10 A.M. for a special bonus activity. Nobody had any idea what it would be, and it ended up being bonus ERT on one of the coasters not included on the Fast Lane pass: Silver Streak.

 

Silver Streak: This is the second of these rides that I've been on, and due to wider harnesses this one was slightly better due to a lack of headbanging. I'm sure the ride is great for kids, and it's still an okay ride for adults, but I wouldn't wait very long to ride it. C+

 

After Silver Streak ERT it was time for breakfast. Bagels, muffins, pastries, and fruit were served, along with coffee and juice. During breakfast, we had a Q&A with park management, during which some very interesting questions were asked (for the record, Leviathan was never destined for Knott's, the park did almost get a B&M inverted coaster instead of the Vekoma SLC, the park wants a flume but doesn't think it will happen, and Sledgehammer is the most likely ride to be removed in the near future). After this was over, we were free to explore the park, so I took off to see how many credits I could get done before lunch. My goal...get the not-so-good rides done early so I'd have more time for the good rides later.

 

Time Warp: This was my first experience with a Volare. It was...interesting. The ride was not as painful as I expected it to be, but it was still quite rough and uncomfortable. This is also probably the slowest moving line in the park, but it does have a single rider line which helped (I managed to cut my wait time in half). I'd ride this again if I returned and the line wasn't bad, but I think once per visit is enough. C+

 

Flight Deck: Flight Deck was my fifth SLC. It is the worst SLC I have been on. I generally don't have a problem with these rides, and don't mind riding if there isn't a wait. However, this one was very, very rough. I really hope it gets replaced soon, because the ride is awful and doesn't look like it is too popular anymore (I rode over two hours after opening and it still had less than a four train wait). D+

 

SkyRider: Every so often you come across a coaster that doesn't fit the mold for its type. This is that coaster for Togo. Based on my experience on Kings Dominion's Shockwave, I expected a rough and unpleasant ride, but I actually enjoyed this coaster. There are a couple rough spots, but other than that the ride is great and it delivers some of the strongest airtime in the park (quite an interesting sensation on a stand up). I still wouldn't wait more than a half hour or so for it, but if the line is short this is one Togo I will ride twice in a day. B

 

Mighty Canadian Minebuster: This must have had track work done recently, because it was a lot smoother than I had been led to believe. Still, the ride is not the most exciting since it is a simple out and back with hills that are too shallow to produce airtime. Fun ride, and the best of Canada's Wonderland's woodies, but still just an average woodie. B-

 

Bat: I don't hate boomerangs, but I don't love them either. I won't turn down a ride on one with a short wait, but once per visit is enough. This is not the worst boomerang I've been on, but it is in the bottom third, and unfortunately it had a 45 minute wait even WITH Fast Lane. They either need to let more people on per cycle (12-14 instead of 8) or eliminate Fast Lane from this ride because this is the one ride where it doesn't work. The boomerang itself I'd ride again if the line was short (two or three trains), but otherwise it's not really worth it once you have the credit. C

 

Wild Beast: I hate to say it, but this was horrible. The ride has the potential to be good, but it is just far too rough. It is not the worst wooden coaster out there, or even the worst in the Cedar Fair chain, and I have a feeling that the retracking this off-season will help the ride. I'd rather ride this than the SLC, but it's only a slight preference.C

 

Dragon Fire: I didn't think this ride was that bad compared to other Arrow coasters, but it certainly isn't the best around. If it had Fast Lane, I probably would have rode a second time, but since it didn't I only got one ride. It's a bit different with a reverse corkscrew, but other than that the ride is pretty similar to every other Arrow 2 loop, double corkscrew model. B

 

At this point, it was almost time for lunch (1:30 P.M.). Lunch at Canada's Wonderland consisted of standard amusement park food, and although the quality seemed above average for a Cedar Fair park it still wasn't anything special. We then played TPR quest, a very fun game where contestants search the audience for an item and bring it up as quickly as possible. All I can say is that this must be experienced to appreciate it fully. After the game was done, a scavenger hunt in the park was distributed, but I opted not to play since I still had credits to get and other rides to ride.

 

Thunder Run: It may just be a powered coaster, but Thunder Run was decent. It isn't the greatest capacity ride since it only has one train, but the line was still under a half hour. Yes, for the record, I am one of those people who counts powered coasters. C

 

Behemoth: Although Leviathan is larger, Behemoth still draws sizeable crowds. The two rides appear similar at first glance, but give very different ride experiences. Now, I've heard that Behemoth is generally considered to be the best B&M Mega, but I found it to be somewhere in the middle: not as good as Intimidator or Apollo's Chariot, but better than Goliath (La Ronde) and Nitro. It was still a great ride, and all five B&M mega coasters that I've ridden are still in my top 25 list, but Behemoth just had what I consider an uninteresting layout and seemed to have a bad case of the B&M rattle compared to other B&M Mega Coasters. Still my #2 at the park, but if I could only choose one I'd probably pick Leviathan.A-

 

Back Lot Stunt Coaster: I've been on this ride at Kings Dominion as well, and I think it is a great family coaster. The Kings Dominion one still had the effects working when I rode (while Canada's Wonderland's didn't), so I have a slight preference for that one, but if they have been deactivated there Canada's Wonderland's wins as it feels a little smoother. B

 

At this point, I had all my credits done except Ghoster Coaster (which I was saving until after dinner), so I decided I'd do the backstage tour of Leviathan and Wild Beast. We got to go under the station of Leviathan, then entered restricted areas to take photos of the two rides (plus Dragon Fire) from angles normally not accessible. Once this was over, I had around an hour to do flat rides before dinner.

 

Drop Tower: In my opinion, Intamin AG builds the best drop rides. This one didn't feel quite as intense as the other Intamin towers I've done, but it was still a fun ride.

 

Nightmares: After riding the UFO at Darien Lake and really enjoying it, I decided that I had to try Nightmares as well since I don't know if I'll ever get another chance to ride one of these. While Nightmares ran a shorter program, it was just as fun. Way better than a normal round-up, and definitely one of my must ride flats.

 

Shockwave: I almost didn't ride this because I was worried I would get sick on it, but I ended up enjoying the ride so much that I rode twice (a rarity for me when it comes to flats). This ride is amazing, and even if the program is as dull as people say it is, the ride is still better than 3/4 of the other flats out there. I wish I had one of these closer to me, but I don't believe there are very many in North America.

 

At this point, it was time for dinner (6 P.M.). For dinner, we had a reserved section of the Marketplace International Buffet. Once again, the food was a little better than average for Cedar Fair, but still nothing special. Also, does anyone know why Canadians have the taco toppings before the meat in the buffet line?

 

Once I was done, I joined my roommate to get my final credit (Ghoster Coaster), then I headed off to do some more flats and re-ride a few of my favorites.

 

Ghoster Coaster: A fun junior woodie, and a pretty smooth ride. Not my favorite of the Ghoster Coasters, but not my least favorite either. I also didn't realize that this ride had two trains, as RCDB says it only has one. C+

 

Sledgehammer: A unique prototype ride that unfortunately looks cooler than it is. The ride wasn't bad, but it certainly looked like it would give a more thrilling experience than it did. Given the amount of downtime this ride seems to have, I wouldn't be surprised if it left in the near future as the line was only about a three cycle wait.

 

Orbiter: A giant enterprise, the last in North America. Orbiter was a fun ride, but it really didn't feel any different from a standard enterprise (not that that's a bad thing, as enterprises are one of the better flats).

 

Swings of the Century: Just your average waveswinger, although in a small secluded area instead of right on the main midway. I happened to be walking by right as it was beginning to load and could get right on with my Fast Lane wristband, otherwise I probably would have skipped it.

 

Krachenwagen: Bumper cars. They weren't bad, as the cars moved at a decent speed, but the park does have the one way rule and there are more cars than there probably should be for this size of arena. Again, something I only did because I could get right on with my Fast Lane wristband.

 

Spinovator: I'm sure there is a more technical name for this ride, but I call it an inclined scrambler. I like these rides more than a normal scrambler, mainly because they seem to spin faster. Even though there was no Fast Lane line for this one, it was only a one cycle wait anyway.

 

I then headed back to our tent in the picnic area for a dessert of cake. While at dessert, Robb announced that there would be bonus ERT on Taxi Jam at 9:30 P.M., and Wild Beast would be added to night ERT since it wasn't available in the morning. I just hung out at the tent and took a peek at some historic documents the PR people had brought out for us, then headed with a group to Taxi Jam when it was time.

 

Taxi Jam: Yay, bonus credit! Well, at least a bonus for me since a child is usually required and I didn't plan to get the credit. The ride's a Miler kiddie coaster, not a bad ride but also nothing special about it. Definitely fun for kids, but for coaster enthusiasts it is just another credit. C

 

After Taxi Jam, I had time for a quick night ride on Vortex before night ERT began. First, I headed to Back Lot Stunt Coaster for the water challenge. For those that have never done a water challenge, it is as simple as it sounds: You ride the coaster with a cup of water and see how much you have left when you get to the end. Back Lot Stunt Coaster is a very difficult coaster to do this on, and I lost all my water both times I rode. I then headed to Behemoth, and roe that until it closed at 10:45 P.M., then spent the rest of the night on Leviathan (with a side trip to Wild Beast with about ten other people, just to show that crew some appreciation for keeping the ride open for us). At 11:45, the bus headed back to the hotel, and I got a quick shower and went to bed. The next day would be a 6 A.M. departure, and those are no fun at all.

 

Overall Thoughts: Canada's Wonderland was my favorite park of the LeviaTHON trip, and is my favorite Cedar Fair park as well (yes, better than Cedar Point). The park just feels very different than any other Cedar Fair park, with a lot of greenery and some decent attempts at theming. While many of the coasters are not spectacular (Cedar Point does beat them in that respect), Canada's Wonderland has an excellent non-coaster collection featuring quite a few rare or unique rides in addition to the standard amusement park staples. I also do think the food quality here was slightly better than it is at other Cedar Fair properties. Other small things, like the excellent ride operators and operation of as many ride vehicles as possible show that this park really cares about giving their guests a good experience. Of course, my opinion could be inflated slightly by the amazing job the park did with Leviathan Bash. I've enjoyed every bash I've been to, but I think Leviathan Bash may be my favorite (WCB SFMM 2010 and Knott's 2012 are very close runner-ups). The PR people who were with us for the event (and whose names I unfortunately forget) were outstanding.

 

One more comment about the park...we visited on what others have told me was a very light day. I've heard it is not uncommon for this park to see lines approaching 3 hours during summer weekends. If you only have one day in the park, invest in Fast Lane. It is a bit pricey, but will allow you to ride everything and get plenty of re-rides. With the exception of Bat, none of the rides was more than a three train wait with Fast Lane, and on the flats you always got put on the next cycle. Canada's Wonderland does a great job with merging in Fast Lane users at the loading platform, so I never heard any complaints from other guests. Seriously, it is worth it at this park, and probably at every other big Cedar Fair park as well (although I haven't used the system elsewhere).

 

Ride Count:

 

Back Lot Stunt Coaster: 4

Bat: 1

Behemoth: 4

Dragon Fire: 1

Drop Tower: 2

Flight Deck: 1

Fly: 1

Ghoster Coaster: 1

Krachenwagen: 1

Leviathan: 7

Mighty Canadian Minebuster: 2

Nightmares: 1

Orbiter: 1

Shockwave: 2

Silver Streak: 1

SkyRider: 2

Sledgehammer: 1

Spinovator: 1

Swings of the Century: 1

Taxi Jam: 1

Thunder Run: 1

Time Warp: 1

Vortex: 3

Wild Beast: 2

Windseeker: 1

 

Total: 44 rides in 15 hours (2.93 rides per hour)

 

Coaster Rankings:

 

1. Leviathan

2. Behemoth

3. Vortex

4. Back Lot Stunt Coaster

5. SkyRider

6. Dragon Fire

7. Mighty Canadian Minebuster

8. Fly

9. Silver Streak

10. Ghoster Coaster

11. Thunder Run

12. Time Warp

13. Bat

14. Wild Beast

15. Taxi Jam

16. Flight Deck

 

Pictures:

 

Most of these are from the backstage tour, so I'll start with the ones that aren't.

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Welcome to Canada's Wonderland. Here's a picture of me.

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I think this park has more trees than trash cans. It must be a sign of the apocalypse.

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But we're not here to count cans, we're here to ride this thing.

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Leviathan towers over everything else in the park.

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Don't forget, we've also got ERT on the insect-themed wild mouse.

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I can see a day where Ninja is the last suspended coaster in the US. Fortunately, Vortex isn't in the US, so it wouldn't have to close for that to come true.

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We also had ERT on the mini SLC, which was better than the full size version.

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Let's check out some of Canada's Wonderland's other rides. For example, Klockwerks.

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Sledgehammer, although a unique ride, is not really a must ride at this park.

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Canada's Wonderland has to be the nicest Cedar Fair park in terms of landscaping.

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Seriously, parts of the park look more like Busch Gardens.

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Wonder Mountain, home to a waterfall. It isn't Niagara Falls, but that's not a bad thing.

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This is one of the rides that I will not ride.

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I had every intention of riding this, but after watching, I decided I didn't want to spend a third day in a row in soaking wet clothes.

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I wish the ride was still called Dragon Fyre. It fits with the medieval theme a bit better.

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At least the dragon is still here. This is better theming than you will see in most Cedar Fair parks.

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Spinovator, the best scrambler type ride I've been on for intensity (Astrosphere still wins for overall experience).

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I think this drop tower would be more impressive if it wasn't right next to a coaster 80 ft taller.

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If I had some Canadian money and didn't have to cram everything in a carry-on suitcase, I would be very tempted to play this game.

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It is now time for a backstage tour of this ride.

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I do not know why, but one train was removed from Leviathan in the middle of the afternoon.

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Underneath the station of Leviathan. It felt like it was at least 100 degrees in here.

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A crane used for off-season work.

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I fully support first ride auctions when the money goes to a worthy cause.

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This is the computer that runs Leviathan. Don't pull that lever!

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Heading out into the backstage area to get some special shots of Leviathan.

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Due to the length of Leviathan, with two trains running it was 2-3 minutes between trains.

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In the meantime, I took some pictures of Dragon Fire.

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It still amazes me that Leviathan's brake run is taller than any point on this ride.

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One beast through another.

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We were pretty much allowed to go anywhere we wanted in here. Yes, it was perfectly safe.

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On Dragon Fire, you get screwed in reverse.

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I didn't know Leviathan was a Diving Machine.

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While this tunnel could use a nicely-themed entrance, I think it's fine the way it is as well.

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New hotness above old and (not quite) busted.

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This looks just like a ride at Darien Lake, but there's something different about it.

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We also got a backstage look at Wild Beast (which should still be called Wilde Beaste).

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That sign should also say "Good Luck!"

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The predecessor to GCI's fan curves.

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When watching the ride in motion from here, you could see the train bouncing along the track.

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These numbers are all over Wild Beast. I'm guessing they are left over from construction and still used to designate sections of track.

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This is the point where the pain begins. It lasts for approximately 75 seconds. Hopefully, with a retracking job it will go away.

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This turnaround is the smoothest part of the ride, but it could be because it is very slow.

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This turn also wasn't that bad, but it is rougher. The bottoms of the drops and the fan turn were the worst.

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Darkness descends over Medieval Faire. Once again, this is more theming than any other Cedar Fair park (except for Knott's).

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And I'll leave you with a picture of the coolest ride sign I've seen in a while. Thanks for a great event TPR and Canada's Wonderland. One more day of the tour to go.

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Let's finish LeviaTHON off.

 

LeviaTHON: Day 5 (July 30th, 2012)-Marineland Theme Park

 

The final day of the trip began abruptly, with a 6 A.M. departure. Since Marineland opens at 9 A.M. instead of 10 like most parks, and it was about a 90 minute drive from our hotel, we had to leave this early for ERT. Once we got to the park, we were escorted back to Dragon Mountain for an hour of ERT on this Arrow Custom Looping Coaster.

 

Dragon Mountain: Dragon Mountain is a very bizarre ride. It is an Arrow looping coaster, but it feels a lot more like a mine train. The ride begins with a couple loops, but until the end of the coaster it just meanders all over the hillside. It is a long ride (3 and a half minutes) and has two lengthy tunnels, in addition to one of the longest lifthills ever (it even needs two chains). The ride is mostly smooth, and it is a fun coaster, but I don't think Dragon Mountain is good enough to justify a trip here just to ride it. B

 

After five consecutive rides on Dragon Mountain, I decided I had had enough and headed down to look at the nearby bear enclosure. There has been a lot of publicity about Marineland lately and accusations of neglect, but with the exception of one bear (pictured below), they all appeared perfectly healthy. Once the park officially opened, I headed off with a small group of fellow TPR participants (I think it was Michael, Corey, Corey's friend, Tim, and Amanda) to go get the other credit and explore the park.

 

Lady Bug Coaster: The smallest Tivoli coaster I've been on, this was still fun for a kiddie coaster. It did 4 or 5 laps, so the ride was a decent length. Unfortunately, we got line jumped and the operator didn't do anything about it, resulting in our group of six having to split up. The first of several annoyances on this day. D

 

Space Adventure: Little more than a Dumbo type attraction, but the cars had the ability to spin. Tim said this was called a Video Telecombat, and that these rides used to have television screens in them. Riders would play a game with their ride vehicle moving accordingly. Based on the vehicle shape and controls, I definitely could see that. It was okay, enjoyable to try but probably not something I'd bother with again if there was a line.

 

Viking Adventure: A supersized Rockin' Tug that looked like it was built in the 80s. This ride was quite good, and spun faster than I expected, leaving all of us a bit dizzy. Probably the best ride in the kids area, and one of the better rides in the park.

 

Since there was nothing else we cared about in the family ride section, we decided to head over to the thrill rides. En route, we stopped by Friendship Cove to see the whales. Once again, I didn't notice anything wrong with them, although the Killer Whale did look lonely. The issue I have with this exhibit is the extremely basic design, which looks like the park just put a couple tanks in and built a walkway around them. There is no shade in the upper viewing area, and the underwater viewing is just a acrylic window in the wall with a nearby sign. The tanks themselves were also devoid of anything other than the animals. Maybe I have higher standards from visiting SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo regularly, but the exhibit seemed very lacking.

 

Anyway, continuing on with the rides...

 

Flying Dragon: I like these magic carpet rides, so this was fun. It's not the most intense ride out there, but it was a good fit for this park. The cycle was also just the right length to give a good ride without being overly repetitive.

 

Wave Swinger: Standard swing ride, but the area around it looked nice. However, a decent number of the chairs (I want to say around ten) were broken.

 

Sky Hawk: This is the one flat that I really wanted to ride here because I'd never been on a Condor before (both of the ones on the North East trip were closed). This ride ran a much longer cycle than I expected, and longer than I believe most run. It began at ground level, then the ride lifted up about halfway and paused for roughly 30 seconds before continuing to the top of the tower. At the top, the ride slowed down and gave a scenic view for a bit before returning to full speed, then descending at the end of the cycle. Total, the ride probably lasted 3-4 minutes and it was the best flat in the park (excluding Sky Screamer).

 

After Sky Hawk, we decided to get lunch, which meant a long trek to the park's only full restaurant. We then made an even longer trek to the top of the hill to ride Sky Screamer, which had finally opened.

 

Sky Screamer: This is probably my favorite S&S tower. Not only is it a 300 ft combo tower, but it is located on top of a hill that is at least 100 ft tall. The views from the top are great, and since it pauses for about 10 seconds before dropping you have time to appreciate them. Unfortunately, I was only able to ride once since the line was 45 minutes due to one tower operation (a second tower opened later and the third didn't look like it had been used all season).

 

After Sky Screamer, we went and checked out some of the animal exhibits. With the exception of the aquarium, I didn't see anything that looked like a problem. In the aquarium, however, most of the animals did look sickly and there was a nasty smell everywhere. The whole thing looked like it used to be used for performances, but became neglected after they ended. Based on this, I do think it is possible there are behind-the-scenes issues with the park, but I certainly think the problems have been significantly exaggerated. We also checked out the arcade, which was filled with games I remember playing 15 years ago. Finally, we saw the one animal show at the park, which started out good but had a boring second half. It didn't help that the sound system is archaic and it was nearly impossible to understand what was being said. By 3 P.M., I had run out of things to do and was glad to leave.

 

Overall Thoughts: I am glad I got the chance to visit Marineland, as I've been curious about it since I saw the place in 2008, but now that I've been I doubt I'll ever go back. The park is just very bland, with about a dozen rides spread out over an area larger than Cedar Point, and with the exception of Dragon Mountain and Sky Screamer nothing is really that great. In fact, everything except Sky Screamer seems like it was built in the 80s or earlier. The animal exhibits are inferior to those I've seen at almost any other animal park, and are few and far between. Finally, the real killer is the admission price, as there simply isn't enough to justify a $45 ticket. If the park added something major, and I was in the area, and I found a 50% discount, I'd probably go back, but other than that or another TPR trip to the park I highly doubt I'll be returning.

 

Ride Count:

 

Dragon Mountain: 5

Lady Bug Coaster: 1

Space Adventure: 1

Viking Adventure: 1

Flying Dragon: 1

Wave Swinger: 1

Sky Hawk: 1

Sky Screamer: 1

 

Total: 12 rides in 8 hours (1.5 rides per hour)

 

Departing Marineland, we crossed the border to the US and headed back to Buffalo Airport. Along the way, the 2013 TPR trips discussion took place. I won't give any specifics away (Robb and Elissa should be announcing the trips shortly after returning from China), but I will say that there will be trips in Asia and North America (possibly outside the US), and maybe something in Europe as well.

 

We got to the airport around 4:30, a bit earlier than planned, so I had plenty of time to kill before my flight. Unfortunately, my plane was delayed and I was worried I'd miss my connection in Atlanta due to a short layover, but I ended up barely making it since the flight waited for me. I got back to LAX around 12:15 A.M., marking the end of my trip.

 

Overall Thoughts on LeviaTHON: LeviaTHON was the shortest and most intense of the three TPR trips I've taken so far, but it was still a lot of fun. Although I enjoyed the park selection more on last year's North East trip, I think LeviaTHON was overall the best TPR trip I've done. I enjoyed the parks we went to, even if a couple of them weren't the greatest, the randomness of the first day was fun, even though I had limited interest in Niagara Falls it was still an enjoyable stop, and I especially enjoyed getting to know everyone on the trip. For the first time, I think I managed to meet most of the participants (probably 80-90%), and even some of the people who I was on a previous trip with I didn't really get to know until this one. The only thing I really disliked about the trip was the weather, but that is outside of Robb and Elissa's control and can't be helped.

 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...If you are even considering taking a TPR trip, save your money and sign up for one. Robb and Elissa really do an amazing job putting them together, and if something goes wrong they do their best to fix it. These trips are the best way to visit parks and even if they may seem pricey they are an extremely good value. By the end of the trip, you will be exhausted and you will be sore, but you'll have had a great time visiting amusement parks with others who share a common interest, not to mention all the random stuff that occurs on these tours. Seriously, just give it a try, and if you find out it's not for you then that's unfortunate. More than likely, however, you'll be hooked. I know I am, and although I likely will be unable to join a 2013 tour I look forward to taking more trips with TPR at some point in the future.

 

Well, that's the end of LeviaTHON. Next week, I'll start with my Europe trip. While there is some park stuff later on (including a whole update for Disneyland Paris), the first couple updates will be mainly other random stuff. So...yeah. Marineland pictures below.

 

Pictures:

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According to the tower, we are in the right place.

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Marineland is right on the border. I'm guessing it probably gets a decent number of American visitors in addition to Canadians.

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But enough about that, we're here for ERT on the coaster.

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When walking around Marineland, it feels more like a city park than an amusement park.

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In Canada, you're not allowed to go rock climbing while cosplaying as Peter Pan.

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What is that thing? If it's supposed to be a dragon, it's the most messed up dragon I've ever seen. It looks more like a ram.

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Hooray, there is a coaster back here.

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Dragon Mountain is the only coaster in existence with a Bowtie.

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Too bad this is SBNO. I would have liked to try a topple tower, even if they are considered to be mediocre.

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To give you an idea how spread out Marineland is, this is near the entrance to Dragon Mountain. Magic Experience (that flat right in the center) is the closest ride, and Sky Hawk (the tower in the distance) is the next closest.

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If we have access to the animal exhibit before the park opens, does that count as EVT (Exclusive Viewing Time).

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This bear looked off. I don't know why. The rest all looked normal.

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I never got a chance to ride this, and I honestly have no idea what it does. It looks pretty spinny, however.

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Why does the drop tower not open until noon? We had to walk all the way back here after lunch just to ride it.

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I didn't go in here, but it looked like a deer petting zoo. It was gigantic, so I wonder how many deer were actually in this thing.

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Time to ride the kiddie coaster.

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Viking Adventure. Biggest surprise of the park (well, other than Dragon Mountain).

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This park had an excessive number of Beluga Whales.

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On the other hand, there was only one Killer Whale.

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This guy looked bored and lonely, as he just swam in circles the whole time I was down here.

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Nothing like the restaurant at Disneyland.

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Yay, Sky Screamer opened. Unfortunately, they're only running one tower.

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You get a good view of the surrounding area from up here.

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Niagara Falls, Canada.

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Marineland really has plenty of room to expand the park if they ever choose to do so. However, since the new aquarium was announced in 2006 and vertical construction hasn't even started yet, I've got a feeling nothing happens quickly at this place.

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And we'll end with an overview of Dragon Mountain. This is about all you can see of the ride from within the park.

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Okay, now that LeviaTHON is done, we're going back in time to the beginning of July.

 

Due to a gift my dad recieved for Christmas, our big summer trip for 2012 ended up being a two week trip to Europe. Although my brother and sister were initially hesitant about the trip, we eventually decided to go. After a significant amount of planning, we settled on the following itinerary:

 

July 4th: Depart LAX for LHR

July 5th-6th: London

July 7th-8th: Venice

July 9th: Chamonix

July 10th: Le Mans

July 11-15th: Paris

July 16th: London

July 17th: Fly Home

 

To best present this report, I will be condensing the 13 day trip into 6 sections: two for London (one for each part), one for Venice, one for the drive to Paris, one for Paris itself, and one for the only actual parks we visited on the trip...Disneyland Paris. Note that other than Disneyland Paris, most of these are pictures of random non-park tourist attractions, although we did visit a family entertainment center in Chamonix and a carnival in Paris.

 

Europe Trip-Part 1: London (July 5th-6th)

 

The trip officially began at around 5 P.M. when our Virgin Atlantic flight left LAX. The flight was uneventful, and although I do not like flying I didn't have that much of an issue with the 11 hour flight.

 

We landed at London Heathrow around noon, and after purchasing Oyster cards we took a train to our hotel near Victoria Staton. We dropped luggage off in the rooms, got a quick lunch at McDonalds, and headed over to the nearest departure point for The Original Tour, a two and a half hour double decker bus tour of London.

 

The tour was a great way to see the city. I don't remember everything that we went past, but I know most of the city's major landmarks were included. The route started by Victoria Station and headed up past Hyde Park to Regent's park, then took Regent Street back to the river and roughly followed that back and forth from Tower Bridge to Lambeth Bridge, then ended with a drive by Buckingham Palace before returning to Victoria Station. If you know London, then good. If you don't, see the following map (we were on the City Sightseeing Tour (red line)).

 

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The map was a bit too big to scan, but I think this shows it well enough to get a general idea. Start at the 4 (lower part of the map, a little to the left) and follow the arrows.

 

That night, we were all tired, but we went out to dinner with my uncle (who just happened to be in town on his way to Ireland) before having an early night. I think I was asleep by 9 P.M.

 

The next day was our London sightseeing day. The first planned stop was the Tower of London, one of the icons of the city. This place was pretty cool, and was the closest we got to a legitimate castle on this trip. We spent around two hours touring the grounds and seeing the Crown Jewels. We then headed to the nearby Tower Bridge to tour that. The views from the top were good, but the museum was a little disappointing as it showed old technology and not the current workings of the bridge. We then caught a boat from Tower Pier down to Westminister Pier, where we crossed over to the London Eye. My dad and I enjoyed this, my brother and sister not as much. It gave a pretty good view of the city from the top, and was definitely worth doing, but for the price I don't think I'd do it again.

 

After dinner, we headed over to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery. I'm not the biggest fan of art museums, but I think this may have been my favorite of the three we visited on the trip. We only spent an hour or so here, but that was about all the time required to see everything. We then headed to Leicester Square just to check it out, then caught the underground back to our hotel from Piccadilly Circus.

 

The next day, we woke to find that my brother wasn't feeling well and my sister had got very little sleep, so my Dad and I headed to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard without them. I don't know why this is so popular, because I found it uninteresting and almost everyone else I know whose seen it has had similar feelings. We ended up leaving halfway through because we had a flight to catch, as the next destination on the trip was Venice, Italy.

 

Overall, London was great. It was probably my favorite of the three main cities on the trip. The city is very easy to get around, with an excellent public transportation network, most of the places we went were very clean, and most of the people we encountered were very nice and helpful. The city was very interesting, with a blend of old and modern architecture yet nothing looked out of place. It was also a great place to start the trip because while it didn't feel quite like the US, it wasn't terribly removed from it either.

 

Pictures:

 

I have a ton of pictures from London. The first half are the bus tour, and then the others are the various things we did the next day.

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Welcome to London. If you don't know what this is, you've been out of it for a while.

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Our trip began with a bus tour of the city.

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The tour started out by Hyde Park, where we passed these statues. I don't remember what the guide said the significance of them was.

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Another random statue.

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At the end of the road was the Marble Arch.

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London was the host of the 2012 Olympic Games. Various preparations were underway, and it was amazing how much had changed when we returned a week and a half later.

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Something that is different about Europe is that signs are often attached to buildings instead of being located on poles over the road. In fact, I don't think I saw a single traffic signal on an overhanging beam.

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One of the random old buildings we drove by. These are side by side with...

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Newer, modern buildings such as this.

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The Telecom Tower. I think we got closer to it at some point, but I can't remember for sure.

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Hamleys is the largest toy store in the world.

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Her Majesty's Theater, one of many theaters in the city.

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Now we're approaching Trafalgar Square. This is what I would define as the center of London.

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An overview of the Square, with the National Gallery behind it.

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Fast food places were all over London. Most of the major American chains were present here in much greater numbers than I saw anywhere else.

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If you think that is London Bridge, you are wrong.

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This attraction seemed popular. I guess it's some type of elaborate haunted house. We didn't investigate further.

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Time to cross one of the most famous bridges in the world.

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Tower Bridge POV!

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I have no idea why the rings were up like this. Every other time we saw them, they were hanging down.

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The Tower of London. We'll get back here momentarily.

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Westminister Abbey. This must mean we are near...

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Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment.

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Just in case anyone was wondering what time it is.

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The London Eye, one of the largest observation wheels in the world.

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MI6 is somewhere down here. I think it's the building on the left.

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A quick drive by Buckingham Palace, and then it's back to Victoria Station.

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By the way, this is Victoria Station. It was our base camp during both stays in London.

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Now onto the Tower of London.

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I don't know if this can legitimately be called a castle, but it certainly looked somewhat like one.

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Entering via the Traitor's Gate was basically a death sentence.

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I don't think anyone wants to be on this thing. It looks painful.

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Part of the tower looked like a small village. This is the Queen's House, complete with a guard.

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Inside Beauchamp Tower was this room.

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Upstairs was a room where prisoners were kept. Old graffiti was etched into the walls everywhere.

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Several cannons stood outside Waterloo Block, where the Crown Jewels are housed.

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We then headed inside the White Tower, located at the center of the complex.

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Inside were a bunch of medieval weapons and armor, as well as various other displays.

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An old coin press located inside the tower.

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Apparently, a dragon also lives here.

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After a walk around the outer wall, it was off to the Tower Bridge.

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A view downriver from the top of the bridge.

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Most of the city is located in the other direction.

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Inside the museum, you could view old machinery.

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It was neat, but I would have much rather seen the mechanism that currently moves the bridge.

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One last shot of the bridge before we board the boat to head downriver.

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Crusing down the Thames gave us a different view of the sights we had seen the previous day.

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Tate Modern museum, another museum that will have to wait for a future visit.

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Even though this isn't the original Globe Theater, I'd still enjoy seeing a performance here.

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I think London Bridge fell down.

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This was the last picture I got on this day because I had fogotten to charge my camera. We now jump to...

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Buckingham Palace. This is the crowd approximately 30 minutes before the Changing of the Guard is due to start.

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Instead of standing by the gate, we stood on this little island in the middle of the square.

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The statue on the central island.

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While we waited, some horses paraded by.

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Then this group of guards marched past.

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When we left, something was going on inside the gates of the palace, but we couldn't stay. We had a flight to catch, and quite honestly, I don't think we missed anything.

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Great trip report of London! I actually got back to LAX from LHR on July 3rd! Great pictures! London is such a wonderful city, it is easy to get around and has LOADS to see! I also thought Changing of the Guards was quite boring and we left in the middle of it to go to the London Eye, Ha!

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I never got a chance to ride this, and I honestly have no idea what it does.

 

To put it broadly it feels alot like a Breakedance with inverted cars. On a finer view the arms go up and down during the ride, the cars can be stopped, rotate freely or rotate at operator-controlled speed. Also in my experience park-installed Magic's have more punch than the traveling variant. It's a quite fun ride with HUSS-typical Gs.

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Almost every caption has a negative statement, weather it be about the photo itself or comparing it to another attraction that is 'worse than' or 'better than' the item photographed.

 

I found this to be one of the most depressing trip reports I've ever read on TPR.

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In answer to your question about the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge, they have to be raised when the bridge is raised to allow clearance for ships so in your picture from London Bridge where the rings are up, it would be either because the bridge was then about to go up or because it had just come down and the rings hadn't yet been lowered back to their normal position

 

I hope that helps

 

Andrew

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^Okay, I thought it might be something like that. We stopped before crossing for a short length of time, so I guess it must have just opened. When standing on the bridge, they looked high enough and far enough forward to not be an issue, but I guess that isn't the case.

 

Time to continue...

 

Europe Trip-Part 2: Venice (July 7th-8th)

 

We left London Gatwick Airport on an early afternoon flight down to Venice. Since the city is located on an island and our hotel was on the far side from the bus station, we opted to take a water bus from the airport to St. Mark's Square. It took at least an hour and a half, but at least we didn't have to cart our luggage through the city. After dropping off our luggage, we got an early dinner and then hung out in St. Marks Square that evening.

 

The next day, we spent our morning wandering the city aimlessly. I usually don't like going anywhere without a plan, but it was actually quite fun. We took a break in the hotel room during the hot and crowded part of the afternoon, then took a boat out to Lido in the late afternoon. On the way back, we took a different line that went through the grand canal, then ended the day with a gondola ride. If you ever visit the city and you want to do this (recommended if you don't mind splurging a bit), do it during the day, as we learned they're about 20% less during the day than they are at night.

 

On Monday, July 9th, we once again took a boat up the canal to the bus terminal, also the location of the car rental shops. After a bit of a wait, we got our car and were off on our drive to Paris.

 

I'll admit that Venice was always the part of the trip I was least interested in, as I've never had much of an interest in visiting the city. I would have rather included Germany in the trip than Italy, but I was overruled by my brother and sister. Despite this, I did enjoy visiting Venice, and I'm glad I went as it was a very interesting place. Very, very different from any other city I've been to. I doubt I'll ever go back, as I prefer visiting places to do things and not just to get away, and Venice certainly seems like more of a getaway destination, but I'm really glad I saw the city.

 

Pictures:

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The view from the airport while waiting for the water bus. The dock is about a five minute walk from the terminal (in Venice, distances are measured in minutes).

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The view from our hotel room.

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Unlike America, most European hotels have windows that open.

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Time for a tour of Venice.

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The city is made up of a bunch of streets criss-crossing all over the island.

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The Grand Canal from near the Rialto Bridge.

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The Grand Canal provides easy access to all parts of the city. Depending on time of day, there were sometimes a ton of boats on it.

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I have a feeling this market is busier on weekdays. We were here on Sunday, when it was empty.

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Once you get away from the main tourist areas, there is nobody around (at least in the morning).

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Every so often, we'd find a square with a couple restaurants and shops.

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I have no idea what this building was, but I think it may have been a church.

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There are few trees in Venice, but they are generally more common on the western part of the island.

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Parts of the city looked somewhat similar to Tokyo DisneySea, and I'm guessing it's one source of inspiration for that park.

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Nobody here. This would not be the case in the afternoon.

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Another random chruch.

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This is what construction looks like in Venice.

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There is actually a park in Venice. No, not an amusement park.

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Random statue.

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A pathway lined with foliage.

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Picture of my sister and dad. My brother declined inclusion in this picture.

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This statue was in the middle of a pond.

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Since we had passes for Venice's aquatic transportation system, we decided to head out to Lido for a short while.

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Fun Fact: I have stepped into the Mediterranean Sea, but I haven't entered the Atlantic Ocean despite visiting a beach on last year's North East tour.

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Night begins to fall on St. Marks Square.

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We never bothered to visit St. Mark's Basilica. It just wasn't of importance to any of us.

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We also didn't go up the Campanile because seeing the city by foot is better than getting an overview from the tower.

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Night falls in the city of Venice.

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And thus our short stay in the city ends. I'm glad we visited, but I don't see much draw in going back.

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Oh, one more picture. Venice has named streets just like any other city, but here the signs are painted onto the sides of buildings.

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Europe Trip-Part 3: The Drive to Paris (July 9th-11th)

 

When planning our route out, one of the things we didn't decide on until later in the planning stages was how we were going to get from Venice to Paris. We considered both flying and taking a train before settling on driving, and then we eventually settled on a route that would take us through France, with stops at Chamonix and the beaches of Normandy. Although the car rental wasn't cheap, this allowed us to see more of the country and was definitely more fun than a different transport method would have been.

 

The drive began around 11 A.M. on Monday, July 9th when we picked up our car in Venice. After a six hour drive, including one stop for lunch, we arrived at Chamonix Mont-Blanc. We checked into our hotel, then headed over to Parc de Loisirs, a small family entertainment center at the base of one of the valley's several ski areas. Our main reason for visiting was the alpine coaster, Luge de Chamonix. My dad and I did one of these previously at Park City last winter, but for my brother and sister this was their first experience on one. It was quite fun, and although only about half the length of the Park City ride and a little less intense, I would much rather pay 5.50 € for this one than $20 for the Park City one. We also tried several of the self-operated never in America rides such as Sky dive (zipline attraction), komet (mini pirate ship) and my personal favorite, nautic (jumping boat). We then spent the evening wandering around town and checking the place out.

 

The next day, we headed up the Aiguille du Midi cable car to the top of the 3842 meter (12,600 foot) peak. It's not quite the top of Mont-Blanc, but it's close and gives an excellent view of the surrounding area. We also took the Helbronner Gondola across to Pointe Helbronner on the Italian side of the mountains. Once we were done here, we headed back down and resumed our drive, covering the majority of France as we drove from Chamonix to Le Mans using a scenic route. As it was nearly nightfall when we arrived, we didn't do much that evening other than drive around the city for a bit.

 

Wednesday was the last day of our drive, but instead of going straight to Paris, we drove out to the beaches of Normandy. Of all the places we visited on the trip, this is probably the one with the most historical significance to Americans. It was interesting to see where D-Day occurred and where the tide of World War II changed. It's also different from many other historical sites as there are still people alive who fought here. I would definitely recommend that anyone visiting France for sightseeing include this in their trip, if for no other reason than to say they've been here.

 

After we were done at Normandy, we made the three hour drive to Paris. Originally, our plan was to get an early dinner and visit the Louvre this evening as it was a late night, but due to the horrible Paris traffic (seriously, I'd say it was worse than Los Angeles) we had to completely reorganize our Paris schedule. Originally, it would have been:

 

Wednesday evening: Louvre

Thursday: Notre Dame, Catacombs, Musee d'Orsay, and general sightseeing

Friday: Disneyland Paris

Saturday: Versailles, Bastille Day festivities

Sunday: Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, and more general sightseeing

 

However, it ended up becoming:

 

Wednesday evening: minor sightseeing

Thursday: Disneyland Paris

Friday: Catacombs, Louve, and general sightseeing

Saturday: Versailles, Eiffel Tower, Bastille Day festivities

Sunday: Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Arc du Triomphe, and more general sightseeing

 

So, with the plan for a very long day at Disneyland tomorrow, we got dinner and then returned to the hotel for the evening.

 

Pictures:

 

The first half are Chamonix, and the second half are from Normandy.

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To get to Chamonix from Venice, it is necessary to drive. After a somewhat boring drive from Venice to Milan, we were greeted by the sight of mountains.

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Small castles were scattered all over the hills up here.

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Is this castle bigger than Disneyland's?

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The elevation of some of these peaks is high enough that snow remains all year.

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In the US, mountain roads are often quite windy, but in Europe the builders prefer to just tunnel through whatever is in their way.

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The tunnel crossing from Italy to France was about ten miles long.

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Once you get through it, however, it is just a short descent to Chamonix.

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Of course, this would be our first stop in the valley.

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This place is a family entertainment center in the summer, but a ski area in the winter.

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The main chairlift. The alpine coaster covers almost the entire slope to the left of the lift.

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But as fun as the alpine coaster was, I was more excited about trying some of the never in America rides (finally, I got a picture of my brother).

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The pirate ship was fun and all, but there's something even better here.

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Nautic! The ride is basically a 2-3 story ramp...

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That leads into a jump into a small pond. They are quite common in Europe, but I've got a feeling it wouldn't last a week in any American park.

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That's about it for Parc de Loisirs. There's more to do in Chamonix.

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Random picture from our hotel room.

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Now it's the next day, so it's time to head up to Aguille du Midi (that little peak in the upper left corner).

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Two cable cars (or aerial tramways as they are official known) are required to access the peak.

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Our tram approaches.

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A view from the cabin on the way up.

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We've now reached the midpoint of the journey. The upper section is hard to see because the lift has no towers, and is just a few suspended cables a couple of kilometers long.

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Once you get to the top, the view is excellent.

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Even in the summer, it was quite chilly at this elevation.

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The Helbronner gondola looks quite old, but it could easily just be the unique design.

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Mont-Blanc, the actual summit of the mountain.

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Two days ago, I stood in the ocean. Today, I could go skiing.

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The gondola ride is ten kilometers round trip and takes an hour to complete. This was about ten minutes in. The start point is just to the right of that peak.

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This is a popular hiking spot.

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Pools of water on the glacier.

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Other passengers making the return journey. Since this is a pulse gondola, there were twelve sets of three four-person cabins, and the lift would slow frequently for loading and unloading.

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20 minutes in, one more hump down.

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Instead of a tower, this is how the lift is supported. These wheels, the two end terminals, and a midstation on the previous hump are all that support this lift.

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Italian stairs (since we're back in Italy for about ten minutes).

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We're almost at the turnaround point. There is no choice to exit, you must make the entire one hour round trip on the gondola.

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Approaching the mid-station on the way back. I've got to be honest...the gondola was really cool, but due to the length I don't think it's something I'd want to do again. By the time we got back to the departure point, I was more than ready to get off. Still glad I did it once, however.

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A couple more shots from the top of Aguille du Midi before we head down.

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When it's clear, the view from the top is outstanding.

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However, the fog is moving in, so now it's time to go.

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We never figured out exactly what this is. It ran parallel to the lower section of the cable car on its own set of cables. I've got to think it's either: A. an evacuation system, B. used for maintenance, or C. the way employees get to the top in the morning.

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On the drive, we drove right under another cable car. These things are a lot more common in Europe than they are in the US.

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Fast forward to Le Mans. Since there wasn't anything noteworthy here, I only took one picture to represent that we'd visited the city. Moving on...

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Omaha Beach. It looks a lot different now than it did 68 years ago.

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Look at this picture. A peaceful, empty beach before a calm sea.

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Now imagine what happened here nearly 70 years ago. Death, dismemberment, and more horrors of war.

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The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan...That happened, right here.

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World War II was devastating to all involved. You read all about it, but it is something to go to where it actually happened.

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Right up the hill from the beach is the American War Cemetery.

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A field of crosses. One for each person who died fighting in World War II.

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And this is only the Americans. There are several other cemeteries in the area for soldiers of other nationalities.

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While we're here, we might as well go check out this bunker.

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A monument. I forget what was on it, but I did read it when I was here.

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Moo.

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To me, this seems like it might as well read "insert grenade here."

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Let's go see what's inside.

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Um, maybe not.

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Another monument unrelated to the first one. That marks the end of our visit to Normandy.

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Traffic in Paris was bad. Worse than Los Angeles in my opinion. As a result, we had limited time in the evening, but we did get a little sightseeing in since we got dinner near Pont Neuf. That's it for the driving portion of our trip. Next up: French Disney.

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I think we need another theme park report in this thread.

 

Europe Trip-Part 4: Disneyland Paris (July 12th)

 

Before I start talking about our visit to Disneyland Paris, here's a bit of backstory...

 

When we first planned out the trip, there was no specific intention to visit Disneyland Paris, or any park for that matter. However, once we picked our major destinations, I began looking for a park to add, deciding I really would like to get to one. First, I started looking into Europa Park, the European park I most want to visit. I did a bit of research, and even came up with a possible plan to incorporate a brief (2-3 hour) stop at Holiday Park as well, but when we decided to drive through France instead I scrapped these plans. After all, it is a lot more likely I'll get to these parks than I'll get another chance to visit Normandy.

 

I then started considering other parks, and one by one they were ruled out. Alton Towers seemed too inaccessible without a car, and the same with pretty much every UK park I considered (plus we had limited London time). I also decided that Gardaland didn't appear to have enough to be worth sacrificing a day in Paris, and I figured that would be a pretty hard sell to my family members. Figuring that there had to be some significant reason a park should be included or else the idea would likely be shot down, I was left with only two choices: Disneyland Paris or Parc Asterix. What ultimately made us decide on Disneyland was: 1. much easier to reach on public transportation, as there is a train station right next to the resort, 2. I'd be able to knock two parks off my list instead of just one, 3. my brother said he would not be interested in Parc Asterix, and felt it was too French for American tourists, and 4. Disneyland Paris was offering a 20th anniversary ticket: one day, two parks for $84. Even though we only had one day to do both parks, we decided to go for it.

 

Anyway, due to the previously mentioned schedule swap, we ended up visiting Disneyland Paris on Thursday, July 12th instead of our originally planned Friday, July 13th. We arrived at the Marnee-La-Vallee RER station about 45 minutes before opening, and headed to Walt Disney Studios Park to find a medium sized crowd. At about 9:40, we were let inside.

 

Although we did do some hopping during the day, I'll do everything from Walt Disney Studios first before doing everything from Disneyland Park. Also note that I have only visited the California parks, so any comparisons will be to Disneyland and/or Disney California Adventure Park.

 

Walt Disney Studios Park

 

As soon as we were allowed to do so, we headed straight for Crush's Coaster. The ride began loading about two minutes before opening, and about fifty minutes later it was our turn to board.

 

Crush's Coaster: I've heard this ride called the best Disney coaster, and while I do think it is a pretty good ride I don't feel it's worth the lines the ride usually has. By the time we got off, the line was well over an hour and growing, and I personally can't see myself waiting more than 45 minutes to ride again. That being said, I enjoyed the ride and would definitely try to ride again next time I visit the resort. Due to the theming and dark ride portion, it is probably my favorite of the Maurer spinners I've been on, although the spinning wasn't too intense (my dad, who usually can't do spinning rides, had no problems with this one). B

 

Although I would have liked to do more at Walt Disney Studios Park, Crush's Coaster ended up being the only ride we did there. After getting off, we learned that the park's other major rides had hour-plus waits, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster was down for the day. We decided nothing else was worth waiting for and headed over to Disneyland, although we did end up returning to Walt Disney Studios Park for around an hour in the middle of the afternoon, just to make sure Rock 'n' Roller Coaster didn't open and to see the one show I refused to miss.

 

CineMagique: I'm usually not much of a show person outside of Universal and SeaWorld parks, but I usually like to see Disney's shows once each. CineMagique is a show I've heard nothing but good things about, and I have to say that it met my very high expectations. This is, without a doubt, the best movie based show I've seen at any park. It's got a great story, and is comedic enough to be entertaining without being over the top. I also loved seeing the many recreations of famous movie scenes. Definitely worth watching, especially if you'll be spending two or more days at the resort.

 

Overall Thoughts: I have very mixed feelings about Walt Disney Studios Park. The attractions they have (or at least the headliners) all seem pretty good, but the park itself reminded me of Disney California Adventure Park at opening. The theming is tacky and cheap-looking, and the place really doesn't feel at all like a Disney park. In addition, there are very few things to do here, and unless you want to see every show and ride every ride you won't need a full day for just this park. I'd like to come back and check out some of the other attractions, but if I only had one day for Disneyland Paris, I'd spend it entirely at Disneyland Park (with the possible exception of getting the remaining credits here). One thing I will say, however, is that even though this is the worst Disney park I've been to it is still in the top third of all the parks I've visited.

 

Disneyland Park

 

After our brief visit to Walt Disney Studios Park, I didn't have the highest hopes for Disneyland Park. Fortunately, I was proven wrong as soon as we stepped through the gate. Disneyland Paris is probably the most beautiful of the Magic Kingdoms, or at least it looked a lot nicer than the California park. It seemed like there was a lot more foliage throughout the place, and the theming quality was a little bit more convincing than what I've become used to. The castle also blew California's away. In fact, I could barely believe that both Paris parks were run by the same company, as the quality level was so different.

 

Anyway, we immediately headed to Space Mountain: Mission 2 in order to obtain Fastpasses, then decided to get an early lunch while waiting for our return time. For whatever reason, the food service line was horrible and it took about a half hour with only 5 people in front of us. Oh well, at least this ended up being a one time occurrence, and it meant that by the time we finished lunch it was time to ride.

 

Space Mountain: Mission 2: This is probably the most unique of the Space Mountains, and is definitely the most intense. Despite being pretty rough, I enjoyed this ride, and ended up getting three rides in during the day. I still think I slightly prefer the California version of the ride, but I really liked being blasted into space on the French version and thought the effects during the ride were a bit better. I just wish the ride was smoother and wish the soundtrack was more reliable (it only worked properly on one of my rides, partly the reason I ended up riding three times). B+

 

After Space Mountain, we crossed the park to Frontierland to get Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain. Unlike our Space Mountain Fastpasses, these weren't good for several hours, so we did several attractions while waiting.

 

Phantom Manor: I've heard this ride called the French version of Haunted Mansion, and while that is true this ride is quite a bit different. Most of the classic scenes are still there, but the overall attraction has a different storyline and a much more gruesome finale. It also lacks narration, but I wasn't bothered by it. As for whether it is better than California's Haunted Mansion, I'd say I prefer Phantom Manor to regular Mansion, but prefer Holiday Mansion to Phantom Manor just because I really like Nightmare Before Christmas.

 

Adventure Isle: The French version of Tom Sawyer's Island, but located in Adventureland instead, this was a much more enjoyable attraction and is probably my favorite theme park playground. The island has an extensive network of caves, several bridges to cross, and quite a bit of area to explore. Plus, due to the island having multiple access points, it can provide a handy shortcut if you know where you're going.

 

La Cabane des Robinson: I wasn't aware that this was located on the island, so finding it was a nice surprise. I used to be a huge fan of the Swiss Family Treehouse at Disneyland California, and was a bit bummed when it was given the Tarzan theme. It's nice to see that the original attraction still exists elsewhere, as I think it is vastly superior to the Tarzan version. This ended up being my least favorite of the three walkthrough attractions we did at the Paris park, but it is still better than any walkthrough in California.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Talk about a very familiar, yet very different ride. The Paris version of Pirates has most of the same scenes as the California version, but they are presented in a different order. In addition, several scenes are added and the lift and drops have been reorganized to make sense in the story. This was probably my favorite attraction in the park, but due to the long line (45 minutes) we only rode once. I'm still undecided on whether I prefer this or the California version, as there are things I prefer about both rides...we'll just call it a tie for now.

 

At this point, we went back to Walt Disney Studios Park to see CineMagique and check up on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. When we got back to Disneyland, we found that we still had around an hour before we could ride Big Thunder, so we decided to check out the last land in the park...Fantasyland. First, however, we grabbed Fastpasses for a second ride on Space Mountain later in the evening.

 

Alice's Curious Labyrinth: I believe this is the only other Alice in Wonderland attraction excluding the Mad Tea Party variants. I was expecting the maze to be a bit larger, but it still took longer than I thought it would. The maze wasn't too challenging, although we did make one or two wrong turns. It's a fun diversion, however, and a popular attraction since there was actually a line to get in. We did make it all the way to the tower and got a great view of Fantasyland from the top. Just like all attractions unique to the Paris park, I'd recommend this one if you visit.

 

Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains: The French version of Snow White's Scary Adventures, we chose this to satisfy the Fantasyland dark ride requirement as it was only a 15 minute wait and I'd heard it was the most different of the three from the California version. Turns out that difference was just a bonus ending scene. I still enjoyed the ride, but I'd probably say I like California's better since it rarely has a line and you can get a private car (Disneyland Paris did their best to get six per car).

 

Le Chateau de la Belle Au Bois Dormant: Actually two separate attractions, this is the castle walkthrough at the Paris park. We did the dragon portion at this point, and I've got to say that is one of my favorite animatronics. Even though it is simple, it is so...big. It helps that I like dragons as well. We later returned to do the part inside the castle, and although they are static I liked looking at those tapestries and stained glass windows much more than the animated displays in California's castle. There is also an outdoor balcony that overlooks Fantasyland. Combined, these two attractions make what is, in my opinion, the best walk through attraction at any Disney park I've visited.

 

At this point, it was now time for us to ride Big Thunder Mountain. It was while we were in line for this ride that the rain moved in, forcing us to purchase ponchos to avoid getting soaked to the bone.

 

Big Thunder Mountain: Everyone calls this the best of the Big Thunders, and I've got to agree. While the majority of the ride is no different than its California counterpart (other than being ever so slightly smoother), the finale of the ride features a long dark section in a tunnel. It is this section (and the initial tunnel before the first lift) that set this ride above its competition. It isn't a huge preference but I do prefer this ride to the California one and would rate it the best coaster at the Disneyland Paris resort (although Rock 'n' Roller Coaster could possibly dethrone it). B+

 

After our ride on Big Thunder Mountain, we used our Space Mountain Fastpasses, then got dinner. While we were eating, the best surprise of the day happened. As a result of the rain, the crowds in the park vanished. Space Mountain's line dropped from 80 minutes to 15. Big Thunder Mountain went from 70 to 10. Most other rides had their lines drop to around 30% what they were earlier, and a few even became walk-ons. This meant that after dinner, we were able to wander the park and do whatever we felt like riding. Essentially, we had approximately four hours at the park with the crowd typically found in California on a January weekday. As soon as we were done, we set out to make the most of it.

 

Star Tours: Since Paris still had the original version of the attraction playing, I wanted to ride it. Fortunately, it was a walk on. While I do prefer the newer version of the attraction, the original is still fun and there is just something classic about it. I think I've ridden this version a little too much if I can fill in Captain Rex's French dialogue word-for-word with the English version, however.

 

Casey Jr., Le Petit Train du Cirque: Say what you will, I consider this a credit. While the California ride does not qualify as a roller coaster in my book due to the presence of a driver, the Paris ride is a legitimate credit even if it is powered and I added it to my count. I prefer the French version anyway, as the theming around the attraction was a bit better. Still not something I'd wait more than a couple trains for, but I'd probably try to do it at least once if I returned to the park. C+

 

it's a small world: For most of the rides, the Paris and California ones rank pretty close together. However, I absolutely prefer this version of small world to the California version. The ride is a much better 6 minutes instead of 13, and I thought the scenes were much better, feeling more like a permanent attraction and less like the somewhat temporary feel California's has. Finally, there are no Disney characters in the French version, something I thought really killed the California ride. We walked right on to this, bypassing the 5 minute line for the front loading station (people really are like sheep sometimes).

 

Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril: I was a little worried about this ride before riding due to it's reputation, but for some reason I experienced no roughness at all (my brother and sister, on the other hand, said it was almost, but not quite as bad as, an average boomerang). The only discomfort came from a sudden moment of airtime on the hill immediately after the loop. Yes, I enjoyed this ride, and with the five minute wait I wouldn't have minded a second go, but I will say that I wouldn't wait more than 15 minutes or so for it as this is little more than a carnival coaster with moderate Disney theming. C+

 

Autopia: It only had a 15 minute wait and I was curious how it compared to the California version, so we decided to ride this. Due to luck, my dad and sister got assigned to one track and my brother and I the other, so we were able to race each other around the course. Autopia is Autopia, and while this one is different I can't say whether it is better or worse than the California version, so we'll call it a draw.

 

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast: Pretty much identical to California's Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, I either got a malfunctioning gun or found a lot of broken targets as I only scored about a quarter what I usually do on the California ride. Yes, California's is better because I can score higher and the wait is usually shorter, but they are both as close to identical rides as you can get.

 

After Buzz Lightyear, we went for another ride on Space Mountain just to see if we could get one with working audio (we did...hooray). My brother and sister then decided they wanted a little shopping time while my dad and I did one final ride: a walk-on ride on Big Thunder Mountain to end our day at Disneyland Paris.

 

Overall Thoughts: I have to be completely honest here...I saw very few of the problems I've heard about at this park. We didn't find any rude or unpleasant cast members, and other than the line at lunch nothing seemed like it took longer than it should have. Operations on rides were just as good as they are at the California parks, and we didn't encounter any noticeable line jumping. The only real issue I have with the park is that there aren't as many attractions as the California counterpart, and I couldn't see spending more than two days at the resort due to this (1 1/3 for Disneyland Park, 2/3 for Walt Disney Studios Park). Walt Disney Studios Park needs more in general, but it looks like their getting there and the buyout would be helpful. As for Disneyland Park, one more E ticket (ideally something for Discoveryland) and some general upgrades to other attractions would really help it out. As it is right now, Disneyland Paris-Disneyland Park is right behind the current Disney California Adventure Park in my rankings, and while I doubt it is possible for it to surpass the original Disneyland in California (still my favorite Disney Park), it is an excellent alternative for Europeans and gives tourists something different to try if they've been to the US parks.

 

Ride Count:

 

Adventure Isle: 3

Alice's Curious Labyrinth: 1

Autopia: 1

Big Thunder Mountain: 2

Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains: 1

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast: 1

Casey Jr., Le Petit Train du Cirque: 1

CineMagique: 1

Crush's Coaster: 1

Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril: 1

it's a small world: 1

La Cabane des Robinson: 1

Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant: 2

Phantom Manor: 2

Pirates of the Caribbean: 1

Space Mountain: Mission 2: 3

Star Tours: 1

 

Total: 24 rides in 13 hours (1.85 rides per hour)

 

Pretty good, especially for a Disney park in the summer. I've got a feeling we would have gotten no re-rides and had to have skipped a few second-tier attractions if the rain hadn't assisted us. I'd also like to thank Elissa again for her advice while planning a park visit in Europe.

 

Pictures:

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Welcome to Disneyland Paris-Walt Disney Studios Park. From here, it looks quite nice, but unfortunately the entrance area is the best themed part of the park.

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We didn't go in it, but I'm guessing the Animation building here is similar to the one at DCA.

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Crush's Coaster, the first ride of the day. Overrated, yes, but still a pretty good ride.

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I would have liked to do this, but time didn't permit. Maybe next time.

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The Toy Story Playland area had the tackiest theming of any Disney park area. It would be decent theming at most major American parks, but for a Disney park it just doesn't cut it.

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Credit that I missed due to a 70 minute wait and a closed single rider line.

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I think this is pretty much a higher capacity version of DCA's Jumpin' Jellyfish. Not worth a 35 minute wait.

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Closed! That's it, we're done with this park.

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Disneyland Park was much nicer. As a regular visitor to the California park, the whole place felt like an alternate universe Disneyland.

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This may not be the most impressive Disney castle, but it probably has the best surroundings. It certainly beats California's castle.

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Space Mountain: Mission 2. After riding this, I really wish I could have ridden the original De la Terre a la Lune version of the attraction.

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Big Thunder Mountain looks the same from here, but the attraction is actually located on an island.

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"When hinges creak in doorless chambers..." Wait, that's not right. Let's try "Lorsque charnières grincent dans des chambres sans porte ..." Not right either. I actually don't know if this has an opening narration, but I've got a feeling it would be different since Phantom Manor is not Haunted Mansion.

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You get a good view of Big Thunder Mountain from the Phantom Manor queue. I really like how both attractions have connected storylines that tie into the overall theme of Frontierland.

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Cue Swisskapolka.

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I'm not familiar with the story of Swiss Family Robinson, but I still really like this attraction.

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Random desk.

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Yeah, this is much better than Tarzan's Treehouse in California.

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Time to climb down. You could get a workout by doing this several times in a row.

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I believe you can go onto the pirate ship as well, but we didn't get a chance to do that.

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Looks like there might be a little bit of Peter Pan influence to Adventure Isle.

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Pirates of the Caribbean looks very different from the California version. I like the spanish fort look and the themed queue found here.

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In fact, even though Discoveryland is a unique take on Tomorrowland I think Adventureland is probably the most different of the Disneyland Paris lands.

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Curious and curiouser...

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A look at the first half of the maze.

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From the tower, you get a great overview of Fantasyland. You can even see The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in the distance.

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Adventureland from Fantasyland.

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Some say this is the ride of nightmares. I personally enjoy it's a small world, although in California I rarely ride the non-holiday version.

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It's really not that difficult.

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Following the leader seems to be an effective strategy for navigating the labyrinth.

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Be very, very quiet. I think it's sleeping.

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Foolish tourists. You have woken me from my slumber. I now curse you with the wettest weekend of the summer.

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^It didn't make sense to ride it when the line was 60 minutes, the Fastpass return time wouldn't work for our schedule, and we've got the same ride a half-hour away from home at DCA. With only one day, there are much better investments of time. Next time I visit, I'll plan two days just so I can be sure to do everything at both parks (especially all the stuff I missed at Walt Disney Studios), as I really want to try most of the attractions at both parks (including the remaining duplicates to see if there are any differences).

 

Since I've got a lot of pictures from our three days in Paris, I'm going to split the Paris report. Part one will cover Friday and Saturday, and part two will cover Sunday. I'll add the last day in London to part two of Paris so I can have this report done in time (school starts next week, and I want to finish this before then).

 

Europe Trip-Part 5: Paris Part 1 (July 13th-14th)

 

The day after Disneyland Paris, we were all fairly tiered so we got a late start. My sister opted to remain at the hotel for part of the day, so my brother, dad and I headed out to Catacombs. Due to arriving right in the middle of the day and the limited number of people allowed inside at a time, the wait was 2.5 hours. We waited, and while the catacombs were pretty neat I don't think they were worth that long of wait. I wouldn't recommend investing more than an hour in line, and I'd recommend going either early in the morning or between 2 and 3 P.M. (if you go later, you risk being refused admission).

 

Since the Catacombs took longer than expected, we didn't have time to go inside Notre Dame, but we still looked at it from outside. We also walked around the nearby area before returning to the hotel and retrieving my sister to go to the Louvre. Everyone says this is a must-do in Paris, and although I'm not that big of a fan of art museums it was somewhat enjoyable. However, there is just too much, and after an hour I was burnt out on paintings. We ended up staying about two hours, by which point everyone was ready to leave. Oh, for the record, the Mona Lisa wins the most overrated painting award, as I thought everything else in the room was more impressive.

 

The next day, we headed out to Versailles to tour the palace and the gardens. This place is huge, and I have a hard time imagining why anyone would want to live in a place this large. Despite the size, the number of tourists made the palace very crowded. The gardens, on the other hand, were much more pleasant. We then went to the Eiffel Tower, another Paris must-do. I don't think it's the greatest observation tower I've been up, but it's certainly one of the better ones. Just be prepared for lines (although you'll have significantly less waiting if you take the stairs to the second deck like we did). The view from the top is pretty good, and I like the fact that there's an open air observation deck, but going all the way to the top is just a huge investment of time.

 

After coming down from the tower and getting dinner, we went back to the hotel. My brother and sister elected to stay in their room for the night, while my dad and I went over to the Louvre to check out a carnival we saw there the day before. It was interesting to see how much different a European carnival is from an American one, and I'm guessing these vary by country over there as well. We only did a couple attractions (a really lame dark ride and the giant ferris wheel), but I'm still glad I got to check it out. We then watched the Bastille Day fireworks from the park in front of the Louvre before heading back to the hotel for the night.

 

Pictures:

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Random statue near the entrance to the Catacombs. By this point, we had been in line for around two hours.

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A sign inside the Catacombs.

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Parts of this place felt like something from an Indiana Jones movie.

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There were also a few rooms with displays set up.

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I can't read French to verify it, but I'm guessing these were found down here.

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The shadows are unintentional, but due to the light they are unavoidable.

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I see dead people.

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These signs marked sections, but I can't tell if they were by date or by class (or both).

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Dead men tell no tales.

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I'm not entirely sure whether this was just a fancy sign or was something else.

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This is pretty much all there is to the catacombs. If you're claustrophobic or afraid of skeletons, don't enter as you'll be down here for about 45 minutes.

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Although we didn't get to go inside Notre Dame today, we still got to see it (yes, we came back and went inside later).

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The other side of Notre Dame.

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Behind the cathedral was this park.

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We also went to a Holocaust Memorial across the street.

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Finally, we ended our day with a visit to the Louvre. Definitely worth seeing once, but unless you're really into art museums once is probably enough.

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The next day, we headed out to Versailles.

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Since I was unable to read most of the signs inside the palace due to crowds, I'm not entirely sure what everything was. I'll just leave the next dozen or so pictures mostly captionless.

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This artwork is actually on the ceiling.

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High heels made out of pots and pans.

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This room was the war gallery. The walls were lined with paintings depicting various battles.

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At the far end of the room is the most bizarre helicopter I've ever seen.

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There were fewer people downstairs.

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I wonder how close these rooms are to their appearance when they were in use. Unlike Hearst Castle, most of them seemed pretty empty.

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It's much nicer out in the gardens. Despite it being Bastille Day, there weren't excessive crowds out here.

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The fountains only run on weekends. It's worth dealing with a bit more crowds to see them in operation.

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Parts of the gardens are like a maze. It's definitely possible to get lost out here.

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This fountain was turned off. I wonder if they ever use these anymore, or if they only turn on the main fountains.

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Parts of the grounds look relatively untouched.

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Another fountain. This one has a statue in it.

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We walked out to the Grand Trianon as well. Not knowing the hours varied, we ended up getting here before it opened.

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Inside was a display on the residents of the palace. Outside was a smaller section of gardens.

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I believe you could walk around to Marie-Antoinette's Estate from here, but we decided not to visit that.

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Now that we're done with Versailles, it's time for another Paris landmark.

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As part of the Bastille Day celebrations, a disco ball had been hung in the middle of the tower.

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The view from the second deck. This is probably where the best views from the tower are.

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The top has a good view as well, but you're so far above everything that some detail is lost.

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Another view, with the Seine below.

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The city is actually very large, much larger than London is.

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That's a pretty large drop. I wouldn't want to fall off this thing.

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One last view from the top of the tower.

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In the evening, we headed over to a carnival near the Louvre. I'm not sure if this was set up specifically for Bastille Day or if it's an all summer thing.

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There were a decent number of people here, despite the somewhat small size of the place.

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One thing I immediately noticed different about this carnival vs US ones is a lack of safety barriers. In the US, you've got a four foot (or taller) fence around everything, while here people could walk right up to most rides.

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Another example. You could hop right on the carousel if you wanted to.

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This is the largest funhouse I've seen. It was €4, so I didn't do it, but it looked like fun.

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The most intense ride at the carnival was this thing. It's similar to Speed, a ride at my local fair, but seats 8 riders on each end of the arm instead of just 4.

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There was a credit, but I didn't do it. I'm not enough of a credit whore to pay €3 for a wacky worm.

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The exterior of the cheesy dark ride we did. This was better than almost anything inside.

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There were a total of zero people on the log flume. I'm not surprised given the climate when we were there, although I'm told rainy, overcast weather and highs of 70 fahrenheit are abnormal for mid-July.

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This was interesting. They put kids in the plastic balls, inflate them, and then let the kids run around on the pool. I think I've seen these in the US before, but they certainly aren't very common.

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Slingshot. Never done one of these as they don't appeal to me that much.

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Since we had euros to spend, we took a ride on the Ferris Wheel. I'm not sure how tall it is, but it looked to be in the 150-200 ft range. I imagine it would give some good views during the daytime.

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What better way to end Paris part one than with a shot of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night? Part two coming next week (Tuesday or Wednesday).

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