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So last week, I found out that I had gotten accepted to my school's study abroad program with architecture in France. So naturally, one of the first things that came to my head was what possible theme parks I might be able to visit.

 

The gist of this post is two-fold: to find out if there are any parks near where I'll be staying (at this point it appears not); and what types of things I should know in travelling abroad (if we have any French posters or people familiar with the culture, they may be able to help).

 

Now, "unfortunately," USC's France program is actually centered in Saintes, France. That's in the southwestern sector of the country, kinda by the sea. I *think* it's about 200 miles from Paris. That means if I wanted to take a trip to Disneyland Paris, it'd be a nice 4-5 hour trip. Parc Asterix, to my knowledge, is even further.

 

http://www.foreverfrench.com/images/France%20Map.gif

If you take a look at this map, Saintes is on the left, slightly below halfway. It's below the red text that says "POITOU-CHARENTES" and relatively close to the text that reads "ATLANTIC OCEAN."

 

Saintes itself is a pretty small down. It'll definitely be a change of pace from the LA area.I did a quick RCDB check, and it doesn't look like there are a lot of parks nearby. On the other hand, I'm not really familiar with French mass transit, so it could be that destinations such as DLP and Parc Asterix are actually doable over, say, a weekend.

 

In any case, if anyone would happen to have information on nice places to visit, that'd be pretty neat.

 

Theme Parking would have been a lot easier if I'd gone to the Paris summe thing they had this past summer, but I wanted to work; plus the whole thing was sorta last minute.

 

 

Secondly, I suppose it'd be good to know a little bit about the culture. I'll be taking a class, but it's always good to know as much as possible, there may be people on this board who know little things that they wouldn't teach in a classroom. Minor customs that Americans might not be familiar with but are regarded as basic manners in France.

 

Any other suggestions for places to visit nearby would be welcome as well. The program is sort of rigid in its scheduling, so I really am not quite sure if I'd be able to make it to various points of interest even if I did have the time, but at least I can be prepared!

 

 

Thanks in advance!

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I am not too familiar with parks in france, apart from Disneyland and Parc Asterix (both near Paris), but I can tell you that France has the worlds fastest trains (together with Japan) so I wouldn't think that 200 miles takes much more than 1,5 hours depending on how close to a station where these trains stop you are...

 

Also, most of europe is very accessible and indeed cheap to travel within. There are so many low-cost airlines, and europeans take many weekend breaks because of this.

 

Barcelona (Spain) would be a good bet. Only over an hour by train south of Barcelona is Port Aventura. This is a fantastic park.

 

But really, if you have the time to do weekend breaks (and the money, although cheap) you could pretty much do some foreign parks in a daytrip, ie:

 

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark

Liseberg, Gothenburg, Sweden

 

Just examples but both very accessible. They are actually situated in the city-center.

 

Also, don't rule out parks in Germany. Just south of the border from Strasbourg, is Europa Park. And a little further north by Mannheim is Holiday Park (with the amazing Expedition G-Force)

 

Hope this helps a little...

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OMG You're going to Saintes!!!! When did they move the program back there? I went in 2001 and had a blast.

 

Theme parks: DLP and Parc Asterix are possible on a weekend. I would say do Asterix on a weekend in late Sept or Oct if they are open. I went late August and it was really crowded. As for DLP... if you don't mind the cold, hit it up during their awesome Halloween celebration, or for small crowds, right after the program ends during the week. I went twice when I was over there and didn't have huge crowds either visit. I think the longest I waited was an hour for Big Thunder the first time. The second time was the week before Christmas (I think) and it was fairly dead. (I closed the park with 5 or 6 rides on Big Thunder and the temp was close to freezing.)

 

I know that Walibi Aquitane is the closest Walibi Park to Saintes, but I couldn't figure out how to get there without a car. I have also heard good things about Futurescope in one of the towns with a TGV stop on the route from Paris to Bordeaux. Its more of a 3-d movie/motion simulator place with really outrageous buildings.

 

As for taking trains to Germany and other places, it is possible, but unless they have new routes open from when I was there, it takes a while. The train to Paris takes a good 3 hours with the first hour spent on a regional train and the last 2 on the TGV. From there, Amsterdam is easy to reach (and probably Walabi Flevo...World (or whatever its called now)) As mentioned, Strasbourg should be easy to get to on the TGV...not sure about getting to Europa from there.

 

If you check rates on the low-fare airlines in Europe, you can get decent priced tix to most major cities. Bordeaux is the nearest major airport and is a 60 min/$20 train ride away (student prices) plus a short Taxi ride. We did Berlin on a 3 day weekend.

 

Culture... based on my trip, the French people aren't as bad as people make them out to be as long as you don't go with the "ugly american" attitude. The people in Paris had a little more attitude than the people in Saintes who tend to be really friendly to the students who stay there. There is a bit of a language barrier if you don't know French, but in Saintes, they will try to work with you. A lot of the people I met knew some english, but didn't use it for various reasons. If you learn/know some basic French and try to use it, I found that a lot of the people outside Paris are pretty nice and will help you.

 

Other travel hints.... if you will be in a city for long enough, buy the week passes for the Metro's and stuff. You might not get every penny worth of riding, but it saves you from digging for change and stuff at every station and lets you hop a bus whenever you want (very useful in Paris, London, Barcelona). Otherwise get day passes or similar. If you plan on doing London, look into buying a CityPass before leaving the States. I got one that had a weeks worth of Underground/bus travel and free admission to the major tourist attractions (St. Pauls, Tower of London, etc.)

 

If you have any other questions, just ask. LOL I'm sure I have more things I can share.

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That Futuroscope place isn't too far from where you are - no coasters though.

 

I was on holiday in that region a few years ago - La Rochelle (just up the road from Saintes) is really nice - you can go out on a boat to see Fort Boyard (if you know what that is!).

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Bases on your location, and i know the area a bit, i would say weekend trip are doable to port aventura (intamin accelerator in 2k7) which is a great parc, dlr and asterix. The rest of the french parcs are okay, just nothing special really. I think Europa park might be doable, depends on the train connections.

Day trip is doable to walibi aquataine, al though it's not anything special

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Near saintes :

 

In car, 1h30 to go to Poitier in a spécial parc : The "Futuroscope"

-new in 2006, 10 Kuka's Robocoasters

-IMAX Dôme

-many motion cinemas

-videos game / cyber games

-Imax

-3D motion cinema

-Imax Solido

-Intamin Giro Tower

-360° cinema

-Imax 3D

-Double Imax (front and down)

-dark Ride/cinema

-Interactive cinema

...

in a very special glass architecture

More inrmations on the official web site : http://www.futuroscope.com/eng/index.php

 

 

2h from Saintes to go to Puy du Fou :

No coaster for this park (like futuroscope) but a beautiful landscaping and first quality shows like the Cinescenie (only june from september).

It's the world greatest theater (24 hectares) and show thanks to 3000 volunteers (1100 actors) during 2 hours.

More informations, photos and videos about "The Grand Parc" (with other shows) and about the "Cinescenie" here :

http://www.puydufou.com/uk/

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I was on holiday in that region a few years ago - La Rochelle (just up the road from Saintes) is really nice - you can go out on a boat to see Fort Boyard (if you know what that is!).

 

And for those who don't:

 

 

An old fort, used since 1990 as the setting of a famous (here in Belgium, France and recently the UK) tv gameshow.

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Wow, thanks for the tips (and keep them coming if you've got more).

 

Now, if I went to some of these parks over a weekend, would that imply I'd have to find some place to stay near the park, or I just sleep on the train ride back? Knowing that I might be able to visit three great parks like Parc Asterix, DLP, and Port Aventura is very promising, since two of them are on my list of parks I gotta visit someday, and Parc Asterix looks really fun too (it'd probably be on echelon below).

 

USC's had the program in Saintes for a while, at least to my knowledge. I'm pretty excited, altho it does mean I gotta take 19 units this next semester, since they've finally enforcing the "must take a French class" requirement.

 

We'll have fieldtrips to various places too, but I doubt I'd be able to get a chance to visit nearby parks during those excursions. I'd have to go on my own (or with a few willing friends).

 

So I guess my most important question now is: if I were to do one of these "weekend trips," what would be the best way to do it? Say I wanted to visit the Disneyland Resort (well, just the Magic Kingdom I guess). What would I need to do specifically and how much (approximately) would it cost me?

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