Travelling with children meant we tried to mix up the type of sites we went to: famous landmarks, educational sites, impressive historic castles – and theme parks. So we managed to get through a few of them. Here is my somewhat jaundiced summary of the parks we visited.
Cheshire Cat in the Middle of the Alice in Wonderland Maze, Paris Disney
In my mind this is still Euro-Disney, but they seem to be making an effort to rebrand it. We had heard quite negative things about this outpost of the Disney franchise (dirtiness, smoking, poor service), but I have to say they seemed to have cleaned their act up. If you like Disney – well, it’s a Disney. Personally, having visited Orlando, it all seemed very deja vu. So Haunted House, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice in Wonderland, teacups, fewer roving characters than we saw in Orlando, all the same merchandise stores. They do have creperies as an option within the park (small carts) for that French flavour, and the show in the afternoon (it was a show not a parade, so we were seated in exactly the wrong place) was in French. Yes perhaps we should have expected it but since the rest of the park was bilingual, we thought the show would be too.
Summary: if you like Disney, you’ll like this. If you are over it, you will be over this too.
Puy du Fou
Puy du Fou Viking story - this boat slid down the hill (this was not the one that rose out of the water)
This medieval theme park was pretty interesting, and seems to be the focus of great pilgrimages by people who are into medieval dress-ups. We stayed in the park hotel – little cabins built out over a lake – very nice. We ate in the hotel dining room – frankly pretty ordinary food and a limited range (despite the buffet). I’d give it a miss next time. The theme park itself has lots of olde worlde crafts and trades on display (live blacksmithing was a hit for us) and also has some historic shows which are really well produced and quite surprising. The viking show features a viking ship rising out of the lake complete with fire torches and live people on board. Love to know how they did that!. The Roman circus (in the Colosseum) featured live animals (lions) and a chariot race. The Joan of Arc show (it wasn’t called that) featured stunt riding and a massive mobile set. And another section had life-size automatons producing music and song. The merchandising is in theme – the salted caramel biscuits and violet-flavoured boiled lollies in the shape of delicate flowers were exquisite.
Summary: Even if you aren’t into medieval dress-ups, this is an interesting and suprising place to visit.
A great hit with the French – Asterix is a national hero! The great thing about Asterix Parc was that there were virtually no queues! After the queues at Disney, this was a great relief. Asterix Parc features a wide variety of rides including log-rafts, the swinging ship one, rollercoasters, and rides for smaller children. It is well set-out, the grounds are clean and the entire place is themed in the style of the various cultures of the Asterix books. The merchandising is also Asterix themed – we bought a selection of Asterix books in English (one of many languages available in the stores). NB: The Tom-Tom had difficulty locating Asterix Parc as a feature until we were in the local town.
Summary: a smaller park with fewer queues, but a great day out.
Futuroscope is another place the Tom-Tom had difficulty with it kept sending us to the staff entrance. As with anything labelled “Future”, it probably has difficulty living up to its name and hence had a sort of Jetsons feel about it, but having said that, there are a range of activities available, and some of them are even educational! The planetarium features shows about the origin of the universe. But there were also fun rides. Dancing with Robots involves sitting inside a robot contraption which then shakes you around, turns you upside down. Arthur and the Invisibles was a simulator ride that was an enormous hit with the children (but the queues were very long). And the biggest hit was a boat ride where you squirted water at the boats in front and behind you. Great shrieks of delight!
Summary: good day out, lots of quite unique attractions and rides, but the best ones all have long queues. Be prepared.
Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues