Jubilee Escape Weekend 2-6 June 2022


TS Member
Having just returned from my first ever theme park road trip abroad (unless you count sitting on the Paris ring road for four hours as a seven-year old trying to get to DLP [or was it still EuroDisney back then?]), this is my first stab at writing a trip report. I'm not much of a writer if I'm honest; the complete lack of organisation and structure within my messy ADHD brain is most certainly reflected in my writing, so if long-winded, rambling prose isn't your thing, feel free to bail now!

When I heard that the 2022 Spring Bank Holiday was being moved to give us a four-day Jubilee bonanza at the start of June, getting out of the country seemed a necessity. I'm no republican, but four days of flag-waving, Union Jack bunting, street parties and wall-to-wall patriotism on the TV just wasn't that appealing. On the other hand, the relaxation in Covid regulations and the replacement of my dreadful old Ford Focus in 2020 with a much nippier, fuel efficient Seat Leon made a European road trip a real option. But where to go?

I turned to my travelling companion to-be and seasoned pro @John for advice on which parks could be managed in the time, and we decided on Efteling and Phantasialand. I've had Efteling on my wishlist for years and wasn't able to make the trip in 2021, plus FLY and Taron were gaping holes in my embarrasingly short list of coaster creds. My long-suffering husband was roped in to help with the driving and to pretend to be an enthusiast for the weekend.

Keen to avoid the truly dreadful M20 on the way down, we booked the Harwich-Hook of Holland overnight ferry for Thursday evening which would get us into the Netherlands for 8am with just an hour's driving to Efteling. In theory. On reflection, playing cards and drinking wine in the bar until 1am wasn't the smartest choice given the extremely unwelcome wake-up call at 5.30am of overly cheerful music and fake bird sounds. Disembarking was a real fiasco; several vehicle owners ahead of us on the car deck had clearly drunk more wine than I had and hadn't bothered to return to their vehicles by 8 o'clock, so by the time we were able to move they'd already unloaded all the upper decks and we were one of the last vehicles off the ferry. Then followed a truly miserable queue for two passport control lanes, meaning we didn't actually leave the ferry port until about 9.15am. Still, we were on our way and the sun was shining. Dutch motorways are not fast, however, and Google Maps' 1h04 estimate turned out to be wildly optimistic. But I did get my first glimpse of a country I've actually never before visited, so that's another one in the bag in terms of country creds.

We arrived at Efteling around 10.45 and headed to the Bosrijk holiday village where we'd booked on-site accommodation for one night. I thought this was a pretty good deal as it gave us a large 4-bed family room in the Landhuys complex plus 2-day park tickets for all three guests. The path to the park entrance (the hotel entrance for Bosrijk is just to the right of the House of Five Senses) through lush pine woodland was rather delightful, although the novelty wore off a bit after the fourth or fifth time.

My first impressions of Efteling park were slightly marred by the huge amount of building work taking place at the entrance and the fact that Aquanura had been completely drained, in preparation for the new in-park hotel. But the plans looks spectacular and once it's all finished I'm sure it will look amazing. The walk up Pardoes Promenade was really magical and I remembered what it felt like to be seven years old again and walking up Main Street USA (except this street was arguably nicer). This really is a beautiful park, with so much care and attention given over to small details, such as the jester-shaped lamps along the promenade and in the queue lines for Symbolica. And just look at this cash machine! It even has its own elaborate fairytale involving an old alchemist and a magical golden key.

efteling cash machine.jpg
Image Credit: An Englishman's Guide to the Efteling

(Picture nabbed from the internet because I was too mesmerised by the day-old ducklings in the aligning ponds to bother taking photos!)

[As an aside, I thought it might be amusing to compare this with one of the cash machines at Alton Towers, which charge you £1.95 for the privilege of using them. Lovely isn't it?]

alton towers cash machine.jpg
Image credit: @Dean8001 on Twitter

As we'd well and truly missed the boat on ERT we headed straight to Polles Keuken for a long-overdue coffee-and-pancake breakfast. As a coeliac, getting food in theme parks is never particularly straightforward so finding out that they could indeed do gluten-free pancakes was a real bonus. You would never guess it from looking at the menu though; allergen info is unfortunately non-existent throughout the park - something that clearly needs to be addressed. Polles Keuken is more than just a cafe, it's an attraction in itself and worth visiting even if you're not eating for this piece of pure theatre:

It wasn't about 12.30pm that we remembered this park does actually have some rides in it and we should probably get up and go and do some of them...


TS Member
Great SW minds think alike. I flew into Amsterdam last Monday and drove to Phantasialand for 2 days, ending the week in Efteling before flying back to a rainy Bristol late Saturday night. I'd love to know what you thought of both.


TS Member
One of the most pleasant things about Efteling park is how it's possible to just pootle about the park soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the scenery. It's definitely what I would call a 'nature theme park' if such a concept exists, in which the attractions seem to blend effortlessly with the natural surroundings. This has been done with some success at Alton Towers, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule and certainly an element that was markedly missing from the much more urbanised Phantasialand later in the trip.


But I digress. There were, after all, rides to ride and credits to be got. Our trusty guide led us first to Droomvlucht (Dreamflight), which had around a 20 minute queue. Thankfully all the Covid extended queue lines have now been cleared - I never saw them but I'm reliably informed they were ugly as sin and thoroughly miserable to wait in - but it's still possible to see traces of the floor markers and remnants of the glue used to attach the Covid screens to the queue barriers. Droomvlucht really is a visual treat, and the downspiral around the final scene was an unexpected surprise; however I suspect it's most popular with little girls who will pester their parents for fairy costumes in the (actually rather sparse) gift shop at the ride exit. I was hoping to find some sort of giant hanging mobile of a magical space castle but no such luck.

We then headed to Villa Volta, which would be my first of two Vekoma madhouses of the weekend but only my second overall. The big question: how would it compare with Hex, my favourite non-coaster ride in the UK? Well, we did try to cobble together a basic understanding of the story by consulting Wikipedia in the queue line, but really you're not going to glean much from either of the two pre-shows unless you speak Dutch. If you do, it seems to be a pretty compelling story about a nasty man imprisoned in his mansion by a curse, and certainly lends itself well to the madhouse ride mechanic. The soundtrack is pretty epic, and the vault is impeccably done out as an opulent manor house, but it felt a bit too brightly lit and well-kept to be a cursed mansion, at least when compared directly with Hex. In its favour, it does at least park properly, and isn't currently mothballed waiting for a part!

Next was Vogel Rok, a dark coaster themed around the Sinbad story. I do appreciate the variety of themeing at Efteling; it really gets boring in the UK how many rides are themed around an abandoned/neglected whatever, although I guess it's a good excuse to let an attraction fall into disrepair and pass it off as themeing. Even for a dark coaster Vogel Rok seems very dark, and if I'm honest I can't really remember much more about it than that, apart from some fun lighting effects and bird calls, which my husband and I enjoyed adding to from the back row!

We then headed next door to Carnaval Festival, which was fun but, let's say, questionable from a cultural sensitivity perspective. It's essentially a non-Disney It's a Small World, with its own earworm of a soundtrack that will stay with you for much longer than you'd ever want it to. I was reliably informed that some of the more problematic scenes have been overhauled in recent years, although I suspect the Far Eastern segment may need further work...


Image credit: Looopings.nl

We then found ourselves in Jokies Wereld giftshop, where I discovered the truly delightful Efteling Book of Fairy Tales and made a note to myself to pick up a copy later in the trip. One could also, if one so wished, purchase a music box of the Carnaval Festival theme just in case there was any risk you might actually forget it. After tormenting my companions with the demo model for a bit, we headed back to Fantasierijk for my most anticipated attraction of the weekend: Symbolica

There are dark rides and there are Dark Rides. Actually, no, there are Dark Rides, and there is Symbolica. Even though my experience of dark rides in general doesn't extend much further than DLP and anything that might just about pass for a dark ride in the UK, I knew this was going to be something special. The attention to detail is exquisite - you could ride it 15 times and see something new each time. Apart from the other riders, there is nothing to break the immersion - no visible warehouse ceiling (I'm looking at you Duel!), no unsightly glimpses backstage, not a single broken animatronic figure. In terms of effects, there are no corners cut, no lazy screens or 3D visuals to create the illusion of being in a fantasy palace. You actually are in a fantasy palace. The staircase reveal, made impossible by Covid regulations, is now back and the line "Vot is happening with the steairs?" actually makes sense again. The music is soaring and uplifting and really makes you feel that you're somewhere special. It's seven minutes of pure visual and auditory bliss. I could ride it again and again and never get sick of it. I'm actually now trying to work out how I can turn my home office into a wizard's observatory...

Symbolica might be world-class in the field of dark rides, but it was now time to suss out Efteling's coaster line-up, which I'd been briefed to be underwhelmed by. Baron 1898 had gone down by the time we reached it, so we carried on past and joined the queue for Python, the park's oldest coaster (est. 1981). My first thought was that it looked like something I would design - lazily - in Planet Coaster. Standard lift hill, round and back, two standard inversions, a pre-built corkscrew element and a helix, with a quick autocomplete to the station when I'd run out of money. Of course coaster design has come a long way since 1981, but this felt very Old Skool (with a k), a fairly generic Vekoma looping coaster with almost no themeing, which seems surprising at Efteling. I was glad to have ridden it though, having never ridden Corkscrew at AT, and my spine was glad of the retrack in 2018! Still it's not one I'm desperate to do again.

Baron had now re-opened so we headed there next. Again I was briefed to be underwhelmed, but: Unpopular Opinion #1: I loved it. I thought the concept worked really well - a greedy gold miner at war with the ghosts that haunt the mine - and the pre-show does a nice job of building anticipation, without requiring A-level Dutch to understand it. Like Oblivion, the coaster dives into a black, misty hole, and even though the drop is shorter than that of Oblivion, it doesn't feel any less dramatic. Then you actually get a short but fairly decent bit of a ride with a loop and a helix before returning to the station. Yeah OK, there are probably bigger and better dive coasters out there, but that's not the point. For me, this ride works because of the whole package: the immersive turn-of-the-century music and visuals, the dark storyline, the pre-show and visual effects, the drop into the 'mineshaft'... It's pure theatre. And it looks a damn sight better than Oblivion, from all angles.

Next up was Max-not-Moritz. If I'm honest I was expecting something a bit more. It's obviously a family powered coaster in the same vein as RMT, but it just didn't seem to do very much, and seemed aimed at much younger children than some other powered coasters. I guess in a park such as Efteling family coasters are needed, but I wasn't desperate to go back and get my Moritz cred, which is in fact still outstanding. Oh well, an excuse to return to the park sometime I guess.

The park was still pretty busy even after 5pm, but we just had time to fit in Fata Morgana before joining a coaster queue just before ride close. This is another high-quality dark ride, with a tow-boat transit system, themed around the 1001 Arabian Nights. I did enjoy it, but it didn't feel quite as magical as some of the other dark rides in the park, perhaps showing it's age a bit after 35 years (though I could say so for myself, ahem!). The music was really atmospheric, although the station music is on an irritatingly short loop. I supposed I was hoping for a bit more of a story, rather than just a series of scenes, but that's a minor quibble.

Our final ride of the day would be Joris en de Draak (George and the Dragon). And here is that dragon, looking very ferocious and mean.


This is considered one of the weaker GCI woodies, but I've only got Wicker Man to compare it to, and I thought it was pretty decent. Getting a back row ride at the end of a hot day probably helped; it did feel pretty fast in the late-afternoon sunshine. The duelling element was also good fun, although you could usually tell which train was going to win or lose before you'd even reached the top of the lift hill. As for Baron, I thought it worked as a whole package, and it's perfect for a park like Efteling which is as much about the visuals and the storytelling as it is the ride hardware.

We headed back to the Bosrijk holiday village with aching legs (you do a LOT of walking around Efteling!) where we had booked into the Eethuys restaurant for dinner, which I presume translates as simply 'Eat House'. It didn't disappoint. Bosrijk has its own fantasy character: Mr Sandman, a gnome who flies on a magic owl and sprinkles sand over young children to ensure they have nice dreams. Now I have a slightly better idea what Enter Sandman by Metallica is all about, and why Mr Sandman (bom bom bom bom) might bring you a dream in Back to the Future. I didn't need Mr Sandman to help me to the land of nod, however, just a steak dinner and two massive glasses of wine.



TS Member
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
A note on ferries - I'd not used the Harwich - HvH route before so didn't know what to expect. As it turns out the overnight option is pretty convenient - you can get on shortly before the 11pm departure, go to bed as it sets off and get up in time for disembarking. With the hour time difference to Europe you don't really want to be staying up much later as they wake you up (to upsell breakfast and duty free) pretty early in the morning. The only real problem with the route lies in the fact that it takes well over an hour to get everyone through passport control. Despite being amongst the last off the ship and waiting nearly 80min in total (mostly for the cars boxing us in to move out of the way) we were far from being the last to get out onto the roads.

I've visited Efteling several times in the past in the past 20+ years but never stayed on site before - most of my visits have been for a single day but whenever I've needed to stay locally it's always been in a nearby hotel. As a result, when we were planning this trip the thought of staying on-site didn't occur to me at first - it was only when we were pricing it up and found that hotels come with park entry included (plus free parking) that it emerged that staying on resort might actually not be a bad idea.

Bosrijk was chosen largely because it was the best value for us - I wasn't quite sure what to expect from it but I knew we had a hotel-style room rather than one of the many holiday homes throughout the site. The hotel rooms are in two main blocks and we were in the relatively remote (and possibly slightly cheaper?) Landhuis, which are a ~5min walk from the main building ("Porthuis"). There is road access to Landhuis but parking is for drop off and loading only. We totally forgot to check this in advance and instead dragged all our stuff from the main car park to our room - not advisable as the paths aren't the best for wheeled luggage! It's a very pleasant setting though with lots of houses nestled in the trees, there's a lake in the central area and a meadow behind Landhuis that our room looked out onto. The rooms themselves are ideal family rooms, ours was clean, modern and well maintained. A range of other rooms are available to suit larger groups. A land train is available stopping at several points around the site and at near the park entrance, there's also evening entertainment for the kids.

A further thing to note about staying on site is that the park tickets and room keys are posted to your home address prior to the stay - this is pretty convenient as it means you don't have to check in however one thing to be aware of is that the tickets are sent out pretty last minute, ours only arrived the day before our arrival so if you're incorporating a resort stay into a longer trip your tickets may not arrive before you set off. Might be possible to request them earlier though..?

Resort guests are offered early entry to the park. Bosrijk and Loonsche Land guests enter near House of the Five Senses, then proceed round the back of Aquanura towards Fata Morgana. A selection of rides across the park realms were open 30min early. Whilst Dreamflight was technically available to us it probably would have taken us the full 30 minutes just to get there as we would have had to go via Vogel Rok (day guests are held on Pardoes Promenade). We got into the park at about 9.40 and managed to do Baron with a short queue by which point everyone else had been let in and there were already significant waits for all the coasters. We might have had better luck if we'd not opted for front row.

I gave my thoughts on the park last year so I'm not going to go into too much detail this time around. The major change since then is the removal of all the covid barriers in queues and a return to full capacity on the rides. This makes the queueing experience much less depressing than it was last year. Ride operations were generally pretty decent on the whole, Joris remains slow but the Python team were getting the trains out consistently quickly and Baron seemed much improved on last year too. I had thought 2 days would be overkill but Efteling has a knack of soaking up time - Raveljin and Sprookjesbos took up a significant chunk of our 2nd day and in the end there we went on very few rides more than once. Had we just been doing rides we probably could have done pretty much the entire park on the Friday (if we'd not been delayed getting there) but I don't think that approach would really do the park justice. Efteling is a park best appreciated at a slower pace.


TS Member
I was going to start my account of Day 2 with "We awoke bright and early..." but that would be a total lie. Having quickly ascertained that room-service breakfast wasn't actually a thing, we slowly made our way to Eethuys restaurant for a quick coffee and pastry, where I was mildly assaulted by a talking owl. As @John has explained (out-of-sequence, I might point out ;) ), resort guests are able to enjoy a selection of rides from 9.30am, and we wanted to make sure we got our money's worth. Interestingly, the list of ERT attractions provided to us included Bob and Monsieur Cannibale, so it seems the magic of Efteling now has the power to send people back in time... Impressive.

As I was feeling a tad queasy we opted against time travel and headed to Baron for a re-ride, figuring we'd be well-placed to join the queue for DVH or Joris immediately afterwards. Why we then decided it was a good idea to join the front-row queue I can't recall. Still it was good fun from the front and definitely cleared a few early-morning cobwebs! We then joined the queue for De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman, or more concisely DVH) which was about 25 minutes. DVH actually has one of the best queue lines in the park, which wends its way through a series of tavern rooms (no one serving at the bar, sadly!), the windows of which overlook the loading station, which is all very Pirates of the Caribbean. The first part of the ride strongly evokes its Disneyland counterpart, with good use of mist and lighting effects. A word of warning if you have a sensitive disposition: parts of this ride are properly frightening, and it probably has the darkest themeing of all the attractions in the park. This indoor boat-ride then rather inexplicably becomes a rollercoaster - and if you were thinking that a 14-seater boat probably wouldn't make for a great coaster carriage, you'd be right. The coaster part of the ride isn't bad, but it does kill the atmosphere a bit to chuck you right back out into the bright sunshine - I expect this ride really comes into its own at night. The splashdown is rather a style-over-substance affair; I'd expected a water-coaster would actually get you wet, and we didn't feel even a drop. But I guess I was grateful not to have to squelch around in wet shoes all day (more on that later!).

My queasiness hadn't subsided in time for Halve Maen (Half Moon), which is an oversized Pirate Ship ride. I don't do well on Pirate Ships at the best of times, so I skipped this one to save those in our group and within a certain radius any unpleasantness. Of course, the best cure for a hangover is greasy food, so it was back to Polles Keuken again for coffee and pancakes (with cherries jubilee, to honour the occasion of course). I could really get used to this place!

As DVH had failed to get us wet, we headed to Piraña, the park's rapids ride, where we had better luck. Turns out in Europe it's actually still possible to find a rapids ride that's actually fun and gets you a bit wet. I didn't see any pointless signage reminding people not to be morons either. And man does this ride have a banging soundtrack!

As we'd now ticked off everything significant we were able to take the afternoon at a much more leisurely pace. This is the real value of having two full days; Efteling really is about more than just ticking off rides. We'd pencilled in Raveleijn, the park's main show, for 1.30 so we just had time to pop over to Spookslot beforehand. I knew this was one of the oldest attractions in the park and that it would be gone forever in a matter of weeks, but I didn't actually know what to expect from it. It's ... a bit rubbish really. It's a fully animatronic show that you stand in front of for the 6m27s duration (and those last 27 seconds really do drag!), in which the figures dance comically to Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre, which is about the least frightening piece of music anyone ever composed. (Now if they'd used Night on a Bald Mountain instead...) Anyway I'm glad I did it, but it's had its day I think. I'm actually pretty interested to see what they replace it with, as they'll be retaining the spooky theme and Danse Macabre music, but hopefully building an attraction that's, well, actually good.

After Spooksnot Spookslot, we headed to the show arena for Raveleijn. I don't tend to go in for shows at theme parks, many of which are pretty underwhelming, but I was reliably informed that this was worth seeing, and anyway I do like Medieval themeing. The arena is enormous and extremely impressive; I found myself wondering if they'd really only built it just for this one show. I won't include any spoilers here, but there's a plethora of stunts and effects to enjoy, and on the whole I was pretty impressed. The dialogue is all in Dutch, but it's pretty easy story to follow visually anyway.


We then spent a good hour or more meandering through Sprookjesbos (the Fairytale Forest), which I really do recommend making time for if you are visiting Efteling. There are too many individual exhibits to describe in detail, but you'll find classic tales familiar from the Disney vault alongside more unusual ones. The tales are summarised quite nicely in the Efteling park app, so it's worth downloading that before you go in - there are also story-book props summarising the tales in four languages next to each exhibit. It was good to see that Langnek had entered into the 70th birthday party spirit as well...

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We ended our day with a few re-rides, ticked off the Water side of Joris (lost again, dammit!), and encountered some truly baffling single-rider operations on Symbolica (I'll let John pick up on that if he wants to!). Then it was time to empty our wallets in the Efteling gift shop. I'd planned to get myself a decent park t-shirt but the clothing line really isn't much to write home about unfortunately; however it wasn't hard to find other things to squander 90 euros on:

Disclaimer: The Joris slippers are absolutely nothing to do with me and I played absolutely no part in the decision to purchase them.

Our journey to Bonn for the Phantasialand portion of the trip was pretty uneventful, apart from the realisation that I had left the green environmental sticker required to drive in the city centre on my dining room table (damn you ADHD!), but eventually we found our rather budget, un-airconditioned hotel and managed to get some food (just!), ready for Phanny the next day...


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TS Member
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
SRQs was one thing I forgot to mention in my last post so thanks for the reminder!

SRQs are back open after a couple of years away and have now spread to all coasters (bar Vogel Rok), plus Symbolica. One benefit of SRQs cropping up everywhere is that these rides now have batchers so there's never 8 people waiting for a single row on (e.g.) Joris. In the case of DVH this means a substantial reduction in queue time once inside the building - no more queuing all the way from where the queue splits to the bays.

We were a group of 3 and attempted Symbolica SRQ on the assumption it'd work about as smoothly as on Ratatouille. A crucial difference here though is that the ride can accommodate 4 to a row (providing there's no more than 2 adults) whilst the Rat only has space for 3 - this means spaces come round less often. The batcher was also much less generous towards SRQ users than AT staff are - on 2 occasions they had a whole row empty but just let in 1 single rider. Use with caution!


TS Team
Favourite Ride
Iron Gwazi
The batcher was also much less generous towards SRQ users than AT staff are - on 2 occasions they had a whole row empty but just let in 1 single rider. Use with caution!
This sort of thing, as I assume it did for you, infuriates me. More often seen in Germany but the whole "RULES are RULES" ideology helps no one. Aside from that, glad to see you had a good time. The Symbolica pre-show is truly spectacular, which I am glad to read is back up and running properly since the end of covid restrictions. I was in genuine awe when I first rode in 2018, but then riding with Symbolica virgins, yourself included John(?) (for want of a better term) in 2020, I felt it was a bit of a let down.


TS Member
This sort of thing, as I assume it did for you, infuriates me. More often seen in Germany but the whole "RULES are RULES" ideology helps no one. Aside from that, glad to see you had a good time. The Symbolica pre-show is truly spectacular, which I am glad to read is back up and running properly since the end of covid restrictions. I was in genuine awe when I first rode in 2018, but then riding with Symbolica virgins, yourself included John(?) (for want of a better term) in 2020, I felt it was a bit of a let down.
One small criticism I do have with regard to Symbolica is that they have made a big thing of the three separate "tours" but actually the experience for each one is almost identical. I think I was the only one of the three of us that got a "new" tour the second time around (Heroes). The mirror rooms seem to be clones of each other and the tour-specific experience is just one small (apparently) interactive scene. I think given the technology at their disposal they could have done a lot more to make each tour unique and rerideable. But it's a very impressive attraction nonetheless.


TS Team
Favourite Ride
Iron Gwazi
One small criticism I do have with regard to Symbolica is that they have made a big thing of the three separate "tours" but actually the experience for each one is almost identical. I think I was the only one of the three of us that got a "new" tour the second time around (Heroes). The mirror rooms seem to be clones of each other and the tour-specific experience is just one small (apparently) interactive scene. I think given the technology at their disposal they could have done a lot more to make each tour unique and rerideable. But it's a very impressive attraction nonetheless.
Yeah there's a few different sidings along the route for each tour but they are mostly just bits of the same scene you don't see from the other tours, then you link up again. I don't mind it too much but it would have been nice to have had an elongated separate route in the second half of the ride.


TS Member
I expect many of you have been tapping your watches at me wondering when this primary-school creative writing project was finally going to reach a conclusion. Rather as I did at school, I could come up with a barrage of excuses involving work conferences, cancelled trains, self-combusting hotels, a 3-hour car journey in a heatwave with no air-con, and one very rain-soaked Towers meet. But rather like my primary school teachers, you would probably just tell me to stop making excuses and get on with the job in hand. So here goes...

Our first night in Bonn hadn't been particularly restful, partly because both our rooms' air-con systems were utterly kaputt and partly because the people in the next room decided to put on a free soap opera for us at 3am, but once we'd fuelled my husband with black coffee we were ready to make the short trip by car to Phantasialand. In heavy contrast to the bright sunshine of the first two days, the forecast for Sunday had been torrential rain and thunderstorms, making us extremely nervous about ride closures. Fortunately the thunderstorms didn't materialise; the rain did. The three of us do seem to be magnets for atrocious weather whenever we get together, however (my first ever ride on Smiler was in a torrential downpour with my eyes screwed shut!), so we had all come prepared. I'd heard that PL can get miserably busy, especially in the summer months, and we had a lot to pack into one day, so in the end the rain really was a blessing.

We arrived at around 9.15 and were ushered to a parking space right outside the park entrance. And I mean right outside. Seriously, you'd be paying around 20 quid to park that close at AT. We used the entrance near Mystery Castle, which absolutely doesn't look anything like a crematorium, and headed straight for Rookburgh, hoping that the queue for F.L.Y. [I'm only going to write it with the points just this once because they're, well, pointless] would open at 9.30, which it didn't. So an impromptu breakfast stop at Lilli's Cafe was in order, where the coffee was so strong it was like being punched in the face. No croissants for the boys either, just a couple of dried up old cookies. For once I was grateful to have gone without.

FLY eventually opened at around 9.45 so we made a beeline for queue, sloshing coffee along the way. We needn't have panicked though, because the queue never got much above 15 minutes all day, for FLY or for any other coaster, most visitors apparently put off by the foul weather. It quickly became apparent that if we played our cards right we'd be looking at a 20+ ride count. PL's a small park as well, footprint-wise, so it's quite easy to hop from one short queue to another and make efficient use of your time without racking up too many miles.

So I finally got my first look at Rookburgh, and wow! The design of the area really is second-to-none, and really made me mourn the visionary genius of the area's designer Eric Daman, who passed away this year. Because it's so enclosed, it's completely immersive. In some respects it's bold and grandiose (there's a full-size steam train above the entrance to FLY itself!), while in others it's intricate and subtle, with attention to tiny details such as the art-deco flourishes on the signage. It really does make you believe that steampunk was actually a thing. The ride itself is perfectly integrated into the area, twisting and turning in and out of the buildings and underground tunnels so that it appears, then vanishes, then reappears again somewhere you weren't expecting it. I would have liked to spend a bit longer looking around and taking it all in, but it was lashing it down and anyway we had a ride count to consider.

There's a rather idiosyncratic boarding process for FLY, which is explained in an instructional video which is all very German. You cannot take anything on the ride with you (das ist strengsten verboten!), not even a bit of loose change in your pocket. This is ostensibly to protect the people below you in Rookburgh as you ride; however both Galactica and Nemesis take you right over 'populated' areas as well and there isn't anything like this amount of security. First you're given a wristband in one of two colours which are later used for batching. These also lock and reopen the lockers you'll need to put any belongings in (these have two-way doors so they can be reached from the exit path, it's all very clever), and you then walk through an airport-security style scanner. Tbh it's all rather a lot to get your head around the first time, and it does make re-riding feel like a bit of a polava each time. It's almost as though they've designed it so that you feel like you're actually boarding a flight, with all the airport-security rigmarole that entails. I half-wondered if they were going to ask to check my Covid pass!

I have to admit that I've only done one other flying coaster, which is Air/Galactica. However it was immediately clear that FLY is a huge step up from any B&M flying coaster. One of my least favourite parts of Air is being tipped up so you're facing down at the floor (which isn't much to look at!); it's a pretty uncomfortable position to be held in especially if you have boobs! FLY doesn't do this: you sit down in the seat as normal and you leave the station still in a sitting position. As the train climbs out of the station you are gradually rotated into a flying position, in a way that feels effortles and that you hardly even notice. The ride itself is incredible; butter-smooth and much longer than you might expect looking at it from off-ride. I'll probably need to ride it a few times more before I can recall every twist and turn, and there are famously no POVs of FLY anywhere to jog my memory, but it's a real experience, and definitely goes right into my top five.

That's already quite a lot of words, and we've only done one coaster so far (and I have to be up early for a trade fair tomorrow!) so I'll wrap up for now, but watch this space for an exciting conclusion!
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OK so Part V is shamefully late, sorry about that! Need to get better at this trip-report-writing stuff clearly! (Also have to apologise for the lack of photos, it was such a wet day I had stashed my phone in the driest part of my rucksack, having learnt the hard way at BPB one September that phones and water do not mix!)

It was really chucking it now, so we decided to do some of the indoor attractions, of which PL thankfully has quite a few. First up was Maus au Chocolat. (I only realised hours later that this was a play on Mousse au Chocolat! Slap on the wrist from my university French tutor...) This is a fun shooter ride which involves controlling an infestation of mice with balls of chocolate. It's one of a generation of dark rides that relies very heavily on interactive screens; however it did have some good kitchen-themed props in the queue line and between shooting galleries. The piping-bag gun took a bit of getting used to and predictably I got a pretty lacklustre score, but it was a good laugh.

Next up was Winja's Fear, in the rather confusingly named Wuze Town (what is a wuze? Answers on a postcard please!) This is a fully indoor area with two spinning coasters (Winja's Fear & Force) and some kiddie rides. It's actually kind of weird, rather like an out of town shopping centre that someone forgot to put any shops in, and has a large circular area in the middle that's really crying out for a Spud U Like and a BOOST juice bar. Winja's Fear is great fun and by far the better of the two Winja's (we would do Force later in the day), with a surprise element near the end which really tipped the balance, so to speak.

Unfortunately there were a couple of rides we couldn't tick off in this area: Wakobato (a splash battle) is typically shut on Sundays to appease local residents, as sadly was Wuze Ball, presumably for the same reason. Oh well, it's always good to leave a coaster cred outstanding as a reason to come back in the future.

We tried out the VR coaster, Crazy Bats, which demonstrates that if a VR system is done properly, it CAN work. The headset is extremely heavy and not really designed for small heads (although it is adjustable) so it's a bit of a weird sensation as you're hurled around the track. I've always found the VR experience a bit odd; kind of detached from reality (guess that's the point!), but this is a good example of its kind, and shows up how utterly dire the VR system on Galactica was. Note that the capacity for this ride is pretty woeful and later on the day it would have one of the longest queues in the park (second only to the churros stand near Chiapas, which never dipped below 40m all day!).

Now it was time for the big one, Taron, which I knew that for many people is the top coaster in Europe. What can I say? It's utterly insane. The first launch takes you a bit by surprise - you coast quite leisurelily out of the station and then WHOOOOSH - off you go. The second launch is just nuts, taking you up to the ride's top speed of 73 mph, and sounding like an aeroplane taking off. There's tons of airtime in this ride, and possibly an excessive number of twists and turns; left, then right, then left, then right. But it's pretty damn awesome. If I were being picky, the themeing isn't top-notch - I don't think I could tell you what it was supposed to be based on - and the cattle-pen queue line isn't fun, especially when it basically takes you across a car-park. They've definitely thrown the kitchen sink at the ride hardware for this one though (and chucked the dishwasher in for good measure). We managed to ride it twice more that day, the second being a front-row ride, which was a real experience.

It had just about stopped raining by now, so we made the somewhat illogical decision to do a water ride: River Quest. Again, this was a reminder of just how bad rapids rides in the UK have become. There are some crazy elements here: a vertical transporter (basically the whole raft is tipped into an elevator, weird!) and a really steep drop that really doesn't feel as though it should be allowed on a rapids ride (and in this country at least, almost certainly wouldn't!). I found out the hard way that it's possible to get really quite wet, though to my consternation my travelling companions remained irritatingly dry!

After I'd stood under a hand-dryer for 15 minutes attempting to dry my shorts in a blast of ice-cold air (with minimal success!), we stopped at Rutmor's Taverne briefly for lunch. We didn't linger too long as we had MORE RIDES to cram in, although the trio of meatloafs (meatloaves?) I'd ordered took some digesting, so I requested a gentler first ride post-prandium. This was in the form of Raik, a family boomerang. It's a family boomerang. We rode it. A ride I have done, as John might say!

There was more to say about Colorado Adventure, however, a mine train coaster which is basically Big Thunder Mountain on Speed. Don't be fooled by the 1m height restriction; this is a wild ride, hurtling in and out of tunnels and twisting around the scenery with a surprising amount of force. It's way more fun than any mine train coaster has any right to be, and next to Taron is probably my favourite ride in the park. It has some good interactions with Chiapas as well which I will always give a ride extra points for! It's surprisingly long as well, with 3 lift hills and a ride time of around 3 minutes.

We did a few non-coaster rides in the afternoon, including Mystery Castle (Mystery not Misery program, although if I'm honest I was still a tad underwhelmed), and of course Chiapas, which is a damn good flume that has a banging soundtrack to rival Pirana (and like Pirana, it even has its own party room!). It was bad news for my socks, however, which became so waterlogged they couldn't be rescued, and I ended up squelching around in damp trainers for the rest of the day. Next time I must remember to wear crocs! (Only kidding, I'm not quite that uncool!)

Given that the park was so quiet, we had time to do the only two rides in China Town: Feng Ju Palace, a Vekoma madhouse, and Geister Rikscha, an ageing ghost train. I'm a fan of madhouses in general, but this one was a real letdown. The whole concept was extremely confusing, if I'm honest. Hex and Villa Volta both have good preshows with decent storylines, but are a bit dialogue-heavy especially if you don't understand the language. Feng Ju Palace's (overly long) preshow attempts to tackle this problem by having no dialogue at all, but if anything it makes even less sense as a result. It's a fairly typical tale of a woman being stolen away from her lover by a demon, and I couldn't really see how it fitted the concept of a madhouse. The ride system itself isn't great, and the parking brake is so kaputt that it's a wonder they're not writing to Alton Towers for a spare part. Another Vekoma madhouse in the bag, but not one I'm desperate to ride again.

Unfortunately the same could be said for Geister Rikscha, which is arguably one of the worst ghost trains I've ridden, with the possible exception of The Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare. Like that one, half of the effects were not working and some of the animatronics were very very kaputt indeed. Tbh it's been about 32 years since I actually found a ghost train scary, so I tend to judge them based on how much they make me laugh. In that respect this one definitely succeeded.

Personally I think the whole China Town area needs a complete re-think. It seemed to have a few eateries and shops, but there just isn't enough to do to want to make you stay in the area. I'm not sure how much life either of the dark rides has left either - Geister Rikscha turns 41 this year, and doesn't look too good for its age, and while Feng Ju Palace is no older than Hex it is really clamouring for some redevelopment - at the very least they should fix that awful parking brake.

We still had one major coaster to tick off: Black Mamba, which we'd deferred as it's almost impossible to get to currently due to the development of the Africa Adventure Trail (or as John put it, 'some bridges thing'). As a sister ride to Nemesis, I was expecting big things, but I confess I was underwhelmed. Perhaps I need to reride it and pay a bit more attention, possibly on a day when I haven't ridden Taron three times, but it did seem to be one of the less remarkable B&M inverts out there. I also didn't really care for the pitch black holding station at the end of the ride - could they not have at least put some props and lighting in to have something to look at while you wait?

As per our usual practice, we spent the last half an hour haring around trying to fit in as many extra rides as possible, which included a re-ride of Colorado Adventure, the rather pleasant chairswing Wellenflug in the centre of Berlin square (although I won't go into details about loading operations, which nearly cost us our final ride on Taron!) and then of course Taron itself for the third time. Note that unlike parks in the UK, PL do close queuelines ahead of closing time so they can run off the queues; however it will always tell you on the entrance board what time the queue shuts so you shouldn't be caught out.

Final ride count was 22 rides, including rerides on FLY, Taron, Colorado Adventure, Winja's Fear (because why not?) and Taron again. I think I've only ever topped that once, at Thorpe Park on a rainy day in April 2012, and it gave me a splitting headache (probably thanks to Colossus!). Given how busy I know PL can get, I thought we really lucked out. Wet weather is no friend to your footwear, your phone or your hair, but it can be damn good for your ridecount!

Thanks for reading, if indeed you still are!