My parents-in-law did take us to Blackpool for a weekend, and we went up the Tower and thrilled to the acrobatic acts in the circus, but we didn't fancy the big rides. Even when I was small I wasn’t too keen on the Dive-Bomber or rollercoasters, though I was always up for the Dodgems. These days my limit is a turn on the Big Wheel or a whizz round on the Chairplanes!
No surprise then that my only visit to the best-known Paris theme Park (fronted by that world famous mouse!) was not a standard experience. If you don’t go on any of the rides you’re left with watching parents trailing overtired kids on a sugar-high looking for the costume characters, occasionally seen hiding round the back of buildings with their heads off, having a sly Gauloise! My favourite bit was watching house-martins flying in and out of their nests on the walls of the nearby TGV station...
I have, however, wanted to visit Futuroscope, in Poitiers, for a while, so was pleased to be offered a short trip there recently. We travelled by train, so some quality time for catching up on reading! We arrived in time for the evening laser show, Lady O, which takes place at the lake in the middle of the park. We sat on the open-air amphitheatre seats in the warm southern air, with a large enthusiastic crowd of all ages, and watched the spectacular display of light and music, relating a story about nature versus machines. Futuroscope is in a beautiful setting, and has a uniquely French feel to it, with modernistic buildings, sculptures, and tastefully planted flowers beds and borders with aromatic Mediterranean shrubs, which waft their fragrance as you walk past. There are some lovely touches, like the softly-glowing red globes hanging high up among the branches of trees in the evening. When I described the large abstract sculptures of outsize females to my son he correctly identified them as works by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Fun and culture, what's not to like?
The rides include Dancing with Robots, where some of our party (non merci!) were whirled around by a giant robot arm to music by Martin Solveig in dance-club lighting, and plenty of 3D simulator experiences. We laughed a lot on the Time-Machine ride, which features Les Lapins Chretins (the crazy rabbits), not least while queuing for entry, where the walls are covered with versions of famous paintings featuring aforementioned crazy rabbits, which included Munch’s The Scream and Botticelli’s Venus Rising from the Sea. This is just one example of the wit and imagination that characterises the whole park. I tried one more ride, but it was all a bit too much for me, and I sat on one of the static seats at the side for Arthur, the 4D Adventure! Our guide quipped that a lot of teenagers consider themselves cheated if they don’t feel queasy after a ride... There are also some great open-air play areas and games in Children’s World, which I’m certain it would be hard to drag younger family members away from.
My personal favourites were the IMAX films, which I’d also been looking forward to most: Cosmic Collisions, and Deep Sea. It was really relaxing to sink into the comfy seats in the dark and become immersed in stunning, narrated films about outer space and the ocean depths - an opportunity to see things I’m unlikely to experience in the flesh. I learnt that our moon was formed in just 4 weeks from the debris which circled Earth after a massive asteriod collided with our planet. Always nice to find out new things, and be reminded of our place in a huge universe!
I hope to go back to Futuroscope - there are always new things being developed, and I’d really like to see the rest of the park, particularly Mission Hubble, where visitors join the rescue mission to repair the Hubble space telescope, and Journey into the Dark, where blind guides take you through three areas in the dark, which give you a sense of what it is like to make your way without sight - from the Louisiana bayou to New York city, and up to the highest Himalayan peak. This last is the only attraction in the park which incurs a cost - a requested donation of 5 euros per person which goes to charities aiding the visually-impaired.