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The Live that wasn’t a Live – Spain December 2017

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Hixee, Dec 13, 2017.

  1. Hixee

    Hixee Moderator Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    Day 1 – Travel and Barcelona

    My trip started with an early flight to Barcelona from Bristol. It was nice to not have to do the commute to Heathrow that I feel like I’ve done for all my flights for the last few years!

    I arrived in Barcelona, picked up my hire car and headed in to the city. I’d pre-booked a parking space in the city, which was a short drive from the airport and well located for getting into the ‘central’ bit of Barcelona. Turns out, I’d chosen to park underneath the National Palace. Fairly impressive!

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    Turn around the other direction, and you get a lovely view of Tibidabo – more on that later.

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    I had an hour or so until @Ben and Sam arrived, so I made the walk from there to La Rambla. For those of you that have been you’ll know what I mean, for those of you that haven’t you’ll have to take my word for it – but Barcelona is a lovely city to wander around. There are lots of little side streets to explore and the architecture is very picturesque.

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    Finally made it to La Rambla, only a few minutes before Ben and Sam arrived – good timing! We decided we wanted a bit of a walk before lunch, so we walked down towards the harbour, had a mince around and then went for some lunch. All simple and good stuff.

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    Finally we decided to make tracks back to the car, before making our way to Salou.

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    After a relatively eventful drive (eventful for tolls and waterspouts, at least), we arrived in Salou. We checked in to the hotel that the majority of us were staying in. Checking in was a bit burdenous – for some reason they wanted €100 as a deposit. Easy enough. In cash? Oh :emoji_zipper_mouth: off. After giving them a bit of grief, they finally conceded that we could put the deposit on a credit card. A very strange hotel policy, and only after we’d explained that we didn’t want €100, in cash, the day we were flying home did they agree that we could use the card. Stupid.

    Anyway, Ben and Sam were staying in Gold River (one of the on-site PA hotels), so I dropped them off at the hotel, headed to the supermarket to get a few bits and bobs (bits and bobs = beer and cake), and then stopped off to get some photos of Red Force at night. Ben and Sam were too impatient to wait for Red Force, so they slithered in to Ferrari Land that night!

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    It was much colder than any of us had been expecting this weekend, and after taking photos for about 30-40 mins, I decided to call it a day. I was cold and wanted a beer – plus @Lofty, Alfie and @oriolat2 weren’t far away!

    After I had met the guys in the hotel room we went for an exciting dinner in a busy McDonalds (I think it’s the only place in Salou open at this time of year, to be honest), and then came back to the room to meet @DelPiero. After many, many more beers and a bit of bedroom reshuffling, @nadroJ and @Belfast Conor arrived and it was nearly time for bed.

    Port Aventura tomorrow!
     
    oriolat2, Jaiden M., nadroJ and 3 others like this.
  2. Hixee

    Hixee Moderator Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    Day 2 – Port Aventura Part I

    Right, time for some creds then.

    We all congregated at the hotel entrance (with the exception of Ben and Sam who were going to meet us in the part), including @Rachel and Frank, @davidm and @Tomatron and Liz, who we hadn’t seen the night before. We all said our hellos and then made the short walk to the park entrance. I’d booked online through AttractionTix and had to redeem my ticket at the “World Box Office”. I couldn’t see anything called that, so I headed to guest services. An amusing exchange followed:

    Me: “Hi, I’ve got a ticket to collect.”
    Her: “Are you disabled…?”
    Me: “Excuse me?!”
    Her (reaching under the desk and producing a disable wristband): “Are you disabled?”
    Me: “Ohhh… no, sorry!”
    Her: “This is only for disabled, go to the ticket counters”

    Admittedly mostly my fault for being rubbish at Spanish, but it did give me a laugh.

    So then I had a bit of faff at the ticket counters as I think the lady serving me was new and wasn’t quite sure what to do.

    Thankfully, everyone waited for me and once I’d finished being a burden we headed in to the park. The lovely Mediterranean area meets your first, and soon it was time to try our first cred of the day – Furius Baco! I rode in the second row, I think, and it really wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being. Sure, it was very bouncy, but the launch was good and the airtime over the first hill was good, and it wasn’t unbearable. Really, pleasantly surprised.

    I mean, it’s still crap, but it wasn’t painful.

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    As we headed up the hill towards the big B&Ms, we stopped off quickly to ride Magic Fish. These are always a good laugh and I find them really satisfying.

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    So, on to the B&Ms.

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    The path under Shambhala was new since my last visit (2007!), and I was very impressed. The views it gives you of both coasters and their interactions is great! Really cool and a great way to approach the two coasters.

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    First up was Shambhala then. After having such an amazing time on Silver Star earlier this year, and hearing great things about this coaster, it was fair to say I was very excited! We’d noticed it looked like it was running slowly, which wasn’t surprising given the air temperatures, but once we hit that first hill it was clear this was not going to be Shambhala’s finest hour (or weekend). The coaster was running very slowly, with very little airtime to be had. I do really like the layout, but without the airtime it wasn’t going to be beating Silver Star anytime soon!

    At least it looks good!

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    We headed round for a quick ride on Dragon Khan, thankfully again only a one train wait (although one train operations too). This coaster was just as intense as I remember and was running really well. Sadly I barely took any close-up photos of it, but it was a fun ride!

    Bonus Red Force in the background shot.

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    We wandered down the hill and rode the mine train. I almost don’t want to write anything, it’s that dull, but all I’ll say is that it has a lot of lift hill… Rubbish.

    It was soon going to be time for lunch, but to break up the pain of riding both sides of Stampida, we tackled the red side first. I think we were all expecting hell, but it wasn’t actually too bad. By no means the best, but not the bone shaking horror show everyone seems to say it is. It does have a couple of nasty moments, but thankfully not throughout the ride.

    We grabbed lunch in the Cantina in Mexico. I (and I think most of us, to be honest) had the chilli-bowl-thing, which was actually pretty good! On the way out we admired the Ferrari Land cake…

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    We sneaked on Tomahawk after lunch, which is a charming little coaster. The new miniature millennium flyer trains are really cool, and work really well on the coaster.

    Time for the second side of Stampida. A decidedly shorter queue this time, and an equally as surprising ride. Definitely not the shake-fest we were expecting. I mean, not amazing, but not awful.

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    Have some blurry ones too:

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    From here we made our way down the hill through the Wild West area, stopping off at the various sculptures and things on the way.

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    Not sure of the context on this one…

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    Insert something about “a pair of cocks”.

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    The snowmen and snowwomen throughout the park all had strangely anatomically accurate faces, with teeth, tongues, lips, eyelids, etc. Rather unsettling, to be honest.

    We rode the dodgems and some of the group rode the break dance. Those of us that didn’t ride enjoyed watching the rather unhappy looking faces of those that had. Tom in particular, did not look great. Sorry Tom!

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    A few of us rode the rapids, which were very fast and thankfully not very wet. There was, however, an extremely spiteful (in the absolute purest sense of the word) water jet at the end. Designed with the perfect spray to get everyone in the boat wet. In the summer, this could be seen as fun, but with the weather as cold as it was, it was frankly just rude. :p

    We’d essentially done a lap of the park at this point. We went for another ride on Baco, and regretfully DelPiero and I opted for the back row. This was the Baco that everybody hates. It was definitely one of the least pleasant coaster experiences I can recall (and honestly, given the bashing it gave us, I’m surprised I can remember anything)! We really hated it. Those of us that saw the on-ride video can see the pain and DelPiero’s urgency to get out of the train on the brake run. Honestly, it was an emotional experience.

    Right, can we please and go ride something to take my mind off that?

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    Oh yeah, they’d do.

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    Unfortunately, one train operation makes getting a photo like this nearly impossible. Thankfully, I can use Photoshop…

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    Couldn’t resist this “block-violation” from this angle.

    By this point, dusk was approaching, meaning the light was getting to that sweet spot for B&M track. ;)

    I’ll do a little dump of photos now.

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    Looking good with the sun in that position.

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    Quite like these “big hardware” type photos.

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    It may have been running slowly, but the ampersand turnaround is a magnificent piece of track (and support) design.

    At this point, some of the group decided to go to the Christmas shown in the large theatre in China. I, along with a few others, decided we wanted to ride Hurucan Condor and so we went to ride that. I do like this drop tower actually – it’s huge and the placement on top of the hill exacerbates it’s height significantly. You also get an amazing view of the two B&Ms and the sea if you’re sitting on the right side. Once we’d done this, we went for a lap or two on Dragon Khan and chilled while we waited for the others to come out of the show. We wrapped it up at the top end of the park with one last group night ride on Shambhala.

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    I’ve always liked the theming on this too.

    Couple of shots of the two B&Ms as the light was fading.

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    One last photo of the ampersand… <3

    We finished up the night by watching their Christmas firework show. Whilst fairly impressive, it definitely had a sense of “USE ALL THE EFFECTS!!!”. There wasn’t very much to write home about it, to be honest, but with a backdrop of the B&Ms and an impressive lighting package on the flyboarding team (they were decked up to look like skiers – it was very cool) were enough to keep us smiling.

    It has been a freezing day in the park, and the relative ghost town of Salou wasn’t all that appealing, so by the time we got back to the hotel and faffed for a bit, we decided that lots of takeaway pizza, booze and chatting would be the best use of the evening. Good fun all round!

    Next up – the tallest and fastest coaster in Europe!
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
    Howie, davidm and Jaiden M. like this.
  3. Hixee

    Hixee Moderator Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    Day 3 – Ferrari Land (and a bit of Port Aventura)

    Okay, managed to find a bit of time over the last couple of days, so figured I’d get this report finished. I need to make sure I leave time to enter the photo competition too!

    We started the day with a similar gathering at the entrance to the hotel, and faffed up the road to the park.

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    I always forget the same of the sponsor of this place…

    Let’s not muck around, there’s very little to actually do at this park and with most of us still needing the cred (only a handful of us had been in the nights before to ride it) it was a no brainer to start with Red Force.

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    I was fairly sceptical about this, if I’m being honest. The construction photos and testing videos had really not made this thing look very good. Mercifully, I was wrong – it’s actually pretty good! The launch is good, with a nice strong force that keeps pulling for the whole straight, and the pull up in to the tower is very forceful. A nice pop of airtime going over the crest, then a floaty free-fall back down before hitting the [very strong] brakes. Not bad, really.

    We went for a few laps, as the queue wasn’t that big, and in between got some photos from the grand stand.

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    I think the perspective on the other photos makes it a bit misleading of how tall this actually is – this close up of the track and train brings it home a little more, I think.

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    After getting our fill on Red Force, we thought it might be worth checking out some of the other rides on offer. The flying theatre queue was pretty cool, with some interesting projection mapping scenes. The ride itself wasn’t spectacular though – certainly not compared to Voletarium from a few months ago. The scenes felt short, the screen didn’t immerse me quite as well, and there was a bit too much CGI going on for my liking.

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    A couple of us had a peek in to the Ferrari Gallery, which was pleasant enough, but not something I’d really see myself spending that long in.

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    Abstract Ferrari art to be found here.

    Some of the group were off riding the vintage cars (or whatever those things are called), so the rest of us did a bit of faffing, queued for the shot/drop towers only to realise it was going to take us all day to get on the damn things, so went to ride Red Force a couple more times.

    I also used this break as a chance to get some more photos, so here you go.

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    The St Marks Square theming was nice to look at – although all very plastic up close!

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    Some nice big views over the bottom end of the park.

    By this point, I’d started to feel a bit under the weather. I had a headache creeping in, which I put down to a combination of beer the night before, lack of sleep, not enough water and a bit too much rattling down the launch track on Red Force. I sat it out for a couple of laps, and instead got some more pictures.

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    Grand stand featuring @davidm.

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    You can just about make out @Lofty, Alfie and @oriolat2 on the first and second rows.

    After a bit more faffing (you know how these trips are), we gathered everyone together and made our way out of the park. At this point we started losing people, with Mark, Alfie and Oriol heading back towards Barcelona, and @Rachel and Frank making tracks too. For those of us that were left, it was time to head back to Port Aventura. We’d had enough of Ferrari Land by this point – as had seemingly everyone else, with the park feeling very quiet.

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    But first, let’s see @DelPiero doing a little investigating.

    Now, as some of you will have read in the build up to this trip, the original plan was to do Ferrari Land and Tibidabo in the same day. However, after a bit of chatting we decided that it probably wasn’t worth the drive, €30 in tolls and €30 admission for a relatively mediocre +2. We decided it would be better to use the park-hopper tickets to get a few more things done in Port Aventura and save ourselves the grief. The being said, I wouldn’t feel put off doing both of those parks in one day another time of year. There really is :emoji_zipper_mouth:-all to do at Ferrari Land at the moment, and you could easily fit them both in if you could find the motivation to. Plus, for many of us Barcelona is a very easy (and appealing) city to get to, and agreed it wouldn’t be long until we came back anyway.

    So, it was back in to Port Aventura, and up the hill towards the Wild West eatery. We grabbed a relatively quick lunch and hopped the train for some down time. We got off the train in the Wild West area again (I think – memory is a little hazy here), and made our way back past Baco. Some of the group decided they wanted to ride, but after the assault it gave Tom and I the day before (and the slightly headache I was nursing), I decided to sit it out.

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    As seems to be the norm, while not riding I took photos.

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    Another lucky shot of a bunch of CFers in the front few rows.

    We headed up through Polynesia, rode the frankly awful Dino Escape 4D (improved only by @Tomatron’s queue line facial expression), before again going for the B&Ms. We rode Dragon Khan, and then split momentarily while some of the group wanted re-rides and others wanted Hurucan Condor. @Ben, Sam and I went for Condor, and ended up :emoji_poop:ting ourselves on the stand-up floorless. It was terrible brilliant!

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    We all met up for one last ride on Shambhala (which was made extra fab by the fireworks going off from the main show as we climbed the lift hill), and Dave and Tom got a bonus back row ride. Don’t they look happy about it too?!

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    By this point we headed down through the park and back to the hotel!

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    I liked the look of this tree in Sesame area.

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    Thankfully far fewer crowds in this area this evening.

    We faffed a bit in Salou thinking of somewhere to eat, but in the end we decided to do some “homemade tapas” type stuff in the hotel. I think we’d all just had enough milling around by this point, so we were glad for the easy option.

    With a number of the guys and gals heading off first thing in the morning, as we went to bed it was goodbyes for a lot of us. Hopefully won’t be too long though!

    Finally, one last short day in Port Aventura before heading home.
     
    Howie, DelPiero, Tomatron and 4 others like this.
  4. davidm

    davidm Well-Known Member

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    Some good pics there Matt (the ones not spoiled by me obv.) :)
    And that last bonus back row ride was BEST RIDDDDE EVAAAAAHHHHH of course.
     
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  5. Lofty

    Lofty Social Media Team Staff Member Social Media Team

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    I didn't know that you'd papped us. YAS. Stealing that photo.
     
  6. Tomatron

    Tomatron Well-Known Member

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    Christ, I look :emoji_zipper_mouth:ing gross.

    Great report Matt - I'll forgive the unflattering photo as it was a top weekend with a great bunch of people!
     
  7. Hixee

    Hixee Moderator Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    Day 4 – Port Aventura Part II

    Okay, last bit.

    Jordan and Conor were heading off to Barcelona for the day, so after they’d headed off I picked up Ben and Sam, checked out of the hotel, and took a leisurely start in the park.

    We braved Baco again, this time towards the front. Actually a much better ride than two days before, but still not a great ride! :p

    Next, up the hill to Shambhala and Dragon Khan. Shambhala was running a little better today, but it was still fairly slow and, sadly, disappointing. The upshot is that it looked rather nice in the sun.

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    We carried on towards Hurucan Condor, stopping off at the mirror maze first. This turned out to be a little gem! After donning some plastic gloves (required to prevent the mirrors getting greasy), we headed in. The first section is a nice mirror maze, with a couple of good dead-ends and things. The second part is a room with five or six doors, only one of which leads to a pitch black corridor and the exit. We had a good laugh!

    We rode Hurucan Condor a few times (taking advantage of the walk ons), and then went down to ride Tomahawk and the red side of Stampida. We went for a hunt for some food in the Chinese area, but nothing was open, so we ended up looping back round the park (through Polynesia and Shambhala) and eating at the Cantina. We didn’t have long left in the park now, as we were all heading back to the airport for our early evening flights. We took one last ride on the train, as I wanted to get some pictures of the ampersand. Here they are.

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    Magnificent.

    So that was that.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks to all who came on the trip. It was a great time!
     
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