austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

A misty shadow spread its wings

We scuttled off the bus at the Parc Festyland exit, and it made its way off. We were standing on a shoulderless road, in front of a paint seller's, surrounded by farm fields and light industrial parks, and nothing else. The next bus, in either direction, was at least 25 minutes away. If an amusement park existed, it did so without any skyline, any features, even any of the ambient noise of people at attractions.

bunny_hugger spotted in the distance a small, graffitied, sign for Festyland, pointing to a turn 50 meters off. The bus stop was apparently more used by people going to the industrial park than the theme park. We followed it, and found another sign, maybe seven feet tall, showing off the dragon or possibly dinosaur Festy and a sign pointing to the park, down a road. And then down another road, deep into a valley. This is why the park as so well-hidden. Besides being small it was several roads off the main road. But we found the parking lot, and its appealing castle-tower with a Festy standing atop, which pointed to ... well, another path to walk. We would go through a tunnel under the highway to get to the actual entrance. This gives the park something special in common with Kennywood and Holiday World.

We arrived at the ticket booth, a small one around the size of DelGrosso's, just about exactly at the opening hour of 11. It's plausible we were the first people to buy tickets for the day. The park is not very old --- it dates to the late 80s --- or very large --- though it claims to be the largest in Normandy --- but we had figured this would amplify its curious local charm. We were right in expecting that.

At the entrance are some statues showing the head of Festy, a dragon or possibly dinosaur, who wears your classic horned Viking hat. The park has a neat melange of themes, with Vikings one of them. Dinosaurs are another. So are pirates. Also there's 1066 AD, or at least generally ``medieval-ish knights and stuff''. And finally there's a little Belle Epoch section, based at the front of the park. That's where they can fit in the (modern, fiberglass) carousel (4 rotations per minute as I remember it) and the antique-car ride and and adorable little children's boat ride. That has small kids paddle a tiny boat in a water track that loops around and back a statue that's clearly a fish aeroplane.

Curious statues decorate the park. By the antique car ride is a tall sculpture that's based on the Titanic. It depicts the Titanic as a liquor bottle of some kind, topping off in a bottleneck instead of hull, and sitting in an ice bucket. It's important to remember that the Titanic sank before the discovery of ``too soon''. Near this is a plaque explaining the Titanic and its stop at Cherbourg. There were a fair number of such plaques, as if the park felt it had to do a little educating alongside being a park. This reminded me how amusement parks in the 1970s felt they had to be educational too, and so would put in exhibits showing glass-blowing or historical reenactments or things like that.

And we found the arcade. bunny_hugger joked a bit about how we'd tell people we found pinball there --- pinball may be resurgent in the United States, but it's not nearly so common or available in Europe --- but then we looked inside and it was there. They had two pinball machines, as well as a couple redemption games and some mural art of Festy playing video games in his living room with the theme park clearly visible outside. bunny_hugger wondered if this was a reprimand to people playing games they could, in principle, play anywhere instead of taking in the rides and other unique attractions of a theme park.

But the pinball machines. They had a No Good Gofers and a World Cup Soccer, both tables we knew from back home. The tables were in French, though, at least the dot-matrix displays. The table voices --- telling people what to aim for, and such --- weren't dubbed into French. But the display did encourage us to, say, ``Appuyez "start"'' to begin a game, or tell us that ``Bille 1 Bloquee'' when we locked ball one. I had no idea they translated games this way at all.

The scores were none too high. We thought we might be in a ``Wizard Goes To The Cinema'' scenario --- where an expert player goes to a spot that sees a lot of very casual players, and so is able to rack up replays and high score table listings. It wouldn't be quite that easy. Part of it is, of course, that you have to learn the table. Part of it is that the tables were on carpet, rather than smooth floors, so we couldn't nudge them much. Part of it is that World Cup Soccer reset in the middle of a game that had been looking pretty solid. (Just as the one back at our hipster bar used to, that we had assumed was just the faulty electrical wiring of the place! Apparently hard resets are a known issue for the game.) We got several replays, but it would require more time than we wanted to spend to have the glory of our initials on another continent.

The park had European-style hours, and would be open just the seven hours, even though it was a decent enough Sunday. We couldn't spend it all in pinball.

Trivia: Amusement park magnate Fred Thompson arranged the original theatrical production of Brewster's Millions in December 1906. It was a hit, as the novel had been. Source: The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements, Woody Register.

Currently Reading: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May/June 2015. Editor Charles Coleman Finlay.

PS: A Summer 2015 Mathematics A To Z: step, continuing the mathematics glossary. First of these since the last roundup.

Tags: amusement parks, animal liberation 40 years on tour

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