Parc Espana

The hotel was stunning, not as modern looking as the ones we had stayed in at Osaka and Tokyo but the attention to detail was something else here. This was the fountain in the hotel lobby, and certainly set the tone for the rest of the building.

Once again the hotel had welcomed us to their place and I guess because we were foreigners we were getting top-billing. If it wasn't that it was probably the fact there were over 100 of us staying in the hotel and we were by far the biggest group staying there. Enough of the hotel, it was time to get out into the park, which we did as soon as our backpacks were dropped off in the hotel.

Like Orochi at Expoland, Pyrenees is an inverted coaster and the park advertise this one as the fastest inverted coaster in the world. This isn't quite right as there are at least 5 that are faster than this one but knowing stuff like that just paints me as a coaster-geek, which I should be avoiding for fear of ridicule. As it turns out the ride was closed but would be open later. Perhaps like Orochi it also has breaks during the day. The helix through the loop looked particularly tight and it would be great to experience the Gs through that.

So the first coaster of the day turned out to be Gran Montserrat which is a common Spanish term for the rollercoasters in their country, it translates to "big mountain". Although the ride was sponsored by Bridgestone I would doubt that the ride would feature their tyres.

Gran Montserrat is the park's mine coaster and as seems to be the norm with rides of this type was painted in a rust colour. Although the picture looks like it's of supports I took it because although Pyrenees wasn't running, it clearly was. Hopefully this would be the test runs that would lead to it opening later in the day.

This coaster was actually a lot of fun to ride featuring 2 lift hills to keep the ride lengthy and exciting. Tim in the group was preaching at how good an example of German engineering this ride was and for him to be positive about anything, it has to be good! Running beside this is the log flume that we would do next.

The flume, called Splash Monsterrat (which I assume translates to "splash mountain") wasn't as good as the previous ride. The weather down in this bit of Japan was very very hot and I wouldn't have minded getting soaked on the flume ride, but it wasn't to be as I came off just as dry as when I got on it. If I was going to cool off I'd have to find another way of doing it.

It was quite odd to be in yet another empty park but to see the parade still running even without an audience was even stranger. Getting into the party vibe Tim decides to debut his thigh-slapping dance in an attempt to upstage the park's routines.

Keith, part time dance teacher, decided to upstage Tim by breaking into some Mambo routines more in time to the parade music than Tim's attempts.

The floats were pretty impressive as were the dancer's costumes and everything was themed to something Spanish e.g. the Dali melting clock on the front of this one. It just seemed the park were going to so much trouble for an empty park and I was feeling kinda sorry for the dancers who had to keep the smiles going in hot sweaty costumes for a tiny audience.

You wouldn't get the dancers at Disney pulling people out of the crowd to join in their dancing so it was pretty cool to see it happening here, although there weren't many to pick from admittedly. It would be interesting to see whether they'd pick either Tim or Keith based on their impromptu performances.

Clearly thigh-slapping isn't as Spanish as Mambo so it was Keith that was pulled up, and join in he did picking up a very quick routine and becoming one of the dancers.

A strange touch was seeing real Spanish people being employed by the park. Well I guess if you want to have a Spanish themed park you can't have many Japanese faces in it. So if you're Spanish and want somewhere to work in Japan give this park a call.

Keith was clearly enjoying himself too much.

The park even went to the trouble of putting up a rope barrier to keep the crowds back obviously!
Another impressive float and more foreign dancers.

When not racing horses Frankie Dettori can be found dressed as a Matador at Parc Espana. The poor security guard beside the king just looks like he'd want to be somewhere else.

Oh! They do use Japanese dancers in Spanish costumes. I guess someone must have called in sick today! With the very impressive parade coming to an end it was time to get out of the heat and cool off somewhere. The flume had failed, so something else had to be nearby.

As it turned out it we were saved by another frozen walkthrough attraction. This one was quite stunning in that for the first section at least, each block of ice had roses in its centre. I have no idea how they did this.

Even the centre had a couple of ice sculptures, which admittedly didn't photo very well but did look quite good all the same.

The final section featured some ice furniture. Here Keith and Andy model the table and chairs which I made them do after I agreed to lie on the ice bed sitting opposite it.

In the centre of the park was the Shining Luminous Castle Sparkling Carnival Ride. A rather strange ride that featured a large set of seats that moved between several scenes on two floors. Some of the scenes featured animatronic animals and others lightshows. Considering we nearly missed it, it turned out to be pretty good and certainly unique.

The park was in two sections with the majority of rides at the top of the mountain and another a short walk down the admittedly steep slope. By this point we were starting to become aware of how good the theming was here and there were places like here where it was so good it was hard to believe you were in Japan and not in Spain.

On the path down to the lower section there was some sort of walk through a story and as it was all in Japanese we had no idea what the story was, but I suspect it featured a dog hidden in a bail of hay.

At the bottom of the walk it was now apparent that this park had some astonishing theming, and if it hadn't have been for Tokyo Disneysea it would easily be the best in the country. Most of the rides here surrounded a lake which was one half of a boat ride.

Adventure Lagoon was the name of the boat ride and for a tame boat ride it was wetter than the park's flume. Even the simulated cannons hitting the water got us wetter.

The ship in the centre of the lake housed the station of the boat ride and the ride itself was a Pirates of the Caribbean type ride with most of it taking you for a tour around the lake.

The middle of the ride was within an enclosed section and featured a coaster type diving drop, which I used to wind up a couple of the enthusiasts searching the park for coaster credits.

The ship looked amazing, hard to believe it wasn't a real ship. This park was out in the middle of nowhere far from any major city and it was hard to believe that the population of Japan don't come out this way more often to see this park. They definitely deserve the attendance.

This windmill building housed a ride themed in a similar manner to Peter Pan at Disney parks where you sit inside a ship which flies over a series of vignettes. The ride was really good and easily better than the Disney versions.

It was here that we discovered that the park was themed around a cartoon version of Don-Quixote. The original novel was written by Spanish autor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605 and is perhaps Spain's most well known story. I hadn't seen these characters and figured they were unique to the park. As mentioned earlier Don-Quixote is a chain of stores in Japan but not here!

Once again, nice theming even even with the animatronics. They had pulled out all the stops.

Even the shops looked better than most other parks. The buildings looked very Spanish and as a cartoon should be over-the-top they did the right thing in putting the cartoon touch onto this.

To get back up to the top you could either walk back up the slope, which in this heat would be stupid or you could take the "Escalators of Lights", which would carry you up there. The entrance looked very plain but just like a Spanish church.

You could either ride the escalators or take the steps and to entertain you on the journey Spanish music played and a multitude of lights lit the way. Here's a picture of the stairs. In my haste to ride the escalator I forgot to take a picture at the bottom looking up which is why this one has been taken from the top. I prefered this escalator to those on the underground with the neverending tannoy messages telling you about how there was a good service running.

Hard to believe that this isn't Spain. I know I've been saying this a lot but it's true. This is the top of the building that contains the boat ride drop and they've even made it look like a ruin on the roof.

At the top of the escalator is this building that houses the kids play area. A shame from a distance it looked like the most awesome bouncy castle ever!

This is a close-up of one of the huge posters inside the kids bit. If this Don-Quixote isn't a cartoon (and I couldn't find anything on it that would indicate it was) then it should be considered. The quality of the artwork is quite stunning.

This is the other picture and there is nothing more Spanish than bullfighting. The park does have a coaster themed around a bullfight but it was closed on the day we were there.

Opposite the kids building was a live show and partly out of curiousity and partly to escape the heat we chose to sit and watch it with some locals. I have no idea where all these people suddenly appeared from but it was easily the largest Japanese contingent we'd seen on the day.

Damn! They have actors dressed up as the cartoon characters and I'm not swearing because that's quite cool but because the people in the costumes must have the strongest tolerance to heat, either that or they're stupid . It was scorchio! Actually the show was pretty good and kudos has to be given to the costumed performers as they were able to dance in those suits.

The castle at the top of the hill houses a museum and gallery, which we didn't bother looking at. It also houses some other, more theme park like, attractions that we'd go look at too, as well as being blown away by the theming.

This building houses the bull fighting coaster, but as mentioned earlier it was closed and so we didn't get to see the inside, but the outside sure looked nice! Clever ploy by the woman to use the park umbrella as a parasol.

This is the first square at the end of the park's main street, which is the roofed corridor beyond the fountain. This was of course the first time we'd seen this bit of the park as we had entered it via the back gate.

More costumed characters, man those guys must lose so much weight in those things.

I took this in the main street because I thought it was a nice memento of the trip to the park. I'm not aware of the 11th anniversary being one of note but it shows the effort that the park goes to.

Heading back into the main body of the park and a quick ride on the flying island for an opportunity to take some aerial shots of the park. This twisted mess is the second half of the Pyrenees coaster, which we'll be riding after this ride.

Alas I couldn't get it all into the one shot as the island was close to the ride, and I can't be bothered to use those stitching programs to put the 2 photos together. The ride does look quite exciting though. I wonder if it'll be as good as Orochi.This is the Park Monsterrat coaster in front of the hotel. You can see the two lift hills on the right that made this ride a lot of fun. You can also make out the log flume interacting with it. I've just realised that Big Mountain and Splash Mountain both use the same mountain. Ah well.
A shot showing a little of the park and the lake on which the resort is situated.

This warning poster was on the queue line to Pyrenees and I can only guess it warns riders of the effect of positive G-forces on the you and your baby, although I don't understand why they'd advertise a ride that would have you flying out of your shorts!

This one was a little clearer and basically warned you that if you choose to ride with unsecured glasses on you will leave with them broken, although it's quite alright to ride with your legs open in a splits position. I've not tried that before!

The ride was a lot of fun, and featured some nice elements like an airtime hill like Fire Dragon at Islands of Adventure in Florida, something that isn't very common on rides of this type.

The ride was however let down by some poor operations, probably the worst on the trip. They would take a fair few minutes to check over the train before allowing us on and then they'd take some time to check it over before despatching it. That aside I still had a fair few goes on it and liked it a lot.

The park's multi-coloured train, which I had managed to miss until I was on my way out. It looked cute but I suspect wouldn't have the leg room to make it comfortable. The park was great and was the biggest surprise on the trip, with it's world class theming. Whilst it doesn't have great great ride it does have a couple of superb coasters and some strange rides too, which made it a better coaster park than Tokyo Disney.

The evening was spent in the hotel, and whilst the majority hit the pool, a few of us dared to try the Japanese baths. These differ from Western baths in that they're used to relax and not wash in, you do that beforehand at small stools and showers. They also differ in that that you have to be naked to use them. This was the hardest thing to do on this trip (pun not intended this time). It was ironic given that we were out there to ride the biggest fastest and scariest coasters in the country but we needed to psyche ourselves up to have a bath. After realising we could protect our modesty with a flannel it was funny seeing others not realising this (I realise the conotation implied here after having written it but it's not what I meant). I did give the sauna a go but made the mistake of leaving my glasses on then couldn't take them off because they got too hot. I did also try the ice cold bath which no-one else did. One thing that is important about Japanese baths is that you don't dip your head under the water and instead use the ladels to soak them. I'm glad I did my research into this before trying it. Having got over the fear it turned out to be really really good and I felt amazingly refreshed afterwards. This is the obligatory hotel window view and the best I've ever had. The baths had a similar view to this too.

This is the bedroom shot and surprisingly I've not trashed it yet, probably because there's no suitcase here. The rest of the evening was spent in their main conference room where a huge buffet had been laid on for us. Very nice it was too!
After dinner we frequented the hotel Karaoke bar for a legendary evening of singing badly. Being the performer I am I managed to make a complete arse of myself and damn near knocked myself out. It was caught on video and can be seen here.


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