Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rainbow Magicland

This is just a quick report and selection of photos. To see the rest of the images click here.

I had a spare couple of days prior to heading out to Sweden (oh, hark at this globetrotter) so I decided to head out to Rainbow Magicland, a new park located in the small town of Valmonte, approximately 30km east of Rome, which opened this month. The park is getting a lot of attention due to the quality of theming, which is pretty top notch from the entrance right through the park.

The park's signature attraction is a large Maurer-Sohne launched rollercoaster called Shock. Located just next to the end of main street and running out over the central lake, the steam-punk themed ride looks to be a great choice for the park indeed. Although not carrying passengers on the day I was there the ride was being tested throughout which elicited very positive reactions from the public watching it, despite not being able to ride.

The park currently has two water rides and both are encountered if you head clockwise from the entrance. Drakkar is the rapids ride, themed around a viking journey and with some nice theming along it's course and a couple of sections that did get passengers pretty wet which is the perfect counter to the melting heat. Yucatan is the Big Splash attraction which had stunning Aztec style theming and a huge slighlty animatronic demon that spat water on the boats travelling underneath. The latter ride unfortunately was not open today.

Next to Yucatan is one of the most photogenic pieces of theming that the park has to offer. The minotaurs take on Abu Simbel building houses an indoor dark ride called Huntik. Alas I know nothing of the ride as looking through the doors I could see the finishing touches still being applied to the queue line within it. The building however is huge, which bodes well...as long as it's not just a queue line inside it :) In the rides absence the externals became a backdrop to photos as visitors clambered aboard the giant lizards and had their photo taken on them.

The park has a show theatre next door which can hold a sizeable crowd and on the day I was there featured two circus style shows. For those interested in stage lighting, and I know of at least two friends who are, the show is primarily LED based adding a very rich level of colour to what was an average show. Be warned that if you're in the front row and the clown is doing a routine that has him and a member of the audience spitting water, you are likely to get spat at...in the face. Amusing, unless you're the recipient.

The second biggest coaster and the one pulling the crowds because it was running was a spinning coaster called Cagliostro. The theming on the building for this ride is stunning and as a fan of MC Escher I'm surprised his style of mind-boggling structural designs hasn't been used before. The external theming was triggering a lot of debate about how good the internal theming was going to be; well perhaps disappointingly there isn't any. It's an enclosed ride completely in the dark. Given the theme of confusion and bewidlerment that comes from being in a world where up cannot be determined from down perhaps this was all they could have done. For the people who want to see what the ride is like, one turn takes place outside the building. The ride also suffers from including what I believe to be the most anti-climatic element in its design, that being a lift hill at the end. Having said that the ride was being run very well and what appeared to be a daunting queue line was actually eaten up quite quickly. The queue line for this runs outside the building and for those who may be worried that the queue continues inside needn't. The station is right inside the entrance, that was a nice relief when queueing.

Coaster numero trio sits opposite the Cagliostro building and features a flying ship travelling in and around a small volcano. Called L'Olandese Volante (The Flying Dutchman) this appears to be a cookie-cut Vekoma layout, the one with twin lift hills. The ride itself was fine, perhaps the wheels need a little more time to bed in as there was a slight vibration throughout much of the first half. But as a family coaster this was running two trains all day and a decent contingent of people, old and new on each, so clearly the right coaster for the park.

At the top-end of the park is the Planetarium which is actually the 4D cinema. This showed a film I'd not seen before, but I'm not sure it's unique to the park. It features a couple of turtles having to deal with man-made disasters (oil spill, deforestation, ice caps melting etc). I'm not sure the eco-conscious message was reaching the audience however; most of them seemed happy trying to squish the 3D fish between their hands.

In the back corner of the park is a whole area dedicated to younger children. In here there are two more coasters here for the credit hunters. Both are bog-standard models but feature unique train theming. The first one is called Amerigo, this is the caterpillar ride. The second is a rollerskater with a rather demonic looking front train called Bomborun. Special mention should be made of the Rocking Tug ride in this part of the park which has a great looking spider theming and has the Rita-esque name of Ronnie. In fact the theming in this part of the park was really impressive, all of the rides looked unique. The only exception being a childrens rapid ride tucked away at the back. For those who're worried that a childrens area means childrens only you'll be pleased to hear that there was no problem getting onto either coaster. However if big wheels are more your thing, getting into the little one at this park is going to be a bit of a challenge.

A large building on the south side of the park contains an inverted dark ride called Believix. This ride takes you on a flying journey through a number of worlds where the fairies live. Great for the little kids, not so much for the adults as the fairies here are just animatronics and not hot Italian women in costume.

In the south-west corner of the park is a flying island ride, which gives a great view of the park. With the tower ride still being constructed and the Shock coaster not running this was the only opportunity to look down on the park. One nice touch was that the car park was covered by solar panels, keeping the cars cool and generating some power too. It was also a surprise to see new construction projects already underway in two places around the park. The next wave of investment perhaps? (there's a clue there)

In my report on Ferrari World I made a comment that the park had been poorly attended and I believe a complacency in the brand being enough to bring the public to the park as being at fault. Well the marketing people behind Rainbow Magicland should be applauded for the promotional work that they've been doing. In and around Rome I saw billboards and posters advertising the park. Deals have been struck with local hotels and the sightseeing buses to include the park in package deals. Also the public in Rome knew about the park and if when it came up in conversation every local I spoke to knew of the park and more importantly had plans to visit. This has to be seen as a very promising sign that the park owners got their strategy right. The attendance in the park wasn't vast but given that the park was in its first week of opening, and I was visiting on a Monday just before their national holiday, perhaps this wasn't a surprise.

A few little tips for the park.
1. Bring a hat. It's hot and it's open.
2. The toilets are mostly, but not completely, of the squat variety. So get working those leg muscles and your aim.
3. The urinals are higher up than usual, so work on your aim whilst being on your tip-toes.
4. If you need to leave a bag somewhere there aren't any lockers but the information room on the right as you enter will kindly look after it for you for 3 euros. You will need to leave some form of ID behind so bring your passport with you and be prepared to hand it over.
5. If you are going to leave your bag, don't ignore point 1 and choose to leave your hat in it.
6. The queue lines use a counting system that for the most part self-regulates the queue line and ensures rides and attractions are filled up. Don't enter if the sign says ALT, that means HALT, the H being silent. The numbering can be messed up by parents carrying kids through the turnstiles.
7. If you want a good ride on the spinning ride try not to complete a group of 4, but be prepared to be disappointed when randoms fill your car instead.
8. The cheapest way of getting to the park is the free bus from the centre of Rome. Details can be found at www.escursioniroma.it. The dearest way is private limo which can cost around 130 euros from Fiumcino airport or the centre of Rome.

Here are some videos of Shock testing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


With the Lisbon out of the way it was then time to visit Seville. This should have been a half hour flight but availability is low and I had to fly via Barcelona where I was delayed for four hours. So arriving quite late I chose to just hit the hotel for preparation a long day sightseeing the next day.

This was my base for Seville, the Hotel Derby. There's a shortage of chain hotels here so I ventured for a local one-off. It's located in the centre of town and is perfectly located in the centre of the city.

 An early start to the day and I was already liking the architecture. The smaller building is a great cake shop and due to it being just around the corner from the hotel was visited by this person on more than one occasion.

 Cute graff.

 A rather nice church which unfortunately gave me an Assassins Creed "I could climb that" flashback.

This was stunning and a complete fluke to find as it's not currently visible on imagery within Google Earth. Called the Seville Parasol it's actually nothing more than an observation platform overlooking the city.

 From where you can get a nice view of the rest of the structure, which looks like it's made a wood but it's all steel.

 The more touristy views however offer this one of the cathedral to the south.

 and a view out towards the most recent Expo site to the North. You can just make out the theme park Isla Magica in the background, which is where I was going to head (it's not actually that far). The platform is 2 euros to the tourists and free to the locals. Somehow I got in for free so perhaps my Spanish was too convincing.

 Beneath the parasol is a preserved ruin site. Great if you're a fan of mosaics.

 The castle again and a lovely bright day to hopefully make the photos a little better.

 The city is littered with churches, this one was buried somewhere in the back streets. I was staying in the centre of the old town, where the streets are narrow and the taxi rides through them quite claustraphobic.

 This nice stencil montage was on the shutter for a video rental place.

 The city has a bike hire scheme similar to the one recently opened in London. I toyed with the idea of using this to get about but decided I would be happier walking around until my legs seized up, like I usually do.

 Some more video shop shutter art.

 This is the Alameda, the oldest public garden in Europe built in 1574 and a meeting point for the locals, just not at this hour. The van isn't as old and those bins are actually elevators to bigger bins underground. I know this as the taxi was stuck behind a bin van that took 15 minutes to get from one end to the other emptying them all.

 More shutter work. The writing over the top is actually deliberate, but it spoils the pic.

 CHiPs, Andalucian style.

This bridge is the Puenta de la Barqueta, which was built for to get people to the Expo site across the river. The Isla Magica Park is right across it and I could have got there pretty quickly. But I got distracted...

 By a load of art along the river bank.

 Also along the riverbanks, a fishing contest was taking place. I didn't see anything of any noticeable size being caught. In the background is the drop tower at the park

  This one had a slight Francis Bacon vibe to it. I do find myself drawn to art that paints with lights on dark.

 The next bridge upstream is the Puenta del Alamillo, a large single span bridge. It's quite amusing that the single support has become home to a local competition to see who can get their name the highest.

 Onto Isla Magica then. This park was built in the late 90's and is the only theme park in the city. It's like a mini Island of Adventure with themed areas around a central lake.

 You enter the park in the Pirate part.

 The drop tower runs a pretty good bounce program and the disk-o recently added to the park was OK too and nicely themed, around an Aztec temple.

 Buried in the shade behind the Disk-o is a haunted walkthrough that requires an upcharge to be paid to enjoy (enjoy in the sadist sense of the world)

 The log flume wasn't too bad and fortunately not too long. The warm climate meant that I didn't mind riding this as I'd dry out quickly.

The park is home to 2 rollercoasters. This the smaller of the two was the first of the day. Tren de Potosi is themed around a South American mine ride and being a cookie-cut kiddie coaster was OK.

 The theming in the park was top notch with some very nice touches. A huge fortress at the north end of the park would be great for some large indoor ride but instead it's part restaurant/part show stage. Maybe it's in their future plans.

 Instead of riding horses, in this place you get to ride Llamas. "My name is Llama" in Spanish is "Mi llama es llama".

 The signature rollercoaster is Jaguar, which for this year had replaced the usual headbanging restraints with the new vest style, which I'd also experienced at Morey's Piers. The ride was probably much better than it would have been with the original harness but I still got a huge kick going through the roll and with these new restraints you have nothing to hold onto, which confuses me every time.

 How wet is the big splash ride? Very!

 For those who like their water rides more sedate, the park has a boat tour around the main lake.

 Nice touch to have the rapids going around the chair swinger.

This building in the South-West corner houses a shooting dark ride attraction which is a lot of fun. Some of the targets trigger various effects including water sprays (aimed at other riders) and smoke fireballs similar to the Indiana Jones ride made the ride re-rideable. It did lack a final scoreboard, which was a shame.

The park is actually very nice but not a full day attraction. Fortunately I had another plan to fill the day out. The park opens at 11 (well it did on the day I was there). Bear in mind that if you are planning on getting there early only the rides in one half of the park open immediately. The Jaguar coaster is the last to open one hour after the park opens its gates.

Back in the city now and it was time to head to the other side of the city. The city had a large number of horse drawn carriages out and about. They were shipping people to and from the Feria de Abril, a large event in the south.

 This building called the Plaza de Armas. It used to be the main train station in the city but in the last few years was converted into a shopping mall.

 More stunning art on the Puenta de Cachorro.

 Close by is a small model of the Atomium, the legacy of an Expo that took place in Brussels. Seville has a strong Expo history with 2 Expos having taken place in the city. The original one taking place at the turn of the 20th century that has left it's marks on the south of the city, and a more recent one to the north in the area around the theme park.

 The beautifully scenic building across the river in the Triana district. It looks like a fake mural.

 This is the Seville Bullring, which when not looking like it's watching you, is a major attraction for the locals and some tourists. Not this one though.

 This is the Torre del Oro or Tower of Gold. It has not gold but may well have done in its past. It's the only remaining relic of the city's Arabian era. It houses a small museum.

 Crossing over the river and heading down to the site of the Seville Fair more and more people in their traditional Andalucian costumes were heading down too. The fair is a major opportunity for families to get together and indulge in tapas, dancing and partying. We have no equivalent in the UK.

 This is the main gate to the complex, which is split into two sections.

 The main area is set up with hundreds of marquee tents, hired by families and groups in which food is served and most of the socialising takes place. The smaller area, but still rather big to the west is home to a fairground, the largest one in Spain. It was no coincidence that this coaster nerd was visiting the city on this weekend.

 Not sure I'm happy about his ride.

 This equivalent ride was much better but nowhere near as popular.

 The first of many roller coasters was this little one called Mini Mouse. I was too embarressed to ride this at first but was encouraged by friends back home via text to "give it a go" and I did but I had to catch the ride when it was empty.

 This little train ride was made more fun for the kids riding it by having a clown smash them in the head with balloons as it came past and turning the ride into a total fight. Balloons seemed to be quite popular additions to these rides.

 A haunted walkthrough attraction, which wasn't that popular.

 Aside from the two large big wheels, the largest ride was this booster variant and this was quite popular based on the fact it was spinning for most of the days.

 The second ride of the day was one that I've ridden before both in Spain and in its travels to the Christmas Fair in Hyde Park in London is Ala Delta (Delta Wing). It's not too bad but a bit "err whut" on some of the corners.

The fair is home to 3 mice coasters, yes 3 and the first one to ride translates to "Crazy Mouse with Hungry Cat". The cat is a tunnel section towards the end.

 Selva Encantada or Enchanted Forest is a really unique ride with trains designed to look like hovercrafts designed to fit with a slightly damp water splash at the end.

 This wheel is huge and spins really fast. I'd ridden this at a travelling fair in Albacete a fair few years ago.

 A rather crazy and bright fun house. There were several of these too.

 Raton Vacilon is just a plain old Crazy Mouse.

 Jump & Spin does what it says on the can. It's like a classic jump ride but the cars rotate part way through the ride program making it a little more disorientating.

 There were 2 Dragon powered coasters in the fair. This one had delusions of grandeur calling itself Super Dragon. The theming was certainly super :)

 This is the other dragon coaster. On this one I was repeatedly bashed in the head with a balloon by the ride op each time it came through the station. The lengths I have to go through to for my hobby.

 Tronkito was a the one rollercoaster that eluded me. It was too small to ride and too popular to get a seat even if I could fit my fat arse in it. It's a bit brightly coloured huh?

 The bungee catapult still elicits screams even at a fair that has some of the best rides on the Spanish touring circuit.

 A 5-storey ghost train, which was unfortunately more impressive to look at than it was to ride. I spent most of the ride attempting to keep my head down to prevent it scraping along the ceilings.

 This funhouse was themed around Mr Bean for some bizarre reason.

 The women in their traditional Flamenco outfits.

 Yes, those kids are really being thrown about by a rather silly Tagada program.

 One of the amazing things I like about the fairs in Spain is the customisation to some of the rides that would not clear the silly health and safety rules we have home. Here's one example, take a rainbow ride and replace the seating platform with a row of cages in which people stand unrestrained.

 Here's another and one of my favourites that I recall riding in Albacete. Yes, those are cages on the end with people just standing inside them. At the top of the swing you lift off the floor and can hit your head on the ceiling of the cage.

 Next coaster was a scenic railway themed powered kiddy coaster with unauthorised Disney branding. The ride is called Fantasia.

 and near to that was a powered caterpillar, which is what Tokito translates to.

The 3rd mouse coaster translates to Super Mouse with Crazy Cheese. Another mouse ride with a tunnel.

 I'd ridden one of these in Ireland and this one was just as intense.

 More outfits, some very nice and others not as much.

 Back into the main city again and it was time to check out the first Expo site, which was built in an attempt to open trade channels between Spain and South America. Countries from there were invited to build some amazing buildings. This one is the Argentinian contribution.

The Colombian Pavilion.

I'm not sure who this belonged to? It's now a dancing school.

 The centrepiece of the Expo is the Plaza de Espana a stunning building that I spent a good while walking around and enjoying.

 Clearly these Chinese folk were impressed with it too choosing to use it for their wedding.

 Loving the art on the this recycling bin.

 The city has tried to develop it's public transport including a modern tram system, no clang clang clang here.

There is a Metro but it's very small and currently consists of a single line (there are plans to expand it). As it runs east west and I was walking north south north south north south I had no urge to ride it. 

 This is the Hotel Alphonso XIII and it's the grandest hotel in the city. It's guests will likely include kings and queens and the uber rich.

 The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the third largest church in the world. It's also extremely opulent inside and I can't but help think as I do every time that if the church sold just a small amount of it's priceless collection could they not save so many people with the money earned? The paradox of the Christian Church that I can never rationalise.

 As said earlier smaller churches that are found all over the city.

 The Archivo de Indias building opposite the cathedral.

This is where Beethoven ended up having been set in Carbonite for not paying his debts to Jabba.


The city has two rival tour bus services; a green one and a red one. If you're colour blind the city runs a single grey service. Both follow similar routes. I chose the red one and it gives you a one hour tour around both expo sites and the spaces in between. It was fine and gave my feet a rest.

This is the Costurero de la Reina Azotea was also part of the Expo but is now a tourist information office.

The 29 Expo area of Seville was beautiful and I loved the architecture here. The best attraction had to be the Plaza de Espana which is a must do if visiting the city.

In stark contrast to the 29 Expo is the 92 Expo which again gave the city a large number of buildings but these were much more modern and not as pretty. Like some Expo sites I'd been to the buildings didn't appear to be used giving the area a bit of a ghost town feeling. This is the Torre Triana which is now an administrative building.

The Future Plaza was the centrepiece of the Expo. I don't know what it's used for now, nothing perhaps. A replica of the Ariane rocket sits outside. Unlike the first expo site which was stunning, this was not so and I didn't take too many photos here.

Another tower Torre Perdigones, this time a relic of the ammunitions industry that the tower was part of. Another Assassins Creed challenge.

 People getting ready to see bulls killed and once again the building refused to stop staring at me.

Seville is another pretty city and again small enough to do in a day. I would definitely recommend visiting it during the Fair season, even if not a fan of the fairground as you get to see a lot of Spanish culture, making the  visit a little more special than at any other time.