Like many, Attraction Source undertook an Easter pilgrimage to Parc Astérix – located north-east of Paris, France – in order to experience the hotly-anticipated Toutatis on its opening day! We round-up our thoughts on the new for 2023 rollercoaster and wider area, along with other aspects of our visit to the Resort.
First announced in 2018, excitement for Toutatis has built over the course of its construction, which was delayed as a result of both the planning process and COVID-19 pandemic. The opening of other new generation Intamin Blitz Coasters in the interim period such as VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg has added to this anticipation, with many rating these amongst their top coasters. Therefore, the hope was that Toutatis would be Europe’s answer to these well-regarded rides.
Having made the journey over to France on the Friday (experiencing the much-reported chaos of the Port of Dover on the way), we had booked to stay on-site at Parc Astérix, in the beautiful La Cité Suspendue Hotel. Billed by the Resort as The Hanging City, walkers are said to have discovered the entrance to this vestige of an ancient civilisations that had previously been lost in the heart of a thousand-year-old forest. There is a main lodge-type building containing the hotel’s reception, bar and restaurant. The rooms themselves are located in what could be described as treehouses, spread across three floors. These are raised on stilts a few metres above ground-level, with an elevated wooden walkway running through the area and up to each building. There are three sub-areas of rooms, referred to as villages – Potters, Artists and Druids.
Our room was in the Village of Artists (or the red village), and positioned roughly in the centre of the site. The room was finished relatively simply, although the wooden materials and rustic textures used mean that it has a look of quality. There are different rooms available depending on the number of guests, catering from between three and five guests. With only two of us staying in our room, it featured only a double bed and sofa bed. Whilst comfortable, the sofa bed was smaller than a standard single bed, and so, whilst appropriate for a child, it was less suited to accommodating an adult. With the room being on the first floor, the balcony provided good views across the hotel area, and would be a lovely space to use on a warm summer’s evening. The room featured a walk-in shower, with a small window looking out onto the surrounding forest. However, we did find that using the shower would somewhat flood the bathroom, given that there was only a curtain to use as a divider, which didn’t reach down to floor level.
In order to reach the hotels, you are required to drive around the perimeter of the Resort. This provides excellent views of firstly OzIris, a B&M Inverted coaster, followed by Toutatis – this only added to the excitement for riding it the following day! With La Cité Suspendue Hotel being the most remotely located of the hotels, you drive past Les Quais de Lutèce and Les Trois Hiboux en-route. The former is one of the most beautifully themed hotels out there, with the complex set around a (man-made) quay, creating a truly unique and tranquil atmosphere. Having stayed here on a previous visit, we’ve included some images of our room below. Although we have not yet stayed at Les Trois Hiboux, we did still take a look around the hotel and, whilst its exterior appearance is not as impressive as its two counterparts, it is still nicely presented inside. Additional perks of staying at the on-site hotels include a 10% discount to use at shops across the Resort, as well as 30 minutes early access to the Greek area of the theme park and its attractions – this includes Tonnerre 2 Zeus, Pégase Express and Discobélix.
Hotel guests access the theme park via a dedicated entrance, situated a short walk away from all three hotels. This came in very handy on Saturday morning, since, as hotel guests, we were able to obtain early access to the theme park, and, after being held at the edge of the Greek area until shortly before 10am, were then able to make our way over to Toutatis ahead of the main crowds being released at 10am.
Arrival at the Festival Toutatis area is signified by large banners displayed above the pathway, along with signage indicating where guests should park their ploughs and oxen. As guests make their way through the area they eventually reach an impressive statue of Toutatis, who is a Celtic god interpreted to be a tribal protector. On the rear side of this can be found a mirror, perfectly angled to enable guests to take selfies that feature the coaster’s reverse spike element. Lots of leafy bunting also extends out from the structure into the wider area.
Beyond this stands Toutatis’ station building, atop which is a menhir. Guests cross over a bridge above the coaster’s main launch section, and then turn left in order to enter its queue line. The entrance portal is another menhir, bearing the ride’s name. The entire exterior queue line is on an elevated wooden walkway that snakes its way through what remains of the woodland, providing views from beneath the coaster’s top hat as well getting up close to the final part of the layout. Theming in the queue line includes signage describing the ‘grand ritual’ that guests are about to undertake, as well as rockwork with carvings depicting this. With the ride team working hard throughout the weekend to maximise throughput, the queue was near enough constantly moving. Nonetheless, when we first arrived at the ride on Saturday morning, we were able to walk the entire length of the queue up to the station. Inside the station, there are more carvings on its walls, shelves of potions, and models depicting the ride. Guests are then faced with a choice of queuing for either row 1, rows 2-4 or rows 5-10. For our very first ride, we chose to queue for the front row where a small queue had formed.
After around 25 minutes, it was finally time to board Toutatis. A unique baggage system was in operation, with guests taking a seat on the ride whilst still holding on to their bags, and then a member of staff pushing a trolley down the length of the train for guests to place their bags into. This was done simultaneously with other ride hosts securing and checking guests restraints, which are over-the-head lapbars. Dispatch times were being monitored on a screen within the station, with the eyes of a Toutatis face glowing red if the target dispatch time was not met. Upon being dispatched, an audio-visual sequence within the station is triggered, with a Toutatis carving beginning to glow with this light running up to the roof of the station and then down the supporting pillars. This lighting follows the train down into walls of the trench that houses the first launch.
This first launch sends the train up into the first element, an over-banked curve which looks incredibly wacky off-ride and provides plenty of hang-time when on-board. Indeed, on one of our rides over the weekend, it was at this point where someone lost a bottle of water which they had failed to deposit in Toutatis’ trolley. The train then travels through two banked hills, before entering the main launch section. The walls of this trench also feature similar lighting effects to the initial launch, although given that you travel much faster through this launch, they are really only noticeable from off-ride. The first forward launch is only but a taste of the acceleration that is to come, with this not allowing the train to go all the way over the 167ft top hat, but to instead roll-back. This backwards launch provides some incredible airtime as the train travels through both the airtime hill in the centre of the launch, as well as a more aggressive bunny-hop that comes just before the high-speed switch track and reverse vertical spike. After hanging for a moment on the vertical spike, with a brief opportunity to wave to guests on the ground, the train then plummets back down for a final pass through the launch, where it reaches a speed of 66.5mph, which makes it the fastest rollercoaster in France. This allows the train to crest the top hat, with its descent slightly slowed by a trim section that causes the train and guests to hang for a moment before travelling through the 101 degree drop. The next notable element is a zero-g stall which provides some fantastic hangtime, as well as a near-miss courtesy of a tree located close to the track exiting from the element. This is followed-up by an airtime hill, another over-banked curve, a barrel roll above the queue line, and some bunny hops just before the brake run. With four thrilling launches, whippy but smooth transitions, 23 airtime moments (the most on any steel coaster) and an overall exhilarating ride experience, Toutatis is definitely a contender for one of the best coasters in Europe!
After exiting the ride, guests collect their baggage from the trolley that has been pushed out into the exit corridor – this does create something of a bottleneck as guests try to find their possessions, even if aided by a small light attached to the trolley. Guests are then directed through the ride’s dedicated shop. This features a counter for both the on-ride photo (taken in the first portion of the layout, just after the initial over-banked curve), as well as ride merchandise. On sale is a wide variety of products, from the conventional T-shirts, key rings and mugs, to more niche items such as cushions and thimbles. For collectors of resins, that which is available to purchase is a miniature version of the queue line entrance portal.
The festivities aren’t limited to just Toutatis – the new area also features Chez Gyrofolix, a wonderfully themed Zamperla Nebulaz, as well as Aire de Jeux du Sanglier D’or (Golden Boar Playground), where young guests can develop their sense of observation, agility and strength! Situated at a high point in the area, near to Toutatis’ reverse spike, the former provides great views of the aforementioned coaster’s main launch section. Meanwhile, the latter features an array of different structures and activities to keep younger visitors entertained whilst older members of their party take on the thrills of Toutatis.
The queue line entrance to the park’s existing bobsled coaster, Trace Du Hourra, has been relocated to within the new area, although you wouldn’t be able to tell. The structure of the coaster itself enhances the area, in the way that it adds another feature alongside Toutatis. Indeed it seems to natural integrate with the new additions, which is perhaps a surprise given that this area used to be an area of woodland. To further blend in with the area, detailing has been painted onto some of the lower parts of the ride’s supports that come close to Toutatis’ queue line, to match with the carvings on the rockwork.
At the centre of the area can be found Restaurant Au Dolmen Gourmand, a fast food dining option that serves burgers and barley beers as its primary products. There is the option to order either via some self-service kiosks or by going up to the counter. After ordering and being provided with a number, guests are required to wait to collect their food. On opening day, it didn’t seem as though this system was fully working, with the screen not updating to show the status of orders and when they were ready to collect. Instead staff shouted out order numbers – a test of our French number knowledge! After a longer than expected wait to collect our food, we found a seat at one of the many tables in the vicinity in order to eat. Whilst of a reasonable quality (certainly a step above typical UK theme park food), the food was fairly expensive – a burger and chips meal is priced at 18€, with a soft drink a further 3,80€. There was also an additional 1€ charge for a re-usable, Festival Toutatis themed cup.
Toutatis joins an already strong collection of rides at the theme park including OzIris, the awesome B&M inverted coaster, and Tonnerre 2 Zeus, the recently re-imagined wooden coaster by Gravity Group. The latter still features the backwards row at the rear of the train, introduced last year upon the coaster’s relaunch, although this is no longer subject to an upcharge.
Overall, we had a fantastic couple of days at Parc Astérix. There was a wonderful atmosphere surrounding Toutatis’ opening, with every train seeming to be dispatched to cheers and applause from both those on-board and those waiting for their turn! It was also great to bump into many from the UK enthusiast community who had also travelled out for the opening, as well as speak to others who had made the journey from elsewhere in Europe.
Did you visit Parc Astérix for the opening of Toutatis? What did you make of the ride? Or are you planning a visit later in the year to experience what is arguably amongst the best coasters in Europe? Let us know via our social media channels.