Spain June/July 2018

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Thekingin64
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Spain June/July 2018

Postby Thekingin64 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:41 pm

Sorry for the delay in writing this. Have been busy over the summer and only just found the time. For those who didn’t already know, I recently went on a 2 week trip to Spain, covering the Madrid parks, Zaragoza, Barcelona, Tibidabo and Port Aventura. This is was my first time ever in Spain so all experiences were new to me. As this trip was a few months ago and that I took over 2000 photos over the course of the trip, this report will be mostly a photo dump with the occasional caption. Brief plan of whole trip:

Early morning flight Liverpool-Madrid on 27/6/18
[*] Check into hotel (https://secure.ibis.com/store/index...0 ... w.ibis.com)
[*] Tourist Day for rest of day
[*] Parque de Attractiones de Madrid (28/6/18)
[*] Parque Warner (29/6/18)
[*] Another tourist day in Madrid (30/6/18)
[*] Train to Zaragoza (1/7/18)
[*] (International Science Week Zaragoza (1-7/7/18))
[*] Parque de Attractiones de Zaragoza (7/7/18) with train to Barcelona that evening.
[*] Check into Hotel (https://secure.ibis.com/store/index...a ... w.ibis.com)
[*] Tibidabo (8/7/18)
[*] Tourist Day in Barcelona (9/7/18)
[*] Port Aventura (10-12/7/18)
[*] Late night flight back to Liverpool from Barcelona (12/7/18)

Day 1 – Madrid Royal Palace and Old Town (27/6/18)

Trip started with a 6am Easyjet flight to Madrid out of Liverpool airport. Airport experience was smooth except for the fact the gate supposedly closed at 5:50am but didn’t even open till 5:40am! By pure luck, I did end up sat right outside the gate while waiting for gate to be announced. This meant I was first in the queue to get on the plane!

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Me on the plane while waiting for everyone else to board.

Once on the plane, flight went smoothly and landed in Madrid on time. Bit of faff at the airport as wasn’t sure where to find where to buy the unlimited travel pass for the Metro. Eventually found that and was straight onto the Metro to my hotel. Ended up at the hotel 30mins before check-in time so used that time to sort myself out and get on the hotel Wi-Fi. Once checked in, I dumped my bags and straight into the city centre aiming for the Royal Palace. Walking out of Opera Metro station and seeing Madrid City Centre was one of the few ‘Wow’ moments I’ve had recently. While I was expecting nice architecture, I wasn’t expecting how nice it was and set me in good spirits for the rest of the trip.

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I then wandered over to the Royal Palace and Cathedral, still enjoying the local architecture. Ended up walking through a formal gardens style area on the way.

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Before going into the Cathedral Museum, I decided to take a look at the view from the plaza area to find you can quite clearly see Parque de Attraciones from there! Was a rather unexpected bonus as didn’t realise how close to the city centre the park is! Roll on day 2 when I planned to be at the park!

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After that excitement, I utilised my student discount to get a discounted ticket into the Cathedral Museum. I’m not religious so wasn’t fussed about the history of the building, I just knew this would allow me up to the top of the dome of the cathedral for the view. As expected, the view was fantastic and I took many photos:

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(Soon Abismo, Soon...)

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(Can’t remember whose football stadium this was, it’s not Real Madrid though)

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Inside the cathedral is nice but only average in comparison to other cathedrals, especially as they tend to get very samey after a while.

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This box was mentioned as significant in the cathedral museum but can’t remember significance myself. Roughly translated from Spanish, the cathedral website has this which I think is about the box pictured:

Cathedral Website wrote: The central chapel of the ambulatory is dedicated to San Isidro Labrador and his wife Santa María de la Cabeza. The images of both saints, imposing polychrome carvings of baroque style (17th and 18th century) attributed to Villabrille and Ron, flank the funeral ark, protected by a double glass urn, which contained the incorrupt remains of the saint who, at present, they are in the Collegiate Church of San Isidro. This ark, from the thirteenth century and from the Episcopal Palace, presents scenes of the saint, painted in oil on coated leather; These are developed between typical Gothic arches of the s. XIII. The sarcophagus is made of wood covered with parchment.


After the cathedral, I went into the Cathedral Vaults which weren’t particularly interesting but still grabbed a few photos:

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Afterwards, I again utilised student discount to get into the Royal Palace. Palace was very nice although the decorations in most rooms was a bit over decadent for my liking. No photos were allowed inside but I did take numerous photos in the allowed areas:

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After the royal palace, I took a slow wander back through the city centre aiming for Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. Reached Puerta del Sol first:

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(Not at Sol but was on way, think some sort of old Jailhouse/church but not sure)

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Although it was nice, it was very busy with tourists, detracting from the experience as it felt like a tourist-trap. Was nowhere near as bad as most of Barcelona later in this report though. After Sol, I “accidentally on purpose” got lost wandering vaguely towards Plaza Mayor. At this point, I hadn’t configured the data roaming on my phone so no Google Maps to direct me. This did allow me to see parts of the city I otherwise wouldn’t have although I probably was just wandering in a very zig-zag fashion for a while.

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Eventually found my way to Plaza Mayor. Again, this felt very touristy but was enjoyable enough.

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(Attempted a Panorama photo using the built-in feature on my phone, seems to have come out quite well, if a bit small on here.)

More old town wandering followed this before finding the recommended Mercado de San Miguel. Had eaten a large late lunch in the Opera area so only purchased a drink from one of the fruit stalls which was lovely. I did return later on in this report for paella though.

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It was about this point I realised how close to Plaza Mayor and Opera station I still was, given it felt quite far apart due to my roundabout route of finding them. With this knowledge, I continued wandering with the aim of missing the worst of rush hour on the Metro. This caused me to end up wandering generally towards Callao metro station:

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(back of jailhouse/church building pictured earlier)

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(This shop name made me smile)

At this point, my feet were aching after so much walking so jumped on Metro back to hotel and crashed out after the long day. Day 2 with Parque de Attraciones coming soon!
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Thekingin64
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Re: Spain June/July 2018

Postby Thekingin64 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:44 pm

Day 2 – Parque de Attraciones de Madrid (28/6/18)

Day started well with nice breakfast at hotel and was straight onto the Metro towards the park. Park didn’t open till midday so was able to have a small lie in before breakfast. Had slight problem on way to the park as Metro train didn’t park correctly at one of the stations on route, causing panic as doors didn’t open!

On arrival at the park, a large amount of people were gathered at the entrance so expected park to be busy. As I’d pre-booked ticket online, I mentioned to get through the crowd quickly and was virtually straight into the park. Most photos today were taken from queue lines and didn’t take my proper camera so forgive any bad photos! (All photos uploaded in order that I took them so may appear out of order of rides done)

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Once on park, I did plan to get the low capacity Abismo and Vertigo out the way first but stumbled upon the 2 children’s coasters (Paw Patrol and Padrinos Voladores) which were both walk on so ticked them off early. Both not much to write home about but still was +2. Afterwards, I just went around the park, hitting whatever I came across focussing on the coasters. This meant TNT Tren de la Mina was next. One train operations meant this had built up a long slow queue, meant I could get some photos of ride and nearby Splash Boat (Fiordos) ride though:
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The design of this queue being so close to the Splash Boat station did make me wander if they had modified the Splash Boat queue when building TNT, reusing the same building? It did seem odd having both rides and queue lines in such close proximity with numerous people getting confused as to which ride they were queuing for.

Ride itself was fun but nothing spectacular. Best bit was the final few turns when the ride had picked up some decent speed. Leaving the splash boat for later, I continued into the park towards Vertigo, the park’s Wild Mouse. After seeing an hour queue posted on the queue time boards and seeing medical staff within the queue, I considered skipping it for now but sucked it up and entered the queue. Luckily, it turned out to only be a ~30min queue. The medical staff were treating someone in the queue line though, possible heatstroke but unsure. Hope they’re okay but didn’t intrude so have no idea. Ride itself was a typical wild mouse, nothing special.

Afterwards, I continued round to one of the more anticipated rides of the trip, the Maurer X-car Abismo! Having only ridden G-Force before, I didn’t have much experience with this ride type and this always looked one of the better models. By ride design, this only has 1 12 person train, meaning another slow queue nearing 1hr. The queue didn’t have misters in though which was welcomed in the Spanish heat. The fact was a single rider helped here as there was an odd loading rule meaning they had to fill the train with no empty seats. This meant I got a short queue jump in order to fill a spare seat, got back row as well!

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(Car of old coaster situated nearby. As with the Remains of Defunct Rides topic, quite like this idea of memorialising old significant rides)

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Abismo was fun but still could use being longer. Was also surprisingly rough in the back row as well. Note for future visits: I tend to leave restraints slightly loose to allow for more airtime and any unwelcome tightening during the ride, this idea is not fun on a slow, inverting lift hill…. (More Abismo photos later in report). Also nearby was this suspended monorail type thing. Came back to this later in the day for the photo opportunities:

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Think it was about now I grabbed lunch of a Spanish Tortilla sandwich from a nearby stall. Wasn’t great quality but functioned perfectly well as food. Continued round the park next towards the Intamin invert, Tornado. This again was quite hotly anticipated due to the rareness of this ride type. Due to the park layout, Tornado is located down the end of a long 1 way path with no other rides, surely that could have been planned a bit better? 1 train operations again meant a sizable queue had built up but it moved quickly enough.

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(not sure if there’s enough supports here, worth adding a couple more to be sure?)

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Ride was enjoyable but nothing special. Was odd having the same restraints as Colossus (TP) but on an inverted coaster.

To complete the coasters at this park, it was back up the dead end path from Tornado to Tarantula, the Maurer spinner. Again, had a long queue but it moved quickly enough. These rides are never amazing but always solid good fun, this one was no different. Got some decent spin and the drop in the short tunnel was fun due to how close the clearances felt. (pictured below)

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All coasters done, I did plan on doing the log flume next door to Tarantula but that broke down while I was queuing for Tarantula and never re-opened. I instead did the indoor shooting ride the other side of Tarantula. While the ride was terrible, I did manage to get the highest score for my car! (seat 8, score not clear due to glare on screen)

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Next up were the 3 flats near Abismo: the Huss top spin, Intamin drop tower and Huss frisbee. All were typical of their ride type and good fun as usual. They were only running one side of the drop tower, causing yet another queue and I learnt that my tall self doesn’t make for comfortable Top Spin riding. Those restraints really dig into your shoulders!

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Decided to make way back to the Splash Boats from earlier via the rapids. Took some general photos on route:

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Abismo above the trees.

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Main entrance midway of park with starflyer at top.

Again, massive queue for rapids extending out of queue-line (definitely a theme for today this…). Moved quickly though so got on soon enough. Rapids were very wet with a spiteful fountain halfway getting everyone on boat soaked. Continued up to splash boats to avoid getting wet twice in one day. As expected, Splash Boats were very wet especially since I was sat front row!

Went for a blow dry on TNT immediately afterwards as queue had died down slightly. Still as good as it was earlier in the day, if a bit faster having warmed up. Major rides complete, I ticked off some of the interesting smaller rides on offer, starting with the aforementioned suspended monorail thing. While it moved quite slowly, it did provide numerous photo opportunities:

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Me on ride

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Disko was also closed all day…

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From the monorail, I noticed this outdoor River Caves style boat ride. Decided to give it a go after getting off.

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Upcharge horror walkthrough I didn’t do. The crowd of people was for some sort of event happening within the centre of the aforementioned Jungle Cruise boat ride which had rave style music playing quite loudly. Did see adverts for some sort of “Horror Fest” event beginning around 5pm though, perhaps it was for that? (Not sure why you’d pay theme park entry for a rave though?).

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Children’s area I didn’t spend much time in.

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Carousel near Vertigo

After not getting any earlier, I got some photos of Vertigo from the monorail:

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Yet another Abismo shot. May not be a great ride but certainly looks nice.

Went over to the Jungle Cruise ride next. Good theming but a bit out-dated nowadays, doesn’t have same charm as River Caves. Didn’t help the aforementioned rave was happening in centre of ride so that was all I could hear.

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Very low bridge for ride to squeeze under. Not designed for tall people….

After this, I aimed for a ride on the nearby star flyer but found queue closed. Thinking it had broken, I continued round for a re-ride on Abismo. Upon finding that queue closed as well, it turns out that the advertised park close is obviously park close, not queue close as I’m used to in UK….. Hoping for a shorter queue, I ran round to Tornado for another ride. Got in the queue just before the queue closed. Got some photos of Tarantula from this queue:

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After this, I found some of the smaller flats still open so got a ride in on the rotor and chairswing before park closed fully. In complete breach of ride safety, I did try and grab some photos from top of rotor of all rides at dusk but all came out blurry. Could even see the city centre from certain angles! Think video came out decently enough though:

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(I wouldn’t usually get phone out on large rides like this but view was nice and wanted to try and capture it)

Final Park thoughts: Nice enough park and surprisingly major given its location. Was my first experience of a Parques Reunidos park, can see why people complain over their management with the one train ops everywhere and the older rides feeling quite unloved. Would visit again if in Madrid again but wouldn’t rush back unless they got anything new. Would get an annual pass if local to the area though.

Final ride counts (courtesy of my LoG submission):

Rollercoasters
Paw Patrol x1
Padrinos Voladores x1 (x1 back)
TNT tren de la mina x2
Vertigo x1
Abismo x1 (x1 back)
Tornado x2
Tarantula x1

Water rides
Los rapidos x1
Fiordos x1

Dark / flat rides
Rotor x2
Cueva de la tarantula x1
Top spin x1
Lozenderos x1
La maquinas x1
Zeppelin x1
Las junglas x1
Sillas Voladores x1

Shows
N/A

After leaving park, I decided to head back into the city centre for food at Mercado de San Miguel and see the city centre at night. As suspected, the paella was fantastic and wanted more! (some photos blurry as phone camera doesn’t like night photos)

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The paella I had. Making me hungry just thinking about it…

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Can’t remember if it was Day 1 or Day 2 but one evening while wandering near Plaza Mayor, I stumbled across a bar with an outdoor TV screen showing the Germany v South Korea World Cup match. I turned up as it was 0-0 with 5 mins to go so figured I’d just watch the end. Didn’t expect it to go to extra time and definitely did not expect South Korea’s 2-0 win!

Headed straight back to hotel to sleep afterwards before the earlier start for Parque Warner the next day. Trip report coming soon!

(ps. Imgur’s already being glitchy over uploading these photos, what’s going to be like at the end of this trip?)
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Thekingin64
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Re: Spain June/July 2018

Postby Thekingin64 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:08 pm

Day 3 – Parque Warner (29/6/18)

Slightly earlier start today as park opened at 11:30 and had further to travel to get to the park. As recommended by many people on here, I got a train from Atocha station to Pinto station before getting the local bus service straight to the park. Other than a bit of faff buying train ticket at Atocha, journey was surprisingly smooth. For the train geeks on here, Spanish broad gauge train feel utterly no different to standard gauge trains, trains themselves more modern and spacious compared to British Rail though.

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Park entrance. As you can tell, the park was much quieter than Parque de Attraciones the day before. This meant most stuff was walk on or only had a short queue. This did also mean less time for photos though, have seemed to neglected taking photos for a large portion of the day. Once in the park, I headed straight for Stunt Fall (Vekoma GIB) knowing it has reliability problems, passing some nice scenery on the way:

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Unfortunately, Stunt Fall was broken and was opening late. With Coaster Express down for re-tracking as well, I resigned myself to the likely double spite. With this in mind, I headed into the childrens area to clear up the to family coasters in the park, Tom y Jerry (Zierer Tivoli) and Correcaminos (Mack Youngstar).

Tom y Jerry ended up having the longest queue of the day as was popular with the families on park. Was just an average, very vibratey Tivoli which wasn’t much to write home about.

Was surprised to find Correcaminos running on 2 trains, meant it was virtually walk-on! Ride itself was fun and a nice departure from the standard Vekoma Rollerskater. It being Mack meant it was perfectly smooth and had comfortable trains. Came back later in the day for a re-ride.

While riding Correcaminos, I noticed a train ascending Coaster Express’s lift so powered over in the hope it had reopened after it’s re-tracking. Turned out the ride was indeed open and virtually walk on! One train operations though. Managed to claim back row which turned out to be a mistake. Ride was fun but still very jarring in places, more re-tracking recommended! You can really tell the areas that had been re-tracked over those that hadn’t, especially in the back row. There is an especially bad section coming into the final break run where you can actually see where the track has warped over the years! Still, glad it was open though. Got a re-ride later on in the day in a non-wheel seat midtrain. This helped but still was rough in parts.

Continuing round the park brought me to Batman. This was my first Batman invert that I’ve ridden and it certainly impressed! Very, very forceful and relentless throughout the layout, the quietness allowed me to snag either front or back row for all rides! The VR option meant for a slow moving queue though, even though it was on 2 trains. Did return later in the day for a VR ride. Also, got some photos of ride, queue and Gotham area of the park.

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(Like Abismo, this tower can be seen from all over park so took many photos, did also ride it at some point)

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Spied life in Stunt Fall from Batman’s lift so powered over. Ride was indeed open so joined the minimal queue. Once in station, the ride op tried talking to me in Spanish but it wasn’t clear what he wanted me to do so confusion ensued for a few moments as don’t know that much Spanish. Turns out all he wanted to do was height check me against the ride’s max height limit! (1.95m) Luckily, I was underneath that and was able to ride but obviously the basic Spanish lessons before this trip weren’t enough…

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After initially walking past Superman on way to Stunt Fall, I made my way back to ride it. Found the ride on 2 trains again and completely walk on with most trains heading out half empty, was straight into the airgates! This was my first true B&M floorless (not counting Baron) so was interested in how it would ride. This has turned out to be one of my favourite coasters as every element is fantastic and well executed. There’s even airtime on the first drop if sat back row. Immediately went round for another ride! All rides bar 1 were in back row.

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Superman’s break run has a very clear view over the Parque Warner waterpark which I didn’t visit. What amazed me was although it was a hot day, the 2 large B&Ms in this park were walk-on while there was a massive queue for all slides in the waterpark. I enjoy waterparks but think I know where I’d rather be!

Stopped for lunch at large restaurant near Stunt Fall. Was busy inside restaurant so sat outside on terrace by lake with fountains. Took these photos over lunch:

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After this point, I have lost track as to which order I did everything so shall post some thoughts on each ride in a rough order.

Cine Tour: Vaguely cinema themed vintage car ride. Had nice view of Stunt Fall so took photos of Stunt Fall and theming.

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Os Yogios: Splash Battle themed to Yogi Bear next to Stunt Fall. Very wet and very interactive, managed to spray some non-riders trying to spray me! Went back to stunt fall afterwards for a blow dry.

Hotel Embrujado: Went in expecting a ghost train, got a decent mad house with all story in Spanish so couldn’t understand it. Fun though.

Vengenza de Enigma: Large drop tower seen all over park. Got lost trying to find the entrance to this. For such a prominent ride, the entrance is really tucked away down a side path with no obvious signs. Were only running one side but opened up a second side as I walked up so rode the second side. Think this was the shot side rather than drop but unsure. Have a photo from base of tower:

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Rapidos Acme: Surprisingly fun rapids in family area of park, not quite as good as the Parque de Attraciones de Madrid ones but still good fun. Went for a reride later on as well. Had a nicely themed queueline, had screens playing roadrunner cartoons and all these suspended items moved slowly along the course. Helped brighten up an otherwise standard cattlepen:

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Rio Bravo: Surprisingly long large flume ride. Initially broke down on me before I could ride. Left queue when they started evacuating those onride… Came back later on to ride and enjoyed it. Had element though which took me completely by surprise:

Spoiler:
Not only is there a backwards drop halfway around the course, it’s a rollercoaster style backwards drop! Didn’t not expect the airtime hill as part of the backwards drop. Quite cleverly hidden from view off ride so had no idea it was coming


Cataratas Salvajas: Fairly standard splash boat. Was very wet but still re-rode later on!

Los carrios de la mina: Breakdance style ride near Rio Bravo. Fun but short cycle, took longer to load than ride time!

Academia dos Pilotos: Standard children’s monorail, nothing special.

Aventuros de Scooby Doo: Well themed family friendly shooter. Again went in not knowing what to expect.

Invertatron: Lex Luthor themed Top Spin. Managed to sit more comfortably on this compared to last one so shoulders didn’t ache as much during.

Loco Academias de Policias: Only saw this show as was wandering past arena as it was about to start. Was surprisingly good and stunts were fun to watch, didn’t expect them to bring out a lorry cab though. Show arena:

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(think half the park was at the show…)

Batman VR: While I’m in the camp that VR doesn’t belong on major coasters like this, this was quite fun. Video graphics weren’t amazing but did the trick nicely and did sync up with ride. What I liked most about this system though is the organisation this has but Galactica/Air lacks. Not only is the VR a completely separate queue to normal riders, the headsets are completely removable from the train. Each row has its own headsets stored in a separate room in the station and given to riders as they need it, allowing for varying demand and a more thorough cleaning between use. If VR is to be used on more coasters in the future, it should definitely be this system instead of the faff currently on Galactica/Air.

Finished the day off with re-rides on Superman and Batman until park close. Headed straight back to hotel after leaving park.

Final Park thoughts: Much larger and much nicer that Parque de Attractiones with more major rides, would definitely visit again. In a way, its very similar to Thorpe: Large park located just outside country’s capital that requires a train and bus transfer to get there from city centre… Very enjoyable day, the shorter queues helped. Final ride counts:

Rollercoasters
Tom y Jerry x1
Correcaminos Bip Bip x2 (x2 back)
Coaster Express x2 (x1 back)
Batman x4 (x2 front, x1 vr, x1 back)
Stunt Fall x4 (x1 back, x1 front)
Superman x4 (x3 back)

Water rides
Os yogios x1
Cataratas salvajas x2
Rapidos Acme x2
Los carros de la mina x1

Dark / flat rides
Hotel embrujado x1
Venganza del enigma x1
Academia de pilotos x1
Cine tour x1
Aventuros de scooby doo x1
Los carros de la mina x1
Invertatron x1

Shows
Loco Academias de Policias x1

Day 4 and more wandering around Madrid coming soon!
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Thekingin64
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Re: Spain June/July 2018

Postby Thekingin64 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 10:06 pm

Day 4 – Railway Museum and Retiro Park

Lots of photos today, Imgur saying 200 photos for days 1-3, but 275 just for day 4! No parks for a while either, just cultural things around Madrid and Zaragoza.

Started today at the Museo Ferrocarril de Madrid (Madrid Railway Museum). While I don’t consider myself a full train enthusiast, I do still enjoy railways so when I spied the existence of this museum on Google Maps, I decided it’s be worth a visit, especially as the museum is located in an old railway station.

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On arrival on the museum, a short thunderstorm started so quickly ran for cover in the museum itself. Small entry fee but utilised student discount again. As expected, inside was many old trains and I took many photos. As most of the signs were in Spanish, I missed a lot of the details about the trains in the museum and anything I learnt I have since forgotten, making this section not much more than a list of photos. Feel free to skip over this section if bored by train photos:

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(Useful explanation of Spanish train numbering system)

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(Living Quarters aboard one of the carriages, think this was the royal train carriage but unsure)

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(balcony on same carriage)

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(old restaurant car still used as museum café)

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(Model of what museum building would have looked like as a railway station)

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(model of British Garratt locomotive in their Model Display, only mention of UK in entire museum)

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(3D model of entire Spanish railway network including heights and gradients)

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Unfortunately, the outdoor section of the museum was closed off for some reason so couldn’t get a close look at the outdoor locomotives they had. Still got some photos through the windows though at various points throughout the day:

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Museum was nice to see and worth visiting but I wouldn’t put it down as a must-see while in Madrid, especially since it is clearly geared for more local people rather than tourists like me. After leaving the museum, I wandered towards the south end of Retiro Park, passing the exterior of Atocha station and other nice buildings on the way.

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Once in Retiro, I took a long winding walk through the park with no particular aim, eventually finding myself to the large central lake. It being another hot day, I was grateful for the numerous water bottle refill points situated around the park.

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(Doubt this has anything to do with the French park of the same name but still amused me)

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Found my way to the crystal palace and to my surprise, they had turtles/tortoises in the small lake there! No idea if these are completely wild or placed there by park management but was still fun to see. They’re obviously used to people though as would swim right up to people for food like ducks would.

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(See foot for how close they were getting, some would even swim right up to the step)

Went inside the Crystal Palace but didn’t spend too long inside. All the glass windows just intensified the heat on the already hot day! I bet it’s nice in there though during a rainstorm though, love the sound of rain on tents so must be fantastic in there.

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After the crystal palace, I continued walking vaguely towards the central lake, via the exterior of a building being used to hold a modern art exhibition. I returned later in the day to actually go in.

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Found the lake!

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Made my way back to the aforementioned modern art exhibition, mostly for the architecture of the building. I don’t care for modern art so didn’t really pay much thought to the art.

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After spending not much time at all with the modern art, I started wandering towards the Prado for some proper art, taking photos on the way. It was at this point my shoes were starting to fall apart from the heavy usage so started to cause my shoes to ache. I persevered though as knew my budget for the trip likely wouldn’t cover new shoes. While I knew a lot more walking was yet to come, I thought I might as well wear these shoes into the ground first (more on this later in the report, was running low on funds while at Port Aventura)

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(This building confused me as had various Prado signs on it so knowing the Prado was in this general area, I thought this was it. It especially worried me it said it was closed…. After a quick google, I discovered it wasn’t the Prado itself but was indeed owned by the Prado as a library/outbuilding of sorts)

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(The back of the same building)

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(Church outside of the Prado, nice building but didn’t hang around as there was a private event on at the time I kind of walked right through the middle of….)

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The Prado itself. Again, I utilised student discount which meant I could get in for free (before the public free evening hours). At this point, you may be glad to know that no photos were allowed inside so no photos were taken. They almost didn’t allow my water bottle in either but instead gave me a plastic bag to hold the bottle with promise that I wouldn’t drink anything while inside. This museum is huge though. Didn’t expect how large it was and it took me 2 and half hours just to walk round all of it! All paintings were very good quality and especially loved the 2nd and 3rd May paintings.

Afterwards, I made my way back towards the lake within Retiro as spied a good number of cafes there. While I knew the price would be inflated due it being the touristy area, I was hungry as didn’t have much lunch and couldn’t be arsed walking anywhere else. As expected, the food was good enough but was expensive for what it was, wouldn’t eat there again if it can be avoided. The location right on the edge of the lake more than made up for it though.

After food, I started wandering towards a nearby rooftop bar as recommended by @hixee, passing numerous nice buildings on the way.

Puerto de Alcala: (this was featured on my tourist Metro ticket so made sure I saw it)
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City Hall: (believe this has a viewing platform as well at the top but was already closed for the evening when I got there, also had some construction work happening on the building at the time)
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Other nearby buildings:
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At this point, I reached the rooftop bar but there was a massive queue to enter so didn’t bother. Instead, I continued up Gran Via, taking photos as I went:

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(The building housing the rooftop bar)

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Construction work meant the street felt even more busy than I guess it would usually. With camera batteries now completely exhausted, I purchased some new ones (along with some cheap Spanish off-brand Haribo) and went back to the hotel for the evening. As this my last proper day in Madrid, I shall post my thoughts now.

Madrid: Lovely city with some fantastic architecture all around the city centre. The parks nearby were also fantastic and would happily hold an annual pass for both if I lived locally. Would love to go back one day.

As a side note, what I noticed in Spain that I’ve found is pretty uncommon elsewhere is the efficiency of usage of space in the city centres. Almost every large square had an underground car park and/or large metro station beneath. Even the more historic locations like Sol and Plaza Mayor they must have dug up to build everything! Even the public loos in Retiro were underground. Just made everything so much less hindered by having to build these items above ground as is common in the UK, meaning the sights could be enjoyed without these items spoiling the ambience and view.

Sorry for the massively photo-heavy long post here, reports should be shorter from here onwards. Will write up Day 5 soon.
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Thekingin64
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Re: Spain June/July 2018

Postby Thekingin64 » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:41 pm

Sorry for the delay in continuing this. Uni work suddenly built up and when you spend all day writing a large essay, you’re not exactly motivated to write a different essay/trip report in the evenings!

No park trips for a while as covering the ISWZ part of the trip, shall try and keep it brief as understand it may not be of interest to most.

Day 5 – Travel to Zaragoza (1/7/18)

Checked out of Madrid hotel smoothly and went straight to Atocha for my 11:30 train to Zaragoza. Didn’t realise until arriving at Atocha the long distance trains in Spain a treated like planes and had to go through security before getting into the platform area! Managed to get through smoothly though and waited in waiting room area for platform to be announced. Once the platform was announced, there was a small rush to get through the ticket check and down to platform, causing a short queue at the ticket check.

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(The train I was on)

I didn’t realise until boarding I’d accidentally booked into first class on the train so got wide leather seats for the journey!

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Train departed smoothly and on time but as we were pulling out the station, I realised I’d left my water bottle in the waiting room! Was slightly annoyed over that as was almost constantly thirsty in the Spanish heat and needed the water. I’d also had that water bottle since the start of uni, I still miss it!

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(The short distance platforms at Atocha as seen from train)

Train journey was smooth and fast. I figured I was booked on the express service between Madrid and Barcelona via Zaragoza but didn’t expect to hit 300kmh-1 (186mph)! I forget the name of the intermediary stop, but the town had a nice castle on a hill in town. Cue me getting Ed Sheeran stuck in my head…

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Train also passed some more nice scenery on route but passed way too quickly to be able to photograph it clearly.
On arriving into Zaragoza, I met with the organiser of the ISWZ course (Javier) at the station who gave me a lift to the university halls I’d be staying in for the duration of the course. He also provided me with a pre-payment card for the local public transport system to allow for easy travel around the city. (card worked similarly to the Oyster card system in London).

Once at residence, I dropped bags off in my room and headed down to the outdoor swimming pool located within the residence which I had free use of during my stay. Met with a few of the other ISWZ participants here as well.

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(View from my room)

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(The swimming pool as viewed from my room, there are another 2 pools out of shot I could use as well but that was the main one. I didn’t realise this at the time but one of those towers visible on the horizon is the drop tower at Parque de Attraciones de Zaragoza!)

After a quick swim, me and the other participants moved into the outdoor bar by the swimming pool to watch the Spain-Russia match on the TV there. Was a good close match but was more interesting watching the reactions of all the locals in the bar. Was especially amusing after Spain lost on penalties, all locals just left almost immediately! Some even left their drinks, they weren’t happy at the result!
After the match, almost all ISWZ participants had arrived so the whole group went for a meal at a nearby restaurant (La Antilla). Food was very nice but portions on the small side.

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(Group photo of whole group + the 3 Zaragoza Uni staff organising the trip. I’m right at the back on the left)

Day 6 and the start of ISWZ coming soon!
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Thekingin64
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Re: Spain June/July 2018

Postby Thekingin64 » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:38 pm

Day 6 – Start of ISWZ

Day starting with a disappointing breakfast at the residence. Was nothing more than 2 packs of dry biscuits and 1 doughnut. Nothing like the full continental breakfast range I could enjoy at the Madrid hotel. I wasn’t alone in not enjoying the breakfast, almost everyone complained. At least it was free though as part of the whole ISWZ course.

After a quick bus ride into town, the first activity was a visit to the original university building near the city centre. Once housing the Science and Medicine departments, it now houses a small Natural History Museum and various admin rooms for the uni.

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(Group photo taken outside the building, be prepared for quite a few group shots throughout this section of the trip. Again, I’m at the back in green shirt)

Inside the building, we were led into one of the lecture theatres for a short introductory talk about the course and Zaragoza in general.

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(Guessing you should be able to recognise me by now, still in green shirt)

After the welcome talk, we were given a guided tour of the Natural History Museum. While the museum was small, it was very interesting and focussed on the numerous dinosaur fossils found within the Aragon region of Spain. Was surprised to find out just how many fossils had been found, didn’t really anticipate Spain as a large dinosaur region. Museum is open to the public so is well worth a visit.

Also had a tour of some of the ceremonial rooms in the building usually closed off to the public except for special university related events.

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(door into room, with one of the ISWZ participants (Aivaras) in the way)

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After this, we walked through the city towards the newer campus for the uni. New uni campus was nice but architecture certainly not as nice as the old Science building.

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(new science building)

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(other building on campus, can’t remember which subject it housed)

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(Maths building I think. Certainly not a fan of this concrete square architecture style)

Afternoon group activity consisted of whole group giving individual presentations on their home town and university. As the group consisted of numerous places around the globe (including San Diego and Venezuela!), the presentations were quite interesting to listen to. The presentation from the Venezuelan Student (Augusto) was especially interesting. Can’t remember the exact presentation but remember him saying he is effectively a refugee from Venezuela escaping the corrupt government situation there, family back home very poor and regularly get electricity blackouts as live in rural area. Was very interesting, wish I could remember more of it. (If anyone is interested, I still have the PowerPoint file for my presentation on Cardiff University I could share)

After the formal organised group activities finished for the day, most of the group decided to have a picnic in the pool area at the residence with food purchased from local supermarket. I joined in but didn’t anticipate the rest of the group using the chance to have a cheap drinking session, having not purchased any alcohol. With the group consisting almost entirely of students, I perhaps should have seen this coming…. I still attempted to join with their drinking games as best I could with the bottle of cheap off brand Fanta I’d purchased instead and I was still welcome within the group! I stayed until around 11:30 before leaving and heading to bed. (That Fanta bottle then became my replacement water bottle for the rest of the week)

Day 7 with a guided tour of Zaragoza city centre coming soon!
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