History of the theme park
The Parc Bagatelle in Merlimont near Berck-sur-Mer is the oldest existing theme park in France. Bit by bit, a small amusement park with wobbly bicycles, playgrounds, animal enclosures and a mini-golf course developed around the Parent family’s inn before the first rides moved into the park in the 1970s. Initially, these were still operated by the individual showmen, but with increasing success, the offer was successively expanded by own acquisitions.
In 1993, the park switched from individual tickets to a single admission price in order to continue to compete with the nearby Belgian theme parks Walibi and Bellewaerde. By the turn of the millennium, the park had reached an average of 400,000 visitors. In 2000, it was sold to the French theme park group Grévin & Cie, which merged into Compagnie des Alpes in 2006. In the same year, the zoo part of the theme park was closed as it was no longer sustainable due to the steady decline in visitor numbers. This was followed by the sale to the newly founded Looping Group in 2010.
Interestingly, the amusement park is reached via a generously dimensioned underpass. The entrance on the other side of this, however, is less impressive with a covered square and a small ticket office. A small square with a fountain and several colorful children’s rides await us after entering the theme park.
Past the small Kid’z Coaster, a Wacky Worm by SBF Visa, and the Twist’air wave swinger, the path leads us into the original western area of the amusement park. The park railroad station and the monorail station directly above it are located right at the entrance to the area.
The River Splash log flume has been one of the theme park’s main attractions since 1976. The ride, built by Reverchon, impresses with its fast ride through the canal, which runs through a forest for a large part of the ride, before climbing up again for the finale, climaxing in a plunge into the cool water.
Past the Bag-a-Bato ride and the Grand Prix car ride, we make our way to the Rapid River Le Raft. Thanks to the nearby airfield, the decoration of the Hafema Raft Ride is kept to a minimum, but the ride itself is a highlight of the theme park thanks to the large whirlpool ride element.
Located directly on the lake at the back of the park are the Bag Pearl boat swing, the Rapido dinghy slide and the large Triops shuttle roller coaster.
Triops is the suspended version of a timeless roller coaster classic – the Vekoma Boomerang – but Invertigos wouldn’t be Invertigos if they didn’t have even more special features. Firstly, the seating arrangement allows you to reverse the order of the tried-and-tested experience and you can also watch your fellow passengers.
Just like at its former location in Sommerland Syd, the ride is absolutely great. As before, the ride is as intense as ever with great ride characteristics through the loop and the Cobra Roll and back again. It’s just great fun!
If you follow the Main Street of the western area to its end, you will inevitably come across the Famous Jack spinning coaster, which stands out with its very striking front. Viewed from the side, however, the ride hardly differs from other rides of its kind. As is typical of Reverchon, the ride itself is great fun and, depending on the load of the gondola, can turn into an absolute whirlwind ride.
Les Woodies, the novelty of the year, is located in the immediate vicinity of the Famous Jack roller coaster. On the Apollo Sidecar from Technical Park, you can control the swing of the small cars yourself, which makes for a very fun ride.
Splash Factory, the park’s second log flume, is located in the middle of the forest. Since 2000, this small ride from L&T Systems has been impressing visitors with its single shot ride and incredibly high level of wetness.
The small family roller coaster Spirale Express is somewhat unusual for a Soquet roller coaster. After a steep curve, the ride leads over a curved hill, the exit of which has a distinct kink in its appearance, which is also quite interesting to ride and throws you back and forth in the car. This is followed by a second lift and a long Bavarian bend close to the bottom. Shortly afterwards, you reach the station again, whereupon you set off on a second lap through the generally quite nice layout.
Directly opposite the Zamperla Air Race Silver Wings is the entrance to the Gaz’Express roller coaster. From 1987 to 2005, the ride ran through an elaborate mountain massif with several interesting water features to match its Mine Train design. This was removed in 2006, after which the ride operated as Bouzouc and Bag Express and appeared rather bleak overall. This changed in 2019 when the ride reopened as the Gaz Express with an impressive industrial look.
The ride on the Gaz’Express begins with a right-hand turn, which immediately leads us into the ride’s lift. Once at the top, a longer helix awaits us, in which we build up some speed over one and a half laps before entering into the first drop. This takes us through a house and over a lake with quite a bit of momentum. The trail then leads us into another building in a wide right-hand bend. Inside the building, which is reminiscent of a gasometer, we now complete several laps in a descending helix. At full speed, we then make our way over a small hill and into an uphill right-hand bend. Back in daylight, we then enter the water tunnel, although this effect is only visual. After another left-right turn, we reach the station completely dry, whereupon the ride on this extremely interesting Soquet roller coaster unfortunately comes to an end.
Pictures Parc Bagatelle
Conclusion Parc Bagatelle
Parc Bagatelle is a very mixed park. Sometimes it shows its age, sometimes it convinces with really nicely designed corners and rides. At least there doesn’t seem to be a common thread, which means that it has always retained its 70s charm and is therefore very reminiscent of theme parks such as Rasti-Land or Avonturenpark Hellendoorn, which also belongs to the same group. There is definitely potential at Parc Bagatelle, but it should be exploited with clear demarcation of the themed areas and a revision of the older rides. The Looping Group is currently demonstrating quite impressively that it can do this at Drayton Manor Theme Park. In other words, Bagatelle, we may see each other again at some point.
What are your thoughts about the French theme park Parc Bagatelle? Just write it here in the comment field below the report or visit our social media channels: