One of the sillier things I was looking forward to on this vacation was a day trip to Parc Nigloland, an amusement park located in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. Visiting the park is one of my fondest memories from early childhood trips to France, and I have the photos to back it up!
Aside from riding the train and begging my dad to buy us candy, my memories lie mainly in photos taken by my parents. The one thing I do remember (and this always makes me laugh) is that the park icon is a hedgehog named Niglo. A rodent running a theme park – sound familiar? He even has a hedgehog girlfriend, aptly named Niglette. As a Disney World annual passholder, I was really looking forward to seeing this bizarre copycat park through new eyes.
I was not disappointed.
Upon entering the park, we split up into three groups. My mom took my youngest sister Rachel around, while my Dad set off with three of my brothers in search of the rides with the highest thrill level. I tackled the park with Jennifer, Jared, and Michelle, all of whom have visited a Disney park and patiently stood by while I took pictures of everything that was a clear Disney knock-off.
The park was fairly small, and split into four themed areas: Rock’n’Roll Village, Canadian Village, Swiss Village, and “Village Merveilleux,” which translates to Wonderful Village. We headed straight to the Rock’n’Roll village to Space Experience, a rickety, terrifying but wonderfully exciting roller coaster through outer space, complete with cheesy 80s sound effects and black-lit planets.
Since the park was so small, and the wait times relatively low, we spent the day wandering at leisure, with no particular plan in mind.
From this carousel, we had fantastic views of the park and the beautiful surrounding area. Vineyards surrounded us on all sides, providing a gorgeous backdrop to our ride.
I loved meeting up with the other groups throughout the day. Exploring separately allowed everyone to go at their own pace, and made for a much more relaxed day – I don’t envy my parents taking all us kids out when we were younger! It was hard not to keep running into each other at Nigloland, so I felt like we had a real family experience despite splitting into groups.
The park itself was beautiful and well-maintained, even if the rides were on the cheesy side. One of my personal favorites was the Haunted Mansion – that’s really what it was called. Groups of two rode on small wooden benches through a series of scary scenes featuring vampires, mummies and more.
We ate lunch, ironically enough, in a section covered with American flag-themed umbrellas. I can’t tell you why, but I presume it was meant to be a boardwalk theme of some kind. Anyway, we ate pizza under a stars and stripes umbrella, surrounded by birds, wasps (which are everywhere in this part of France), and screaming kids. At this point, my sisters and I were still embarrassed by our French pronunciation, so we whispered our orders to Jared, who sighed and rescued us from humiliation. Interesting fact: In France, it is not uncommon to find sliced potatoes as a pizza topping. Who knew?
Lunch was followed by the most delicious churros I have ever had in my life. I wish I had taken a photo of these beauties. The dough was dispensed via a soft-serve machine and dropped directly into the fryer, then dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of Nutella. I LOVE Nutella – is there anyone in the world who doesn’t!? These fresh, airy, sugared creations were a welcome departure from the dried-out cinnamon churros I am used to seeing at Disney World. I still dream of these churros.
Another bizarre ride was the Africa Cruise, an almost-for-scene knockoff of The Jungle Cruise, sans tour guide. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Some other rides which are not pictured here are the Bobsleigh Run (without a doubt the most painful and terrifying ride I have ever been on), The Grizzly, and the Air Meeting, in which pilots spin themselves silly by flapping wings on their plane. Well…my dad spun himself silly. The rest of us just groaned at the weight of the wings and mostly stayed in one place despite our best efforts.
By the end of the day, there was only one ride we wanted to do that we not get to experience: a dinosaur ride that I’m sure is based off of Jurassic Park. Ah well, maybe some other time. It was a wonderful day of fun with my family, something which I frequently miss when I am home in Orlando. I loved getting to share this day with them and to create new memories.
If you do decide to head over to Nigloland, make sure to check the dates of your visit! The park is open seasonally, and will re-open in April 2015!