My eldest, Charlie, has an effortless understanding and appreciation for all things engineering and mechanical. He has a wonderful aesthetic in his drawings and Lego creations, and loves to ask questions about the way things work. I’d like to think he is like me, but to be honest I’m finding it harder and harder to answer his technical questions. Lou and Rufus are less into vehicles, but we all had an absolute blast at the amazing Ferrari Land theme park.
The city of Port Aventura lies about one hour down the coast from Barcelona, and is the location of the extraordinary theme park, Port Aventura World. Ferrari Land is the first of its kind in Europe and is the creation of the legendary Ferrari brand. It tells a story of the brand’s passion and ethos and allows fans to experience some of the elements that make their cars so unique.
Our first morning saw us join a group of Ferrari owners, enthusiasts and journalists for the opening ceremony of the new Ferrari Land park. Whilst the group milled around the gate, we were treated with a chance to get close to a collection of the most astonishing cars. Clearly a new Ferrari is beyond the reach of most family car buyers, but the racing pedigree and no-compromise design philosophy is a marvel for anyone to behold. With each passing minute, a new favourite vehicle would arrive on the scene, yet the collective ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ were barely audible over the sound of the throaty engines. How the owners managed to keep a straight face and reverse park with so many adoring spectators is beyond me.
Piero Ferrari (son of Enzo Ferrari) gave an introductory speech and cut the ribbon. The sky filled with red and white ticker tape, music played, dancers danced and red fireworks exploded over the park. Excitement levels were now at fever pitch, and I heroically stepped forward to ride Red Force. It wasn’t until the seat harness clicked me firmly to my seat, that the nerves appeared. Music pumped, the ride rolled forward to launch position, and then we were off. Lou and the boys were sat in the grandstand watching. I picked a spot on the stand where I thought they were sitting and looked at it hard, while the coaster accelerated to 180kmh in 5 seconds. Lou’s Instagram story of this scene is a calamitous scream of “there he is! Ha ha! Look at his face!!” accompanied by cheering and more laughing.
Red Force is designed to replicate the speed, acceleration and g force experienced in a real Formula One car. At 180kmh the car suddenly pitches vertically up the track, coming to an almost stop at the pinnacle of the climb, and then charging back down another vertical drop and bombing it back to the start area. The whole ride lasts less than a minute, but the enthusiastic cheers, whoops and high fives I gave to my fellow passengers suggested that we’d all bonded like we’d just re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere after a mission to Mars.
Before Charlie knew what was going on, we were strapped into the Bounce Back Tower and being launched vertically into the air. Charlie was initially reluctant, but even before we climbed out of our seats he was demanding we tried out the sister tower, called Free Fall. This time, the ride raised us sedately to the top of the tower, enabling us to savour the view of the park – and then dropping us to the ground. The feeling of weightlessness was magical, but unlike Charlie, my nerves needed a rest before we climbed on for another go.
It’s not all adrenaline and screaming. The park is filled with reconstructions of famous Italian buildings and statues. The Flying Dreams experience sprayed fine mist in our faces as the simulator floated us through clouds and chased classic Ferrari’s along Italian coastal roads, and around photorealistic land mark cities and buildings. The Gallery displayed a range of vehicles from Ferrari’s past, and featured beautifully designed interactive displays that Ru’ found himself lost in the intrigue.
Toward the end of the day, the four of us climbed into life sized models of F1 cars, and raced against 7 other drivers in a simulated F1 race. The sound seemed realistic, the seat plunged back and forth giving the impression of accelerating and braking and the steering wheel battled against us as we zig zagged across the track into the barriers. This F1 driving lark is tricky!
Our second action packed day, saw us enter Port Aventura World. The park has some brilliantly realised themed areas, ranging from Gold Rush America in Far West, to mystical Himalaya and China, overgrown Inca temples in Mexico, Polynesia and small-kid friendly Sesame Street characters in Sesamo Aventura. An old fashioned western United States steam train winds its way through the park, as do the rapids and log flume rides.
But easily the most impressive aspect of the park for me, was the silhouette of the white Himalayan ‘coaster Shambala, intertwined with the red coloured Dragon Khan. These rides complement one another beautifully, with Shambala cutting a line in the sky akin to dramatic mountain ranges, and Dragon Khan appearing like a freeze-frame from a Chinese new year dragon dance. Shambala is Europe’s tallest ‘coaster and I reckon Dragon Khan has to be Europe’s most artistic.
The landscaping and planting in the park is excellent. The walkways thronged with excited teenagers and family groups – all talking at speed about having the guts to ride the biggest rides, or buzzing with excitement for their next adrenaline hit. Rufus won a stuffed toy snake (named Salvador) in the fair ground area. We ate burgers and fries at lunch time and then headed back to the park for more. I could have stayed all week.
Collaboration Note: Thank you to Ferrari Land and Port Aventura for sending us to experience the opening of Ferrari Land and the opening of the Park for 2017. All words, images and opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the posts that make this blog possible.