Discover a distinctly French theme park just outside of Paris.
If you’re unacquainted with AstÃ©rix, you’re in for a treat: the “AstÃ©rix” comics have been popular for decades, mainly in Europe, but they’re sold worldwide. (As a measure of their stature in France, the movie version starred primo actor Gerard Depardieu.)
Events are set 2,000 years ago. As Rome’s empire sweeps north, only one small town of plucky Gauls holds out. These cheeky Gauls sport such names as AstÃ©rix, ObÃ©lix, and Postaldistrix, and their world is recreated at the popular Parc AstÃ©rix.
Dare I call any theme park with large cartoon figures tasteful? Perhaps not, but Parc AstÃ©rix is executed with style.
Throughout, you’ll see large figures of AstÃ©rix, Obelix, and pals generally being silly. Various rides, eateries, and shops are grouped in six distinct time periods. The Middle Ages section is a wonderful cartoonish medieval town, with artisans at work, and puppet shows, and quaint shops where you can buy knight figurines and even real swords.
The park’s rides range from gut-wrenching coasters to tame kiddie-pleasers. Another big plus is live entertainment and shows take place all day long. We saw an exciting pantomime complete with gigantic toppling ship and comic car chase onstage. It was high showmanship, with no franÃ§ais required.
As for food, the restaurants in the Via Antiqua near the park entrance tend to be crowded. (And watch out for the weird pink hotdogs.) Luckily, baguette sandwiches are ubiquitous. Our best find was a self-service place deeper in the park, with an inexpensive kids menu and real food including cruditÃ©s (raw veggies) and an assortment of cheese — this is France, after all.
Which brings up perhaps the best reason of all to visit Parc AstÃ©rix. Yes, there is a certain rather famous theme park nearby, and Disneyland Paris is doubtless loads of fun, but Parc AstÃ©rix is a truly unique French experience.
Shuttle buses depart from Charles de Gaulle airport; check the Parc AstÃ©rix website for details (www.parcAsterix.com). The park is located at B.P. 8 60128 Plailly, France (08220.127.116.11) and closes its daily operation from November to March. However, check their website if you’re visiting at year’s end as it often opens for a week of special festivities over the Christmas – New Year’s school break.
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