Continuing into the Future

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 08, 2010

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Flag of France  , Poitou-Charentes,
Thursday, May 27, 2010

What a nice way to start the day - free breakfast of fruit and some warm items (sausage, egg etc.) at the hotel before checking out and boarding an ICE3M for an almost 4 hour trip to Paris with good service and food included.  That was pretty much my morning, with the supplement required for international travel on the ICE to Paris covering a breakfast (see photo) and some drinks.  First class had some room to move so I was able to change out of my computer-chosen aisle seat to one of the single aisle and window seats that was unreserved.  Economy class on the other hand was crowded and noisy - the great unwashed.  Haha.

Oddly French border control boarded the train at the last German station until Forbach to check passports and ask any questions.  This explains why these services stop in Forbach on the way to Paris but not on the way to Frankfurt.  Silly French making illogical timetables.

The train cranked it to 320km/h on the LGV Est line from near the French border to Paris, with my fellow passengers enjoying the forward view out of the driver's cab to the track that we were speeding towards.  It was especially funny to see the French passengers exploring and enjoying the train - yes, this is what train travel is supposed to be like, your TGVs don't compare.

Arriving into Paris on a German train with a predominantly German crew was a good feeling, and hopefully one that we'll one day be able to emulate by arriving into London under similar circumstances.  They were selling Paris Metro tickets onboard the train so I pre-purchased and save myself the massive queues for inadequate ticket machines that take limited forms of payment and hopped straight on the Metro for a roughly 20 minute trip to Montparnasse Bienvenue.  From the Metro platforms it was the long hike to the regional station, but this was expected.  The famous 12 then 9km/h travelator is in the process of being removed so I only had the standard option, but this did speed up the walk.

Despite DB's journey planner that said this connection was impossible, I arrived at Montparnasse in so much time that the platform for my TGV to Poitiers had not yet been posted.  To be fair to DB, I wouldn't rely on the French being able to provide a quick and easy cross-town connection in Paris either.  Annoyingly but as usual the platform was only posted about 10 minutes before departure so a whole trainload of people descended on the platform at once.  I don't get this policy that SNCF has - why not let people trickle onto the train relatively easily?

I was back in 2nd class for this part of my trip because there were no 1st class passholder reservations available (another stupid SNCF policy) so I had to travel in the newer crampt and very much form over function newer TGV interior.  The best part about it was the bottle holder for my Orangina - the French can manage to get somethings right.

Our TGV shaked, rattled and rolled down the high speed line and then upgraded standard line to Poitiers where a sizeable proportion of this La Rochelle-bound train's passengers disembarked.  In more questionable SNCF work a TGV that had followed us out of Paris ran express through the station just after we arrived - on the track on the opposite side of the narrow platform that we were disembarking onto.  You could hear a bit of panic in the announcer's voice as she tried to get people to move away from the other edge of the platform while they were still coming off our train.

30 minutes was the wait time for my bus to Futuroscope so I grabbed another Orangina to make sure that I had the correct change to buy the bus fare, glad that the service was running at all in light of nationwide strikes about increasing the retirement age.  The bus was mostly filled with students returning to the Futuroscope High School just north of the amusement park and took a bit of a while to snake up through the suburbs/villages out of Poitiers.

Futuroscope amusement park forms the anchor of a large Futuroscope precinct that is a bit like the Bentley Technology Park back home.  There's a university and predominantly science and research businesses and labroratries with some apartments, hotels and conference venues thrown into the mix.  This project must've been planned in the 1980s in conjunction with the amusement park and clearly back then they thought we'd all be driving to the future.  Footpaths were a bit hard to come from and the buildings are all spaced apart with lots of grass filling the gaps.  Thankfully my hotel had a path of sorts leading to the amusement park, dropping pedestrians at the side of the car park at the front of the park.

Similar to the overall precinct, the attractions of the park are spread out, with wide spaces of garden, grass and water separating them to form a stereotypically calm, utopian but ultimately impractical environment.  Most attractions are film-based and indeed the reason for my visit was to be in the place with the highgest concentration of IMAX theatres in the world.  Unfortunately one of the theatres was closed so I could not visit all of them but I did get quite a few under my belt.  Theatres included pretty much all incarnations of IMAX: standard 2D, standard 3D, dome 2D, dome 3D, magic carpet and a special theatre with a standard 2D screen and another screen the same size underneath seats visible through a glass floor.  There were also a few other ride films with the standard moving seats, a digital planetarium, a particular pre-show with a programmed waterfall that could write words and draw pictures with the way the water fell, and also a hall of 10 Kuka robotic arms to ride on.  All of this was enclosed in a series of futuristic-looking buildings.

I opted for bombarding myself with French instead of picking up an English headset and found that as the French came back to me I picked up more and more things.  It was handy that 1 or 2 of the films I'd seen before in English too.  Favourites of the day would have to be Deep Sea 3D in an IMAX Dome theatre and the Dances with Robots Hall.

The 3D dome is the only one of its type in the world that I'm aware of.  2D films projected on a full dome are already highly immersive because they curve around you so it was crazy to add 3D images into the mix.  This played really well when it came to scenes of coral spawning with heaps of dots floating around, as if it were snowing, but became a bit confusing with larger, brighter scenes.  Part of the problem may have been that the theatre was getting a bit tired and the screen needed some work - it was a bit dented and the seams between pannels were particulary conspicuous.  This meant that the screen was quite noticeable so it disrupted the 3D effect because my brain was perceiving it in front of or behind the 3D images of the ocean.  Of note was the use of Xpand3D LCD glasses and this is presumably because IMAX has stopped producing their own LCD shutter glasses.  This was my first time with these glasses and while they were good and are probably fine for normal cinemas and great for home use their lenses are designed for wide screens, not big screens so some peripheral viewing was either lost or not in 3D, further disrupting the effect.

Dances with Robots was quite literally that - 10 Kuka arms with 2 seats choreographed to different songs, with 3 levels of intensity to choose from.  I was surprised to see so many of these arms in 1 place and to see them all dance in unison was impressive.  To my pleasure the high intensity setting was actually quite so, a welcome change from my experience on the arm at Epcot where I was constantly warned about going upside down and how intense it could be but that was nowhere near as intense as this.

By the end of the day my tiredness was becoming noticeable so I retired to my hotel room, opting to skip the nighttime water, sound and light show, as the promotional videos shown throughout the park made it seem a bit boring and I'd rather be rested for the more exciting days ahead.
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