Bagatelle or Baggy Land as it is sometimes rather whimsically called, is big, bold and brilliant for waterproof children and patient parents…
There are plenty of theme parks to visit in France but one of the most charming and authentically French ones I’ve been to is Bagatelle in Pas de Calais, about an hour from Calais port.
What to love at Bagatelle
There are loads of rides, around 40 in all, and I would say it’s impossible to go on them all in a day but if you try hard, you might just be able to do it since queuing here is almost non-existent.
I went on a school holiday mid-week spring day. Having endured Disney Paris in the school holidays I was assuming I’d be in for long waits to get on rides (and not looking forward to it, keeping kids happy in slow lines is not easy), but there was none of that going on. I checked with my friends who take their kids there too and they say the same – it’s never that packed that you have to queue for ages, though some of the more popular rides, like the Famous Jack, might require a tiny wait.
There’s a vast car park opposite the theme park which is on the outskirts of the seaside town of Merlimont. From here you can go via the underpass straight into the park where you buy your entry tickets. I thought the price was incredibly good value considering how much there is to do. Kids under 1m are free, up to 1.45m Euros 19.90 and adults Euros 24.50 (as at 2016). If you think you’re going to go several times – get a “Baggy Pass” which means unlimited entry and it’s excellent value.
The park opened in 1955 and has kept up to date with modern rides as well as some rather quirky rides such as an automated horse race track where you get to ride the mechanical horses!
There are scary rides for those who like roller coasters and grand swinging things, splash rides for those who don’t mind getting a bit wet (take a spare set of trousers if you like your kids to be dry on the way home!), fun rides like dodgem cars, rides for little kids and big kids and even a small farmyard zoo. One of my favourite things was the high dive act where talented divers climbed an impressively tall ladder and twirled, curled and unfurled into a round pool.
There are plenty of snack bars available, though typically French many seemed to be only open at designated eating times and not all day. There are chips, hot dogs and burgers galore on offer, but if that doesn’t float your boat, there are some picnic areas you can use with tables and benches.
All in all, I loved it here. I loved not having to queue and the diversity of rides. I really enjoyed the very Frenchness of it all – quite different from big, blousy, massively expensive theme parks that seem to be the rage. It was enormous fun, really easy to spend an entire day here without getting bored with queues and crowds and I’d recommend it to anyone with kids.
More fun things to do in the area:
Le Touquet the secret getaway of Parisians
Saturday market at Montreuil-sur-Mer – a beautiful hill-top town where Victor Hugo found inspiration for Les Miserables
Boulogne-sur-Mer where you’ll find the longest crypt in France at the Basilica Notre-Dame in the old part of the city