June 30th, 2005

nemesis inferno

Alton Towers report

Now that you've seen the photos, here's my report.

Alton Towers is not much different from the last time we went, except there is now a new ride called Rita: The Queen Of Speed. Now, this seems an utterly bizarre name for a ride - I mean, "Rita"? Whenever I think of the name Rita, I think of Rita Lewis, the Deputy Head of my secondary school, an old-style school headmistress of the type they just don't make anymore. I think of a matronly woman in her late 50s, or early 60s. I certainly don't think of a fast, exciting thrill ride. Why not call it Doris, or Ethel, or some other name that no one under the age of 40 has nowadays? The only mitigating factor I can think of would be if "Rita" was an acronym: Really Intense Thrill Acceleration, or something. Sadly, this did not seem to be the case.

I cannot report to you about dear Rita, because we didn't get to go on her. The first day she was out of action the entire time we were at the park. The second day, we queued for over an hour, in which time she broke down twice. We eventually realised that even despite having queued that long, there was still at least 30 minutes of queue in front of us - for some reason, unlike most other queue lines at most theme parks, there were no signs up to give you an indication of how long the wait would be. Richard walked off into the Cross-Valley Path to try to stretch his legs, while I got the Skyride across to Air and Nemesis. As I looked down at Rita from the cable car, I discovered she had broken down for a third time (in 2 hours). Yeah. Someone needs to do some redesigning on that one, I think.

Oblivion, Air and Nemesis are still fantastic, btw, but I was alarmed to discover that I can now keep my arms in the air for the entire duration of Nemesis. In fact, there were parts of it where I honestly thought I could sit there eating my lunch (see the start of "Space Cowboys" if you don't get the reference). I believe that Nemesis is still supposed to be one of the most intense thrill rollercoasters in the world. So if I'm now finding it boring, what else is there? (Don't suggest motorcycling or parachuting - I like my thrills scary but utterly safe, thanks).

Conversation we had while trying to find somewhere that still had bottles of water for sale:
Me: "Why don't you ask if they have water in Zombie Bites?"
Richard: "Won't they just say 'Urrrrrrr...'?"
OK, maybe you had to be there.

Other news is that someone at Alton Towers actually paid attention to the Customer Feedback Form I filled in last year, suggesting that they needed to improve the catering for people who didn't want to eat McDonalds / KFC / Pizza Hut junk, or couldn't because of health problems or food allergies. This year there were multiple vendors of jacket potatoes with cheese or beans (vegan, if you ask for no butter), grilled chicken salads with just a light vinegarette dressing, nachos with rich vegetarian salsa, and optional cheese and/or jalapenos (vegan without cheese), and even a "95% fat free" tomato and basil pasta in the Towers Restaurant near the park entrance! I am fairly impressed. Healthy eating and vegan options in theme park catering, whatever next? Well next, they need to get some fruit juice on sale, so you have a choice of something other than fizzies and Ribena if you don't want to drink water all day - but at least you can easily bring juice with you, even if you're travelling from a long way away.

I suspect I will be thoroughly underwhelmed by the vegetarian provision at Walibi. Falafel pita and frites, if that.

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tortilla "chips"

Richard says I am mad. The reason is this: I have always been confused by the naming of tortilla chips. Now, I have known for some time that "chips" are just what American English calls crisps, yet my brain doesn't seem to apply this to tortillas. Instead, I get confused. When you chip the furniture, or are "a chip off the old block", or even when you chip a potato, you're breaking a small piece off a larger thing. This isn't what happens with tortilla chips. They're not made by making a large tortilla and then breaking it up, they're made intentionally small. And that doesn't make sense.

Yes, I realise that what probably happened was that tortilla chips were originally made by breaking up a large tortilla, and even that triangular tortilla chips could be imagined to be part of a large circular tortilla - but what about the small circular ones? They can't possibly be pieces of a single large tortilla... not unless there's a lot of waste.

Richard says that the whole dilemma can be solved by simply calling them "nachos", but I had a vague feeling that this name refers to the dish made by adding salsa and jalapenos and/or cheese to the chips, not to the chips themselves? Hmmm.
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