Astérix the Gaul and his fat friend Obélix may be the stars of the new movie, Astérix at the Olympics, but my family still thinks that the most fun to be had with the indomitable Roman-bashers is at Parc Astérix, on the outskirts of Lutetia, sorry, Paris.
The theme park reopens for the new season this week and is likely to see visitor numbers swell as a result of the film. But there are other reasons to visit the largest theme park in France after Disneyland Paris, not least a new €11m attraction, Le Défi de César, a 20-minute ride through the world of Astérix, offering lots of special effects.
There are also some 30 other rides, a small sandy "beach", two theatres, a dolphinarium, arcades, various shops and fast- food outlets – where service is not as fast as in the UK, but the food is better – and a hotel.
We start on the Tonnerre de Zeus, "90 seconds of thunder", a traditional wooden roller coaster that rattles its way to 48mph. That gets us in the mood – me to be more careful about what I choose to go on, and my sons to hype things up a bit. They head for the big one – Goudurix – with seven stomach-churning loop-the-loops. Their father goes with them, returning slightly green. The boys love it and head back for more.
They are clearly "Fearless Gauls" for whom the scariest six rides were created. I class merely as a "Valiant Gaul". There are also five rides especially designated for "Plucky Little Gauls" aged three to six, as well as a delightful, imaginative play area, the Forêt des Druids: giant mushrooms with mini climbing walls up the stems, turning menhirs, tree slides and a chance to pour water on "Caesar's spies".
Unlike most theme parks in Britain, which now seem to be aimed either at teenagers or younger children, Parc Astérix genuinely caters for everyone. And compared with UK teen parks, it is less grubby, less rowdy and more relaxed.
It is time for the Dolphin and Sea Lion show. There are no dolphinaria left in England and we know they are distinctly un-PC. But the pool is large and clean and the animals are wonderful. As we watch them jump and wave and speed underwater, we "ooh" and "ahh" with the rest.
The sun begins to wane and we take the five-minute shuttle bus to the Hotel des Trois Hiboux (the Three Owls) on the forested edge of the park. Built mainly of wood, the hotel is fresh, comfortable and imaginatively designed with a reception area dominated by a 20 metre free-standing chimney above a cosy log fire open on four sides. We sit around it with newspapers and Astérix books until supper – a buffet that manages to satisfy even my family's varied tastes. Children aged three to 12 can opt instead for crêpe followed by supervised entertainment from 7pm to 10pm, price €10 – a popular choice.
Our log cabin-style room is very family friendly. A den-like kids' section has bunks set into the wall, each with its own light. This is separated from the adults' bed by the bathroom. We wander out on to the pleasant balcony surrounded by trees. It is very peaceful when the park is closed, and even when it is open you only have to shut the French windows for complete quiet.
An advantage of staying overnight is being first into the park in the morning. We are the sole occupants of the first boat on the Grand Splatch! and manage several big rides before queues start. The bobsleigh Trace du Hourra is a big hit and even my theme-park-hating husband admits he is enjoying himself.
Multiple rides, several crêpes and a "barbe-à-papa" (candyfloss) later, we end the day with a show: Main Basse sur la Joconde. Truffaut meets Laurel and Hardy meets Evel Knievel in a fast-paced production with unbelievable stunts and lots of language-free laughs.
Our final stop is the Astérix shop to top up our English-language library of Goscinny-Uderzo tales, a must for the train ride back to Britain. Their stories mean the fun doesn't have to end at the park gate.
How to get there
Eurostar (08705 186186; www.eurostar.com) offers return fares to Paris from £59 adults, £50 children. Then take the RER to Roissy Airport Charles de Gaulle 1 and the shuttle bus to the park.
Parc Astérix (00 33 3 44 62 31 31; www.parcasterix.com) offers advance day passes from €23 per person. Hotel packages (two adults, two children) costs from €72.50 per person.Reuse content