France, Day 3
Have you ever heard of Puy du Fou? No? Well, I hadn't either. A chance mention of it in the Chateau de Brissac website that led to the discovery and my mind kind of fell open. Seriously? There is this, and it is a secret known only to France?
You guys, a theme park without rides, it is all about thrilling historical shows. Jousting and chariots and musketeers and Viking ships and fire and spiraling birds and magic shows and dancing lights and theme villages and several thousand actors and WOW! Totally fabulous family entertainment.
Here are some of the shows. Click links to individual videos for a better idea.
The Secret of the Lance -- (Medieval) When the knights go off to liberate Orleans from the English, a young girl named Marguerite is left behind, and finds herself defending her home. Luckily, that kick-ass lady knight "Jeanne" gave her a blessed lance ... (Watch.)
The Vikings -- Vikings attack a peaceful fort; one ship glides down a hill into the lagoon, another rises from beneath the water, fearsome Vikings standing on its decks even as it emerges, streaming water. (This was crazy.) Mayhem ensues. View here.
But one of many cool things, throughout the day, overhead, was this contraption, spiraling around with its goose retinue:
The Ball of the Phantom Birds -- Sleeping Beauty awakes from her long sleep (alone, no kissy princy) to find her castle in ruins. "Where are my birds?" she asks. And her birds come out to find her. Oh, do they ever. You guys. The Academy of Falconry of France sponsors this show. Over 400 birds. Multiple bald eagles in flight at once, giant African vultures, maribous, swans, egrets, storks. A giant hot air balloon goes way high up and Peregrines are launched from it to dive-dive-dive and catch. They appear as a speck and dive so freaking fast. Oh wow wow wow. This show is jaw-dropping. The pictures really can't capture it. See here.
We saw the Musketeers show too, which had some really cool stuff in it but was very talky (all the shows are in French only) and very hard to understand. We missed the biggest of all, which is a Roman Amphitheater show with lions and tigers and chariots and gladiators (wow!) They also have a gigantic nighttime spectacle -- the biggest in the world, with 1200 actors (!!) -- that we passed on, having to drive that night. We were sorry to miss the smaller nighttime show, The Organs of Fire, which looks so very beautiful but wasn't on that night.
Really, really amazing. We will return with more time. And when we do, we will stay here, at Clovis Island, their Merovingian thatched stilt houses on the water.
Puy du Fou is out in the region of Nantes and Angers, toward the Atlantic coast of France, but the website says it's only an hour + 30 minutes TGV train from Paris, plus a shuttle bus. We drove, of course, and if you're thinking about going to France, especially if you're traveling with kids, I can tell you there are a million things to do with kids in this region! We will sooooo be back. Oh, France. Why so far away?