Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Puy du Fou

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?


Anonymous said...

I can'tt believe you went to this specific region (where I come from), to this specific Park (were I've worked for a few years) and I missed you. Please come back :D
Also, you're blog is amazing, as usual.

Laini Taylor said...

Do you really work at Puy du Fou? Wow! What do you do there? :)

Josin L. McQuein said...

This place looks amazing. It's like the Ren Fest I worked in high school, but on rocket fuel.

I think I'm officially jealous.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing! I'm totally going to get there one day - it look amazing!

tone almhjell said...

Oh wow wow WOW! I have to go there. I have to. Actually, you had me at theme park wothout rides :)

Angelique said...

Not sure if you'll see this comment, but here goes: how did Clementine do on the long flights? Any tips for those of us traveling by air with toddlers?

Kate said...

Um, coolest ever?! I certainly think so! Can you imagine working as an actor?! How fabulously wonderfully amazing would that be?! New life plan: Move to France. Get job as an actress at Puy Du Fou. :) :) :)

Kate said...

Just read Anonymous's comment! You have the COOLEST job of all time! You guys have any openings?! I'm seriously willing to uproot and move! Haha!

Charley Robson said...

I MUST get to this show one year - it looks so utterly awesome! Those costumes . . . *drools*

Looks like you had so much fun! I love re-enactment thingies, but the only proper one I've been to was Warwick Castle in the UK. Very good fun, and I got to hang out with the barbarian jousting team and hold their lances because I cheered for them, but still . . . make a note on the bucket list to get to Puy du Fou!

LinWash said...

Wish I'd been there! Looks like so much fun!

Anonymous said...

To Angelique above:

That's a great question about long trips with toddlers. Good luck with that. Laini's an awesome author, but she rarely responds to comments. If she does answer it, I'm interested too!

Laini Taylor said...

Rawr, Anonymous. Youch.

To Angelique, re: travel with toddlers, I've thought of doing a post on this and I might, but I feel like such a beginner parent, especially having just one child -- and a sedate, easily entertained one -- that I can't really speak from broader experience. We've flown periodically with C since she was three months old, and it's been so different at every stage. Now, at three, it's pretty easy. We bring books and coloring stuff and some inexpensive new toys like Polly Pockets that will consume good chunks of time. When she was 16 months and 20 months we had long flights, and those were trickier, but still okay. We brought a whole backpack of favorite books and new (again, cheap) amusements. On one flight when she was little, a pack of Squinkies was the surprise hit, and occupied hours of [closely supervised] time. Books, always books. At one point, she got bored of drawing on paper but was delighted to draw all over her own legs. An hour or so there. A friend brings nothing but a glue stick on shorter flights; she and her daughter tear up magazines and collage them onto air sickness bags to make puppets. Have not tried this myself.

Also, I try to schedule flights during sleep time, so she will crash. On our recent trip, she fell asleep before the flight took off in New Jersey, and slept until landing in Paris. Easiest flight ever!!

Good luck and happy flying.

Angelique said...

My 24mo old is fond of leg-drawing, too (a close second to watercolor lip-and-cheeks painting). Thanks for all the helpful tips, Laini!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing about your visit to the Puy du Fou. I had the opportunity to see it for myself a couple weeks ago - it's a shame that it's really not well known outside France. I love your pictures of the falconry show!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I realize this post is 5 years old but I stumbled across it and had to comment in case anyone else also stumbles across it and wants to go. I am now 18 and the first time I went to Puy Du Fou I was about three months old and I have not stopped going back, I cannot even count the number of times I have been. I've seen shows come and go (bataille du donjon you are missed) and I therefore felt that I had a couple of suggestions for anyone who might see this:

1. Go to the visitor center and buy a translation box first thing. They have them for most languages, you just put it around your neck, stick your headphones in (take your own pair if you're fussy about headphones like me) and you can understand everything. The best thing is, they're reusable! We bought ours about seven years ago and they still work. They automatically tune in to each show.

2. Try and plan your day around seeing the amphitheater performance - it is incredible. Words cannot describe it. It is at the sunniest part of the day and in the summer it can be very hot so take your sunhat and lots of water but try your best to see it. In case you're not convinced I'll say this: lions and chariot races are only the start.

3. Cinescenie. The night time show. It is stunning (translation box works for it too). See it if you can, the site has a hotel so you can always stay over. However, it sells out way in demand. You won't be able to turn up on the day and buy a ticket, you must plan it ahead and please do, it is fantastic.

4. If you have the time (and funds) try to go for two days. There is an awful lot to see and do and we've never managed to get it all in in one day so, especially if you're planning to see Cinescenie, try and maybe go for a weekend.

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