Hundreds of big yellow plastic capes with ‘Le Puy du Fou’ written on the back is one memory I am not about to forget. The Fool’s Well, as it would translate, is best visited when the sun is shining. ‘Le Grand Parc’ is indeed a very large park where in one day, you are taken from the Middle Ages to the 19th century through plays and amazing stages. As luck would have it, we chose to go on an ‘orange alert day’ when, unbeknown to us until later, the weather forecast from meteo France recommended we should stay indoors. Luckily, you can buy large plastic yellow tents with a hood that cover your whole body and keep you reasonably dry. You can also buy baseball caps to keep the sun out of your eyes on sunny days.
The yellow capes gather on the seats around the Well and a narrator appears, telling us the story of the Puy du Fou. There used to be a castle where we are now seated with a beautiful young dame. To our right, a mount opens and from a cloud of smoke a woman appears, on a bed. She wonders where her castle is, where her birds have gone. As the story unfolds, birds of prey appear. Falcons fly low over our heads, vultures shake their feathers and seem to say: “So, what we gonna do now” as if they came straight out of Disney’s Jungle book. The bird keepers do an amazing job of keeping their birds under control. The play lasts over 30 minutes but even soaked -and getting wetter still- we were left wanting for more, thankful the birds did not mind the rain.
In normal circumstances, this is the time when I head home for a dry heated room. But this display has proved that this is no ordinary place. The next show is only 15 minutes away, we have to see what the Vikings have to offer. The stage is bigger, there are around 20 actors around a lake. The yellow capes laugh as a huge black cloud opens up, a few capes give up, most are enthralled and stay put. A viking boat has appeared from under the water. Are these still figures, swords in hand, real people? I won’t tell you, I hate it when all the surprises are spoilt.
Next stop, a huge arena. The yellow capes, probably keen to warm up, perform a football-like wave (arms up, stand up, pass it on to your right and start again). Another feast with gladiators, lions, tigers and much participation from the crowd. Later, the Battle of the Dungeon tickled my fancy mainly because the baddies were English. The children loved the narrator, dressed as a Fou (clown).
5.30 finally arrives, time for the Musqueteers. Am I glad I waited for this? Well, I have never seen anything quite like this before. More smoke, water and lights are used to amazing effects. Spanish dancers and horses perform a perfectly synchronised show that make 40 minutes go like a flash. The rest of the day was not just spent going from one show to the next. We arrived in a 1900’s town centre (BOURG) complete with bakery, sweet and toy shops, we passed the 18th century village with its potter, ironmonger and post office and walked through the medieval city. But we still did not manage to do everything. My children want to come back as they have noticed there is a separate entrance with yet another castle. It is bigger still than any impressive display we have seen today and is only open in Summer. It is Cinescenie, claiming the biggest stage in the world with extravangant technical effects and over 1,000 actors. I am under strict instructions that we have to come back in the Summer. I’ll wear jumpers and winter coat just in case, but I’ll be there.
Le Puy-du-Fou, Vendée, Western France