What kind of theme park doesn’t have rides?
I confess, I’d never heard of it – but despite receiving 2.2million annual visitors, plenty of other people haven’t yet either. It is France’s best kept secret and The Telegraph newspaper in England hails it as having ‘better shows than Disney!’ Now I have been there, I have to agree.
Unlike traditional theme parks, instead of rides, Puy du Fou puts on 60 daytime and evening shows and has four period villages including a medieval village and an 18th century French village. These shows are a combination of action packed spectaculars with stunts and special effects to rival any Hollywood movie, to immersive experiences where the guest walks through the attraction which tells a story from history.
Some walk through’s were quite delightful like La Renaissance du Château which told the story of the castle at Puy du Fou which the whole park is built around and includes regal kings and queens dancing in their finery and discovering quaint underground passages to one of the most moving but difficult shows to walk through called ‘Les Amoureux de Verdun‘ (translated means ‘The Lovers of Verdun’) and tells the story of men who went to war in the first world war, recounting love letters from home. This was set in a smoke-filled trench in the winter of 1916, during the time of The Battle of Verdun and this conflict was the longest single battle of World War One. As you walk through the trenches you are drawn into the heightened emotions of living in a battlefield with bombs going off and noises flying overhead, and fellow soldiers dying in front of you. It wasn’t easy to experience but it makes you grateful that we live in peacetime and for the service of veterans. It was very moving.
Another stirring show for me was Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes. Oh wow – this show was the first one we saw as we entered the park and it was truly incredible. I found it uplifting with the beautiful birds acting in the show as much as the performers. The birds of prey are so well trained – responding to the command of their keepers to help create the story of Aliénor who awakes in the ruins of the old château and her memories make the falcons, owls and vultures emerge. But this is not simply nature bending to a humans will – throughout this and all the other shows you can see hear and feel the respect and reverence with which the team at Puy du Fou treats the animals in their care. A big part of the ethos of this park is respect and conservation of the environment and the protection and preservation of nature and the animals. They really care, and they make you care too.
Look at my baby! What an owl! Just beautiful at @puydufou @britmums
with @globetotting @charly_dove @sarahjchristie @jhowze @jennygarberpr @nearly_thereyet @Maris_world #puydufoufamilies pic.twitter.com/ZVi0hQNxJk
— Nadine Hill (@businessmum) June 8, 2018
When I wasn’t being moved to tears of inspiration by some of the performances, I was laughing with delight at others – Le Secret de la Lance was one show that enchanted me – as you watch the storytelling by the actors then out of nowhere a little herd of sheep trots through the set. It was just so cute! Then you’d keep watching to see a gaggle of geese strut by. Just as you relax into the cuteness factor of the show – a spirited horse charges through with a knight on the back, performing all kinds of stunts worthy of an Academy Award. There may be no rollercoasters at Puy du Fou but the park makes your heart race and your stomach lurch as much as if there were. Puy du Fou is a spectacle of theatre and skill that is not only a pleasure to watch and appreciate but as guests we are encouraged to join in the fun.
We had an amazing view to watch heroic knights on spirited horses displaying their daredevil stunt training and thrilling swordplay at Le Secret de la Lance at @puydufou. This production of colour and sound also included some farmyard animals and even a moving castle. The stone walls are not what they seem when you step into a fantasy world like #PuyDuFou. I’m here with the @britmums influencers #medieval #royal #puydufoufamilies #photooftheday #bloggerlife #daysout #snaphappybritmums
Some shows at the park encourage guest participation by bringing someone up on stage to do a simple activity and join in, and some have the audience cheering and baying as we are caught up in the revelry of cheering a knight to victory in a joust or a dangerous sword fight. Some shows use pyrotechnics to create impact and pounding music to bring the drama. This park really is an experience for young and old alike – the whole family will find something to delight them at Puy du Fou.
I kid you not, this castle actually moved- rolled forward like it was on roller skates! Then it started spilling fireballs out of the window. Charmingly bonkers doesn’t even cover it! #puydufoufamilies @BritMums @PuyduFouPark I love it! pic.twitter.com/TpMS0kU6Qs
— Nadine Hill (@businessmum) June 9, 2018
Some shows are not suitable for young children or sensitive adults – there is a lot going on in some of them but if you are in need of some quiet time at the park there are plenty of areas to get some peace. The landscaped garden and rose garden are lovely and there are even dancing water jets which are nice to watch and chill.
Food is lovely at the park. Very ‘French’ and this is a high compliment! Unlike theme parks that we are used to in the UK and USA, there are not stalls on every corner selling sweets and fizzy drinks, and offering mediocre fast food. You can buy fast food at the park as well as whatever drinks you like but they are kept in limited areas – and there is also an emphasis on family picnic areas – so you can take a packed lunch for everyone and eat more healthily! There are restaurants throughout the park that serve delicious cuisine, I had a Croque-monsieur and Diet Coke for one lunch and fish and roasted vegetables with a lovely lemon crumble dessert for another. The quality of the food is very good, and we didn’t go hungry. I would however have liked the ability to buy drinks more as I walked through the park – if you saw a stall selling beverages you really had to purchase when you could because there were not very many of them.
If you are looking for somewhere totally unique to take the family this summer then I’d highly recommend Puy du Fou. It is a fresh destination that is in easy reach of the UK and will help you make those kind of memories that the kids will be talking about for years to come.
Puy du Fou is pronounced “Pwee du foo”.
Read their sustainability ethos here.
Learn more about all the shows at the Puy du Fou website.
The park is located in Les Epesses, France. About an hour’s drive from Nantes Atlantique Airport.
Top tip: Get a ‘Pass Émotion’ (fast pass) for an additional €14 per person per day. This enables you to enjoy reserved seating in the 7 major shows in the Grand Parc up to ten minutes before the show begins and skip most of the queues.
Thank you to BritMums and Puy du Fou for hosting this press trip for the purpose of this review.