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Puy du Fou – Everything you need to know about visiting France’s best kept secret…

365Tickets August 23, 2018
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Well, I’m not too familiar with write ups of a creative nature but, due to my position within 365Tickets, I’m frequently asked whether we sell Puy du Fou tickets?  

Answering positively, I have made a point of then asking whether that person has been before. More often than not, they have and this leads to a fairly in depth account of how indescribable the park is.  

Having had several similar conversations recent I felt it important that I experienced the unexplainable for myself.

Whether I’m able do justice, please comment. However, if nothing else, I hope that this is a helpful appraisal.

Context:

Our visit was in early August 2018 with the family; my girls (both under 10), the Wife, Pops, Gran, Brother, sister-in-law and their two kids (both under 13). Yes, a true family vacation!

How to get there:

We followed Googles advice 🙂 most of the time. When we didn’t we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory – Decathlon and IKEA, warning, both consume inordinate amounts time. We’ll skip the boat trip, Jersey to France, but the route driving was relatively straight forward.

By Road

Road is a convenient way to reach Puy du Fou so choose Coach or Car.  Parking was free.
Within a short driving radius you have the cities of:

  • La Rochelle – 90mins
  • Nantes – 60mins
  • Le Mans – 110mins

By Train

The closest station to Puy du Fou is Angers TGV. This station can be reached from any of France’s major TGV routes, including from Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg and Lille. There is a shuttle bus from Angers TGV station to Puy du Fou. Tickets cost circa €20 per person (single) and €28 per person (return) and must be booked in advance. Shuttle bus service, click here.

By Air

Puy du Fou provide a shuttle bus service from Nantes airport and other transport hubs for groups of at least twenty. This must be booked in advance. For prices and further information, contact their bookings team on (0820 09 10 10 – €0.12 per minute from a landline).

Handy Tips

    • Plan your route well in advance;
    • Call the Puy du Fou booking team if you’d like further information on dates and times; and
    • Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Vendée region.

The Puy du Fou Park:

The theme park is truly unique, set in some 200 acres of grounds.  The concept was the brainchild of Philippe de Villiers back in 1977 and his team of volunteers. In 2017, Puy du Fou welcomed more than 2 million visitors and will no doubt grow year on year.

It is historically themed, set in Les Epesses (between Cholet and La Roche-sur-Yon) in the heart of the Vendée region of Western France.  Phillippe de Villiers created an association named, “l’Association du Puy du Fou” with Nicolas de Villiers as President (Phillippe de Villiers, son). Today there’s some 3500 members.

In 1978 the Cinéscénie began, this grew into a huge spectacular show.  Whether it’s comparable to anything you’ve seen before, I don’t know but certainly it was a first for me. It has since created its own ecosystem of actors, prop-makers and trainers for the featured horse riding, sword fighting, artisan skills and musicians.  The Grand Parc of the Puy du Fou was opened near the Cinéscénie in 1989 and is today one of the most popular theme parks in France.

In 2011, the Grand Parc of Puy du Fou hosted the team presentations prior to the Tour de France, which was set to begin in the Vendée – the 98th Tour de France.  The days of Mark Cavendish (GBR) with the Tour won by Cadel Evans (Aus). This event took place in the Roman amphitheatre in front of a live audience of some 7,000 people.

2017 Philippe de Villiers received the “Hall of Fame Award” at Orlando in Florida during the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo here.

Puy Du Fou Map

Shows:

Within the Grand Parcit’s Incredible.  As you can see from the well worn schedule planner (below) there’s some 19 shows, varying in duration from 42mins (Le Signe du Triomphe) to 7mins (Les Automates Musiciens).  Each a marvel. We spent 2.5 days at there and managed to squeeze all the shows in, a couple we saw twice.

puy du fou shows

The basic rule is that the shows are listed in order of grandeur, with the Top 6 being ‘must see’ spectaculars.  The show starting times varying on a daily basis so ensure you pick up the day’s programme of events then plan your route and shows against the times and park layout.  Don’t worry, you’ll not need to be a logistic expert.

There’s a heap of information online re: each show but our highlights from the family: Milly – loved Les Viking, with the fire and the Viking boat sliding entrance (she was captivated), Peni – thought that the welcoming attendant at the Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantomes was hilarious as he entertained the waiting crowd by squirting a little water pistol.  

The show itself was completely absorbing with some 200 birds performing above your head, in some cases, right above your head! Fact, each bird is weighed by the care staff, daily).

The Wife – Le Dernier Panache show stood out as the audience sits indoors within a circular theatre.  During the performance the audience is rotated to face the relevant theatre set.  It’s an exceptional story, fantastic acting, amazing sets and an incredible engineer feat to move some 3000+ people.  

My personal favourite was Le Secret de la Lance – for the sword fighting skills and the water props that revealed underwater actors and a horse!  Whilst I appreciate I’ve not explain this with any degree of significance, it maybe because I’m still mystified as to how they’d engineered this.

Handy Tips

    • Plan your shows
    • Use the app to listen to the translation of the shows’ tales;
    • If you have noise cancellation headphones – great;
    • Find yourself a decent seat/bench, know your exits and enjoy the spectacle that’s about to present itself; and

Cinéscénie

The main show takes place in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays between April and September (always check times and availability) with a vast outdoor stage behind the castle. The show changes but tells the story of the 700 years of history in the area. With some 1200 actors, scores of horses, fireworks, boats and fire flames each performance the Cinéscénie is a sight to be seen (again and again).  With so much happening, it near on impossible to see all that’s being created in front of your eyes.  Whilst the performance is in French, translation is available via the App.

Cinéscénie entrance: Adult €24.75 – €27.00.

Handy Tips

    • Book early to ensure your seats.  Cinéscénie was at capacity on our visit and had been for several weeks;
    • Drinks and refreshments are available there; and
    • Pack a rug plus appropriate clothing for the evening (remember it’s an outdoor show).

Typical costs and payment:

Parking: Free

Grand Parc entrance, 365Tickets available here

  • 1 day (14+) – €35.00
  • 2 day (14+) – €56.00
  • 3 day (14+) – €61.00
  • Recommended, Puy du Fou Grand Parc – The Emotion Pass – 1, 2 or 3 days. This supplement entitles you to a prime location in the stands for the 7 grand shows in the Grand Parc as well as 10% reduction on your purchases in the shops of the Market Town in 1900.  Emotion Pass: €14 in addition per day and per person.

Food and Drink:

There’s plenty of food outlets and restaurants available within the Grand Parc serving typical french dishes, baguettes and local specialities.  Soft drinks, beers and wines are available also. All, I would say, are reasonably priced. Lunch from an outlet cost us €34.00 then the kids messed about at the playground. When we revisit, we’ll head to the gardens for lunch or Le Déjeuner.

Miscellaneous items, there’s plenty of swords, medieval clothing, Artisan crafts – folded metals, pottery, breads, beads and necklaces.  

Handy Tips

    • You can pay by all major payment card;
    • Wireless is free and available throughout the park so if you have a Revolut card then you’ll be able to top up as and when needed; and
    • Weenect Kids apps is available to help you track your children while you’re visiting the Grand Parc.

Culture:

Well it’s fair to say that you’re in the heart of Vendée, so expect a steadfast French culture. The good points: The Park is well organised; navigation is logical and easy; food and restroom are strategically placed; and wifi is free and available throughout the park.  The challenges: everything is in French so brush up on your linguistic skills, download the app in advance; plans are available in English (although I did have to ask in French), smoking and country smells were experienced with abundant regularity whilst queuing.

Handy Tips

    • Wholeheartedly embrace the culture as it’s unlikely to bend for you;
    • Bags will be searched prior to admission – food is not allowed to be brought in although for special dietary requirements, no doubt there’d be concessions; and
    • Take a day bag with your own essentials.

Queuing:

Queuing Psychology – if not an Art form, should be.  Those experienced, will know exactly what works for them, no doubt, depending upon the time of day, queue volume, show attending, park capacity, aspect, cloud classification or other meteorological facts.  For the rest of us, use the following basic principles.

  1. For the ‘must see’ shows – go early.  Puy du Fou recommend 30 mins prior. If the park feels like it’s near capacity, make it 45 mins+.  Have some queuing games to hand, rock/paper/scissor and thumb wars certainly helped.
  2. If you’re in a rush to get to the next show afterwards, go into the theater complex and sit at the end of a row, closer to the exit.  That way you can make a break for it.
  3. Plan your day in advance to maximise the time you’ll have.  Puy du Fou state that not all shows can be completed in a day, which is fine, just plan to go to the ones you really want to see.
puy du fou show

Handy Tips

    • Start your day early;
    • Plan your routes; and
    • Before you queue, buy some food for the kids – there’s a number of benches whilst you wait.

Overall and lasting impression:

Puy du Fou is certainly a testament to many of the finest attributes of humanity.  Why do I say this, well, much of what been created is down to the sheer efforts and talent of the Vendée people over the past 40 years.  Currently those staff, students and volunteers (young and old) open up a remarkable historical experience for guests to enjoy. It’s an outstanding service to the community and region in the most exquisite French manner.  Certainly if we lived there, our family would willingly offer time to be involved in such association.

There was something unique, righteous and humbling.  Whether such a show can be recreated, to the level of professionalism and attention to the most noteworthy of details, will remain to be seen.

In terms of whether I’ve been able to explain what Puy du Fou is, I’m unsure but perhaps a future revisit would support my understanding:)  If this has been helpful, please leave a comment, if not well, I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about our holiday.

Unanswered questions that you may be able to find out on your trip:

  1. What is the total number of animals cared for in the Grand Parc?
  2. Is there a story between the three diamond symbols that represent Puy du Fou emblem?
  3. How do they train a horse to lie down and remain so still during the Cinéscénie performance?
  4. How many visitor will go for 2020?

Final Handy Tips

    • Book early (6 months) if you’re keen to experience both the Grand Parc and Cinéscénie especially if you’re intending to go as a Group (20+ people);
    • Download the Puy du Fou app;
    • Plan your shows; and
    • Enjoy!
Cinéscénie