Puy du Fou (from the name of the place which translates as “hill of the beech”, from puy and fagus) is a historical theme park in Les Epesses (between Cholet and La Roche-sur-Yon) in the heart of the Vendée region of Western France. The park brings in some 1.45 million visitors every year, making it the second most popular attraction in France after Disneyland Paris.The history of the Puy du Fou as a theme park started in 1977 when Phillippe de Villiers, a twenty-seven-year-old student (now a French politician) decided to create an original show named the Cinéscénie which means “the stage in moving”.When he discovered on the 13th of June 1977 the ruins of an old renaissance castle in the village of Les Epesses near Cholet, he wrote a good scenario very quickly about a local family named Maupillier (the real name of a soldier of Vendee at the time of the conflict between Vendee and French Republic during the French Revolution), spanning from the fourteenth century until World War II.Phillippe de Villiers organised an association of 600 members (more than 3000 today) named “l’Association du Puy du Fou” which has as president today Phillippe de Villiers’ son, Nicolas de Villiers.
When the first representation of the Cinescenie began in June 1978, the show didn’t have great success, but that quickly changed by the end of the first season, and with that success the show grew into a huge spectacular. It has since spawned its own micro-industry of actors, prop-makers and trainers for the featured horse riding and sword fighting, which, since 1998, has been due to the efforts of the “Académies Junior” who organized shows every year outside the Cinéscénie, such as the Paris Paname in the “Halle Rennaissance” of the Grand Park, in March 2008.The Grand Park 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 2004, 98% of visitors were happy or very happy with their visit.In 2011, the Grand Park of the Puy du Fou hosted the team presentations prior to the Tour de France, which was set to begin in the Vendée
The park is split into five separate attractions, each running for approximately 30 – 40 minutes:
♦The Secret of the Lance is set in front of the battlements of a Middle Age Castle. It relates the story of a young shepherdess who must defend alone her donjon from the English knights, helped by a lance with supernatural powers. It is the new show in 2010, replacing The Battle of the Keep.
♦The Vikings is set in a reconstructed 1000 year old fortress that is attacked by a Viking Longship.The story begins with a marriage in the village, just before the arrival of a Viking Longboat. Special effects include the emergence of a Longboat from underwater, and a saint walking on the water.
♦Triumph’s Sign is set in a replica of an amphitheater that is 115 meters long and 75 meters wide. It replaces the previous Gladiators (synopsis following) It recreates the Gaul atmosphere during Roman times. It features a traditional parade of people and animals, gladiatorial combat, chariot racing and executions. It is set during the time of Diocletian, when there was great unrest.
♦The Phantom Birds Dance is a show set to a mysterious story. Dozens of birds of prey surge from the ruins and swoop low over the heads of the visitors. The falcons are placed on the heads of some visitors wearing hats by the falconers. Many of the larger birds are released from a balloon floating far overhead. This ends with around a hundred birds flying at once around the audience.
♦Richelieu’s Musketeers features Musketeers performing swash-buckling sword fighting and Gypsy girls Flamenco dancing in water. Horses also perform special trotting/ jumping techniques. Performed in complete darkness, this is the only show that is staged indoors.
During April, July and August 2010 after sunset the Grand Park presents Les Orgues de feu (except on Fridays and Saturdays for the summer season). This show takes place completely on the water and depicts a love story between two musicians.
The above spectacles are presented in French, but electronic translators are available. Other smaller spectacles are available only in French:
- Le Magicien Ménestrel (magic show)
- Le Carillon Animé (musical show)
- Les Musiciens Traditionels (musical show)
- Le Chemin de la Mémoire
- L’Odyssée du Puy du Fou (attraction (inside) ending with a spectacular water show)
- La légende de Martin (puppets)
- Les Automates Musiciens du Bourg 1900 (musical show)
The main show takes place in the evening on a huge outdoor stage behind the ruined castle. It tells the story of the 700 years of history in the area. The Cinescene boasts the largest stage in the world, thousands of actors, hundreds of horses and about 400 fireworks per performance. All of the dialog is in French, but English and Dutch dialog is provided via headphones. All of the actors and actresses (even the children) come from the local villages and are volunteers. All the tourist info centres sell tickets for the same price in advance.
Official website:- www.puydufou.com
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