Puy du Fou falconry Academy

It’s more than a month ago that I visited the world’s best theme park in France – Puy du Fou but I still continue to think about how much I loved it and how I would like to return with the family one day.

A visit to this unique step back in history is more than discovering a fascinating world of long ago played out before you by top-class actors. Puy du Fou sends you home with a complete top to tail wellbeing that I have never encountered elsewhere. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I have come to the conclusion that it is to do with the ethos of the park.

A world of nature

Puy du Fou forest

I remember clearly, as I was walking around the vast grounds, how every single factor of the park had been taken into consideration and tuned into the overall wellbeing feel. You cannot help but be in awe of the flowers, foliage and well-kept grounds. The land boasts a 100-year old forest with 150 different species of trees and that keeps the 45 gardeners and landscapers busy all year round.  In fact, they have developed ecosystems based on the natural food chain, such as ladybirds used to tackle the aphids on the rose bushes and using Ouessant sheep as an ecological lawnmower!

Puy du Fou lake

They take their consideration for guests one step further by choosing to maintain the gardens with silent and ecological electrical equipment. Nature and the control of nature is respected at all times and is an intrinsic principle of the Park.

Puy du Fou’s animals

Puy du Fou falconry

Then there is the question of all the animals used in the shows, they are full-time actors too and play a key role in the Puy du Fou excellence. The onsite Equestrian Academy has 206 trained horses in all disciplines from the trick stunt riders seen in Le Secret de la Lance to the finer dressage used in Mosquetaire de Richelieu. Great care is shown to these much-loved animals and their trainers ensure they have a healthy diet and strictly regulate their work levels.

I was very pleased to see the Animal Conservatory which offers a sanctuary for many age-old species like the Poitou donkey, the Des Fosses goat and the Poitou goose. Puy du Fou holds the record for the largest number of protected species in Western France.

Puy du Fou piglets

Everyone knows how much a dog lover I am and there are plenty of opportunities to see dogs taking part in the shows too. The Canine Academy operates on fun based and playful training methods. The 10 Czechs wolves were taken in from the age of 2 and a half months. The first six months were devoted to interacting with them before any form of training takes place. The training is very gentle and both their wellbeing and confidence is of primary importance.

Then there is the Falconry Academy which we were allowed to enter and visit. You can too – make sure you book in advance though.

We spent a lot of time with one of the falconers who introduced us to many of the 73 different species looked after at Puy du Fou. We even saw some newborns and it was explained that some are kept for training and used in the shows but another equal proportion are prepared to return to their natural habitat. For these birds, there is a bare minimum of human interaction so as not to confuse them.

Intrigued? If you are considering visiting take a look at my What to see and do at Puy du Fou post and start planning the best family trip ever.

You’re going to love it!

medieval village puy du fou

Puy du Fou is the most exciting theme park in the world, it’s even won multiple awards saying so and having been there, I can personally vouch for that. It is a theme park like no other and a minimum of planning before you arrive will allow you go get the very best from an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. Three weeks have passed since my visit and I am still full of the wonders and joy my experience gave me.

puy du fou vulture

Making the most of your Puy du Fou experience

Puy du Fou has put a lot of thought into making sure your day runs as smoothly as possible and allows you to see and experience as much as possible too. They have a fantastic app you can download which gives a map of the park – essential for Day 1 until you get your bearings, a daily programme and restaurants among other facilities.

Le secret del la lance puy du fou

If you are old school, they also have a printed handout which has a map, programme and all of the information you need to plan ahead. These can be picked up at the hotel, at the park entrance and from inside the park too.

Top tip: Download the Puy du Fou app, available on iTunes and Google Play.

Top tip: Pick up a map as wifi can be sketchy in some areas of the vast park.

Top tip: Link to the Puy du Fou website

Pass Émotion

pass emotion puy du fou

Like all theme parks, Puy du Fou can get very busy which makes for queues and possibly having to miss out on a show. We had the Pass Émotion, it hangs on a lanyard around your neck and allows you to jump the queue for the most popular 7 shows plus sit in a specially designated area with a good view. €14 per person.

Souvenirs

One of the ideas I found so impressive was the souvenirs on sale. Firstly, the shops are in the various villages of the park; in the medieval village you could buy handmade jewellery, handwritten notes and leather goods (including the popular pixie boots worn by the staff). The souvenirs you can buy are made by local craftsmen who, dressed in period costume, make and sell their wares to you giving a wonderful layer of authenticity to your experience. I bought the girls some enamel earrings, myself a handwritten note and some Puy du Fou biscuits in a beautiful tin for us to share.

souvenir shop puy du fou

Pre-book restaurants

There is a wonderful selection of restaurants to eat at on the park and these too become booked up at busy times of the year. Everything can be pre-booked online at the point of booking your trip and I would especially recommend saving your place at Le Café de la Madelon to enjoy the dinner and cabaret.

La Mijoterie du Roy Henry restaurant Puy du Fou

Which shows to see at Puy du Fou?

All of them!

Honestly, you won’t be disappointed by any of them but sadly you most likely won’t be able to fit all of them on a weekend break. We managed to squeeze in 12 plus a couple of other activities worth considering when planning your Puy du Fou trip. They are all acted in French but the music and action are so intense that the stories speak for themselves. However, should you wish to listen to the translation of each show, you can ask for a translator and headphones.

Le signe du triomphe Puy du fou

Each show plays from 26 – 40 minutes and is played up to 7 times a day and there is seating from 2,400 to 6,000 spectators per performance.

Top tip: Bring your own noise-cancelling headphones as the ones provided don’t cover the volume generated by the show.

Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes

Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantomes puy du fou

The stage in the middle is flanked by two banks of seats raising high up into the treetops. A wonderful story with beautiful costumes is enacted with the main actors of the show – the birds. 330 eagles, falcons, vultures, kites and owls fill the sky and fly from one side to the other to waiting falconers dotted in amongst the crowd creating the most spellbinding spectacle. What an opener to our Puy du Fou experience! I read that the birds in full flight together is the result of a 25-year long project!

le bal des oiseaux fantomes Puy du fou

Les Vikings

Les vikings puy du fou

We left the birds behind and walked from the Medieval village, through the Vikings area where there were forgers working at the fire pit to the next stage, to watch The Vikings. Fort de l’An Mil is the setting of the quiet village which gets invaded by Vikings. The stage is enormous and whilst you are looking down one end, something is already starting to happen at the other. There is action everywhere and you really don’t know where to look next plus the special effects will blow your mind! Plenty of animals take part in this show too including a dog, horses, bull and geese.

Les vikings puy du fou

Le Dernier Panache

The production tells the story of the tragic destiny of Francois-Athanase Charette de la Contrie, a French naval officer. The audience is seated in the round theatre and as the story runs from scene to scene, the seating platform swivels around the theatre to the next part of the show. It’s a 360 performance which is superb and very cleverly organised. Our group were wowed by the genius behind the production, it’s like being part of a film. Expect to see horses on stage too.

Les Amoureux de Verdun

Les Amoureux de Verdun puy du fou

A different experience is offered by this fully immersive walk-through show that left me with goosebumps and sadness. Visitors are plunged into the First World War trenches and as you walk through them with battles going on around you, you hear the daily life of Poilus through letters he sent back home to his loved one. A very poignant show. I’m not sure I would take the twins (aged 10) but older children yes. You will pass people with tears in their eyes as you realise the extent our grandparents went to in order for us to lead the happy peace we enjoy today. Winner of Best Creation in the World Los Angeles 2016.

Mousquetaire de Richelieu

A very lively performance with sword duets, flamenco dances and equestrian stunts. Held in a purpose-built enormous theatre the story follows an impossible love affair of the 17th century. The stage boasts the largest stage curtain in the world!

Le Grand Carillon

Le Grand Carillon puy du fou

What a beautiful piece of architecture sitting in the middle of Le Village XVIIIeme. An enormous clock. We managed to watch a small part of the fascinating clock chiming before rushing off to the next show.

Le Secret de la Lance

le secret de la lance puy du fou

The story of a shepherdess as she discovers the secrets of a lance that has the power to protect the castle. The stage is mind-boggling, an 8-meter wall that disappears in front of you, a castle that swivels round and horses, fighting and lots of drama.

le secret de la lance puy du fou

Le Signe Du Triomphe

By the time we reached the impressive Gallo-Roman stadium, I was wondering what else could Puy du Fou throw at me. Hadn’t I seen it all now? No. I was entertained with gladiator battles and chariot races, young love that needed saving and some incredible animals too. Certainly one of my favourite shows.

Le Mystère de La Pérouse

A brand new creation for 2018 and one Puy du Fou is rightfully proud of is a fully immersive walk-through show. You start by boarding the ship – La Boussole and watch the sailors as they prepare to set sail from Brest in 1785. As you walk further into the ship and follow the story, there is a rocking motion to the floor and you can see the sea outside of the windows. The voyage sails through Cape Horn and the Easter Islands and areas of the walk give off climatic conditions that would have been felt – the clammy hot of the Pacific and icy winds of Alaska, before ending a shipwreck at the end of the walkthrough. A stunning experience, you feel as though you have walked through history.

Le Ballet des Sapeurs

le ballet des sapeurs puy du fou

In the charming Le Bourg zone, Le Ballet des Sapeurs is played out by the children of the Puy du Fou Académie. the pupils play a very entertaining short act of putting out a fire.

Evening entertainment at Puy du Fou

There are a number of restaurants on site and each has a different menu and experience to offer. We ate at two of them.

Le Café de la Madelon.

Cafe de la Madelon Puy du fou press trip

A new restaurant set in the Belle Epoque era and seats 700 guests in one sitting. The menu is fixed and the price includes wine and water. Everything you will find on your table and there will be no extra waiting service throughout the meal as the staff take part in the onstage cabaret. It is a heartwarming story of a marriage and it’s amazing to see your waiter or waitress serve food or clear plates and then dance on stage with the ensemble. A very entertaining evening

Top tip: Book ahead!

There are two evening shows and I loved them both. They start after dinner and wait for the sun to set as the darkness is part of the stage.

Les Orgues de Feu

Les Orgues de Feu puy du fou

I sat entranced by this mesmerising show which takes place on a lake. Seated at one end, I watched as the lake became alive with light shows, fountains playing to music and ballerinas that glided across the waters dressed in illuminated ballgowns. I enjoyed classical favourites of Mozart, Delerue, Bach and Bizet, a grand piano coming out of the lake, a gigantic organ appearing and a golden harp. Top all of that off with a fantastic firework display and you have a show that is ten time that of the Bellagio in Vegas. Awesome!

Cinéscénie

Cinéscénie puy du fou

This was our final show and as it was the beginning of the Puy du Fou theme park, as mentioned in my previous post, there was a lot of anticipation in our group and around the entire park. As it is coined the greatest night show in the world, it had a lot to live up to and boy did it go above and beyond our expectations! I think we were all so stunned after the 1 and a half hour performance that we were speechless. Consider that the show is performed by 4000 volunteer actors from the nearby towns. It takes place on the world’s biggest stage: 23 hectares and includes 30 free-flying drones, film projections with 3D mapping, 28,000 costumes and 850 fireworks. This year has seen the addition of 10 drones in different scenes called ‘Neopters’ that fly simultaneously and are equipped with features that offer even more dimensions to the show.

Cinéscénie

From start to finish this show is mesmerising and will stay with you long after you have departed Puy du Fou.

Top tip: Please make sure you book and plan your trip around it.

Other Puy du Fou tips I can think of

Take some very comfortable shoes, there’s a lot of walking!

Take an umbrella or better still, a fold up waterproof poncho. Puy du Fou also sell them if needed as if it rains – the show goes on!

Dress in layers, we enjoyed some fabulous hot sunshine and I had to buy a hat as sitting in the sun for long amounts of time is tiring.

Other posts from my fellow bloggers who were on the trip:

Are we nearly there yet?: La Cinéscénie at Puy Du Fou – Review

Juggle Mum Blog: Review Puy du Fou

Extraordinary Chaos: A Guide for visiting Puy du Fou

Globetotting: The 8 shows at Puy du Fou that will blow your mind

Le camp du drap d'or

Have you ever wondered what it was like back in the time of the Vikings? Or have you asked yourself what was it like to sit in a Roman amphitheatre and watch a gladiator show? Well, now you can experience these periods of history and many more at Puy du Fou in France, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning theme park.

Tucked away in the gentle green hills of La Vendee, Puy du Fou is France’s best-kept secret – that was until they invited a group of British bloggers out to discover for themselves what it’s like to step back in history in a fully immersive experience. We spent three nights and two days exploring the 55 hectares (140 acres) clocking up 16 – 17,000 steps a day on my Fitbit and being completely bowled over time and time again with every new village, show or immersive experience we visited. If you happened to be following my Instagram, Twitter or Facebook channels last week, you’ll have had a peek into the many wonders we encountered.

Le Bourg Puy du Fou

My first thoughts on Puy du Fou are – How come we haven’t heard of this place until now? The theme park attracted 2,260,000 visitors in 2017, won international awards in 2012 and 2014 for Best Park in the World and celebrated it’s 40th anniversary last year.

Cinéscénie

Cinescenie Puy du Fou

The signature show where it all started back in 1978, Cinéscénie, is a breathtaking, spectacular show. It begins as the sun sets on the horizon and you watch seated in a purpose built stand with up to 13,200 spectators. In front of you lies possibly the biggest stage in the world spread over 23 hectares. There is a real castle centre stage, a lake, a village and even the mill in the distance plays its part as 2400 actors, many volunteers, enact the symbolic destiny of a Vendeé family from the Middle Ages to the Second World War.

Cinescenie Puy du Fou

Our trip ended with this extraordinary production and writing about it one week later, I am still astounded by the detail, the work and the passion that has gone into creating this fascinating show. Cinéscénie uses all the latest technology to bring superb effects throughout the show including drones known as neopters, film projections with 3D mapping and a fantastic firework display.

Cinescenie Puy du Fou

What to expect at Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou is not your average theme park it is a whole lot more. If you are looking for thrills and excitement – you will be elated. If you are looking for culture and history – you will love the full immersion back in time. If it’s nature and the utmost care for the environment and its inhabitants that you care for then Puy du Fou will tick that box in the gentlest and most pleasing way that you can’t help but fall in love. What became immediately apparent to me as I spent my days wandering and enjoying everything that Puy du Fou has to offer, is the immense thought given to singular details. In every aspect of anything that you will come across on or in the park. The rubbish bins on site covered in wood to fit in with the environment. The animal conservatory programme for endangered species and the clear attention to small details.

Where to stay at Puy du Fou

Our first night was spent in the Medieval village – Les Îles de Clovis. A series of huts built on water that each has two family rooms within. Think thatched roofs and half-timbered walls and interior decor of granite, oak and textiles such as the faux fur throw and cushions on the bed. The feel is very medieval but of course with all the latest mod-cons: hair dryers, air con and a television too.

Les Iles de Clovis - Puy du Fou

The mini apartments consist of one main room with the double bed, television and a single bed if needed. The entrance has two large bunk beds on one side with curtains on each to provide darkness and privacy. The toilet is a separate room from the bathroom and there is cupboard space for clothes and suitcases. The mirrors are deliberately old to fit in with the surroundings and there isn’t a lot of light in the rooms but it is truly a magnificent and comfortable room.

The wow factor for me was stepping on to the balcony from the main room and embracing this spectacular view…

Les Iles de Clovis

Just a short walk to reception and the restaurant where breakfast and evening meals are served too.

Les Iles de Clovis Puy du fou

The rest of my stay was spent at another of the five onsite hotels, Le Camp du Drap d’Or. The colourful ‘tents’ will catch your eye and give you a feel for being thrown back into the times of King Francis I of France and King Henry VIII of England. I was thrilled to discover a four-poster bed in my quarters with turned solid oak columns, embroidered tapestries of the king and hammered metal basins in the bathroom.

Le Camp du Drap d'Or - Puy du Fou

Again each apartment has air con and television, once inside your room has everything the 20th-century traveller looks for.

Le Camp du Drap d'Or - Puy du Fou

Other options which I didn’t get to see include La Villa Gallo-Romaine for an ancient Rome vibe, La Citadelle which is a full immersion into the world of a medieval fortress and Le Logis de Lescure which has 4 duplex suites each offering a different experience.

Le Camp du Drap d'Or - Puy du Fou

Benefits of booking a hotel on site

Staying onsite has the obvious benefit of being close to the park and eliminating the need of a car to drive back and forth. You can be first in the queue in the morning and can nip back to the room throughout the day if needed.

Lunch at Le Bistro Puy du fou

The hotel food is excellent and varied and you can eat in any of the five hotels but some may need advance booking. You can also eat lunch and dinner in many of the park restaurants, we ate dinner one evening in Cafe de la Madelon which I would thoroughly recommend. A set menu which is served by waiters who in between courses take part in the cabaret show which is set in Belle-Epoque France.

Staying in one of the five hotels will also allow the family to have an exciting experience in your chosen period, medieval, Roman, Renaissance or 18th Century thrill.

This is the first of three posts on Puy du Fou I shall be writing as I have so much to tell you! Please find my fellow bloggers write-ups by clicking on the links below

Extraordinary Chaos

Juggle Mum

Are We Nearly There Yet?

POD Travels

Globetotting

Jenography

Disclosure: I was invited by BritMums and Puy du Fou to experience a weekend as part of a specially organised press trip to discover all the park has to offer. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The View from The Shard

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to The Old Smoke for a special treat – a trip up The View from The Shard in the company of Ferdinand, the friendliest bull in town who is due out on DVD in a matter of days.

The View from The Shard

The View from The Shard have had an un-bull-ievable idea for a family activity this Easter break, they’ve teamed up with Ferdinand and created a family day out where you get to experience The View – which is gobsmackingly awesome and lots of other activities too …  like a virtual reality game called Vertigo which I had a go at this morning. Think of The Shard when it was being constructed and walking across the steel beams with nothing beneath you – scary but a lot of fun. The girls were most disappointed that they weren’t allowed to have a go (over 12) but were happy to video me doing it.

We were given activity sheets and had to go on a treasure hunt looking for Ferdinand’s flowers, we located them all and popped our sheets into a box with our fingers crossed at winning the prize of a return visit.

The View From The Shard

Families who decide to try this amazing experience out are given goody bags with their entrance tickets including all of the following items

  • Ferdinand activity sheet
  • Bouncy ball
  • Pencil case
  • Official Guidebook
  • Keyring
  • Colouring set
  • Selfie stick

and you simply must go up to the Sky Deck where there is this beautiful floral display waiting for the best photo opportunity ever.

The View from The Shard

There is another virtual reality experience called The Slide which I didn’t have a go at – although I wish I had now. You lay on a wooden curved surface which moves up and down and tips slightly forward and to the sides, as you swoop and slide around The Shard and through the city skyline. A kind of Shard helter-skelter.

For every family that visits The View from The Shard for the Ferdinand experience, there is the chance to enter a competition to win a two-night break to Barcelona. The prize is for 2 adults and 2 children under 15 and consists of return flights from London to Barcelona, return airport transfers in Barcelona, 2 nights in a four-star hotel and travel insurance.

The View From the Shard

If you need even more to convince you, how about drinking a glass of Moët & Chandon from London’s highest champagne bar? 800ft above the capital sipping bubbles whilst enjoying views of up to 40 miles, that’s got to seal the deal surely?

The View from The Shard

Find all the information or book tickets online at www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/whats-on/events/2018/ferdinand-the-bull/

Before you leave, make sure you visit the toilets at the top for a loo with a view…

The View From The Shard loo

Disclosure: We were given tickets by The View from The Shard for the purpose of this post.

Yorkshire moors

Visiting Yorkshire has always been high on my bucket list for many reasons ranging from, longing to see the beautiful seaside town of Whitby and eat ‘proper’ fish and chips, to visiting the moors and dales which I pictured so vividly whilst reading Wuthering Heights.

I’ve been looking into where to go and what to do in Yorkshire more closely as I’m hoping to get up there very soon. In fact, my research tells me that now would be the perfect time to take in the glory that is Farndale! Imagine walking in a sea of daffodils that stretch as far as the eye can see. Apparently, the golden blooms were planted by the monks of Rievaulx Abbey, (another place to visit on my bucket list) the golden banks of the River Dove shine along the three and a half mile walk from Low Mill to Church Houses and back.

Bronte Country is said to be wild and dramatic, I’d love to climb the rugged moorlands and capture them on camera and pop into the Bronte Parsonage Museum where the family lived in Haworth.

I want to visit Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This beautiful Victorian model village with its cobbled streets and terraced cottages was built for the workers of the Salt Mills. It’s also close to David Hockney’s place of birth and as one of his longtime admirers, I’d like to see his work displayed in the Salt Mills. Whilst we’re on the subject of art, there is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield that looks really intriguing, I do love a good sculpture park!

Whitby

Whitby

I couldn’t possibly go all the way to Yorkshire and not see Whitby. I’ve heard so much about it and every time a photo come up on my Instagram feed of the town I find myself wishing to go and see it for myself.

Noted as one of the greatest sights in Britain, the Whitby Abbey is said to powerfully domineer the fishing harbour. There are 199 stone steps to climb to get the best view and luckily there are a few renowned pubs and eateries close by for refreshment. Fortune’s Kippers dates back to 1872!

The Yorkshire coastline is dotted with sandy bays, coves and centuries of maritime history to explore.

Scarborough is one that I’d like to explore in more detail. This original Victorian spa centre has a castle, an open-air theatre and is a well-known shopping centre too.

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

I’d like to think that my meanderings through the county would take me across the Dales. I’d love to walk Baxter and find some of the beautiful waterfalls that the area boasts. I didn’t know that each dale has its own name and its own character. I hadn’t realised that one of my favourite cheeses – Wensleydale is actually a dale in Yorkshire (I know!) In fact, Wensleydale is home to three most spectacular falls; Aysgarth Falls where the River Are washes down the broad limestone steps, the Hardraw Force – England’s highest single drop waterfall and the West Burton Falls.

The Forbidden Corner

The name alone makes me want to go there! If like me, you like the odd and quirky then this could be the attraction for you. Tucked away near Leyburn is a park of pathways to nowhere that lead into the most obscurer mazes where you bump into curious carved statues and even a pyramid! Apparently it is entrance on a first come first served basis so might be worth a telephone call beforehand. Also close by is the Jervaulx Abbey ruins said to be a great visit too.

Where to stay in Yorkshire

To make the most of my Yorkshire visit I’d like to stay in a cottage, a place to call my own during my stay where I can put the kettle on and sit back on a comfy sofa after a day out sightseeing. Plus, of course, there would be some spectacular views to take in. Ingrid Flute’s Yorkshire Holiday Cottages https://www.yorkshireholidaycottages.co.uk/ offer exactly what I am looking for and there are plenty of options to choose from to suit all budgets and tastes.

visiting Yorkshire

If you know Yorkshire better than me, please let me know of some places to add to my list.