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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Just a short walk to reception and the restaurant where breakfast and evening meals are served too.
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.
Again each apartment has air con and television, once inside your room has everything the 20th-century traveller looks for.
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.
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.
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
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.