French history comes alive at Puy du Fou

French history at Puy du Fou

I enjoy learning about history, and being a French teacher means French history is generally pretty interesting to me. I prefer the old stuff, not so much the more recent history – anything after WW2 isn’t really my thing. As part of a lesson I had done with my students about French amusement parks, the park of Puy du Fou kept coming up in my YouTube feed. Watching the promo ads made it seem very interesting.

When I was planning my summer trip through France, I decided that I would check it out myself. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris (meh…I’m not really a Disney fan and it’s pretty much the same as the one in Anaheim, which I’ve visited too many times), but never to a truly French park. I made sure that we had a place booked near the park – a really charming AirBNB in a rural area with animals – and dragged my husband along to the park. He didn’t know quite what to expect, but I did tell him that the park was quite different from any other park he’s been to.

Puy du Fou – our voyage through French history

We arrived at the park at opening time. The walk from the parking lot to the park was pretty lengthy, but pleasant. I would imagine that on a hotter day it would have been pretty miserable. The security was very efficient and quick, as was the entry gate. There were quite a few people at the park as it was the first day of summer vacation for a lot of people, but I don’t feel that it was too full, at least not at the very beginning.

Each show/attraction is based on a different event or period in French history. Our first show involved Joan of Arc and some guys doing tricks on horseback. It was pretty amazing, and there is obviously a lot of work that goes into the shows. Sadly, this was the only show we got to see all day. Every other show filled up so quickly that we ended up visiting the shows that are continuous rather than the set times. If there’s some show that you really want to see, I would suggest going REALLY early and lining up well in advance of the time they open the gate.

French history comes alive at Puy du Fou

Our next attraction was Les Amoureux de Verdun. This is based on WW1 – a very interesting period in French history, obviously. It’s a walk-through exhibit that has you experience the trenches of war. They use real artifacts from the period and it’s quite intense. If you get claustrophobic or have PTSD triggered by loud sounds, this is something you’d want to skip. It was very well done and I would recommend it if you don’t have those issues.

We then tried to attend the Vikings show, but alas it was already full. There are signs around the park that warn you when things are full – so you don’t have to run to the show only to find out you can’t get in. This is very useful, so pay attention to it! We ended up visiting Chasseloup, a medieval village. This was quite and peaceful and we enjoyed the apothecary garden and little shops there. There are also animals throughout the park – animals that have some link to French history in some way, and that the park is working to preserve.

French history comes alive at Puy du Fou

Our next stop was le Mystère de la Pelouse. This was by far our favorite part of the park. The period in French history is the reign of Louis XVI and it tells the story of a scientific sea expedition that doesn’t end well. As you walk through the expedition, the ship rocks and there is water spray, ice, and motion and smell to make you feel as if you are on the ship. It was truly amazing and it’s impossible to do it justice in words.

I only had one tiny issue with this attraction. The immersive attractions have real actors mixed in with the animatronics and props. In this one, there was a person playing the cello in a cabin on the ship. But they had the bow in the left hand and their right hand was on the fingerboard. Most people won’t notice this at all, but since I play the cello it stuck out immediately and took me out of the suspension of disbelief.

We moved on to Le Premier Royaume, which deals with a very early period in French history – the reign of Clovis. This one was OK, but I wasn’t as impressed as with the other two. It was quite loud and had some things that didn’t really seem to add much to the show.

French history comes alive at Puy du Fou
French history comes alive at Puy du Fou
French history comes alive at Puy du Fou

Our final attraction was la Rennaissance du Château, a visit to the period in French history when the castles of the Loire were being built. This was heavy on the actors giving speeches, so if your French isn’t great, it might not be all that interesting. The dancing area was quite interesting and the costumes are very authentic. At the end you see a ring that belonged to Jeanne d’Arc – yes, really.

Pointers for visiting the park

All in all, we enjoyed our day at Puy du Fou. If you really like French history and your French skills are strong, it’s a very good place to visit. They do have an app that will do translations and subtitles, so English speakers won’t be completely lost. Prepare to walk a lot, wear sunscreen, and bring some snacks – unlike many theme parks in the US, you are welcome to bring in your own food and we saw many people eating whatever they had brought instead of standing in long lines for lunch.

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