The Incredible Machines of Nantes
This was one of those incredible finds that we almost passed by but turned out to be a full day adventure with the kids. The number one reason we thought about skipping this attraction was its location in a city. We were so nervous about driving through the city in the RV. It was touch and go but we found a dirt lot to park in and called it good enough.
Les Machines De L’ile runs a whole plaza in the old ship building yards of Nantes. They use the skills required to build ships to build working art projects. They have several attractions here that are worth checking out.
The ticket buying situation is complicated but can be done online. We were unable to get our tickets the night before without internet. The first activities start just as the ticket booth opens, so if your buying your tickets there you will not have time to catch those first events.
Once you get your ticket, you head directly into the workshop. Here, you will see the staff demonstrate some of the working vehicles. Some of these are prototypes for future projects and others are ones they have used for other things. When we were there everything is part of of a “tree of life” they are putting together.
They asks guests to help them operate the machines, but between our lack of French and our little ones, we did not get a chance to participate. The kids were happy just to watch everything in motion.
Next, you head across the street where you can peek into the machine shop. There is also a small video to watch here about the ongoing projects.
After the workshop, you can walk on one of the completed branches of the tree of life. Real greenery is growing on the tree to give it the feeling of being a living thing. The tree is made up of ramps and stairs allowing you to work your way back down to the ground.
The kids really loved being up in the “tree.” There are many paths that lead to overlooks and finally down a winding staircase.
It was finally time to ride The Great Elephant! This 20m high elephant takes 50 passengers at a time on a ride around the grounds. It has three routes each lasting around 30 min. Oh, and the trunk can spray water!
The kids were so excited to ride this thing. We boarded using a jetway of sorts and then we were given a safety briefing. (The emergency exit is under the tail.) We were also instructed how we could help the machine work by operating its tail using a lever at the back.
You can walk around as the elephant makes its slow journey around the plaza. There are so many different places to get the perfect vantage point from.
Our favorite point of view though was from just behind the ear. There was a small place the boys could stand and we could see the elephants trunk articulate just before it sprayed people with water!
Riding this piece of art was truly phenomenal.
Watching it walk from the ground is amazing, albeit slow.
The fun is not over yet though, you don’t want to miss the amazing carousel. Tickets to the carousel are sold at the carousel. If you come early in the day you get two rides, which your going to need.
The carousel has three levels each portraying a different level of the sea. The bottom level are the ground dwellers. When you board the carousel you get to pick what you will ride and then you are shown how to use it. The big boys and Jeff operated this crab.
The little little and I took control of this beautiful squid. There were a few on this level that actually dropped bellow the carousel!
The middle layer is for adults only as all these fish are suspended in the air. Most you can see straight through the machine to the ground.
The top level is all seafaring vessels. We rode the top with a tourist bus of elderly folks and a few of them bit off more then they could chew! Watch those machines carefully before you choose one. My big boys chose a boat that spit steam. They were able to control the rock of the boat, which was key.
The little little went around in this walnut shell boat while I stood nearby.
We also popped into the cafe for lunch. It gets tight in there when its full, but the food is excellent. My Big Little charmed everyone around him by drawing his own machines and explaining to the waiter how they worked.
There is also a great playground. It is the perfect place to kill some time before your Elephant ride. We were actually a bit down on the playground while we were there – I think because after riding a mechanical carousel, a playground seems dull!
I highly reccomend this stop, although plan for it to take a while even if you get tickets in advance. To do everything that is offered just takes some time.
If your looking for more to do in Nantes check out Travel Loving Family’s post about 48 Hours in Nantes. Our visit to the machines of Nantes was part of our France Passion tour. You can read more about the ideas of France Passion here.
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