Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world completely dedicated to imagination?
Les Machines de L’Ile in Nantes is one such place.
As soon as you wander over the bridge from the historical side of the city, you are transported into a creative display of inventiveness. With inspiration coming from both Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, this is a place like no other; here the visions of two inventors, François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice, have been brought to life.
With artistic innovation being pushed to the limits, this old shipyard is now a hive of activity attracting forward-thinking tourists and locals alike.
What Can You Expect To See?
Like no other ride you have ever experienced, this 40ft mechanical elephant carries up to 50 people on its back across the site of Les Machines de L’ile. Once onboard, you will be able to hear and feel every move this colossal beast of moving steel makes.
Built in 2007, this is a replica of the Sultan’s Elephant which was created by the Royal Luxe Theatre Company to commemorate the centenary of Jules Verne’s death.
Beautifully handcrafted, the details are incredibly lifelike. Not only does every element move together to create a gracious, albeit towering, animal moving across the concourse, its wooden exterior has been lovingly carved to reflect the creases and folds of a real elephant.
A word of warning to all spectators though – don’t get too close or you may end up slightly wet for the builders of this particular creation also added a water tank and a squirting mechanism into its trunk.
When you look across the Loire River from the Musée Jules Verne you get your first glimpse of the Carrousel, a masterpiece that could have easily been a creation bore out of one of the author’s novels.
Up close, you begin to realise that this is no ordinary carrousel.
Spread across three levels – In the Seabeds, In the Abyss and On the Sea Surface – you will find an array of animals to choose from. This is a moving mechanical aquarium, unlike anything else ever created.
You can choose to ride the carrousel on a giant crab, a large metal fish, or a reverse propulsion squid. Alternatively head to the top floor and you will find anything from turtles, flying fish, boats or seahorses. Each animal is individually controlled by the riders meaning that you feel fully immersed in your experience. You have the ability to move a fin, open a mouth, and make a noise, as the animal that you are controlling swings around on the river bank.
This is one ride that will appeal to both young and old. It’s a marvellous watery universe that has been born out of the imagination of another.
If you feel that you have seen it all whilst visiting the carrousel and riding on the elephant, think again. Enter the Galerie and it’s like you are being invited into the minds of the inventors themselves.
You will be transported into a world of make believe as soon as you cross the threshold. Here, I can only imagine that the likes of Caracticus Potts, the wacky inventor from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is somewhere in the depths of the building working on his latest creation.
You will not only be able to wander around this imaginary world, you will get to become part of it. The highlight is a large heron, which flies across the Galerie with passengers in tow, whilst others are strapped into seats and suspended high in the air.
Move further into this alternative world and you will come face to face with a giant scurrying ant and a oversized caterpillar.
This really is an amazing place, full of both creativity and great feats of engineering.
If all of this isn’t enough for you then you can always spend time overseeing the workshops where all of the construction and experimentation takes place or watch a brief video on the project.
Finally, no trip to Les Machines De I’Ile would be complete without climbing the Arbre aux Hérons (Heron Tree), a prototype branch for a much larger project that will one day be a monument in the centre of the city.
Nantes is creating something unique, something making them stand out in a crowd. How do other cities compare?
Disclaimer: We did receive free tickets for this attraction from Visit Nantes but all thoughts and opinions are our own.