Disneyland isn't the only theme park that has magic within its walls - on the quiet island of Nantes, a secret rendezvous for adrenaline-pumped explorers is tucked away on the banks of the Loire River, awaiting those who seek a different kind of enchantment in their vacation plans: behold the Machines of the Isle theme park!
Enchanted with a touch of brass, steampunk creations wander freely on the park grounds - commonly depicted as a curious fusion of technology and steam-powered engines, the genre of steampunk has largely evolved from humanoids with mechanical arms to intricately assembled chimeras and a fashion runway of its own.
Take a look around the Les Machines Island with our day guide below!
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Mechanical creatures that roam freely
As you make your way into the theme park, you may notice the intimidating silhouette of a 48-tonne elephant heading your way. Don't fret, though, because if you squint your eyes just a little, you will make out the shadows of thrilled tourists waving at you from the back! Yes, this intricately built elephant is a ride that you can take - along with the many other mechanical creatures you find on this mechanised wonderland!
Conceptualised by the company La Machine, the street theatre company originally started the theme park as an initiative to revive the sleepy town of Nantes, who, in contrary to its sister city Paris, has more of a humble and down-to-earth setting without all the flashy fairy lights and overly romanticised attractions. Starting out with the Great Elephant, the entire theme park started to breathe a new life, taking on the form of ferocious piranhas and wiggling sea snakes that both terrorised and thrilled the audience.
Drawing inspiration from the imaginative universes that novelist Jules Verne and artist Leonardo da Vinci created, the living breathing machines are what the steampunk genre would have looked like during the late 90s. Characterised by the intricate merging of machine and man, it is not uncommon to see mechanised androids with dandy monocles greeting you with a steely handshake when exploring the steampunk genre.
Evolving into many sub-genres, take a ride on the sea creatures you see lurking on the Marine Worlds Carousel, where you can explore the deepest trenches of the oceans just like in Verne's 1870 novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Head up to the viewing garden, where you can catch a glimpse of what a post-apocalyptic world portrayed through the lens of the steampunk genre would look like. The harshly warped viewing platform houses beautifully blooming tulips, making for a good viewing platform if you'd like to see the rustic skyline of Nantes.
Catch the ferocious dragon horse awakening from his deep slumber every afternoon - with steam flaring out of his nostrils and heavy eyelids, you may mistake him for a real beast awakening from his hibernation! Watch as he gets accustomed to the curious eyes staring back at him, with the occasional puff of fire after a loud yawn.
Hitch a ride on the inchworm, or try your hand at steering the wheel on the brass fighter jets if you're not one for creepy-crawlies. With a wide array of rides and installations, tickle your imagination pink with a day trip down to Nantes Island - a must-see if you're touring around France!
Les Machines de L’Ile park
Address: Parc des Chantiers, Boulevard Léon Bureau, 44 200 Nantes
Price: from 8 USD
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 2pm to 5pm. Saturday and Sunday: 2pm to 6pm, but varies according to season.
Contact: Local line: 0810 12 12 25. International line: +33 251 17 49 89
Website: Les Machines de L’Ile park
The fusion of past and present
Transforming past ideas into modern day inventions gives us a lot of room for a creative outlet of our own - to some, the sharp-jawed creature with whiskers on its face could be a mouse imbued with mechanical implants, but to others, it could be the fusion of a land and sea creature gone wrong - there are endless possibilities, and just like how the team at La Machine have crafted their own story world, you, too, can write an existing page of your travel adventures here in Les Machines de L’Ile park!