With more than two million visitors a year, second only to Disneyland Paris, Puy du Fou is the most popular French amusement park you’ve never heard of. Tucked into a verdant corner of the Vendée region, southwest of the Loire Valley, it’s as if Colonial Williamsburg were reimagined by Up with People, but with better taste and far more questionable politics. A deeply nationalistic, ostensibly historic entertainment spectacle, this summer it became a perfect storm of pandemic crisis, the stirrings of a French culture war, and accusations of presidential favoritism toward its large-headed founder, Philippe de Villiers.
“A nation is a bond of love,” de Villiers wrote in Les Gaulois Réfractaires Demandent des Comptes au Nouveau Monde (The Unbreakable Gauls Hold the New World to Account), his diatribe against globalism and France’s pandemic response which came out this June. “France is a romance novel.”