“It’s a childhood dream, the one I had in front of the miniature train of a childhood friend with its cities, stations and hills. I had put myself in the back of my mind that I too would have a train. But a real one. ” Decidedly, Nicolas de Villiers, the president of the Puy du Fou company, likes to transform historical facts into stories tinged with legend. And this is how he describes the genesis of his totally unexpected project unveiled on Tuesday 23 November: to turn the Epesses amusement park (Vendée), created by his father, Philippe de Villiers, into a railway company.
The Puy du Fou company is therefore embarking on the train by creating the Grand Tour, a six-day, five-night rail cruise designed as a rolling spectacle, from stage to stage, to meet “Of the most emblematic places in France”, indicates the presentation release. The first commercial trips are expected to begin in early summer 2023 and will span the first year over twenty-three weeks, from June to October.
This 4,000-kilometer Tour de France will start every Monday Gare de l’Est, in Paris, will pass by the tomb of Dom Perignon, inventor of champagne, in Epernay (Marne), the cathedral of Reims (Marne), the hospices de Beaune. (Côte-d’Or), Lake Annecy, the Palace of the Popes of Avignon, the country of Paul Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône), the Arcachon basin (Gironde), the Grands Crus of the Médoc, the Château de Chenonceau (Indre-et-Loire) …
The last stage, in the form of an apotheosis before the return to Paris, will of course take place at Puy du Fou. There, travelers will catch the nighttime spectacle before spending their last night on the train. After hesitating, the managers of the amusement park decided to use the SNCF (or other providers) for traction. The Grand Tour will be a fully-fledged railway company, with its license and safety certificate in the process of being obtained.
“And without public capital, it’s historic”, underlines M. de Villiers. The company will have its own train as well as its salaried railway workers, including two drivers. The set will consist of twelve cars, owned by the company, currently under renovation, including two dining cars and a bar car.
It will be able to carry a maximum of 30 passengers in 15 cabins of three different sizes (10, 20 and 30 m2), as well as 15 crew members. The locomotive will be rented. “We’re not just launching a rail cruise, insists M. de Villiers. What we have created has no equivalent in the world. It is the most extravagant and unusual theater ever invented. And this theater is a train. ”
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