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Les Machines de l'Ile

There's no other way of describing Les Machines de l'Ile than amazing. These incredible giant animatronic animals came to life this summer in Nantes, in north west France, and have to be seen to be believed. The brainchildren of designers François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice, they blend the imagined worlds of Jules Verne (a native of Nantes), the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of the city itself, a former shipyard.

The centrepiece is the Great Elephant – a 12-meter high beast that, incredibly enough, walks around l'Ile de Nantes carrying up to 35 people at a time. It looks like a combination of a B-movie monster street rampage and something out of Around the World in Eighty Days. Apparently, it's a bit like being on the fourth floor of a moving house (probably not an experience many of us have had). To add to the fun, passengers can make the Elephant trumpet and control some of its movements, while taking in views of the river Loire.

The project will eventually include some ten monumental mechanical structures. Inside the Gallery are other machines which are being built – including the Crab Larva, the Pirate Fish, the Reverse-Propelling Squid and the Manta Ray, all part of Marine Worlds, the next phase of development.

It's an amazing flight of fancy, one that its backers hope will help to encourage tourism to l'Ile de Nantes. With breathtaking creations like these continuing to appear over the years, it sounds like a place well worth keeping on eye on. RM

Images: Nautilus Nantes

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