A man is on fire.

A flute’s sweet melody sounds as the fair maiden prances in front of the castle. A knight appears on horseback gallantly galloping to meet the beautiful mademoiselle. Five more knights appear, followed by jousting, horseback showmen, and pulsating music. I begin to wonder exactly what I’ve gotten myself into, when the joyful music abruptly changes. Deep thumping war drums signal that something isn’t right. 




The knights are nowhere to be found as hordes of invaders storm the castle. Our fair maiden is the first and only line of defense. She grabs a pitchfork and one by one dismantles her would-be offenders. She is as beautiful as she is dangerous, but there are too many invaders. Arrows fly in all directions, as flames blast so brilliantly that I can feel the heat on my face. The hair on my arms stand erect as warriors advance into the courtyard where they further lay pillage to houses and peasants. There is no hope. 


A man is on fire.

The maiden is all but defeated, until with a flash of gallantry, and a gleam of steel, a magical knight appears. His formidable stature is enough to intimidate the once fearless invaders, who scatter from the courtyard in retreat. The music changes returns to sweet triumphant melodies, and one by one every maiden, knight, showman, and vandal appears. They bow and the audience of some 1000 spectators applaud outrageously. It is only then that I remembered none of it was real.
The spectacle was a memoir to ancient times, but the reality is that I am an exchange student at l’ICES in La Roche Sur Yon, France visiting the Puy du Fou. It is an enormous amusement park known for its reenactments of ancient times and la Vendée history, and it received the THEA Classic Award for “World’s Best Theme Park 2012”.
I have the pleasure of spending the whole day here with the rest of the foreign exchange students as well as two French students, Morgane and Gwendoline, who are today’s tour guides. They wanted to make sure we got the best seats, so Morgane went ahead of us. We hurried to the Roman Coliseum anticipating ancient entertainment come to life. However, we arrived to find Morgane waiting for us with a Roman guard. They directed us into a costume filled room, and it quickly became evident that we would not be watching a show. We are the show. 
We are Roman royals with VIP seating next to the Emperor. Pesky peasants and criminals are led into the coliseum to battle Rome’s finest warriors and fiercest beasts. All is normal until a Roman general stops the festivities to plea for the prisoner’s lives. He had fallen in love with one of them, but now his passion will be his demise. Our beloved Emperor strips him of his armor and forces him to fight for his freedom. We, adorned in our royal robes, cheer as epic hand-to-hand combat rages around the arena. 
However, things don’t seem to be going the Emperor’s way. The ex-general is a formidable warrior and easily passes every challenge. After surviving hand-to-hand duels, chariot races and an encounter with a lion it was clear that love had conquered all. 
The entire coliseum begins to boo the Emperor and cheer the ex-general’s favor. We, being true Roman royals, quickly defect against the him as he is stripped of his power. The ex-general receives royal garments, and mounts a float to parade around the coliseum. We proudly cheer for our new leader as he and the rest of the actors return for multiple standing ovations.
“Wow! This Fui de Poo is really something!” I say. 
“Non! It is Puy de Fou!” exclaims Morgane. 
“Oh...That’s what I meant...”
A Saturday filled with time traveling spectacles is a wonderful introduction to France, and it seems I can expect a few French lessons as well.