Puff, the magic dragon, really does live by the sea. As of last weekend, he’s set up home in Calais.
The mechanical dragon, which is 25m long and reaches up to 15m in height, is the brainchild of the people behind Les machines de Nantes. We were really impressed with them when we caught them a few years back.
So when we heard the dragon would be in Calais last weekend, we made up our minds to go.
To make it easier for people to get there to see him, SNCF were offering return tickets from Lille for 5€ each – we snapped up a pair. (Pity they didn’t think to lay on more trains, mind, but that’s another story.)
The dragon’s creators have invented a story to explain his presence in Calais.
During work to rejuvenate the port of Calais, a sacred stone was moved in the harbour, they claim. It allowed this fantastical creature to surface and make himself known to the townspeople.
His arrival in Calais took place over three days, with three appearances a day. We arrived in good time to head to the harbour area for 2pm on Sunday, for his penultimate appearance.
By this time, according to the creators’ story, the dragon had obtained the confidence of the townsfolk.
Thousands gathered to follow him as he paraded through the streets, spitting fire and water in equal measure – to the great joy of the crowds. Like the pied piper of Hamelin, he led them through the town.
From next month, he’ll become a permanent feature of Calais. In doing so, he’ll help regenerate the town’s port area, as the other machines have done in Nantes.
But to be part of his arrival in Calais was something special. If you get a chance to visit him, go.