Calais is the perfect destination for a weekend, day trip and city break. There’s plenty to do and see from museums to memorial sites. The beach is beautiful. Calais la Plage, Calais by the sea, has had a massive makeover and is now one of the finest seaside destinations on the already gorgeous Opal Coast of northern France. The food is fabulous – from refined dining restaurants to seafood sensations, cosy little cafés, and atmospheric estaminets (traditional Flemish-style inns). And. There be dragons here. The colossal Calais dragon is a astounding sight, carrying passengers and creating one of the strangest and most captivating free street art performances in Europe…
Calais Dragon walks around the city!
The mechanical beast that lives in a glass fronted lair on the seafront is no ordinary dragon.
A whopping 82 feet long and 40 feet high – this dragon of the sea is majestic and monumental. It’s a mesmerising sight to see him sauntering along the seafront with happy passengers on his back.
Yes, this dragon, fire-breathing though he is, hosts up to 50 passengers at a time for a 45-minute guided tour along the beautiful seafront taking in the sites! With a panoramic platform on his back giving views over the English Channel towards the White Cliff of Dover, and the city, this is a ride to remember.
It is without doubt, also one of the most incredible free art shows in France, a head-turning spectacle that makes kids stare in wonder and adults smile at the magic of a mobile 72-ton wood and steel architectural marvel.
Enter the Dragon
Designed by François Delarozière, the genius behind the Machines de l’ile de Nantes, the Dragon of Calais, this is the most imposing of the company’s famous mechanical menagerie to date. The Dragon doesn’t just breathe fire, he spits water, sneezes, snorts, swings his considerable tail, roars out loud and flaps his wings. He’s not exactly a speedy mover, at 4km per hour there’s plenty of time to watch him wander past, operated by skilled ‘machinists’ (puppet masters).
Every performance the Dragon gives is unique because he reacts to his environment. He might bat his long eyelids at you in a surprisingly cute way! Or he might stop and stare into your eyes – and you can’t look away I promise you. He might spot a ferry in the Channel and lift his 57 feet long wings in a show of strength – this is his territory. He’ll roar and breath fire. If you’re really lucky – and under 12 years old or else you might think it not such a good idea – he’ll sprinkle dragon snot over you (AKA water!).
The Dragon is not alone…
The Dragon is the cheer leader for a vast artistic urban project planned for the town. And, he’s unforgettably, incredibly weird and wonderful. With a dozen mad, magical, mechanical companions mooted to join him – the first, a 13 feet long iguana lives close by.
The Sentinel Iguana sits astride a shipping container from where it spits water, stands up, moves around and wags its tail! Rumour has it that, based on his colour, the iguana is a male, though no one knows for sure. And vets estimate he’s a youngster, just 13 years old! Unlike his cousin the Dragon, this captivating creature doesn’t give rides. He’s available to all who want to weave their own magic and play at being a machinist for themselves. Kids fall head over heels for him.
The creative Calais regeneration project will see more lizards join the gang. In total 10 machines will roam, carrying passengers to and from iconic sites, whilst three will stay and rule the roost like the Sentinel Iguana. Their spellbindingly prodigious presence puts Calais firmly on the map as one of the most incredible theatrical street art rich cities in Europe.
Book online for your ride on the dragon at: compagniedudragon.com/en
Ogling dragons is hungry work. Pop to the Dragon’s restaurant next to his lair. Enjoy breakfast, lunch and aperitifs (including cocktails such as the Dragon des Mers which packs a Tequila Punch, and Dragon des Airs, a fruity alcohol free delight), at L’Antre du Dragon, restaurant, café, bar. It’s also the perfect place for Sunday brunch! Book in advance and see the menu at:
Find heaps of things to do and see, places to eat and more at: Calais-cotedopale.co.uk
All rights reserved. This article may not be published, broadcast, rewritten (including translated) or redistributed without written permission.