When the Great Elephant hulks through Nantes' Galerie des Machines, visitors scurry aside to make way for the 40-foot-tall behemoth. As the mechanical beast moves through the crowd in a spectacle that melds the invented worlds of Jules Verne, Nantes' most famous native son, with the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, up to 49 passengers ensconced in an ancient carriage on his back are treated to a magnificent view of the Loire on the Île de Nantes.
On the sidelines, spectators can get soaked, as François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice’s giant pachyderm stomps, trumpets and sprays water on those who've come from around the world to see the imaginative Machines de l’île.
The giant mechanical animals populate a playful world that bridges Île de Nantes' former shipyards with the city's imaginative vision for 21st-century urban living. While the elephant is the most famous installation, other must-sees include the giant Marine Worlds Carousel, featuring 27 rides on three levels through pirouetting crabs, sea snakes and squids. There's also a 26-foot Heron Tree encircled by hanging gardens and prehistoric birds.