Crossbows at the Ready – A Day at the Andilly Medieval Fair

Spread the love

Les Grandes Médiévales d’Andilly, Andilly, France

Quite by chance, Sister-Chickpea came across an exciting looking event that was held not far from home.  It was a Medieval spectacle, over two weekends in May, and although I wasn’t sure what to expect – or whether it was worth the hefty €25 fee – I had the most amazing time.

Andilly is a little town some twenty minutes from Geneva, in French territory.  In fact, I’d not ventured down to this part of France before, and I was very taken by the views…

And in this wonderful setting, there is this little recreated world.  Unlike the two other medieval events I’ve attended (Bremgarten and Ribeauville) this wasn’t in a functioning town – it’s all built up for the event, and its immediate surroundings are fields.  It gives you the impression of being in this awesome little medieval bubble, which I would have thought makes this quite unique – and certainly makes it rather special.

It’s been going since 1996, and they are super organised.  There are so many things going on it’s almost overwhelming – at one point there was an almost constant run of music being played by little bands, which was just lovely – especially if you’re sitting and drinking your lemonade in the sun.

You pass through a fantastic gift shop where your child can get into the spirit of the age and get shields and swords and such-like.  I almost got a helmet and, indeed, a crossbow, but Sister-Chickpea pointed out that I needed neither of these items and though I don’t see what “need” has to do with it, I left the shop empty-handed.  If I had a child, I’d have totally had it bedecked and armed for battle.

Actually, it was lovely to see so many children (and some adults) dressed up and enjoying being medieval.  And the setting is immediately conducive to the idea of escaping into the past. The path down to the main area is lined with adorable tents – and down at the bottom of the slight slope is the start of the fete proper.

I do advise you to get a map of the site – it gives details of what events are going on, where, and at what time.  It’s worth investing some time to work out the things you want to do.  I also advise you to get to the events early – especially the recreations, like the jousts (Yes!  Jousts!) – there are a lot of other visitors around, so if you actually want to see what’s going on, you have to commit to an early arrival.

The 10am Procession

The proceedings start with a procession of all those who are involved in the events of the day.  It’s a lovely way of seeing what’s coming up – and if you’re lucky, some quacks will select you to be vaccinated against/with the plague.

I’m glad we arrived in time to see the procession – it really set the tone for the rest of the day and it sort of had the spirit of a fair that had come to town, which was fun.

The Hundred Years War

One of the events that I really wanted to see was the recreation of the Hundred Years War.  It’s a sore topic amongst us English, as it’s the war (well, a set of wars) that basically ended our ownership of any French territory (except the area around Calais – and we lost that in 1558).  Still, Sister-Chickpea and I unashamedly cheered on our men who were, conveniently, positioned right in front of us.

The spectacle lasted probably about half an hour, and was good fun.  The commentary, when I tuned in and listened, seemed pretty good too, but I was lost a little in the details of what was happening in front of me.

The Trebuchet

The trebuchet was a major siege weapon of the Middle Ages, and it was fun to see it in action.  It works with a counterweight (the triangle with the yellow and red shield), so once the men have wound it up, the falling weight gives the shot its power.  Something like that anyway.  Not good with weapons or physics.

Anyway, the trebuchet could be loaded with all sorts of ammunition – but stones and fire were two of the most popular and effective.

There was a commentary on this too, but it was hard to hear what the fellow was saying – anyway, in the end the whole thing is pretty straightforward.

Apart from the fact that it was fun to see something hurling through the air (and hitting a little wooden rampart on the hill), it was really interesting to see how time consuming the whole process was.  It did make me wonder how fast they could go if they were in a battle, although since the rope swung wildly for at least 10 seconds after being fired, I would have thought pulling it back in for action too fast would have been dangerous.

Getting Ready for the Joust

So.  The main reason I wanted to come to this fair was so I could see the joust.  I’ve always wanted to see jousting.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I went to the two shows – which is why my photos are from a couple of angles.

Now, the knights were all introduced, and we were told where they were knights of, but I don’t remember, so I’m just going to code them according to the colour of their clothes.

Everything Else

It was a very hot day when we went to Andilly, and as the afternoon progressed, the heat really got to me and so we didn’t go on as much of a walk-around as I’d intended.  Nevertheless, I felt that we really got a lot out of the day – we stood and listened to some lovely medieval songs sung in the chapel by La compagnie de la rose anglaise for probably about forty minutes, and also listened to a funky band later on who were playing a fabulous medieval/middle eastern-vibed series of songs.

Quite honestly by the afternoon, everywhere you turn, there’s stuff going on.  If you speak French, then you can get far more actively involved in what’s being demonstrated or shown by some of the craftsmen – if you don’t, just enjoy and go with the flow.

The llama's five-step-chew, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

The llama’s five-step-chew, Les Grandes Médiévales, Andilly, France

So In Summary

I had such a great time at Andilly.  I’m so pleased that we got there for opening time, because it was quieter to stroll around then as compared to the afternoon, when it was packed.  There was so much on offer, I think most people could get something from the event, no matter how interested they are in the Middle Ages – if you’re more into eating and drinking, there were loads of interesting options, and if you’re into learning about how craftsmen make chain-mail, for example, you can do that, too.  There was a very relaxed atmosphere which also helped make the day so pleasant…

Further Information

There is an entry charge to get into Les Grandes Médiévales, which means that all the events and animations are free.  However, do bring a picnic, because the food is quite expensive, and, at lunch-time, very busy, so if you have children, you’re probably better off coming prepared.

The drinks – and you can get anything from water to a yummy Hippocras wine – are served in plastic cups for which there is a deposit – you can either return it and get your money back or keep the cup and reuse.  My cup has already been used to contain cider on a hot afternoon at home – which took me back to the very refreshing cup of cider I got at 10.30 in the morning at Les Grandes Médiévales.

All the information about the event for 2018 is available here – I assume that closer to May 2019 that new information will be added:

One word of warning: there are only natural toilets around the site.  They are perfectly clean, only they didn’t have soap to wash your hands, so take hand sanitiser!

As I’ve mentioned throughout, the event is super-kid-friendly and would be a joy for those children who are already interested in knights and castles.  There are so many events that they can do, and they can be introduced to so many new things.  It was a wonderful learning environment because it was naturally immersive.  It’s the sort of thing that you can imagine a young child going to and then when they’re older they’ll ask their parents if they’d really seen jousting, or was it a false memory?

Some of the most heart-warming images for me, as a Montessori teacher, was seeing that many of the extremely popular activities that children were engaged in were not the sorts of things that most adults would think would be appropriate.

Now, when I have my own Montessori school, I’m totally going to have a cob house building activity in the gardens.  You can see the concentration on the face of the boy at work and it was actually beautiful to watch all these little children watching the man who was teaching them how to make the plaster-mixture, and then copying him.

But slave labour wasn’t the only popular activity: there were loads of presentations and events and workshops aimed at children (French only, I assume) and there was an area children could run around in with little games and such to entertain them.  And there was apparently a chance to become a knight!  Honestly, there was so much, it’s impossible to mention it all, so check out the website and see for yourself!

How To Get There

Getting to Andilly is tricky if you don’t have a car.  If you are based Geneva way, then there is only the one bus which goes to Annecy and stops at Andilly on the way.  The bus is best caught from Geneva Airport, and you must buy your tickets from the Information Office inside the Airport – you can’t buy the tickets on the bus unless you catch it en-route – and then you should make sure you have exact-ish money, because I saw some people have problems with breaking a large note.

Also, the buses aren’t very frequent, so be sure to check the timetable and make sure you get to the stop with plenty of time to spare.

Also, contrary to what it says on Les Grandes Médiévales website, the buses aren’t run by Frossard, they are run by Transalis, and it’s the T72 bus: information can be found in English here:





No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: