France 175 - Toulouse /The Halle de La Machines/The Minotaur and the Long Ma

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April 10th 2022
Published: April 10th 2022
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After our morning with aeroplanes it was time to travel from the North East of the city to the South West and the Halle de Machines. Crossing the city we came across the usual bag of deviations, of routes baree and strange instructions from Silly Sat Nag. We had already bought our tickets for the Halle de Machines and for a ride on the back of a Minotaur. They were booked for tomorrow and we were here a day too early. We had two choices . Hang around and visit tomorrow or risk trying our luck and seeing if we could exchange the tickets for today. We felt positive we could get into the Halle today but the Minotaur ride might be more problematic . So decision time .

We struggled to find the Halle . Unlike its sister site in Nantes it was well hidden between the railway and blocks of flats . We did find it and were pleased to see we had acres of free parking . I went in and smiled . Could I change the tickets as we had arrived too early. The young lady on the desk had no idea and had to find a colleague . It was no trouble for the colleague who issued us with tickets for the Halle and a 2pm ride on the Minotaur . We did not mind hanging round to get it all out of the way.

As we walked in we wondered how the Halle would compare to the sister site at Nantes and how would the Minotaur stack up against our ride on the elephant.

There were various exhibits around the edge of the room . Each more fantastical than the last . A huge spider with massive glass eyes and a long legs . The Long Ma - a chinese dragon . He was extraordinary made out of wood and steel. He is 12 metres high, 5 metres wide and weighs 45 tonnes. Her - we found out she was female has the name Long Ma Jing Shen which means The spirit of the dragon horse . She made her first appearance in 2014 in China as part of the 50th anniversary of Franco Chinese relations and now resides in the massive halle . Ready to be woken up every day and occasionally to go out on the streets to amaze the inhabitants of Toulouse .

We were extremely lucky to be there just at the right time to see her awaken . First thing light the braziers to either side of her . Next move everyone from one side to the other . The men and woman who worked her climbed aboard and warmed her up. That heating of water produced steam and smoke which belched from her nostrils and her mouth . She breathed fire through her teeth and she roared fiercely. We stood in wonder as her legs moved , her neck straightened and lifted and she looked at us. Then out of the corner of our eyes we saw the Minotaur named Asterion approaching . He walked up to the large glass doors which opened . He lowered his head and roared . He too breathed smoke, steam and flames . He lowered his head and walked slowly into the halle and confronted the Long Ma. They faced each other . The roared at each other and the spectacle continued for several minutes as they faced each other off . In the end the Minotaur reversed and left the building parking up to allow the travellers on his back to climb down and the Long Ma go back to sleep .

We headed for the cafe for some lunch . There was not much choice . The menu of the day was a steak which when it turned up was a very expensive beefburger with chips . It was not the best of meals but we managed to pass time away in the cafe waiting for 2pm to arrive .

Which of course it did . We headed back in and waited at the bottom of the stairs ready for the 2.15 ride on the back of the large beast . Would he be as good or better than the elephant ? The queue grew. The school children arrived . The guide went up the stairs , checked things out and came down again . Another guide turned up and asked us all to tell each other our names . We would be crammed up top so needed to be friendly with each other . That made the children smile . Tickets taken we climbed up to the middle carrier for people . We worked out the top would be full of the children . We virtually had that deck to ourselves . It was windy on top and we were offered a blanket . We stood next to the operator of the noise that came out of the Minotaurs mouth . He operated the steam too. And then it time to go . We slowly moved off . The steel and wood Minotaur trundled along . At 45 tonnes he was never going to be fast . His eyes moved . He moved his head from side to side . Would we call in and see the Long Ma? No we trundled past . Would we stop on the way back ?

He is 13 metres long and needs two guides at the front to show the driver where to aim for . The driver alone cannot see where to go . They send messages back and forth via a radio link . People stop to stare at him. They wave and they quickly get out of his way for fear of being mown down . We turn and start to return to our starting point . At 4 metres wide and 14 metres high we feel on top of the world .

Sadly he does not stop at the Long Ma . That was a slight disappointment . Perhaps they only wake her up once a day. It was though an interesting experience . Very different to Nantes and the elephant . Was the Minotaur as brilliant as the Elephant ? Probably not . In fact the Long Ma stole the show today . We had not expected that .


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