Awesome and vibrant Nantes
Phil and Sue Newdick continue their 2018 tour of Europe in Nantes, France . . .
Our journey from Jersey to Nantes entailed long walks, crossing a border, a transfer between ferries and trains, and trains and trains, and a walk with our bags to our apartment in Nantes. The journey was accomplished on time in spite of a whole lot of roadworks that our very smart phone knew nothing about.
Just another day at the office. As we have always said, the destination may be the main course but the best bit is mostly about the journey and the experiences along the way.
When we started this expedition, Nantes was just an interesting dot on the map. It is the sixth largest city in France, and although it is 50km from the Atlantic Ocean, it has a seaport on the River Loire. Conveniently for us, it is well serviced by SCNF which is the French national railway system.
When we travel, passenger rail is our first preference and it seemed that if all went well we would be able to get all the way across France, through Italy, connect with the Bernina Express into Switzerland and on to Zurich by train.
So many of our “convenient” stops on these journeys have turned out to be great choices, and Nantes was no exception.
The city is awesome, and vibrant — enhanced by the fact that during our stay, the French football team won their way into the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals. Bars had TVs in the streets, and people were packed kerb to kerb for the match; we would not have been surprised to find out that when the final whistle blew, cheers were heard in New Zealand.
That was in the afternoon . . . the partying continued into the wee small hours in the area where our apartment was. We managed to sleep through it as our apartment was well insulated. According to the news, the whole of France celebrated for most of the night.
While in Nantes we had light rain unpredictably almost every day, but the temperatures were really up to the summer we had travelled north to find.
Nantes has an extensive range of leisure gardens and parks. We were quite taken by the park across the road from our apartment which contained a strange looking (to us) football field; small in size, it was a semi-circular pitch with the goals both on the same side of the field — it also had a large concave mirror in the centre of the goal line. The reflection makes the pitch appear as a conventional pitch.
All was explained: the game played on it was Feydball, a name combining the neighbourhood (Feydeau) where the pitch is situated and football. It is a local form of football, and we are not sure if it will ever catch on internationally.
Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) was a short walk from our Nantes home. Originally built in 1207, it was given a massive makeover that started in the 1990s and took 15 years to complete. There is a 500 metre walk around the ramparts which takes in extensive views of the city. Linking the wall to the moat is a very steep, very fast water slide, which we left to the younger visitors to enjoy.
We also visited the Gallery of Machines on the Isle of Nantes, and the mechanised monster of an elephant that is garaged there. The machine carries passengers and for a small fee one can journey around the complex, in or on it. It is on wheels but the four legs move as if it is walking, not actually what you would call graceful, but the passengers love it. The Island is on the Loire River which flows through Nantes and houses all sorts of weird and wonderful attractions and our day there was well spent.
Our next stop in France was Tours, another train journey and although leaving the wonder of Nantes behind was sad, the excitement of continuing our journey more than made up for it.