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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.

Nantes Cathedral: Construction of the Cathedral of St. Pierre and St. Paul began in 1434 and it took 457 years to finish — finally reaching completion in 1891. Pictures all supplied by Phil and Sue Newdick
FOR FEYDBALL: The Feydball pitch (for a local form of football) complete with the large mirror.
REMARKABLE GARDENS: The Nantes Botanical Gardens, covering seven hectares, is home to more than 10,000 species and more than 5000 flowers are planted each season. It has been presented with the “Remarkable Garden” award and is among the four leading botanical gardens in France. This is one of a series of sculptures created at the gardens.
CASTLE OF THE DUKES: Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany from the 13th to the 16th centuries, then became the Breton residence of the French monarchy. Today it houses the Nantes History Museum.
Sidestepper: Philippe Ramette’s statue “Ode to Sidestepping” in Bouffay Square, Nantes.
WAR MEMORIAL: This memorial commemorates 50 hostages who were executed by the Germans at this location on October 22, 1941 as reprisal for the killing of a German officer by the resistance.
LIEU UNIQUE: The Lieu Unique is an arts centre for contemporary culture. Opened at the beginning of the 21st century, it is housed in a former biscuit factory at the centre of Nantes.
FOOTBALL FEVER: Local football fans watching the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-final between France and Belgium. The atmosphere was unbelievable, especially when France secured their spot in the final.
MECHANISED MONSTER: The mechanical elephant at the Gallery of Machines on the Isle of Nantes.
THE RIVER ERDRE: The River Erdre at Nantes — from here it flows through a man-made tunnel into the River Loire.
JARDIN JAPONAIS: The Japanese garden on île de Versailles, an artificial island on the River Erdre. The 1.7 hectare island was created in 1831 and the gardens were developed in 1983.
The Buren Rings: Located on the Antilles wharf. Daniel Buren wanted his rings to symbolise the chains of the slaves and also the idea of union between the land, the river and the ocean. At night, the Rings of Buren light up, their colours varying between blue, green and red.