Our next stop on our big trip around France was Nantes, a city that is technically in the Pays de la Loire region (and it is on the Loire river) but strongly identifies with Bretagne (Brittany). It’s a city that I hadn’t heard much about until this year, when we met two other assistants who had studied there and loved it. I was lucky enough to get some insider tips from my friend Shayna, and Igor and I had a really awesome time there! Knowing that it was a university town, I was expecting something similar to Grenoble but obviously with some regional differences, but Nantes is much bigger than I thought. It also doesn’t have the typical ‘old town’ small touristy city center; it looks pretty modern and has more of a big city organization with several plazas and big roads. It’s a really lively city with lots of places to eat, hang out, and sights to see. Also there was a lot more Breton influence than I thought there would be, which was cool. In Nantes we started what would become a week-long feast of Breton specialties, most notably crêpes and their savory counterparts made with buckwheat flour, galettes! My new favorite dessert crêpe is one with salted butter caramel, made in Bretagne!
Some of Nante’s highlights are several gorgeous churches, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany), the Jardin des Plantes, the Loire river, several unique bars and restaurants, and Les Machines de l’Île (more on that later). Here’s what we saw:
Nantes part II: Les Machines de l’Île
During our last day in Nantes, we dedicated a good amount of time to Les Machines de l’Île, an attraction like no other in the world. It’s basically a project to create machine animals that eventually become parts of larger projects like carousels or a giant machine tree with caterpillars, flying herons, ants, etc. There is a ‘machine gallery’ where you can see prototypes for machines and where they test them out by taking people for rides in the heron or the caterpillar or whatever, and then there is the other big attraction, the giant elephant. The elephant is humongous, and you can ride it! It walks (with the help of an added machine with wheels) and also sprays people and blinks and moves its head and trunk and ears. It’s pretty awesome!
I really wanted to add a video of the elephant, but unfortunately my internet connection is making it take forever to upload. Look forward to a really cool elephant video next time!