Nantes and l’Eléphant

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!

me and my long awaited seafood galette!

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:

the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral, which took over four centuries to build! (1434 – 1891)

the façade is incredibly detailed

tiny people around the door frame

awesome skeleton gargoyle

inside the cathedral

there were a ton of bible stories sculpted into the pillars inside the church. They were really amazing (and so small!) but some of the people were missing their heads!

there were a bunch of different styles of stained glass windows. Some of them looked like 1980s wind breakers

we were lucky enough to walk in on an impromptu organ concert (I think someone was practicing). It sounded amazing!

Nantes had the best and largest Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden) that we have seen in France! (and we’ve seen a lot!)

we got to watch these awesome little guys as we were eating breakfast in the garden. The one on the left looks so cool!

Château des Ducs de Bretagne – royal fortress and residence of the famous Duchess Anne de Bretagne and the Dukes of Bretagne from the 13th to 16th century

there was even a moat!

La Cigale is a really gorgeous restaurant that was built in the 1900s

the Passage Pommeraye is a super fancy shopping center that was built in the 1840s

another pretty church (we saw at least 4!)

La Maison is a bar that our friend told us about. Each room is decorated like a different room of a house from the 70s. There’s a bathroom, a kitchen, a bedroom, and a living room

we decided to enjoy our drinks while chillin in the bathtub

we also found a 1920s style speakeasy that had live jazz piano! The cocktails were pretty good, too

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!

super cool carousel

this is a small-scale model of the tree project that they’re working on. All the machines in the gallery would be part of this giant tree

the heron in flight!

this caterpillar works with air power.  We saw a little boy ride it and control it with the two handles by the seat

venus fly traps!

we took a ride on the elephant!

view from the side balcony of the elephant

it even sprays people and makes noise!

hi Igor!

we saw them working on this really awesome 3-story carousel that opens this July. I really want to go back and ride it!

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!

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One thought on “Nantes and l’Eléphant

  1. You took some really good photos!! I love the elephant and the photo where the moat is reflected in Igor’s sunglasses!

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