We arrived on a perfect Sunday, blessed with blue skies and warm weather.
I included Nantes on our itinerary because a colleague said Les Machines des L’Ile was on her top 5 things she saw in France. Mmm. We must have very different tastes. It hasn’t made my top 5, not even my top 5 things to do in Nantes, but I am glad we came to Nantes.
Initially, I was less than impressed. We walked from the main train station to the other side of town, where the island that Les Machines are on. A walk of about 35 minutes.
It must have been a BIG Saturday night the night before. Smashed glasses everywhere, rubbish galore, bins overflowing, masses of cigarette butts, vomit, smell of urine. Then there were the homeless and beggars. And graffiti. I thought we’d made a poor choice to stay here two nights. Too real. Too grotty.
The Ile de Nantes was bustling. There was a huge sporting showcase going on. All manner of sports organisations there to tempt families. Which meant lots of people watching. Waking back through the commercial centre meant we missed all the grottiness.
So here’s my top 5 things to do. (Remembering we were there on a Sunday in September. Many of what we enjoyed may not be open at different times of the year.)
1. The Jardin des Plantes de Nantes is beautiful. There were plenty of flowers blooming. It is also an entertaining garden with quirky displays.
A living sculpture. Fantastic detail.
The photo doesn’t quite show it but the different grass is planted in he shape of a Christmas tree. So it’s the shadow of the living Christmas tree!
The ducks can’t read. Keep off the grass!
A mass of flowers with a giant garden bench (with a man about to walk under it.)
2. Sit in deck chairs at the bar alongside the river offshoot near the main train station. Perfect Sunday afternoon people watching and atmosphere soaking. Drinking a shandy type beer on a hot afternoon in the shade of big trees. I can’t remember the name of the bar but sitting on the desk chairs was cool.
3. Go to the fun fair (except it may have packed up and moved on). We are not fun fair people but we couldn’t resist seeing if they are different to Aussie fun fairs. No they’re not. But it was fantastic to ride the giant Ferris wheel and get a view over Nantes. €5 well spent.
Mr S also tried the gooiest lolly ever. It hangs like stretchy string and is constantly re-wrapped around the stand. When you buy some it is wrapped like a lolly pop. Except it is chewy and stretchy. The violet taste was different.
4. Walk around and admire the architecture, including the chateau of the Dukes. (We didn’t bother going inside to the museums.)
5. Have a Sunday early afternoon sparkling wine and feed on the boat on the river where Les Machines are. It’s a quirky bar. The staff had been to Australia and so got our accent immediately and didn’t think we were English.
I’d say yes to visiting Les Machines and even having a go on the merry-go-round. But even the elephant, as well made and interesting as it is, didn’t make it onto my top 5. Maybe I am just not into steam punk? It’s people and buildings that interest me more than machines.
As an addendum to the mixture of glam and grotty, our apartment was the same. Crisp, clean and modern in the actual apartment but housed in a dark, dank and scary block. I felt creeped out on my own. Not sure if any other apartments had people in them, the strange noises and pitch black corridor was the thing of nightmares.
Clearly summer was over and university was resuming. There were streams of young students pulling their wheeled luggage from the train station. Luckily for us, we’re not back to work for several more weeks.