Nantes is about 40 miles from the Bay of Biscay (the Atlantic Ocean), and in the 17th century, it gradually became the largest port in France. Today it is primarily known for
Les Machines de I’ile, a still-developing array of mechanical animals that are just astonishing to see. The elephant is below! Watching him walk, you don’t see or notice the men driving it, or the wheels, or the main vehicle with the engine that is attached to the rear of the elephant. It trumpets, it walks, and it blows water – mostly, whenever the driver sees some children just waiting to get wet!
The city has a charming downtown, and this May weekend, it was loaded with people walking and out eating. Business is booming! The cathedral has its doors open, welcoming visits. When we went inside, there was a string quartet with a flutist rehearsing some beautiful music. The Botanical Garden is open and free, and contained some of the most whimsical art installations we have seen anywhere. The Chateau of the Ducs de Bretagne (the Dukes of Brittany) sits a short distance from the Old Town, and is magnificent to come upon as you are walking.
The cobblestone alleyways host lots of shops, cafes, restaurants, and ice cream/crepe/waffle shops. It felt very festive and very European. The weather was good, and the people were all friendly. Nantes delivered!
Yes, it is huge. Yes, it walks and makes noises. Yes, it even blows water. The Elephant is the most well-known sight in Nantes.
As you watch the elephant walk, you don’t really notice the wheels (and driver!) on the front end, nor all the machinery on the back end. You are only aware of The Elephant.
The Elephant has quite a large space in which to roam around, carrying 50 passengers on his back.
This is where he is “parked” for the night, and where people board…only 8.5 euros per ride! You can see the extensive engine casing on the back.
He walks! He blows water! His ears move! And…if you watch his eyes…he blinks!!
This is the tippy-top of the three-level carousel on site.
Inside the magnificent La Cigale restaurant. This is “only” the coffee shop – the main restaurant is way more extravagant, with way more gold.
A ceiling mural at La Cigale. The Art Nouveau restaurant dates to 1895.
The restaurant’s cute mascot is everywhere, many times in stained glass. La Cigale means “the cicada” in English.
This is the Church of St. Croix, with a clock and magnificent circle of angels at the very top.
An old wooden illustration above a door, indicating that this establishment makes crepes. She doesn’t look happy to be working, does she?
This plaque indicates that they restore musical instruments.
We saw this beautiful city mural on line, and thought we’d visit in person. As you can see, though, graffiti criminals thought their indecipherable nonsense was more important. We were so sad to see this.
This was the old Palace of Justice in Nantes, now a Radisson Blu Hotel – our home for four days.
At the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden), the first whimsical sight was these tree huggers, peeking at each other!
Another tree hugger, this time high up in the tree, and a guy lounging in the stream.
The Sleeping Koala. This garden has been designated a “Jardin Remarquable,” one of only four gardens in France so designated. It has wandering paths lined with thousands of flowers.
More fun in the garden.
He just blows water continually all day long.
An oversized bench. There is a warning sign not to try to climb on to it!
Real benches – wavy and fun.
This florist sold enormous red and white (silk) roses.
Don’t know HOW MUCH you can say about these dresses….but it’s bla bla bla for quite a while.
No worries – just cookies. Feeling good.
We caught this reader perched above a bookstore.
Passage Pommereye in Old Town Nantes, a very pretty and ornate three-level shopping arcade.
Comptoir de Mathilde in the Passage Pommereye, a gourmet grocery store looking like it’s straight out of Little House on the Prairie.
A pretty, silk-flower decorated storefront.
Another pretty window, this time a chocolate shop.
The interior of Paradis de Fruit, a French restaurant chain that serves unusual dishes and heavenly dessert “creations,” most involving ice cream with chantilly – whipped cream.
…but, but….the Beatles song says, “Can’t buy me love.” But there is a store in Nantes where you can buy love?? And rubber duckies? We passed by another “Love Store” in town and it also had prominent rubber duckies on it. We don’t get the association.
A beautiful building, Le Lieu Unique, fronted by a glorious trumpeting angel. It is a former biscuit factory and now a cultural center with a bar. You can see the spire and dome from quite a distance away.
Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, in the center of Nantes, was rebuilt in 1466. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany from the 13th to the 16th centuries, and then became home to the French Monarchy.
Another view of the chateau, showing its defensive towers, walls, and moat. During WWII, under German occupation, the Germans built a bunker on the castle grounds.
Some happy flowers along our path.
The Water Mirror. Just like in Bordeaux, this “pool” has just an inch or so of water to splash in. A lot of people put on bathing suits, though. We also saw kids with “floaties” on their arms (why??) and one riding his bike through, splashing everyone, to their delight.
The main altar of the Cathedral of Norte Dame in Nantes, resembling a tower and surrounded by beautiful stained glass.
????? This is across from the cathedral, and shows up with photos of the church. It is called a Uritrottoir, a public, unshielded urinal for men to discourage them from urinating on the street. This company and its design showed up in Paris in 2018, and there were a number of public protests. You can see why!
This was a most interesting rotisserie on a Saturday morning. On the top is a turkey leg (18 euros), on the second are sheep’s heads, with teeth evident (12 euros). On the third spit is a rabbit, the most expensive at 20 euros, and then roast chickens, the most familiar to us, for 8 euros.
Every day we passed this window (Undiz) on our way back to the hotel. It is puzzling to us – why wear a beaded net over your underwear? Unless you are wearing a sheer white top, this would never be visible. What is its purpose?
This lovely – and likely delicious – chateau creation was displayed in a Patisserie window. Note that it serves 24 people and costs 130 euros!
Oh, just your everyday run-of-the-mill unicyclist with blue hair, red bag, and yellow boots, waiting for the bus.
Their idea of a taco – and our idea of a taco – are several worlds apart. In one restaurant, “tacos” were any kind of meat wrapped in cheese naan!