An easy and short 35 km trek today – although it would have been a lot nicer if it wasn’t raining for most of it!!! Almost the entire trail was through an agricultural area bordering the Loire, including a humongous farm that was growing vegetables (mostly onions it seemed) and grape seedlings.
Arrived in Nantes around 11:30. It’s a large city – about 800,000 in the metropolitan area. Even before we got off our bikes, the proprietor of our hotel came outside to greet us and show us where to park the bikes. He then brought us inside to dry off and provided coffee until our rooms were ready and we could have a hot shower and get into some warm, dry clothes.
Nantes (at one time the home of Jules Verne) is known as the Venice of the West owing to its location on the river delta of the Loire, Erdre and Sevre rivers. During the 18th century, it was known as the slave capital of France, which led to wealth and rapid growth. (It is now home to a memorial to the freedom of slavery.)
It was, apparently, the site of thousands of executions by drowning, including those using the method which came to be known as the Republican marriage, in which a man and a woman were stripped naked, tied together, and thrown into the river. Gives a new meaning to “alternative sentencing”…
We had a quick visit to the Passage Pommeraye, a 19th century galleria with shopping, and Place Royale, a historic square located in the heart of the city, recently renewed.
After a brief lunch we visited the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) and the History Museum of the City of Nantes. The castle is “the last chateau on the Loire”. It is the birthplace of Anne of Brittany.
We then splintered. One group visited the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Very bright, very interesting – the style is descried as “Flamboyant Gothic”. It is apparently the most accident prone cathedral on the Loire!
After a brief look at the Palais de Justice we visited the Isle of Nantes, a former shipyard turned into a leisure and cultural site, including the Machines of the Isle of Nantes, which features a number of very bizarre animated “animals”, including a full size elephant. They will soon be opening a three storey marine-themed carousel.
Dinner was at an excellent restaurant recommended by our host – probably the best meal we’ve had during the entire trip.