A Visit To Nantes, France
Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel Coach
A first time visit
30 minutes before leaving my beloved Louvieres for a train to Burgundy to visit other friends, they called to inform me they got COVID. I rapidly changed plans and returned to my host sister Jeanne-Therese in Jumieges for a few days.
If you’ve never been, Jumieges has an amazing abbey. The town somehow got forgotten but it’s a beautiful site worth a detour. This region is also known for linen and has a working windmill that makes flour. It’s also near Rouen which has countless sites worth exploring such as the clock tower and Joan of Arc church to name just a couple of its marvels.
With some unplanned available days, I decide to go to Nantes. In 36 years of travel to France, I’ve never been. I travel by FlixBus and arrive in Nantes at about 9pm. I stay at Adaggio Apartments on the Rue Russeil. It’s perfectly outside the main tourist area and has a small kitchen so I could cook some of my meals. (There’s another Adaggio in the center of Nantes, but this one was less expensive, and I liked that it was out of any tourist areas.)
Unfortunately, I arrive so late that the nearby Carrefour supermarket is closed. That means I can’t cook dinner. So, I venture into one of two restaurants across the street, Les Cadets. I end up with one of the best meals I’ve eaten in a while.
The chef is one of two brothers (the other one is a waiter). With extensive training, his concept is “le diner blanche”. The menu consists of a list of wine and a choice; 5 courses or 7. As it’s so late, I choose 5. Each course is a surprise. You know only the number of courses, but have no idea what comprises each one until it arrives. They ask only if you have any food allergies before beginning your meal.
I choose a Burgundy white wine which is delicious. I receive two “amuses bouches” – fish and tarama. My five courses consist of green beans in a tomato reduction, octopus, merlut fish, Nantaise beef and a peach cobbler dessert. Everything is perfectly spiced and tastes better than the prior dish. At the end of the meal I feel I’ve eaten the perfect amount (each course is presented as a taste, rather than a huge portion you can’t finish).
I sleep happily and the next day, visit the mechanical elephant everyone has told me about. It’s located at Les Machines de l’Ile, and there are many other machines built to look like genuine animals that are hand operated by humans. Before the elephant, I see an iguana, a sloth and a giant spider.
The elephant is enormous and hugely impressive. What I didn’t know is, he sprays water out his trunk! A welcome relief on a hot day. I also end up riding in the elephant for a while. Another fun experience to feel what it’s like to walk so high above the ground. This viit is included in the Nantes Pass if you plan on going, it could be worthwhile to invest in the pass.
For once I do the little train ride through the town center. I don’t like that there’s no stopping anywhere so we pass interesting sites too quickly for me to really take them in. But I note them in Google maps and visit later. While there, the weather reaches 41 degrees. I attempt to visit the chateau. I get through the interior, but didn’t brave the steps outside. I was just too bloody hot and gave up! Unfortunately, with the breeze being so hot I thought I’d pass out, I also had to give up on the Jules Verne museum. Next time!
Nantes is extremely easy to get around. Transit is by tram, and it’s free for everyone on weekends! Even after the pandemic, it’s still free. You can also travel by boat on the river. I end up enjoying a boat ride tour of Nantes, complete with chateaux in the distance, included in my Nantes Pass. I also liked the Ile de Versailles and the garden, shown above. One final recommendation is to eat at La Cigalle. It was absolutely lovely, great food, they also have oysters, and a lovely spot to relax in the afternoon.
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