Hello people of Earth! So before I regale you guys with my quick trip to Nantes, can I first just say that it surprises/makes me excited to see that people from all over have read my blog? I mean, I know that I’ve been doing this for a few months now but still, that surprise doesn’t really go away. Seriously, I looked at the stats for yesterday and they said that someone from New Zealand and Serbia had read my blog. What? I don’t even know anyone in those countries. Anyway, mini-freak out session over I promise. But seriously, thanks!
So, I’m still playing a little bit of catch-up but I’m almost there, swear. The weekend after the Normandie excursion (so two weekends ago now), two friends and I took a day trip to Nantes. It’s a bit bigger than Angers and is only about half an hour or an hour south of Angers by train depending on if you take a TGV or ter (TGV is the fast train and ters are the reginonal ones that make more stops). None of us had been yet and, because it’s so close, it’d be a shame to go home without having visited at least once. Because of how close the two cities are and because Nantes is a frequent destination/departure point for people going to and from Paris, finding a train wasn’t a problem. We met at the train station in Angers around noon and just bought the tickets then. Holly and I had our carte jeunes with us so we got a discount. A carte jeune is for available for anyone ages 12-25 and as long as you are able to present it with your train ticket, you get a discount. It’s 50 euros and is good for a year. You need a small picture to put on it and be able to provide a valid address in France but other than that you should be good to go. It pays for itself after two or three trips (depending on where you go). I used it when I went to Italy. Though I’ve heard that the card has been revised so that now it’s 12-17 and then 17-27 or something but I don’t know for sure if that’s happened. Either way, it’s a good idea if you’re going to be staying for a while and/or are planning to travel within France.
Once we arrived in Nantes we bought tickets for the return trip (we didn’t buy round-trip tickets because we weren’t sure when we wanted to come back) and got a map of the city. We also had a very nice encounter right off the train. A really cute Aussie came up and the four of us ended up chatting for half an hour. He introduced himself as Sebastion. Apparently he’d been in the same car as us on the train and had heard us speaking English. He’s studying in Paris for a year and is almost done (he’s been there since January). He was in Nantes for the weekend visiting a friend who’s studying there. While we were talking, a woman came up and joined our little group. She was from England and introduced herself as Cat. She was a little older than us, she’s got her Bachelor’s and has been working with the Red Cross for the last few years while she decides what/where she’d like to go for her master’s. She was meeting a friend and just visiting Nantes for the weekend. So that was pretty cool. Not even out of the train station and we meet some cool people from other countries.
Because we really only had the afternoon in Nantes, we didn’t do too much but that’s okay. We visited the Cathedrale, Cathedrale St Pierre et St Paul. I was a little surprised by how close it was to the chateau. Literally, they were almost side-by-side. But then again, it’s still a little surprising that in some towns the chateau is in the middle of the town and not on the outskirts like some of the more well-known ones. Though I suppose some of the more well-known ones are also a good bit bigger. Visiting the cathedrale was also kind of cool for me because I got to put some of my new-found art history knowledge to work. Basically that means I could tell the other two about how old the church was and what style the architecture is. In case any of you are wondering, it’s a roman-gothic church which means it was built during the 1st gothic periode I believe. I say the 1st one because the roman and gothic styles actually overlap a little. Roman architecture started in the 10th century and ended at the end of the 12th century. Gothic architecture began in the middle of the 12th century and went until the 15th century. So the second half of the 12th century is known as the 1st periode gothique because that’s where the two overlap. Notre-Dame in Paris is also a cathedrale from this time. Ironically though, it’s not considered to be the prettiest church though it is one of the most well known. The 2nd periode gothique is generally considered “le plus belle” because it’s pure gothic architecture.
There’s a crypt attached to the cathedrale but sadly it wasn’t open when we were there. We walked by the chateau but didn’t get a chance to actually go in and visit. We could’ve but we figured that we had to choose between the chateau and the giant elephant….obviously the elephant won. I mean, a giant mechanical elephant that you can ride? Who wouldn’t choose that?
Now, the elephant isn’t actually in Nantes. Well, I guess technically it is, but it’s actually on a small island called Ile-de-Nantes. It’s a bit of a walk from the train station but it’s not bad. Maybe 20 minutes or so? I’m not really sure because we were sight-seeing and going at our own pace. They had a Christmas marche set up in one of the squares not far from the main road so we spent a while wandering around there. That was fun. It’s basically like a normal marche except the stands all look like little houses and the venders are selling gift-related things instead of meat, cheese, fruits, etc. One little house was selling carmelized pralines…oh my lanta they were SO good! Holly, Natalie, and I shared a small bag of them. Another one was selling scented sculpted soaps. Those looked so cool. Each one was scuplted into flowers of different colors and then you got to choose which flower soap and which hand-painted top you wanted. A lot of the stands were selling jewelry but others sold carved wooden figures, scarves/hats, macaroons, hot wine, leather products, scented candles, etc.
After getting our fill of the Christmas marche, we continued on our way toward Ile-de-Nantes. There’s a couple bridges so it’s not like it’s totally isolated. The elephant is actually a part of something called Les Machines de l’Ile. While the elephant is probably the biggest attraction, there’s also a carrousel, a cafe, and I think you can tour the workshop. The carrousel is actually really cool. It’s three levels, first off. But something I didn’t realize at first is that it’s also educational. How is a three-story carrousel educational? Let me explain. Well, to begin with, the animals are not what you’d expect to find on a carrousel. If a Loch Ness-like looking creature and and anglerfish are normal carrousel animals and not horses or the occaisonal frog or dolphin, please tell me where you live. Right, so that’s the first thing, all the animals are various ocean creatures. And then–I saw this from the elephant–that each level of the three levels had a name relating to three different levels of the ocean. So the third story of the carrousel, the top, is called the surface. So the rides there were things like that Loch Ness-looking creature and a boat-fish hybrid thing and maybe a giant crab? I’m not sure about that last one. Then there’s the middle part (the depths maybe?) and the ocean floor. And each level, the rides are creatures that can be found at that depth in the ocean. Cool huh?We got to actually ride the elephant. I have to confess, I was a little worried that we wouldn’t be able to because I didn’t know what time they stopped selling tickets or how crowded it would be. While we were wandering around we got to see the elephant as it finished a ride. Even though it’s mechanical, it still acts somewhat like a real elephant. It can move its ears and blink and water sprays out of its trunk. The three of us were talking about getting tickets or not. I really wanted to but I wasn’t the only one who was on the trip so I tried downplay my eagerness because Natalie wasn’t sure she wanted to spend the money. Holly was indifferent but said why not? I don’t remember exactly how much tickets were but they weren’t too bad. 6 euros a piece maybe? I really don’t remember. But the ride is half an hour. The elephant doesn’t go very far and the going’s a bit slow but you can get a feel for what an actual elephant’s gait is like and, come on, how many times can you say that you’ve ridden a giant elephant, mechanical or not? Unless you go to India or somewhere of course where you can ride the real deal. It was pretty cold the day that we went so the ride, of course, was cold but it was great. And you get a good few of the river and part of Nantes. So…yeah. I was happy. : )
Welp, that’s about all I got for Nantes. After the elephant ride, we walked back toward the train station and got a bite to eat nearby before catching the train back to Angers. All in all it was a nice Saturday well spent.
And for anyone else celebrating, Happy Hanukkah! Tonight’s the first night.