In my introductory post to this cruise, M1623 – Bonjour encore!, I expressed my doubts as to how often I would be able to post updates to my blog, given how little time we were to be out of sight of land. These doubts proved well founded, as I now find myself back at home after the completion of the cruise, with around half a dozen posts yet to be written and posted! I hope my memories of everything I saw and was told about will last over the next few days as I attempt to get the missing posts completed.
In my previous post, M1623 – “It’s beautiful in the daylight”, I described the first river cruising we did in daylight, as we sailed back down the River Seine from Rouen to the sea near Honfleur. We then spent that night and the whole of the following day sailing around the French coast to Montoir-de-Bretagne in the Pays de la Loire region of France. Montoir-de-Bretagne is located 7.5km from Saint-Nazaire, and 45km from the capital of the region, Nantes. We docked in a container port, and beyond that was an equally uninspiring industrial view of a refinery and an airport where Airbus have a construction facility.
The tour I had selected in Montoir-de-Bretagne was to take a coach to the city of Nantes, where we would have a short guided tour of the city in the coach, before transferring to a river boat for a cruise along the River Erdre, considered by François 1st to be ‘the most beautiful river in France’.
It took around an hour to reach Nantes in the coach, through what I found rather flat and uninteresting countryside. Nantes is the 6th largest city in France, with a population of around 900,000 people. It is located on the River Loire at it’s confluence with the River Erdre, and despite being some 55km upstream from the sea, it’s prosperity in the past grew as a port, particularly from the slave trade.
As we approached the centre of Nantes we passed this quirky building which definitely caught my eye:
We stopped for a short photo stop next to a little park overlooking the river. Here there was a statue of Jules Verne, who was born in the city and grew up there. The statue is of him sitting on a bench, just as he used to do as a child in that same park. Nearby is a larger statue of Captain Nemo, the submariner from his book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea:
Looking across the river I spotted this mural on the end wall of one of the warehouses:
As we resumed our city tour by coach we passed the Marine World’s Carousel, part of Les Machines de l’île, an artistic and cultural project created by two artists visualising a combination of the imaginary worlds of Jules Verne and the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci. The Carousel is nearly 25m high and measures 20m in diameter, and features 35 moving underwater creatures on three levels: the ocean floor, the depths, and sea & boats:
Our local guide explained how the city was originally built on several islands in the River Loire, but most of the channels between the islands were reclaimed as land to provide more space for building, leaving just one island today. Looking at the very elegant buildings in the city centre it was clear how there had been subsidence due to the aquatic foundations of the city:
Continuing the tour we passed the Cathedral, and the Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany). The latter is a fortified châteaux built originally in 1207, and later rebuilt in 1466, and for a time was the Breton residence of the French Monarchy:
Two more buildings to catch my eye for different reasons were this tower, an attractive feature on a former biscuit factory, and this dreadful example of modern architecture – particularly with it’s appalling colour scheme:
Also catching my eye was this quirky feature at an entrance to the park:
We then drove to the banks of the River Erdre where we boarded this river boat for our river cruise, which would take us along the river for nearly an hour before turning around and returning to our starting point.
It was a large boat which accommodated the passengers from all four coaches taking part in this ship’s tour. We were sat on two decks, with five seats either side of a central aisle. Unfortunately I was one of the last to board and could only secure an aisle seat far from the windows and not good for photography, so I immediately headed to the very small open area at the stern of the upper deck, and remained standing there for the almost two hour duration of the cruise.
Initially close to the city there were many houseboats lining the river banks, although I wondered if one unusual one was more of an advertising feature for an architecture company:
On the voyage we passed several large and lovely houses and châteaux overlooking the river:
The other thing that kept me entertained the whole way there and back was watching and trying to photograph the gulls and cormorants which had obviously learned that following the river boat as it churned up the water was a productive way of feeding:
Once back at our starting point, we disembarked from the river boat and boarded our coaches for the return journey to our waiting ship.
Postscript: For around quarter of an hour before the ship sailed for our next port early that evening, a band of local Breton musicians entertained us from the quayside: