Jump on the bus and let me take you on a journey! Visiting the city of Nantes is like entering the world of Jules Verne and not wanting to come out.
I was invited by the official Instagramers of France to join their annual meeting and I discovered a bustling city of creativity, bright ideas and poetry.
“A journey to Nantes” was the name of the project led by Jean Blaise who is the great instigator of the “Festival des Allumées” and the “Nuit Blanche” in Paris in short. #LVAN (hashtag used on social networks) has revealed the city of Nantes as a major urban destination filled with cultural visits.
During the entire journey, my French acolytes spoiled me (I am also the co-manager of iGersGeneva group) by first booking a room in the Hôtel Voltaire Opéra. Nestled in the heart of the downtown district, in a quiet area so you can sleep tight, this former boarding house is comfortable and friendly welcomes you. I totally recommend it! Address: 10, rue Gresset.
Once you’ve checked in, immediately go visit the gallery of machines. Under the large metal ships of the former shipyards, you will find a research laboratory with strange animals… You will fly on an eight meter wide heron or discover the greenhouse where vegetation grows alongside mechanical plants. Watch a movie about the creative process of the Great Elephant, the Marine Worlds Carousel, Kumo the spider or the future Heron Tree… Address Parc des Chantiers, Bd Léon Bureau.
The Great Elephant will take you to the Carousel. On its back, you have a breathtaking view of the ancient site and the city beyond. A few (elephant) steps away, you will find the imposing Carousel of Marine Worlds (almost 25 meters high) populated with strange sea creatures, which run on three different levels: the sea, the depths and the surface of the sea. Choose your “horse” and take off for a carousel ride!
At nightfall, the world lightens. The hedgehog is the nickname of Vincent Mauger’s creation, originally named “Resolution of forces”.
Next door, you will deliver Buren’s rings, designed by Daniel Buren and Patrick Bouchain which illuminate the edfe of the Loire river at night with 18 circles of four meters in diameter. This work of art represent the rings of slaves because Nantes was a hub of slave trading in the 18th century but it’s also a symbol of marriage, the union between the river, the sea and the land.
The Garden of Claude Ponti
In the city of Nantes, the gardens grow special plants. The children’s illustrator Claude Ponti staged his own “Kadupo garden“. Giant banks of all sizes, the fungi laugh when they detect your presence a Potanpo (pots made of pots), this whole universe is explained to you while you are visiting it. You become a child again if that is not the case already…
After this trip, you can relax at the terrace of the Café de l’Orangerie. Address: 15, rue Gambetta.
Grafikama, painting service
Let’s go back in town to visit the Grafikama: 13 artists from different countries (South Africa, Senegal, Ethiopia, Morocco, France) invested this old workshop and turned it into a place of artistic experimentation within 2 weeks. The paintings and the works of art which you will discover are the results. I particularly recommend the giant statue of Kazy Usclef whose shadow, eyes, hands and feet are painted on the ground. Address: 2, rue des Pénitentes.
Trentemoult with a boat
Since I am taking good care of you, let me take you on a boat to Trentemoult-Rezé. This former fishing village is colourful and festive. You will find a family atmosphere where you get the feeling of being at home. It is flowery, and local posters make you realise that life is communal, artistic with festivals, art galleries and restaurants… Tonight, you will eat at the restaurant La Civelle. After an apero watching the sunset, the feast can start: tuna wrap, avocado, fresh herbs and wild salad to begin with. Monkfish medallions, piperade, Provencal juice with spices and basmati rice as a main course. And if you are still hungry, a delicious strawberry soup will satiate you. Address: 21, quai Marcel Boissard, 44400 Rezé.
Incredible urban garden
I literally fell for the achievement of William Verdegay and its urban gardens. William gives advice on how to develop botanical space in your appartement however small it may be. It’s difficult to carry glass vials in your suitcase but luckily you can buy some kits online: Le Coin Jardin.
The nest of Jean Jullien is a bar on the 32nd floor with a 360 degrees view of the city and great cocktails, fitted on the eggs of the stork which will serve you…. trust me! Be careful while observing the city skyline, the clumsy stork left her baby somewhere… Le Nid de Nantes. Address: Tour Bretagne, place de Bretagne.
A last meal before take-off
If you like oysters like I do, I advise you to stop by the Cigale. This Art Nouveau 1895 restaurant is the work of the architect Emile Libaudière. The surrealists such as André Breton and Jacques Prévert used to have dinner there. Do not be distracted by the scenery otherwise I will finish your tray of oysters… Address: 4, place Graslin.
Gotta go now otherwise I’ll miss my train. But please mark this city as a “place to see”.