The city of Nantes is a beautiful place to discover. It’s just an hour by car (74 km) from the three-star campsite Les Chalands Fleuris. An amazing city that merges traditional heritage and modernity.
Here, where history blends with nature, why not discover:
The Botanical Garden: seven hectares of rare plants. The guided tour of the topical greenhouses is free.
The Ile de Versailles and its electric boats. The park on the Ile de Versailles with its Japanese-style garden is the perfect place to enjoy an exotic change of scenery.
The island’s palm tree greenhouse whose construction was completed in 2013, is the Garden’s latest acquisition. The greenhouse was initially planned as a private garden and put up for sale on an auction website. Today it is a place where every afternoon the public can go to read, eat, work or quite simply relax in a subtropical atmosphere. It is located in the centre of the Garden.
The Grand Elephant of the Machines on the Ile and Les Machines de l’Île located on the site of Nantes’ former shipyards are simply amazing! Les Machines de l’Ile is an interactive exhibition area designed by François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice.
The castle of the Dukes of Brittany. Located in the heart of the city, the castle is one of Nantes’ must-see buildings. The ramparts date from the 15th century, the rest of the castle having been built between the 15th and 18th century. Today the castle houses a museum; an interpretation centre where the town’s history is brought to life. Worth a visit!
Les Chalands Fleuris Campsite: As a very elderly Nantes resident, what advice would you give to a family visiting Nantes for the first time?
Very Elderly Nantes Resident: First of all, park somewhere and enjoy the city in peace! Driving in Nantes is not always easy. There are large car parks at the entrance to the city. From there, the easiest way is to do everything by tram then go around on foot. So head for the Place du Commerce; that’s the public transport hub. From there you can chose between the two centres of Nantes.
C.F.C.: So Nantes has two city centres?
V.E.N.R.: Yes, so to speak: there’s what we call the Graslin quarter, quite bourgeois and quite classical in style. You must take rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau on your way to Place Graslin, with its theatre and nearby famous brasseries including the well-known, Art Nouveau brasserie La Cigale. Having lunch there may not suit everyone’s pocket, but it’s a nice place to enjoy an ice cream in the afternoon. Then head back down rue Crébillon with its many shops to place Royale and its fountain representing the river Loire and its tributaries. Not forgetting to walk through the famous Passage Pommeraye, dating back to 1840. It’s one of the most beautiful covered passages in Europe! Like that you’ll have discovered the centre of Graslin.
C.F.C.: And what about the other centre?
V.E.N.R.: People from Nantes call it the Decré quarter, after a former department store. Here the architecture is a great deal older. Just walk along the Cours des Cinquante Otages, the main avenue in the centre of Nantes and what was the bed of the river Erdre which today flows underground. You can walk as far as the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, up to the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany and lose yourself in the small streets around Bouffay market.
C.F.C.: Some people say that Nantes is not in Brittany.
V.E.N.R.: Nonesense! [points to the castle of the Dukes of Brittany] So what’s that then? Machu Picchu? The residence of the Tsar of All-Russia? Seriously…
C.F.C.: People often mention the Ile de Nantes and its famous ‘machines’.
V.E.N.R.: Yes, it’s fun and popular with children. But at my age I prefer the Ile Feydeau, even if it’s not an island anymore given that the branches of the Loire there were drained. You can see fine residences dating back to the 17th century, a period when Nantes enriched itself through the trading of Afro-Caribbeans.
Oh, and another island that I’m fond of is the , , a real small island this time, in the Erdre. It’s a nice place to go for a drink, for a walk around its Japanese garden and to go out on a pedal boat. The banks of the river Erdre have become very lively, with an atmosphere that’s very convivial for a city.
C.F.C.: As a very elderly Nantes resident, any tips on local specialities for a visiting family?
V.E.N.R.: Nantes is a city where people like to enjoy themselves! You really must go to a crêperie in one of the city centres. And don’t hesitate to try, in moderation, a Gros Plant or a Muscadet sur Lie, to be drunk well-chilled. It’ll make a change from the standard cheap Loire Valley wines! And as for the children, going off with a few little kouign-amann (butter and caramel puff pastry biscuits) and a few berlingots, our star confectionary, will make the journey back to your campsite in Saint-André des Eaux a little sweeter.
C.F.C.: Many thanks for your advice!
V.E.N.R.: Not at all, it’s been my pleasure. And say hello to your campers, or ‘Kenavo’ as we say in Breton!Discover places to visit