Nice to Nantes.

Trip Start May 30, 2013
Trip End Nov 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
With French friends Arlette and Pierre

Flag of France  , Pays de la Loire,
Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nice to Nantes, France
Our final day in Nice and it is Bastille Day. A last few hours spent strolling the Old quarter for some last minute shopping, packing of bags, and we were ready for a final farewell walk after dinner to the Promonade de Anglaise - the main road that follows the beach line from the Airport to the Port. We had thought there would be celebrations of fireworks , and we were not disappointed. Roadblocks set up to stop traffic on this normally very busy road, was the indication that something BIG was going to happen. We found an empty seat and positioned ourselves to ’people watch’ and get a great view too, of the beach area. Numbers swelled , and at 10pm sharp (had to wait till it was dark), the streets lights went out and we were all in darkness. The display started immediately from  2 naval boats moored a short way off shore . The Avenue is about 5  miles long and  was lined with people watching the brilliant show-
a wonderful 30  minute continuous show of MAJOR SIZED fireworks. A finale saw the whole sky lit completely and as it drew to crescendo , there was cheering and clapping from the HUGE crowd.. Then a long walk home via the Port, walking with thousands of people , straddling across the wide road - all making their way back to their homes on foot. A late night, but we  were glad we had stayed to watch the show.

Up early for our flight to Nantes- 1 hour flight on Air France, where we were met on arrival by Arlette and Pierre….some of our fNZ friends would have met them when they were in NZ 2 years ago. A quick trip to their home to drop off our luggage and we were off again, for an overview with them in their car to show us their very lovely  village and surrounding area. Cooling off with a  cool Sorbet in Cuce-sur-Erde on the riverbank early evening , and a lovely meal at their home at 10pm.The area of Nantes is VERY green (they have had a lot of rain until recently) - and after Nice it is like being in a lovely green forest. Arlette & Pierre ,although close to a main road, are in part of a  very old homestead grounds , that has been subdivided  (all the trees left) into 2 acres lots - the original gate into the large property is still used, and gives access right to the tram line, that now runs where Pierre used to dump his lawn clippings. It is 10pm while I am writing and it is still daylight - strange !!!!

Pierre has an expression about Brittany, France - he says …..“it only rains twice a week in Brittany”, first time for 3 days, then 2nd time for 4 days”!!!! …BUT we’ re lucky and the days are HOT and sunny . Again this morning we set off in the car for a day they had planned for us - through the French countryside, and passing the salt marshes for which Brittany is famous . The women of the salt marshes were expected to carry up to 30kg’s on their heads , while working in the marshes. For almost 1500 years , generations of 'Salters' have shaped and managed this unique landscape- with a presence of 180 species of birds present in the marshes. Each year , an average of 10,000 tons of rough salt are produced, covering almost 2,000 hectares. Thatched cottages, many fields of cut and rolled hay bales waiting to be collected- cornfields and 2 lovely old original windmills, still working. This area is steeped in Celtic history. After making purchases of varieties of salt from a stall being run by a Grandson of his 80 year old Grandparents salt farm, our next stop was Guerande,

 A walled Medieval city with a mote from the 1340’s with it’s formidable ramparts. The fort wall is one of the best preserved and complete in France - Its circumference stretches 1343 metres and includes 10 towers. During the 17th & 18th centuries , the city was transformed with Bourgeois houses being built in granite.. There are many Colombage medieval homes in beautiful condition that  were built with the “cross of St  Andre “ …I.e timber  beams and earth walls. After years of massacres and wars , the ramparts were completed, and improved….giving its inhabitants better safety due to its  fortifications during the 15th century. Leaving the safety of the walled village, we sat  outside the walls and moat in the cool shade of a large tree, eating a VERY large Baguette, before moving out to the coast and a finger of land that runs out to a very pretty fishing village called Le Croisic (nearest point of land across the Atlantic, being East coast of USA).

The principal French ‘port of prawns‘. Le Croisic offers the sea on your plate!!!
Sea bass, fish stews and many invitations to dine on fish products .The community forms a peninsula between the mouth of the Loire and the bay of Traict. Legend has it that the area was founded in the 5th century. We wandered this pretty port , with its Colombage old houses, lovely old back streets, which allowed us to take in the rich past of this ancient Corsair city and its many fine examples of architectural heritage. We finally drove the complete shoreline  - a raw, rugged coastline (it is on the Atlantic after all)…. Between rocks and coves - the granite coast of Le Croisic, still has reminders of its dark past - bunkers and fortifications for sea patrol of the coast for WW2 ,are still standing. This rugged coastline quickly mellowed into the beautiful very long crescent shaped beaches  of La Baule and Pornichet.
Many sun worshippers were taking advantage of the low tide, and it looked a very safe area to swim , with no waves. Many yachts out further, sailing , and we did stop in the heat, for a quiet few minutes under some huge trees along the Esplanade, noticing as we drove further south , that the whole boat marina empties of water at low tide, and every boat was left ‘high and dry’- one would have to chose carefully, when you wanted to take your boat out!!!!.

Around the next bay was Saint-Nazaire- the highlight of our day for Garry’s Dad, Roger;
Roger after landing at the French port of  Cherbourg  with a British artillery unit to help the French resistance, found that the German troops were far too strong and organised ,after overrunning most of France and the allies were eventually pushed to the Port  of Saint Nazaire by the Germans …Roger finished up watching the very ship that was due to take him off back to England , (the troop ship Lancastria),  be blown up in the harbour , with a total loss of 3,000. lives  A Greek freighter was then diverted to the harbour (the Nea Hellas) and eventually Dad made it safely back to Plymouth. His huge war record  then continued ….through landing in Normandy (twice)…wounded the first time, shipped back to England, then, when on being  turned down for his request to’ rejoin his regiment‘,  hid  under covers aboard an ammunition truck bound for Normandy, and made his way back to his platoon.There is a wonderful monument on the foreshore to the soldiers of WW1and WW2, and a Heritage museum , where we wandered around for an hour , seeing all the past of this huge port, that had been 85% destroyed by bombings in WW2 and took 20 years to rebuild.  Saint Nazaire was subjected to German occupation for 5 years (1940 - 1945) and was turned into a stronghold  for the Germans ,with a large Uboat submarine base .It is still a major ‘ship building’ port, and we watched a film of the complete building of the QE2 here . 
 We crossed the huge and very high bridge that spans the La Loire river mouth at Saint Nazaire, where we sat in  a harbour side garden  bar, with a Panache ,(shandy) giving us a great view back to the ship building yards- cooling us down and ready for our long drive home .
 Our Hosts, (Arlette & Pierre) live on the Northern side of Nantes, so it was a lovely  drive back through the French countryside to home after leaving the house 10 hours before. Again a 10pm dinner…..and still daylight.

Our last day here in Brittany and Arlette & Pierre have another full day planned. Like little mice, we slipped out the back gate in the trees this morning , and straight onto the tram that glides past the rear of their big section. A day for them to proudly show us their lovely city of Nantes.400,000 population ….. they live 5 miles out and only 15 minutes to the centre on the tram. .The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with nearly 900,000 inhabitants. Nantes, labelled  an art and history city with a University bringing the young folk into the centre…The plan being to show us the historic city in the morning and after lunch , cross into the upmarket shopping and business district, with many of the shops still in original state after built in the 18th century. We began our walk through areas that had remained untouched during the war and had many Historic buildings and little lanes - leading right to the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany (right in the centre of town).. A fortress with a residential palace within it , built with fine carved facades and Renaissance loggias..
Built by Francis 11 last Duke of Brittany , his work was continued by his daughter Anne of Brittany, Duchess and twice Queen of France. Poor Anne was married at 14 and lived to only  39. The fortress is still surrounded by the original mote and we had to enter over the original drawbridge.There is a  ‘green line ‘walk , that one can take showing all the historical spots around the central city, however we had our own tour guides, and I have to say I have finally ‘met my match’- Arlette & Pierre walked our legs off (in the heat too)…..we were exhausted at the end of our day out, and were very glad to climb back on that tram .Catching one that lead us over the river Loire - very wide and now on the outer city ..  Lots of interesting points - a tributary of the  river that once ran through the middle of the city, and often flooded, was diverted- and now large paved squares for resting and sitting areas are there instead.. We were lucky enough to wander into the beautiful Opera House - where all the operas and shows are performed - One would feel very grand , sitting in one of the side boxes for important people and the levels of seating reach 6 stories high.. Hopefully the pics will give an indication of its beauty. Nantes holds the title of France’s Green capital - and we believe it.

A fond farewell, Arevoir and merci  to our friends and wonderful hosts at Nantes airport, after a whirlwind  “French” 3 days, and we were on our flight to Paris, with lovely views of countryside all the way and of course my nose stuck to the window…then a VERY long walk to find our terminal for the Air France flight to New York on Airbus A380- Oh MY!!! A massive beast waiting for us to board……….. 516 passengers on this 2 storied giant flyer- the largest commercial passenger airline in service at present….
facts for David!!!    73 metres long, and a wing span of 79.8 metres….like flying in a football field really!!! Anyway in spite of the 516 passengers, we did all receive great service, and the food was tops- this flying hotel ticks all the boxes for service.

Now landed in JFK and overnight before an early flight to Kentucky to meet up with David and Erin (neighbours from NZ)  to stay with Barb and Ken. And the start of another story.

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lynne corbett-foy on

Your wonderful wonderful log, how i wish i was with you. You have had such wonderful opportunities of meeting people who are as enthused as you. Enjoy your time with Erin and David. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Jo on


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