Travel// A weekend in Nantes, France

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During the many years I’ve known my boyfriend, I have heard more about Nantes than most employees of the Pays de la Loire tourist board. It’s an understatement that the French city is one of his favourite places on this little blue Earth. Our trip to Nantes this month was therefore very, very overdue.

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Yellow Titan crane – a “remnant of the historical era”

Nantes is a beautiful, friendly and quirky little place, filled with unique historical buildings, delicious crêperies and unusual cultural and artistic projects.

While many cities offer you a cathedral or a tall tower as their definitive landmark, Nantes offers you a gigantic wooden elephant robot. Part of the Machines de L’île cultural project, ‘le grand éléphant’ stomps round the island, squirting water in the face of anyone in its way. It’s bloody magnificent.

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Le grand elephant, Nantes

On Sunday morning we caught the boat to the colourful little village of Trentemoult, took lots of pictures of the bright houses and saw a couple of gnomes hanging out on a windowsill.

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The colourful houses of Trentemoult
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Gnome lads peeping out of the window
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Mural painted by Badouin in the village of Trentemoult

Le Nid, at the top of 37 storey Tour Bretagne, is a bar designed to look like a stork’s nest by graphic designer and illustrator Jean Jullien. A ginormous white stork snakes round the whole of the floor, the bar is located in its body and you can sit on the neck. The tables and chairs are all little eggs and those with particularly beady eyes can spy egg splats painted on the rooftops of the buildings below.

We popped in to Le Nid on Sunday evening to watch the sunset, have a cocktail and listen to music.

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Le Nid, by Jean Jullien
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Artworks by Jean Jullien on the walls at Le Nid

We wandered round the castle, visited the pastel pink LU biscuit factory and saw some of the Estuaire art installations located along the water. Le Pendule by Roman Signer is a massive old derelict concrete factory, that has been converted to a large clock with the fitting of a swinging pendulum.

We also visited a few of the city’s many crêperies, Au Vieux Quimper was my favourite.

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The old LU biscuit factory has been converted to an art exhibition space
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“The Rings” by Daniel Buren
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“Le Pendule” by Roman Signer, part of the Estuaire art project

On our last day, we went for a coffee at La Cigale, an extravagant art-nouveau brasserie. It’s filled with palm trees and has floor to ceiling patterned ceramic tiles. Beautiful and over the top and a great end to the weekend!

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