Nantes, the Bretons kingdom

Going to Nantes is going into the Bretons kingdom, yes thats Brittany or Bretagne, and its great crêpes and ciders. Also, the history of a great dukedom, just a bit other France. Nantes is in the department Loire-Atlantique No 44, and the region of Pays de la Loire , its a wonderful airy and open city. The air here is that they like to belongs to Bretagne region and not Pays de la Loire, a debate is ongoing. The Breton language is taught since 2007.

It has a boulevard periphérique or beltway just like Paris or Bordeaux, but its the second biggest with 43 kms only behind Bordeaux. This is due to the estatuaries of the river Loire which has a huge port and the traffic had to be directed around it. It has given two numbers to this road in the north it is the A844 and on the south portion is the N844, you take autoroute A811 that connects with the bigger autoroute A11 at exit/sortie 22 with the exit/sortie 42 of the linking road A811. It really is lot easier than explained as I always drive around. Plenty of parkings under and over ground, my is by the castle at Bretagne.  You can always guide you pretty good with via michelin at www.viamichelin.co.uk ; for those others who takes public transport I can only give you the links as never done it, my car is my second home in Europe. The local Semi TAN system of tramways,and buses is here http://www.tan.fr/ , and the TER pays de la loire train site get you the train schedules etc from a local perspective with more schedules, webpage here http://www.ter-sncf.com/regions/pays_de_la_loire/fr/default.aspx the train station in Nantes is at Blvd Stalingrad,very close to the castle. From Paris you will leave from gare du Nord ,and the more direct route the Gare Montparnasse with the Loire Atlantique TGV service. There is an airport Nantes-Atlantique of growing use of passengers, the webpage is at http://www.nantes.aeroport.fr/ANA/Page/

The city was badly damaged during WWII and its reconstruction was done in the Haussmanian style such as Paris with large boulevards and pretty architecture.  It is an old city, as after the death of Charlemagne it was revert back to Breton domaine since 850 AD with many incursions by the Vikings.  After many years of the war of succession to the throne, the area including all of Brittany is annexed to the kingdom of France in 1488 AD by heritage and formally in 1532 AD.  In the FRench revolution the city was republican and received attacks by the Catholic and Royal army in 1793. After a quiet WWI, the city was occupied since 1940 in WWII until finally liberated in 1944, and much damage from heavy bombings. The city is immediately reconstructed starting in 1945.

You have a wonderful walks along its historical center that is around the quai de la Fosse, cours Saint Pierre, and Saint André including the Castle, Cathedral, and the district of Bouffay, the island Ile Feydeau, the plaza Place Royale and the district Graslin.

The most important visit here and its worth it, is the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne or the castle of the dukes of Brittany. The principal residency of the dukes of Brittany from the 13C to the 15C. You entered over a moat into the information desk to its main building the Grand Logis built by king François II where the Duke of Bretagne and the court reside. You see the sculpture windows mark the union between Bretagne and France as the porcupine of king Louis XII faces the Hare of Anne of Bretagne. You continue into the Tour de la Couronne d’Or (golden tower and well) built by François II Duke of Bretagne and completed by Anne of Bretagne. You move on to the Grand Gouvernement (principal governors palace), formely known as the Ducal Palace, it is now call the Principal Governor’s Palace after the governor of Bretagne who took residency here in the 17C, you move on to the ruined section after a huge explosion on May 25 1800 destroyed the Spaniards Tower residence of the king’s Lieutenant as well as chapel and archives. You continue to the Conciergerie built in the 18C to house the king’s Lieutenant and later arsenal offices, it is the castle’s conciergerier since 1924. Here you reach the Bunker as it was acquired by the Germans on May 8 1943 to have a “blockhaus” built. You go up to the tower known as the Vieux Donjon,  built in the 14C by the Duke of Bretagne Jean IV de Montfort. Inside you ,also, will find a fascinating museum ,the Musée d’Histoire de Nantes about the city’s history. The webpage for the castle is at http://www.chateau-nantes.fr/

The district of Bouffay is the old quarters around the Cathedral that includes a wonderful Théatre around the Place Graslin, webpage of city of Nantes info http://www.nantes.fr/mairie/services-municipaux/theatre-graslin ; the Place Royale where the fountain represent the Loire river, the palais de la Bourse where it is now the tourist office, at the place St Pierre you will find the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul, built from 1474 to 1871!!!  however, it is built on churches going back to the 3C AD , it is 103 meters long (340 ft)  and high of 63 meters (208 ft); it has the tomb of François II duke de Bretagne and Marguerite de Foix ,the parents of Anne de Bretagne, future queen of France.  The organ dates from 1619AD! and it was in front of it  in place Saint Pierre that Nicolas Fouquet (Vaux le Vicomte fame) was arrested by d’Artagnan captain of the muskeeteers on orders of king Louis XIV on September 5, 1661.  Official site of the Cathedral at http://nantescathedrale.free.fr/index.htm .   You cannot miss the Passage Pommeraye a commercial gallery of exquisite architecture inside,webpage here http://www.passagepommeraye.fr/   the musée Jules Verne dedicated to a local son, webpage in the city of Nantes site http://www.nantes.fr/julesverne/acc_2.htm

There is a little train ride  or petit train very informative, my kids will always get me into these do not know if for lack of will to walk but it goes give you an overall look at the city and you can decide what to see later on, it is at place St Pierre in front of the Cathedral webpage http://www.atlantrain.fr/

There is all sort of shopping in Nantes from all the leading stores in France even a Galerie Lafayette. However,the best shopping local is at La Trinitaire, 4 place Saint Pierre by the Cathedral, for breton biscuits delicious, webpage http://www.latrinitaine.com/detail_magasin.php?id=42 and of course the aforemention Passage Pommeraye.

Here we stayed at the Mercure Central here ,just lovely highly recommended and my favorite chain in France, http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-1985-mercure-nantes-central/index.shtml

For eating we went to our Paris extention at Chez Clement, always good in Paris or Nantes or near me in Bougival (we celebrates our kids birthdays here) ,5 square Fleuriot de l’angle, tel +33 02 40 20 35 20, just off magnificent Place Royale, webpage http://www.chezclement.com/   For a local institution and our local favorite there is La Cigale, since 1895, with great oysters facing the theatre at 4 place Graslin, tel +33 02 51 84 94 94.webpage http://www.lacigale.com/ ,and for just a nice drink with friends head for Le Graslin, near the theatre too a bit after the plaza, 1 rue Racine, tel +33 02 40 69 81 79 no web but very good ambiance.

The official tourist office for the city of Nantes is at
http://www.nantes-tourisme.com/ ,and the tourist site for the region of Pays de la Loire is at http://www.enpaysdelaloire.com/

Hope you enjoy your Breton adventures as we did. Cheers!

 

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