Archive for April 7th, 2018

April 7, 2018

And I bring you, Nantes!! Is it Breton? Yes!!!

This is a city I have come to know very well. Little did it occur to me that when I visited it  for the first time back in 2004 to see the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany was I going to be so close and visit so often after 2011. it is my gateway to the world now, and my shopping and eating and sightseeing city second only to Vannes. But hey this is Brittany just a twist in history took it away, of course, I am talking about Nantes ,now in Pays de la Loire region.

Nantes is in department 44 Loire Atlantique over the banks of the Loire river in the region of Pays de la Loire  From the Gallo Roman city of Namnétes site of a bishophic in the 5C, part of the Frankish kingdom facing the imposing Bretons, finally conquered by king Nominoé in 851 to be part of Brittany  For the next 3 centuries the role of Nantes grows in importance towards the international markets been a great part of it the slave trade that sees its peak in the 18C. During the French revolution, an important site in the war of the Vendée against the revolutionary power.

Nantes is at 342 km from Paris, 340 km from Bordeaux, and 100 kms from Rennes . It has several isles and canals such as île Beaulieu, île Sainte Anne, île Feydeau, and île Gloriette ; for a while it was name the Venice of the west ! Many of its streets are blockage of river flows done to redirect the Loire river such as the Bourse that now gives to the current cours Franklin Roosevelt street or the Hospital arm that now is part of the cours  John Kennedy and cours Commandant d’Etienne d’Orves, and the tributary of the Erdre river ,today it is over the cours de 50 Otages and the course is change by an underground canal that is navigable until the arm of the Hospital and call the Canal Saint Félix The Loire river crosses the city in two sections, one encircle the île de Nantes isle call the La Madeleine on the north and the  Pirmil on the south. The city is also, traverse by two importants rivers the Erdre and Sévre Nantaise and three small creeks ,the  Chézine, Cens, and Gesvres all in the north side.  The île de Nantes or Nantes island has an area of 337 hectares and is link to the mainland by 10 bridges on the north and south banks. It has ,also, a pedestrian passarelle in the north and two train lines.

Nantes has an extensive road network that in many times is congested with heavy traffic jams at rush hours ,so I do it all the time, but avoid these hours and is ok. It is on the junction of the autoroute des Estuaries or the A83 , and the Loire river force you to  pass by the boulevard périphérique via the bridge or Pont de Cheviré ; with its 43 km is the second longest in France after Bordeaux as in Bordeaux is always with heavy traffic. It has 23 exits or sorties call here Portes or gates and has two names, one on the north that is the A844 and for the rest is the N844 roads ,which is the one I normally take to come to the airport. On this blvd périphérique you have connection to other roads such as the  autoroute A11 on the exit 42 porte d’Anjou that goes on to Paris, the fast paying way. Others are the same A11 to Angers , the A83 towards Niort, Bordeaux, Poitiers,and Limoges, the N165 towards Quimper, Brest and my towns of Vannes and Pluvigner, the N137 to be call the A84 extension here to Rennes and Caen and also Paris. There is a good tramway network of 3 lines that with its 43,5 km is the most used in France ; there is  a boat service that transports in the river banks avec two lines call Navibus ,and the boats Loire and Passeur. The wonderful train station, that I used frequently or Gare de Nantes is service by TER intercités and TGV service to Montparnasse Paris on the TGV Atlantique as well as other cities. The station has two terminal access, the oldest is the nord or north , and the sud or south done for the TGV service also has the navette bus connection to the airport. The two terminals north and south are connected by an underground passage that you reach 15 train platforms. The city has an excellent bike network connected to the regional La Loire à Vélo part of the EuroVélo6 network also known as the Eurovélopiste des Fleuves or the bikeroute by the rivers linking Nantes to Bucharest and also Saint Nazaire to Contanta and one of the most famous European bike routes long of 3653 km crossing Europe from west to east and from the Atlantic ocean to the North sea passing by ten countries as well as the major rivers of Europe such as the Loire, Rhine, and Danube. You,also, have my favorite airport and in and out for the last several years at Nantes Atlantique airport just south of Nantes on the town limits of Bouguenais.

A bit on the laid out of the city best parts to visits. The fortified medieval city was in essence the neighborhood of Bouffay of which still can be seen the gate or Porte Saint Pierre, and the castle of the Dukes of Brittany or Château des ducs de Bretagne, as well as some wooden houses dating from the 15C. The streets of rue de la Juiverie, rue Sainte Croix, rue de la Bâclerie are still some examples of this type of architecture as well as some in the rue de Verdun, rue Bossuet,and place du Change. At the Place Royale , Place Graslin, and cours Cambronne you have the neighborhood of the Theater and Bourse. The current city center goes around the roads of a central way on the western axis starting from the Cathedral to the rue de Verdun, rue de la Marne, rue d’Orléans, rue Crébillon and finishing at the place Gambetta. All in a neo classic style, especially by rue de Strasbourg, done in the Haussmanian way as in Paris. By the 20C the center was extended to the botanical garden or jardin des plantes and the fine arts museums on the east making this neighborhood very appreciated, and the adjoining neightborhood onwards with the Dobrée museum, and the Church Notre Dame de  Bon Port. You have the Nantes island or île de Nantes the great area of the machines or Les Machines de l’île (great area!) occupying the former naval yards and on the west point of the island the Hangar à bananes along the anneaux de Buren with plenty of restaurants, bars night clubs discos including La Fabrique a space dedicated to contemporary music.

A bit of history I like.  At the Gaul’s time this area was known as the Namnétes , defeated by Julius Ceasar in the year 56 BC. The Roman latinised the name to Condevincum and make the main town of the ; at the end of the Roman period, the city was called Portus Namnetum or the port of the namnétes. Once the Roman empire ended in 476AD the area passes under control of the kingdom of the Franks by king Clovis even after facing tough resistance from the Armoricans (Bretons) and some already living in the Roman controlled areas since 280AD.  In 850AD the region is run over by king Nominoé a Breton king , on the next year in the battle of jengland the Breton market of which Nantes was its capital passes to Brittany under the treaty of Angers. From 919AD, the city of Nantes is invaded and control by the Vikings. The next period, the Dukes of Brittany will fight against the counts of Nantes for the succession rights, and for a while the area passes under the Maison of Anjou. The second war of succession of Brittany puts in opposite sides the half brother of the decease duke John III, that is Jean de Montfort helped by the Breton State calls for in Nantes ,and those of Charles de Blois helped by the king of France Philippe VI and recognized duke of Brittany by the nobles of the kingdom; The Montfort won, and their dynasty in the 14C to 16C continues and made of Nantes the capital.

Nantes becomes the main treasure to play between the king of France and the Duke of Brittany, Duke François II. Nantes is conquered in 1488 and Brittany  is administered by the kings of France. The Breton next in line and daughter of François II, is Anne de Bretagne who marries the king of France by alliance Charles VIII in 1491 and later king Louis XII in 1498 becoming as well queen of France twice! Her oldest daughter Claude de France under stress many had said, donates the duchy to her husband king François I of France, even if the Breton States asking for the union also asked for the traditions and privileges to be maintained .  In 1532 the Duchy of Brittany is finally officially annexed to the crown of France by the act  in a perpetual and indisputable will proclaimed at Nantes August 13 1532.

During the wars of Religion ,Nantes sides with the League in the fight against the Protestants, and one of the big cities to recognized king Henri IV. By 1685, th edit of Fontainebleau signed by king Louis XIV and the edit of Nantes are suspended while the black code is ordained by the king. This law ,allows the port of Nantes to become an important place for the trade of sugar, tabacco, and slavery with the colonies, and make Nantes rich especially with the slave trade by Europe, Africa ,and the Americas. Even if Nantes was not the only one doing this, she was a pioneer.

During the French revolution, the city was held by Republican forces (revolutionaries) on the first line of the Vendéene revolt and its resistance was one of the keys of the Republican victory by given them a rear base and negating the Vendéene of a harbor to received help from England. From October 1793 to February 1794 the convention or revolutionary council established a terror politics in the area without mercy. Between 12K to 13K persons, men ,women and children were put in the prisons of Nantes of which between 8K to 11K died, either by the guillotine, firing squads, epidemics or drowning’s in the Loire. Since 1960, there is a renewal spirit to bring out the Breton traditions and by 1994 the Breton Cultural Agency  created by the mayor’s office to keep track, and by 2001, the municipal council recognized the historical and cultural attachment of Nantes to Brittany without going as far as changing the current administration laws. This disunion comes forward since 1941 by the regime of Vichy in their regional programs of 1955 and later in administrative regions separating each time the Loire Atlantique (dept 44) from the other Breton departments. Nantes  is now in the region of the Pays de la Loire even if the debate persists. How can laws by a traitor (Pétain of Vichy) are still held makes no sense to me anyway, my five cents worth.

During the WWII Nantes was occupied by the Nazis from 1940 and finally they leave the city in August 12 1944 before the arrival of an unit of the US 3rd Army under General Patton, that was led by General John Shirley Wood (the same who liberated Vannes).

 The castle of the dukes of Brittany, located on the right bank of the Loire river in city center of Nantes.  It was the principal residence of the Dukes of  Brittany from the 13C to the 15C. It is a fortress with seven towers links by smaller corridors , at the courtyard is surrounded by different buildings dating from the 15C 16C and 18C as well as the Ducal residence built in chalk . The Cathedral of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul, gothic style on the Place Saint Pierre. It was built under the request of Duke John V duke of Brittany and the bishop Jean de Malestroit in 1434 and it was eventually finished by 1891!!!. The Basilica of Saint Nicolas of neo gothic style and one of the first one in France dates from the 19C; it was raised to Basilica in 1882. The Church Notre Dame de Bon Port, built in 1852 has a dome that it was copied from that of the Invalides in Paris.

You will find many squares like the Place Graslin with its theater, the Place Royale with a fountain representing the Loire and its tributaries, the Place du Commerce , the most lively in town ,and the Place Maréchal Foch with its column on a pedestal a rare statue of king Louis XVI existing in France today.  All these square are connected by wide avenues such as the cours Cambronne from the Place Graslin, cours Saint Pierre and cours Saint André from the place Maréchal Foch with a nice perspectives.  These neighborhood grouped the former justice palace, located at place Aristide Briand, the regional government building or préfecture of the Loire-Atlantique (now the seat of the chamber of accounts of Brittany!) , the Palais de la Bourse, and the island or île Feydeau (by rue Kervégan, temple du Goût, and cour Ovale) all on a single grouping comparable with the île Saint Louis in Paris. By the quai de la Fosse you will find traces of the old harbor of Nantes.

For the chic shopper the Passage Pommeraye is heavens right in city center built between 1841-1843 on three levels with a central stairs and decorated with medallions and statues , just chic ; then you have the brewery or Brasserie La Cigale opened in 1895 and just doing well. The cookie /biscuit LU an institution here and now Le Lieu Unique now a cultural center on the national scene; you can see it from the top rampart of the castle of the Dukes of Brittany. The former Manufacture des Tabacs or cigars done in 1861  similar to one in Strasbourg with five buildings  and two interior courtyards that by the 1980’s was renovated and turned into municipal services offices and lodgings. The nice Jardin des Plantes that I past my leisure times each time traveling by the train station was created in 1807, and opened to the public in 1895 along the styles of the 19C with a mosaic or ceramic tradition and floral decorations with several cascades and water fountains; officially it is known as the botanical garden but still call by its old name. The park or parc de Procé was a domain surrounded by a mansion done in 1789 , the park has been provided with huge trees rhododendrons, magnolias, fuchsias, dahlias and bushes and has the oldest tulipan of Virginia in France.  The floral park or Parc Floral de la Beaujoire created upon the celebration of the Floralies in 1971 has one of the biggest monumental fountain of Europe! the northern part is dedicated to  the horticulture such as the rose axis with 35 sites and allowing the exposition of 25K rose trees of 1500 species!! . Some curiosity is the Miséricorde cemetery or cimetiére Miséricorde  called here the Pére Lachaise(Paris) of Nantes  as you have on a long tree-lined promenade of cypress and linden trees about 60 mausoleums of the neo gothic style  that house the dead of the grand families of Nantes with the oldest part has a cemetery for the Jews and Protestants until the 1870’s , with the Jewish square place on the part reserve for Protestants.

As far as museums ,this town can match any. First, the museum of history (Musée de l’Histoire) in the interior of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany showing the story of Nantes over the centuries.  The museum of fine arts or beaux-arts of Nantes has paintings showing a complete panorama of the western painting styles from the 13C to our days. You have the very nice and rich Dobrée museum with works from the middle ages to the 20C showing a large selection of archeological objects going from the 1C just to the Carolingian period as well as housing the box of where it was place the heart of Anne de Bretagne (duchess of Brittany, and queen of France). The beautiful Graslin theater is an opera house done in 1788 on the place Graslin ,across the great restaurant La Cigale. The Jules Verne museum is dedicated to his work of the writer born in Nantes in 1828. The museum of natural history of Nantes has a collection of natural sciences from the zoology the fauna, mineralogy and a vivarium  showing reptiles and amphibians of all origins.  The Planetarium of Nantes has an 8 meter dome with projections showing the solar system and different constellations; it has , also a numerical planetarium. Also, the first memorial dedicated to slavery is here known as the Mémorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage d’Europe. Opened in 2012 along the quai de la Fosse between the pont Anne de Bretagne and the Passarelle Victor Schoelcher

Some webpages to help you plan your visit to this wonderful, airy ,and cosmopolitan city of the west of France, Nantes. It is worth a visit indeed.

city of Nantes on the history  in French :

Tourist office of Nantes:

Dept 44 Loire Atlantique tourism in French:

Region pays de la Loire tourism in English:

Nantes Metropole on tourism of Nantes !

There you have it folks, you can go wrong by reading above before you visit. Hope it helps, have a great weekend, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!

April 7, 2018

And we have Bordeaux, a lot more than wines!!!

Today, I like to tell you about a very famous city for something it does not produce; you know… this is a glorious city and one very popular with the French today as can tell by the rising real estate prices; on the banks of a great river of the Gironde. The wines are world famous ,if not the best, me think they are for many years. Now, they are not produce in the city and I have always written on them, this time I would like to tell you a bit more on the city of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is in the department 33 of the Gironde in the new region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. Capital of the former Guyenne and an integral part of the Gascogne, culturally and linguistic; it is on the banks of the Landes de Gascogne  The city is about  172 km from Pau, 202 km from San Sebastian/Donostia Spain, and 220 km from Toulouse as well as 498 km from Paris. The city is crossed by the Garonne river with a port accessible to big cruise ships and the port de la Lune for touristic activities; other boating activities have been move upwards of the Garonne or Gironde rivers that goes over the Garonne with the Port d’Aquitaine. The rest is accessible by ferry boats along the statuary of the Gironde.

The city has an extensive highway system with many signs not so hard to get by and attention is needed not to pass the exits. It is link to Paris, Poitiers, Tours, and Orléans by the autoroute A10, to Périgueux, Limoges, Brive, Clermont Ferrand and Lyon by the A89, to Toulouse on the A62, Mont de Marsan and Pau by the A65, and Bayonne and Spain by the A63. It has a huge intricate beltway or rocade with heavy traffic always on its 45 km the longest beltway in France. It is composed of the autoroute A630 on the left bank of the Garonne river or the N230 on the righ bank, the continuation of the autoroute A10 and the intersection of autoroute A89 Is the A631, A62, and A63 . The first bridge was done in 1821 as the stone bridge or the pont de Pierre then the passarelle Eiffel done in 1860. It took some time but in 1967 the Pont d’Aquitaine was done between Bordeaux and Lormont. By 1965 the bridge or pont Saint Jean was finished and on 2013 the bridge or Pont Jacques-Chaban-Delmas (former mayor of Bordeaux) was done linking the districts of Bacalan on the left bank and La Bastide on the right bank . The bridge or Pont Simone Veil allows to cross the Garonne river on the south side. There is excellent TGV train coming from many cities especially for me from Paris Montparnasse to the Gare Saint Jean or St John train station in Bordeaux, built in 1855 first under the name of gare du midi. There is a nice airport in the nearby town of Mérignac about 12 km from city center Bordeaux. The network locally for public transport bus and tramway is Transports Bordeaux Métropole or TBM. From the quai Louis XVIII facing the Quinconces esplanade boats takes you on river rides along the nice facades of the the 18C mansions. The navette boat BatClub allows you to connect left and righ banks of the Garonne river between Bas-Lormont and Claveau on one side and Stalingrad to Quinconces on the other.

The old town of Bordeaux is part of the interior of the former ramparts of the city that corresponds to todays’ cours Verdun, cours Clemenceau, Place Gambetta, cours d’Albret, cours Aristide Briand, Place de la Victoire, and cours de la Marne, and to the east bordered by the Garonne river. In the Middle Ages two gates allowed to entered the city those of Porte Cailhau and Porte Saint Eloi aka de la Grosse Cloche . In the 15C the intendant Tourny decided to make wide avenues with lines of trees and several gates such as the Porte Dijeaux (1753) Porte d’Aquitaine (1754) and Porte de Bourgogne (1755), and Porte de la Monnaie (1759)..This gave ideas to Georges Eugéne Haussmann (Baron Haussmann) who was at the time the sub prevot of the Gironde to be inspired by Tourny and do the transformation of Paris by 1860. By the former Place Royale ,today the Place de la Bourse was opened in 1755 the facades of the quays that form for 1,2 km a collection of mansions and finally, created the Place Dauphine, Place Saint Julien and public promenades such as Allées de Tourny and the public garden to open the city to the inhabitants. You find two big axis crossing the city such as the rue Sainte Catherine that cuts the town north to south and the cours Victor Hugo continuing over the pont de Pierre that cuts the town in west to east. This rue Sainte Catherine is pedestrian for about 1300 meters (1,3 km) connecting the place de la Comédie to the Place de la Victoire; there are plenty of shopping around here!!!

North west of the old town center the neighborhood of Quinconces and Hôtel de Ville are plenty of restaurants cafes very nice and banks, financial services and luxury shops ; this is where the golden triangle is found around the cours Clemenceau , cours de l’Interdance, and the Allées de Tourny (our favorite spot) as it is the luxury window shopping of Bordeaux.. In the north of the city along the Garonne river you have the districts of Grand Parc and the Chartrons where many wine merchants are located. The neighborhood of Chartrons is name as such because the convent of Chartreux founded in 1381 while the 100 years war by the Chartreux of Perigord coming to take refuge in the marshes of this area , the place was connected to the city by the current cours Xavier Arnozan and a huge alley such as the cours de Verdun has many huge mansions style Louis XV and Louis XVI, the neighborhood of Saint Seurin is name after the Saint Seurin Basilica built around the Gallien palace, a very high price neighborhood with many consulates. The neighborhood of the Mériadec after the Prince of Rohan (Ferdinand Maximilien Mériadec, archbishop of Bordeaux who built the Rohan palace in 1771 and which by 1835 becomes the city hall or Hôtel de Ville.

A bit of history I like. The name of the city comes from the Burdigala in the 1C AD and while the French revolution ,convention 1792-1795 it was name the town of Franklin or “Commune-Franklin “.Bordeaux  becomes one important city in the Duchy of Aquitaine starting in 600AD and is the capital city of the county attached to the Duchy of VAsconia from 852 to 1032, and later the Duchy of Aquitaine under the successive authorities of the Counts of Poitiers, Capetians, until 1152. In 1453, following the Battle of Castillon (Chatillon-la-Bataille) the city becomes French possession and the war of the 100 years is over.  Following the execution of the parliamentarian Girondins on June 2 1793, the city rises up against the French revolution and the terror of it comes to Bordeaux with 304 executions of men and women

During WWI as Paris is threatens by the arrival of the Germans, the French government takes refuge in Bordeaux  and is located at 17 rue Vital Carles. During WWII, the French government again seek refuge in Bordeaux this times at the city hall and the same  Rue Vital Carles by Weygand, De Gaulle at the Hotel Majestic near the quai Louis XVIII   A few days later as the French government is ready to signed the armistice the Consul of Portugal Aristides de Souza Mendez delivered in nine days visas  that allowed over 30K refugees to escape the advance of the Nazis troops. The Nazis leave Bordeaux  in August 28 1944 after sinking several boats in the river to stop the coming of the allies over the Garonne river; the cleaning of it takes several years and even today you see at low sea some of the debris.

The fine arts museum or Beaux-Arts one of the oldest museums in France with a great diversity and amplitude of its collections especially from the 19C, 20C . The Aquitaine museum inheriting the collections from the Lapidaire museum created in 1783 by the Academy of Bordeaux to house all the Romans artifacts and urban works of the 16C and mostly from the 18C, since 1962 moving up to a museum of history ,archaeology, and regional Ethnography. The decorative arts and design museum located in the mansion Hôtel de Lalande housing rich collections of French decorative arts and mainly Bordelais from the 18C, and 19C as well as collection of paintings, engravings, miniatures, sculptures, furniture, ceramic, glasses, jewelry etc etc. The Jean Moulin Center (name after a national hero of the French resistance) for documentation of WWII showing documents of the times that perpetuates the memory of this period of history and to appreciate the work of the resistance for the liberation of France. The quaint nice Wine and trade museum of Bordeaux opened since 2008 in the neighborhood of Chartrons. Here in three cellars semi underground the museum shows a collection of unique historical objects with many witnesses to the past and present and several documents and posters to explain the trade of wine business in Bordeaux.

You have the Institut Cervantes formely known as the Casa de Goya , is an apartment located in the cours de l’Intendance in city center that was the last home of Spanish painter Francisco Goya that came to lived in Bordeaux in 1824 to escape the absolutism of king Fernando VII of Spain,and where he died in 1828; expositions by the artist from the Spanish cultural center of Bordeaux. The wonderful Cité du Vin or city of wine opened in 2016, and already a hit showing the way to the wine regions of Bordeaux.

You have the magnificent Saint Andre Cathedral in the gothic style. The Saint Michel Basilica, of flamboyant gothic style, another must see. The Saint Seurin Basilica, the abbey of Sainte Croix, a Roman style Church and one former abbey of the Benedictine monastery. The Church of Saint Paul baroque style from the 17C . You have the greens in the Bois de Bordeaux with 86 hectares and in addition 50 hectares of prairies and lakes ; the Parc Floraide with 33 hectares and the botanical garden with 4,7 hectares located across the Garonne river at La Bastide, created in 2003. Not to forget another must see the Grand Théatre dedicated to the opera and the dance. These are just some of my favorites there is so much to see here.

 Here are some additional webpages that will help you plan your trip to the Bordeaux, the one and only, and another possible retirement home for me, already looking forward to vacationing in summer here again, wine and beach ,great.

City of Bordeaux on tourism in French :

Tourist office of Bordeaux:

Gironde dept 33 tourism

Region of Aquitaine tourism on Bordeaux :

There you go  , hop on to Bordeaux, and in vino veritas. Hope you enjoy the post and do show some cheers! Happy travels , good health and a great weekend, I am off tomorrow ::)

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