Archive for June 16th, 2019

June 16, 2019

The museums of Saint Nazaire! part I

So let me tell you a bit more about some of the museums we saw in the Ville-Port harbor side of Saint Nazaire, in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 of the Pays de la Loire region of my belle France! It has been a while by here and all has change for the better, very nice vibrant moving town and friendly folks to tell you later. Enjoy the museums for now they are all worth it I say!

The Escal’Atlantic is an interpretation center on the history of ocean liners!  It includes a scenographic course covering 3,700 m2 built on three levels, and includes nearly 200 collectors items, from cruise ships built in Saint-Nazaire between the late 19C to the early 1960’s. Located in the old submarine base at the port of Saint-Nazaire, and opening in 2000 very poorly. In its new version, open since the summer of 2013 (after our last trip here) , this tourist and cultural equipment site combines a scenographic journey, inspired by the architecture of cruise ships, objects of remarkable collections and multimedia devices for an immersive visit to the world of ocean liners. The ships have strongly marked the history of the city, both transatlantic port of 1862 on the eve of   WWII, and a high place of shipbuilding. In 1862, the liner Louisiana left Saint-Nazaire to inaugurate the first regular line of the Transatlantic General Company, Saint-Nazaire-Veracruz in Mexico. From 1865, a second line was established, connecting Saint-Nazaire to Colon, on the isthmus of Panama, via Martinique. The WWII put an end to the transatlantic history of Saint-Nazaire. Before, the first ship that left the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire will be the Empress Eugenie, in 1865. The city will remain known as the cradle of giant transatlantic ships since almost all French transatlantic liners will have been built in Saint-Nazaire (Penhoët shipyards then Chantiers de l’Atlantique): giants like Île-de-France (1927), Normandie (1935) or France (1962); the famous France of 1912, nicknamed “Versailles of the Atlantic”, or, around 1900, the series of regional or provincial line including the La Bretagne (1886), La Champagne (1886), La Savoie (1901), La Provence (1906) … Between 1862 and 2013, the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire built 121 steamers liners and cruisers, of which 36 for the General Transatlantic Company.

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The city of Saint-Nazaire has about 4,000 pieces, gathered from 20 years and from ships built in its shipyards between 1900 and 1960. Decorative and graphic works, furniture, tableware, luggage, accessories and documents are what is probably the most important public collection on this theme in Europe. Nearly 200 objects in the collection are permanently integrated in Escal’Atlantic, for their aesthetic or artistic value, but especially for their value as witnesses to the voyages in cruise liner. A deposit of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris has enriched the collection of exceptional works, from a donation made by the heirs of Louis-René Vian in 2005. This great connoisseur, passionate about the liner Normandie, had gathered several hundreds of objects specially designed for the ship, and signed by the most important creators of the Art Deco period.

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These objects are accompanied by digital panels giving access to additional information about the object (manufacture, use on board, historical context, aesthetics, sociology .etc..). Throughout the course, interactive and multimedia devices allow the visitor to explore, if they wish, different levels of discovery. They can thus adapt their itinerary and their visiting time according to their own interests. Some devices come in the form of a game. Images from archives, photos and movies are presented as montages specially created for Escal’Atlantic. Some scenes (the departure, the open sea, the film session) have been fully recreated. Very nice indeed!

Tourist info on the Escal’Atlantic and ticketing in English

Tourist info on the transatlantic cruisers in St Nazaire in English

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And of course for us this was the must see. The submarine base of Saint-Nazaire is one of five bases built on the Atlantic coast during WWII by Nazi Germany that occupied France. It serves as home port to the 6. and 7 submarine fleet. Before the start of WWII the port of Saint-Nazaire was one of the largest on the French Atlantic coast.   The Nazis arrived in Saint-Nazaire in June 1940. The base is built instead on the turning basin of the Transatlantic General Company. With the expansion of the shelter, as far north and south, the wharves and buildings of the company will be destroyed.

st nazaire

st nazaire

The work is done in several stages. They begin in February 1941, with the cells 6, 7 and 8. They are completed in June 1941. From July 1941 to January 1942, the cells 9 to 14 are built, then, between February to June 1942 it is the alveoli 1 to 5. Finally, from June to December 1943, the construction of an annex tower completed the construction work. Between late 1943 and early 1944, a protected lock was built in line with the base to allow access to the basin or estuary of the Loire. It is 155 meters long, 25 meters wide and 14 meters high and is equipped with four Flak cannons (anti-aircraft defense) on its roof. An armored bell at the eastern end protects the sea side access and crosses its firepower with a comparable work on the other side of the estuary. The dimensions of the base are 300 meters long, 130 meters wide and 18 meters high for an area of 39 000 m2 and a volume of concrete poured estimated at 480 000 m3. The thickness of the roof is about 8 meters, consisting of a thousand sheets of slabs and protections. There are 14 cells, numbered from 1 to 14 from north to south: cells 1 to 8 each constitute a refit basin 92 meters long by 11 meters wide, for a submarine; cells 9 to 14 are basins afloat, 62 meters long by 17 meters wide, for two submarines.   Two inter-boxes allow access to the upper floors of the base. They are located between cells 5/6 and 12/13. They correspond to the ends of the original plan of the shelter. Two fleets will be assigned to Saint-Nazaire, the 6th and 7th nazis submarine fleets. The neighborhood of the base has long been abandoned. That is why, in 1994, the town of Saint-Nazaire decided to launch the project “Port-Ville” or city port intended to rehabilitate the area of the base which is then a vast industrial wasteland. It is a lot different today for good and well worth the visit indeed! Enjoy it

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Tourist info on the submarine base and ticketing in English

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There you go two wonderful places Escal’Atlantic and the Sub Marine Base that are worth indeed come to visit in details .Hope it has given you some ideas, it did to us and we will be back. After all we are only 1h30 from it!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

 

 

 

June 16, 2019

The theater of Saint Nazaire!

So on the Father’s day weekend in my belle France and lucky to still have one, we took off into my road warrior escapes in my west of France into the Pays de la Loire region and the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 to visit an old acquaintance of ours Saint Nazaire. I will have some posts to tell you but just been only about 1h30 from my house looking at the old pictures my last time here was in June 2013!!!

There is so much that have change in Saint Nazaire over these last few years and the town seems vibrant and active with lots of nice monuments and places to see and eat. Well more of that later. For now, let me touch up on this fabulous property that on my last trip did not notice just recently opened then.

On a wonderful old train station they have build a theater and a cinema while pushing the train/bus station a bit out from the center of town. Good choice indeed.

The Le Theatre is a theater in Saint-Nazaire, inaugurated on September 7, 2012. It uses the site and building of the city’s former main railway station, replaced by a new railway station when the city was rebuilt in the early 1950s. On September 8, 2012, the first show was titled « Il était une fois une gare… » or sort of  once upon a time a train station.

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A bit technical on the theater which i am not, tells us it has been well used over the last 7 years.

The Theater has 2 rooms; the theatre section with 826 seats, and the creative room with 100 seats. There is also, one cinema room ,the Jacques Tati with 148 seats. In the complex there is a bar and apartments, studios (made available by the City of Saint-Nazaire according to availability).

On average the city tells us that it has done 65 events with 122 performances as live shows and 188 films with 780 screenings on Cinema last season. There is a movement this year led by the mayor of St Nazaire to name the theater the Simone Veil theater.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip here which if in town for over a day it might well be worth it especially knowing the so many nice monuments to visit around it even of foot.

Official Le Théatre of Saint Nazaire

City of Saint Nazaire on the cultural offerings

So for a quick day/night this is  a nice option and the place is sublime gorgeous. Enjoy the Théatre in Saint Nazaire.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

June 16, 2019

Saint Nazaire a transatlantic city!

Ok I came back to Saint Nazaire , after a long period of absent and it was wonderful as it is visiting in my belle France! I came here with the family once and with so much to see ,went on to other areas of my country. For some reason, my sons had picked up a brochure on things to do in Saint Nazaire and on the Father’s day weekend we headed back there. It was very nice and really an off the beaten path city that needs to be visited more by all.

Let me in my own humble way give some overview on the city of Saint Nazaire and some for later.

Saint-Nazaire is the district capital of the Loire-Atlantique department 44, in the Pays de la Loire region. Before the creation of the Departments, Saint-Nazaire was under the jurisdiction of the Duchy of Brittany, then the Parliament of Brittany from 1532 (union of Brittany to France). On the religious level, Saint-Nazaire has been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Nantes since the Middle Ages.  The city is the capital of shipbuilding in France, the Atlantic Shipyards of Saint-Nazaire are one of six sites in the world to build large ships of more than 300 meters.

The town of Saint-Nazaire is located on the right bank of the Loire estuary (its territory including the tip of Chémoulin which marks the end of the estuary), 50 km west of Nantes. It is close to the marshes of the Brière, an important regional natural park with many animal and plant species, the second largest wetland in France after the Camargue. The neighboring towns are Pornichet to the west, La Baule-Escoublac to the northwest, Saint-André-des-Eaux, Saint-Joachim, Montoir-de-Bretagne, and Trignac and, south of the estuary, Saint-Brevin-les-Pins. It has several beaches, such as those of Villès-Martin, Porcé, and especially those surrounding the seaside resort of Saint-Marc-sur-Mer.

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A bit of history I like

An important aspect of Saint-Nazaire’s history is that until the 19C, it was a modest rural and maritime site. The large city west of the Brière was Guérande, as early as the Middle Ages, and the port of Croisic developed long before that of Saint-Nazaire. The creation of the modern port and city in a few decades at the end of the 19C represented a major change not only locally, but regionally.  In the 6C, a text by Gregory of Tours mentions a basilica housing the relics of the martyr Nazarius. In this basilica, a gold harness as an offering was on display. It is said to have aroused the covetousness of the Breton leader Waroc’h II, who had an emissary sent to seize it. He smashed his skull on the lint of the door. By this miracle, Waroc’h, frightened, filled the church with gifts. The village took the name Sanctus Nazarius de Sinuario or simply Saint Nazaire. Saint-Nazaire was part, like the whole of Brittany, of the Breton kingdom, then of the Duchy of Brittany until 1532, the year of annexation to France. Until the French revolution, Saint-Nazaire was part of the region of Brittany.

In 1802, it was decided to build a roadway on the Portereau, a lighthouse, a mole, ponds and holds of construction. After a long wait, the mole was edified from 1828 to 1835. The city is built on the current location of the petit Maroc or little Morocco neighborhood. A new Saint-Nazaire was created during the reign of emperor Napoleon III, as an advanced port of Nantes on the Loire river , taking advantage of truces in the wars that had previously prevented its evolution. The large ships could no longer go up to Nantes, making it an alternate port. In 1856, the first basin of Saint-Nazaire, was dug by the embankment cove of the Halluard. This darse allowed the ships to dock and turn around. The installation of transatlantic postal lines to Central America in 1862 and the opening of the first shipyards began the industrialization of the city and the modernization of its port facilities, notably with the Scott yards (now gone).

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st nazaire

In 1865, the Méan neighborhood near the Penhoet shipyards was detached from the town of Montoir-de-Bretagne to include it in   that of Saint-Nazaire. It is the first French shipyard to launch modern ships with metal hulls. In 1881, the inauguration of the second basin, Penhoet, allowed a larger number of ships to be anchored. This traffic is then governed by the postal convention which stipulates that half of the ships operated by the line’s dealer must be built in France. An access lock is also built. The old Saint-Nazaire, is thus cut by this lock, creating an artificial island called petit Maroc. During WWI   Saint Nazaire is the largest landing port for American troops. It was in Saint-Nazaire that the first contingents of soldiers landed. Between 1931 and 1932, the Joubert lock form was completed, a transformation necessary to accommodate the construction of the new flagship of the Transatlantic General Company, the liner Normandie.

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st nazaire

During WWII, in 1940, after the evacuation of Allied forces in June during Operation Ariel, marked by the RMS Lancastria tragedy, the port was quickly occupied by Kriegsmarine units (nazi navy). The site of the former shipyard of the Transatlantic General Company is selected for the construction of a submarine shelter, UBB for the nazis, i.e. U-Boat Bunker. Admiral Dunitz himself inaugurated the first three alveoli in June 1941 after barely four months of work. The shelter was constantly expanded to fourteen alveoli in 1943. In March 1942, Operation Chariot allowed a British commando to damage the form of Joubert in order to prevent the nazis battleships from being repaired there. The lock door closing the basin was destroyed during the raid thanks to the ship HMS Campbeltown, which served as a ram ship and was not repaired until after the war. In the weeks following the Normandy landings, nazi troops retreated to the area and created a resistance zone where fighting continued, known as the Pocket of Saint-Nazaire. The city was released three days after the Nazi surrender on May 11, 1945. Thus, Saint-Nazaire is the last city liberated from the Nazi yoke in Europe.

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Saint-Nazaire was rebuilt around the axis of the Avenue de la République, turning its back on the sea. The town was trying to refocus the city towards the port, including the redevelopment of the surroundings of the submarine base, which now house recreational facilities such as the Cinéville multiplex, shops with the shopping center Ruban Bleu (blue ribbon)   as well as several museums such as   Escal’Atlantic on the history of ocean liners, the Écomusée or the Espadon submarine. The complex forms an urban project called Ville Port which aims to become an extension of the city center. Finally, the abandoned old passenger train station after the war underwent a major renovation to accommodate the new theater.

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Walks and sights of Saint Nazaire.

The Boulevard de Mer, along the beaches of Saint-Nazaire, Villès-Martin and Kerlédé for 3 km. Monuments and sites along the estuary and sea boulevard: Commando memorial, monument to the abolition of slavery, elevated factory, Commando Square, Lancastria memorial, American soldier’s stele overlooking the German eagle, Villès-Martin fisheries. The underwater base, its tourist facilities and the structures of the port: Joubert form. The theater, contemporary construction based on the remaining parts of the old railway station.  The short hiking tours along the beaches of Saint-Nazaire. The calvary of the Rochelles, the cross of Heinleix and the cross du Dernier (last).

The Immaculate neighborhood, the landscaped park, with its body of water, Guindreff pond with pedestrian circuits. Dolmen des Trois Pierres, located in the center of Saint-Nazaire; Tumulus de Dissignac, located on the outskirts of the city. Around the port, especially around the submarine base, the Ville-Port project leaves an important place for culture and leisure, in fact it brings together: A multiplex cinema, museums but also bars and a current music room. The new theater was created in 2012 on the wasteland of the old passenger train station. But it also , the Ruban Bleu shopping center with about 40 shops and restaurants. The Escal’Atlantic, opened since 2000, renovated in 2012/2013. It is a route whose architecture is inspired by that of a transatlantic liner. Saint-Nazaire became a center for building ocean liners; The Queen Mary II was built here in 2003. The Espadon is a submarine of the French navy, disarmed in the 1980s. Today, it is installed in the advanced submarine base, a fortified lock located above the eastern entrance of the Saint-Nazaire basin, and is visited. The Saint-Nazaire ecomusée, located in the Petit Maroc district, opposite the Estuary, is an eco-museum, namely a museum dealing with a particular territory. It traces the history of Saint-Nazaire from prehistory to the present day. All within walking distance!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it is very nice indeed are

City of Saint Nazaire transport choices

Tourist office of Saint Nazaire

Tourist office of the Loire Atlantique dept 44 on Saint Nazaire

There you go something still off the beaten path but worth the detour. Another gem in my belle France. In the west is better, and Saint Nazaire is it.  lol!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

 

 

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