Saint Nazaire, a City towards the sea !!

After a long period of absent and it was wonderful to be back to Saint Nazaire ! I came here with the family once and with so much to see ,went on to other areas nearby. For some reason, my sons had picked up a brochure on things to do in Saint Nazaire and 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 update this older post and in my own humble way give you some introduction on the city of Saint Nazaire , a City towards the sea !!


Saint-Nazaire is in 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 city of Saint-Nazaire is located on the right bank of the Loire estuary , 50 km from 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 , La Baule-Escoublac , Saint-André-des-Eaux, Saint-Joachim, Montoir-de-Bretagne, and Trignac and, also, 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.


A bit of history I like

An important aspect of Saint-Nazaires history is that until the 19C, it was a modest rural and maritime site. 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).

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. The old Saint-Nazaire, is thus cut by a lock, creating an artificial island called petit Maroc. During WWI   Saint Nazaire is the largest landing port for American troops, and it was here that Gen Pershing landed and told the famous words, Lafayette we are here ! . 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.


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 EuropeSaint-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.

Things to see in Saint Nazaire are :

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!


The City of Saint Nazaire on the transports choices :

The Saint Nazaire tourist office

The Loire Atlantique dept 44 tourist office on Saint Nazaire :

The pays de la Loire region tourist office on Saint Nazaire

And of course, still very much attach, the Bretagne region tourist office on Saint Nazaire :

There you go folks, 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.  Hope you enjoy the post as I,

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

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