The museums of Saint Nazaire! part I !!

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. This will an update of an older post, Hope you 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.  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.



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!


The Saint Nazaire tourist office on the Escal’Atlantic museum

The Saint Nazaire tourist office on the transatlantic cruisers

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.



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! A must to see !



The Saint Nazaire tourist office on the submarine base

Further references to help your visit are

The Loire Atlantique dept 44 tourist office on Saint Nazaire :

The pays de la Loire region tourist office on Saint Nazaire:

There you go folks, two wonderful places Escal’Atlantic and the Submarine Base that are worth indeed come to visit in details .Hope it has given you some ideas, it did to us and we were back again;after all we are only 1h30 from it !!!

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

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