The museums of Saint Nazaire! part II !!

So moving right alone in wonderful refreshing Saint Nazaire in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 of the Pays de la Loire region of my belle France. As said, we have been here before but skip for several years coming back until now. It was a wonderful family trip of memories pointing at the different places we were before with my dear late wife Martine and now found new ones and much nicer places to spent really a full weekend here. It is worth the detour I say.

Another one we came by during our walks in the harbor sea front was the Eco Museum or Ecomusée is a museum to be amazed at the incredible rise of this city that has in the 19C the fastest growing population in France, nicknamed “the little California breton” in reference to the American gold rush. Understand the importance of the privileged site of the city: mouth of the Loire estuary, gateway to the ocean, between Presqu’île de Guérande and the marshes of the Grande Brière To detail the models: famous ships, seaplanes, shipyard, old Saint-Nazaire etc.  The Ecomuseum of Saint-Nazaire is located on the Autonomous Port of Nantes-Saint-Nazaire facing Chantiers de l’Atlantique (Atlantic shipyards). It presents a permanent exhibition, and offers tours and workshops on the heritage and history of Saint-Nazaire.


Well it does a good job on the memories of the Estuary retracing in over 550 m², the major themes of the history of Saint-Nazaire, from prehistory to the present day. The history of the port’s creation in the 19C and its development with the port and maritime professions are evoked by ship models and original illustrations. The major phases of the technical and human evolution of the naval and aeronautic industries in Saint-Nazaire are traced with the presentation of models of famous ships including Normandie (1935) and  France  (1962), models of the first Loire float planes from the 1930s. The pre-war city, then that of reconstruction with the history of its inhabitants are represented by archival films and unpublished documents. It also has a documentation center open to the public, including a photo library of 45,000 archival images on the naval and aeronautical industries, the history of the port and the city, specific works and documentary files on same themes. Possibility of consultation on site, only by appointment.


The Saint Nazaire tourist office on the eco museum

The Espadon (S637) is a thermal submarine of the French National Navy. Commissioned in 1960. With a crew of 7 officers and 60 men, the Espadon (Swordfish) was tasked with monitoring ocean areas and shipping lines. This one to come back for more.  In September 1961, the submarine collided with the Laubie. On August 13, 1963, a fire in the torpedo room injured four officers, one of whom later died of his injuries. In May 1964, the  Espadon (Swordfish) and  Marsouin (Porpoise) plunged under the ice of the Norwegian Sea in the 70th northern parallel. It was disarmed on September 11, 1985. For more than 20 years, the Espadon has been moored in the fortified lock of the Saint-Nazaire submarine base, after making its last dive on December 10, 1985 with 15 of its commanders among the original 16. The Swordfish is the first visitable submarine, having become a museum ship.


The Saint Nazaire tourist office on the Espadon

We continue our walks in the harbor and came upon a wonderful story which we knew but barely dug into its history. My dear late wife Martine taugh French to our sons since birth using among other things the Tintin books and films. They know it by memory and have all the collection now. We talk about it now in our souvenirs of their mother. So it was natural to stop by here and look for them. We found them!!! and we ate just nearby for lunch! So of course we will tell you a bit ok. Tintin d’accord… bien sûr!!!depuis Monsieur Hergé! My boys and boat with story of Tintin in Saint Nazaire!


Remember (yes!!) in « Les Sept Boules de Cristal » or the seven crystal balls,Tintin, Milou(his dog companion!) and Captain Haddock travel to Saint-Nazaire, when the transatlantic port still exists. T hey’re looking for their friend, Professor Tournesol (sunflower). Bad bad guys kidnapped him. We must save the teacher…! Having set themselves the goal of perpetuating the memory of Tintin’s passage to Saint-Nazaire, the enthusiasts of the Association Les 7 Soleils (seven suns association) have installed, on the very places of history, six frescoes on enamelled metal. These panels reproduce vignettes from the album: to see Tintin and his companions walking the port of Saint-Nazaire, in the natural setting of the port landscape, creates a rather innovative mirror effect. The vignettes also revive a whole section of the history of Saint Nazaire which has never disappeared. Indeed, Hergé draws his heroes in the pre-war city, at a time when Saint-Nazaire was still the leader for Central America, with the scent of adventure and exoticism. Tintin and his companions have just left Moulinsart Castle, aboard Captain Haddock’s yellow Lincoln Zephyr. They will go from an imaginary place; but partly inspired by a real monument, Cheverny Castle (see post and tintin) to arrive in a real city: Saint-Nazaire. But this entrance to Saint-Nazaire is not the one they took because it did not exist at the time when they came there. This entrance was, in fact, opened during the reconstruction of the city. The Hôtel du Berry , which marks the beginning of Avenue de la République, (still hotel resto le Berry) was one of the very first buildings to rise on the ruins of the city, which was destroyed more than 85% by the WWII.

Coming from the north or the east, it was in fact through rue de Trignac,(as we came today in the suburb of same name) that, until the reconstruction of the city, one entered Saint-Nazaire, The beige car of Professor Tournesol ‘s captors was found in one of the harbour basins. But no trace of his dear Tryphon!  Disappointed that they had not found the trace of their friend, Tintin, Captain Haddock and Milou wandered the docks. They’re coming to the ferry station. Suddenly, Tintin rushes to a departing cruise liner. He has just seen General Alcazar who is about to embark to his country, the San Theodoros. By bringing  Tintin and his companions to Saint-NazaireHergé recalls this founding time for Saint-Nazaire such as the opening of the transatlantic cruise liners that contributed to the development of the city and its port and had the immediate consequence the establishment of shipbuilding yards. Captain Haddock, who unwisely sat on a bundle, is abducted with it. Hergé was inspired by a photo taken from a magazine to draw this scene. At 17 boulevard René Coty stands the former Hôtel Transatlantique, built in 1880. (today a high school institution)

The Saint Nazaire tourist office on the Tintin story

The official fans Tintinomania of Tintin and the story in Saint Nazaire

And to close out our weekend in Saint Nazaire, well we ate there too. And again , we wanderers walking the harbor by the ecomusée I glance and took a look at a bistro and fell in love with the quantness of it so decided to go it,and as usual my olphatique nose did a 10!  We ate at the Le Bistro du Grand Pavois at 11 Place de la Rampe and corner with Avenue de la Vielle Ville. Located in front of the port and the Loire estuary, Le Bistrot du Grand Pavois offers dishes of artisanal quality from local products. Traditional cuisine without forgetting the bistro and pizzeria side in a warm and friendly atmosphere.  The reception, attention and service to customers is very good. The plates are beautiful, well done ,hearty and the food of very good quality. Fresh products really well cooked, a delight. We had a great time. This is walking across the commemorating tables on Tintin as above. No WiFi at that time, but the owner came out very nicely to hook me up with his !!  webpage :



Some further references to help your trip here 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, we’ll be back! A fitting end to a wonderful stay in Saint Nazaire, very surprising nice and up and coming destination on the west of France! Hope you enjoy the post as I

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

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