The Loire River cuts through the middle of Nantes. Following it westward out of the city brings you to the Atlantic Ocean. Following it eastward, takes you through the lovely Loire Valley wine country. Having now done both, I recommend heading east.
Heading Toward the Ocean
Yesterday, we boarded a two-and-a-half- hour boat tour headed for Saint-Nazaire, a nice, little town perched at the end of the Loire where it joins the Atlantic Ocean
The west end of the river all the way to the ocean is quite industrial which doesn’t make for the most scenic boat ride unless you’re really into gas refineries. Given the number of photos some of the French tourists took, I can bear witness that some people are, in fact, enamored with gas refineries. I am not one of them.
I did find some agricultural areas that were more pleasing to my eye.
The fanciful French have tried to make this industrial stretch of river more appealing by adding some whimsical pieces of art along the way.
My favorite was this maison sinking into the river. No, an old country house didn’t get flooded. Jean-Luc Courcoult, an artist, put it there.
Jean-Luc calls it “imaginary realism.” Realism because it deals with the reality of a house in the river. Imaginary because the artist wants to “introduce a little dreaming into people’s lives.” I imagined trying to stage a helicopter rescue from that blue-slated roof in a flood.
In keeping with French flights of fancy, Tatzu Nishi, a Japanese artist, recreated the base of a giant power plant (there are several such towers along this industrial stretch of the river) and erected a house and garden, circa 1970s, on top of it.
John’s favorite was the sliding sailboat. Artist Erin Wurm has a dramatic sense of humour.
Once in Saint-Nazaire, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to Nantes via train. It was just a 35-minute train ride and we arrived just in time to witness a large public protest.
What looked like several thousand people were marching through Nantes to protest recent, unilateral changes in labor laws. John and I marched along with the flood of people as they were moving in the direction of our apartment.
It was interesting to watch French democracy in action and it stayed non-violent by American standards. When the protesters burned a garbage can in front of a government building, the police shot tear gas canisters at the crowd. The gas made it’s way about 100 yards back to where John and I were. Not very pleasant! John tied his bandana around my nose and mouth which helped.
After protesters threw the smoking gas canisters back at the police, the crowd moved on and John and I stayed with it until we veered off to our apartment. Never a dull moment with the Travelling Longinos!
Today we rented a car and followed the river east out of Nantes all the way to Angers. The Loire Valley is as beautiful as its reputation, even on a rainy day.
It’s been called the “Garden of France” and about 1,000 châteaux, from the medieval period to the late Renaissance, litter the garden. We visted a few today.
The most elaborate one I saw was a Renaissance jewel — Château Serrant.
Lollygagging along the Loire wouldn’t be complete without a glass of wine from a valley vineyard. We sampled an Anjou red at a great restaurant overlooking the river.
Here’s to lollygagging!