Cookies and Captains

About 75 percent of Nantes was blown to smithereens in 1943 by Allied bombing. Strolling amid the historic buildings that survived, those that were reconstructed and the new that have arisen since the American Allies liberated the city in 1944, it’s hard to imagine the devastation.

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The Place Royale was in ruins in 1943. The fountain survived.

But the war significantly damaged Nantes. The once-thriving port was moved to Saint-Nazaire right after WWII and Nantes didn’t really develop a more modern economy until the mid 1980s. It’s been growing fairly steadily ever since, attracting young people with jobs (2nd hottest job market in France) in biotechnology, health, energy and transport, aerospace, as well as its longstanding maritime and shipbuilding industries.

The result is a city that embraces the good and the bad of its past (Nantes was a major participant in the slave trade.); but is more focused on looking ahead.

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Passage Pommeraye: 19th century mall.

So while Nantes has mastered urban restoration, it also seems to be promoting well-balanced development that features many natural areas.

John and I spent our last two days in Nantes enjoying the green areas along the small Erde River which flows from the north and into the massive Loire in the middle of Nantes.

We rented bicycles through the city’s Bicloo service and cycled to the Ile de Versailles yesterday to rent an electric boat to pilot on the Erde. We walked through the exquisite Japanese Garden on our way to the boat rental.

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Japanese Garden on the Ile de Versailles.

Puttering quietly along the Erde provided pleasant views on a cloudy, cold day.

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19th century bridge.

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Enjoying warmer weather, we returned on bicycles today to pedal a loop encompassing both banks of the Erde.

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I was pleased to discover some beautiful maisons and small châteaux along the river.

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There’s a lot about Nantes that I like, but my favorites involve two activities I love — eating and reading. LU cookies, or biscuits as they’re known here, got their start in Nantes. I’m partial to the Petit Écoliers.

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LU biscuits were first made in this lovely building, now a museum, in 1843.

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LU biscuit factory.

As for reading, I thoroughly enjoyed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was a kid. It’s been cool to walk the streets once traveled by the creator of Captain Nemo, Jules Verne.

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Adieu Nantes! Thanks for great cookies and a truly memorable literary character!

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