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MINERVA 14th May 2016 Part 5 Nantes

Wednesday 18th May 2016
There was a 35 mile-long very early morning sail along the River Loire to Nantes, Brittany, from the sea, and my alarm woke me early and in good time for breakfast. Although I had an inside cabin, I always enjoy seeing the View from the Bridge on the television but the sky this morning looked rather ominous. Early excursions were going to visit Gardens or a Loire Valley Chateau, but I was booked on a Nantes City Tour; we left the ship at a relatively tolerable time of 8.45 a.m. ready for the morning's excursion.

Nantes introduction (Swan Hellenic copyright)

Nantes City Tour (Swan Hellenic)

Our coach took us from our berth in the wide river and past a listed Corbusier block of flats towards the inner city and over the Loire. Our group was dropped off at the edge of the city's old shipbuilding and wharves area and we started to walk across the space towards the nearest tall building. On our left was a carousel. It immediately started pouring with rain, so I put on my full waterproof gear of hooded jacket and trousers and felt warm and dry, but what a shame I had to wear them.


Steps to get on the elephant

River boat Loire Princesse


Within moments however we were facing an elephant! The huge life-size mechanical animal had been designed and made by the engineers of Nantes and lived in one of the old glass-topped shipbuilding sheds. It makes regular (and slow) walks around the area, and I remember seeing newspaper pictures of it when it, and other pieces, visited Liverpool and London in the UK. We also saw the 30 feet high dragon which had come out of its hangar and was starting to walk around. What extraordinary pieces of engineering these are. (Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrTnYOWi1RI)

Chinese dragon

Aerial walkway

We had to get back on our coach then for the driver to drop us off nearer the city; coaches are too big for some of the city streets so we walked through the public gardens and admired the residences on each side. The cast-iron drinking fountains there had been provided and donated by Sir Richard Wallace of Wallace Collection, London, fame.

Then it was out into the city streets, and into the Passage Pommeraye: a three-tiered arcade which descended under wonderful ceilings and columns.

Passage Pommeraye


Down again

Down on a different street level we could look around before crossing the busy road.

Cathedral spire


Along a street

Various classical columns all on the one building (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian)

Said to be the oldest building in Nantes

Another nearby bank had its glass front all boarded up, because of the danger from riots and strikers in parts of France, who objected to the latest laws on working practices. Indeed our guide told us that because of shortages of fuel for example, he had enough in his car to get to and from work today, but did not know what he would do after that.

At this point we had a little free time and three of us found a tiny local chocolate/coffee shop to visit, which was a welcome relief after the still-pouring rain outside. The welcoming young lady owner soon provided delicious calorie-laden drinks and we enjoyed talking with her and other locals who called in.

Back outside we joined our guide and group again and headed off to the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, with a statue of Queen Anne of Brittany near the entrance. The moated castle (it was still raining) had the appearance of a chateau inside, which was quite a contrast, but a beautiful building.

Anne of Brittany

Outside her castle

The castle

Site plan

Castle in the City

Plan of the castle

One view inside the castle

View waiting to cross another road

By now the rain was torrential so we set off fast for the Cathedral of St. Pierre. It was a relief to be inside and see the amazing tomb of the last Duke of Brittany and his wife, the parents of Anne of Brittany.

Inside the Cathedral of St. Pierre

Tomb details

Figures of various saints were also carved around the base of the monument, and a figurehead at each corner. Our guide pointed out the head of Prudence: the back of her head showed the face of an old man with a beard, proving what she had learned in life to become Prudence in her outlook.


Two faces of Prudence

Ancient huge wooden doors

The stained-glass windows were lovely, as were the huge ancient wooden doors leading outside again. The coach was waiting nearby to take us back to the ship, still in the rain. Lunch was welcome on our return, and so was the easing of the rain.

Soon after 4.30 p.m. we sailed away from our berth in Nantes on the River Loire, by now in warm sunshine with light clouds. The riverside views looked interesting as we sailed through the countryside, with occasional ferries waiting for us to pass their hamlets.

Bridge view leaving Nantes

Ferry Lola

The Captain had told us to look out for a piece of 'artwork' on the port side as we sailed along and half an hour after departure we could see it - what looked like a half-submerged house in the river, not quite upright, and certainly a disconcerting sight to us all. Hmmm.

The artwork


Ferry L'Ile Dumet

A light house

A couple of hours after leaving our berth in Nantes, we neared the widening mouth of the River Loire and could see various ships in the port of St. Nazaire, including something large under construction at the STX Europe shipbuilders. Although still sunny, the sea was disturbed and becoming slightly rough as we set out to sea and headed north-west.

Suar Vigo of Lineas Suardiaz, through a window

Bore Sea, again photographed through a window

Shipyard at St. Nazaire

A closer look (see below*)

At dinner the Captain made a broadcast to say that because of the latest sea conditions and those forecast, it had been decided we would not now be able to call at Douarnenez as it would be too rough for the tenders to take us ashore. The plan was therefore to have a day at sea tomorrow (Thursday) and get to Guernsey early and enjoy more time there. That sounded an acceptable plan.

Our after dinner speaker was Professor Gervase Phinn, and we all thoroughly enjoyed his talk 'The School Inspector Calls'. As the seas increased during the evening and overnight we began to realise exactly why our next port of call had been changed, but a Revised Daily Programme was published and we hoped we would enjoy the day whatever the sea conditions.

Ships seen: Minerva, riverboat Loire Princesse, the Loire ferries Lola and L'Ile Dumet, Suar Vigo of Lineas Suardiaz in port at St. Nazaire as was Bore Sea.

*(Since that day I have been advised by a good friend - thank you - that it will probably be the MSC Merviglia nearest the ocean and possibly a big block of Oasis 4 at the landward end of the dock - Central Park or the Boardwalk perhaps.)

To be continued...