The one and only reason we came to Nantes was to have lunch with Celine. Even upon arrival, we have absolutely no idea what there is to do, what we will do for three days and how the heck you say the name (because it can’t be said as it is spelled). Not to worry–Nantes has the Green Line and that is all you need to know. Welcome to Nantes; you will enjoy your stay.
It is a glorious day when I arise at 7am and the sun only dims a bit when I have to wake AJ up at 8am. It decrease in brightness comes from the cloud of curses emanating from our 14 year old bemoaning the early hour. We agreed last night that we would get up and go for a run at 8am, but someone forgot about that solemn vow between 10pm (the time he went to bed) and 8am (the time his human alarm woke him up). We manage to get out the door and head to a park that is like 50feet from our hotel. A great park filled with people running, walking and walking their dogs. AJ gets his exercise on and I sit in the grass and offer helpful hints and tips (‘run faster,’ ‘pick it up buttercup,’ ‘my grandma can run faster than you,’ etc.).
Back at the hotel we shower, get breakfast and by the time we finish dorking around it is nigh on 11am and we have to leave. We have an hour walk to where we are going to meet Celine for lunch and google maps is telling us the restaurant is in the middle of the Loire River, which is definitely weird.
We head out and maneuver our way north. Our hotel is in Reze which is just across the river from Nantes. We could take the train across, but we decide that walking is better, especially since we are going to have a big lunch. Normal city sights until we get close to the river when I notice a narrow green line painted on the ground. Our path is roughly in the same direction as the line, so we follow the green line. It turns us into an old warship factory and we catch a little magic.
The old warship factory has been converted into an area where artists on acid do their work. Inside the factory are exhibits and displays of mechanized animals and things that the creators have made and around the factories are carousels with some downright scary things on which children are riding. The highlight, and I kid you not, is a mechanical elephant, made of wood and metal, that carries up to 50 (yes, 50) tourists on top on a trip around the yard. The elephant walks around the yards, flapping it ears, moving its trunk and periodically spraying the spectators with water. It is fantastic.
And but one part of the ‘green line.’ The green line is a very, very long line that extends throughout the city, highlighting art and experiences along the way. Every summer the green line gets new exhibits and you can see everything between July and September. It is a brilliant, brilliant idea and it moves Nantes up to my ‘top city’ on the list. Jan and AJ who are lukewarm to art call it ‘nice.’
What brought us to the green line was lunch appointment with Celine. Turns out google was correct, our lunch was on the water. More specifically on a boat on the water. We meet Celine at 1215 and head into the restaurant and it is apparent that she has some news for us. Because she is very, very pregnant. Which we knew, but it is one thing to ‘know’ and another to ‘see!’ We sat outside (in the shade) and had a great lunch on the Loire river, looking out over Nantes. We got caught up with Celine and, as an additional benefit, got the use of an interpreter to order lunch!!
Lunch complete, we headed out for a walk along the green line to check out some of the sights on south side of the river, and then hopped into Celine’s car to head to the city center where we again found the green line and explored some more. There are a ton of art things everywhere in this town all for the mythical green line. Everywhere we walk we see something, try to figure out what it means, then move on to the NEXT thing we see. Nantes even has has a large chateau, which sounds so much fancier than ‘castle.’
We are feeling a small dip in our blood sugar level so we are forced to pick up some macaroons and then, worried that she is going to give birth while we walk with her, bid Celine adieu and head for home. We decided that it would be too far to walk, so we chose to take the train back to our humble abode. Normally, super easy, but there was construction so our train line was blocked by the hospital. Celine told us how to get around the construction–we searched google for Hotel Dieu (which was the landmark for the train station), then we were to walk to the other side of the hospital to catch our train.
Easy peasy. Except that apparently there are two things named Hotel Dieu in Nantes, one of which probably is a hotel and we started walking to the wrong one. Which we found out after 20 minutes of aimless wandering. We got pointed in the right direction, found the hospital, then found the closed train station and did the easy thing; followed the tracks. And found another closed station. There is some grumbling that is coming from the crowd, but then Jan spies a bus that has HUGE signs that se (in French) “replacement bus for the broken train lines” or something along those lines. It pulls in front of us, we hop on and we take off in the right direction! This rocks!
Two minutes later we stop, right next to another rail station, this one open, and a nice voice comes over the loud speaker and issues a ‘very important message.’ Which we can’t understand because we don’t speak French. We stand and watch everyone get off the train until a very nice woman says “you need to get off now, the bus doesn’t go any farther.”
Good to know. We get off, thank the woman profusely and head to the rail station where we catch a very crowded train for three stops1, get off and we are close to home. One final stop to a bakery where we pick up a baguette for dinner, three croissants that are each as big as my head and a chocolate croissant because who doesn’t like chocolate.
1Where Jan is wedged up against the back door, unable to move. Until the second stop where the ‘back door’ turns into the front door and Jan is forcibly discharged onto the asphalt as 200 French commuters all exit the train at the same time.