June 2-3, Nantes

We were feeling time slip away. We had only a month left and had barely begun exploring France so we headed north, mostly on fast but monotonous toll autoroutes and dual carriage ways. Such is the nature of these express routes that except for the tile roofs, the language on the signs, and the makes of cars, much of it could have been anywhere in Europe or even much of North America. Sheila’s travel guide listed a theme park of mechanical rides and the Jules Verne museum as their top choices of things to see in Nantes, so our expectations were not high. We had come for a little “city” time and to see the Museum des Beaux Arts, said to have one of the finest collections of French paintings outside of Paris. The weather kept threatening to rain but held off for the day. We rode the tram into downtown Angers. Much of the way on a dedicated tram route. It was a pleasant ride, through the university district and residential area to the River Erdre and along it to Centre Ville. The last portion of the river before town had been covered over for development during the war and is now a tunnel for the river traffic. Of course, the Musee des Beaux Arts was closed for renovations and we were left to just walk the city. The Talensac market, built in 1937 and the oldest in Nantes was interesting, but disappointingly we could find nowhere for coffee and pastry. Nante has existed as a port on the Loire since classical antiquity but the population is mostly young professionals and students, it has passed Bordeaux as the 6th largest city in France, and it feels young, self-confident, and dynamic. Independent of tourism, it felt very different from anything we had visited since Barcelona. We did encounter hordes of school children on field trips, scavenging or drawing historical locations, monuments, and buildings but they gave a very different feeling to the place than do tourists. Not just young, the population is very cosmopolitan. African, some with strong west and east African accents, some indistinguishable from the locals together with Asian, South Asian, and European, they produce an amazing diversity of ethnic restaurants East, West, and North African, Middle Eastern, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan), Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, English, Irish, Italian, Polish, Czech, and of course regional French. There were bookstores everywhere, the streets, even between 2:00 and 4:00 pm when many stores were closed, were busy and we saw very few tourists. We stopped for lunch at a small Crêperie (Heb Ken) on a small side street, no tourists, only locals. Sheila had an andouille and pomme crêpe while I had a lardon, pomme de terre, onion, and cheese crepe with a carafe of the house red, the andouille nothing like the North American version. It was superb, as was the whole meal. We walked the 4 km back to camp along the Erdre, first along the mall built over the river and then along the bank, retracing the route we taken on the tram. Passing people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from many races. Nantes was a delight, a city lacking in pretension, making few concessions to tourism, well lived in, and alive. Despite the Museum being closed, it far surpassed our limited expectations and is one of the high points of France so far. It had been threatening to rain all day, periodically clearing, then clouding over, then clearing, but tonight it rained. Rather it poured. I have often  thought of how pleasant cycling through the French countryside had been and thinking of doing another bicycle camping trip. Last night and our night in Bergerac have caused me serious second thoughts. I  felt sorry for bicyclists whose only shelter from the rain and cold, other than their small tents, was the washroom block. One couple had set up a 1-man tent in the dark, in the downpour. The next morning we saw their packs, balanced on their bikes, wearing their rain capes and looking for all the world like people. The tent covered in a make-shift rain-fly barely had room for its two occupants. It is intriguing to see the range in age of the bicycle campers. Some look to be in their early 20s, a very few middle aged, but most seem to be 60 or more, mostly single men. Most of the couples we see bicycling are more like us, using a van or motor-home as a base and cycling, unencumbered from there.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.

June 2-3, Nantes

We were feeling time slip away. We had only a month left and had barely begun exploring France so we headed north, mostly on fast but monotonous toll autoroutes and dual carriage ways. Such is the nature of these express routes that except for the tile roofs, the language on the signs, and the makes of cars, much of it could have been any- where in Europe or even much of North Amer- ica. Sheila’s travel guide listed a theme park of mechanical rides and the Jules Verne museum as their top choices of things to see in Nantes, so our expectations were not high. We had come for a little “city” time and to see the Museum des Beaux Arts, said to have one of the finest collections of French paintings out- side of Paris. The weather kept threatening to rain but held off for the day. We rode the tram into down- town Angers. Much of the way on a dedicated tram route. It was a pleasant ride, through the uni- versity district and residential area to the River Erdre and along it to Centre Ville. The last portion of the river before town had been covered over for development during the war and is now a tunnel for the river traffic. Of course, the Musee des Beaux Arts was closed for renovations and we were left to just walk the city. The Talensac market, built in 1937 and the oldest in Nantes was interesting, but disappointingly we could find nowhere for coffee and pastry. Nante has existed as a port on the Loire since classical antiquity but the population is mostly young professionals and students, it has passed Bordeaux as the 6th largest city in France, and it feels young, self-confident, and dynamic. Independent of tourism, it felt very different from anything we had visited since Barcelona. We did encounter hordes of school children on field trips, scaven- ging or drawing historical locations, monu- ments, and buildings but they gave a very different feeling to the place than do tourists. Not just young, the population is very cosmo- politan. African, some with strong west and east African accents, some indistinguishable from the locals together with Asian, South Asian, and European, they produce an amazing diversity of ethnic restaurants East, West, and North African, Middle Eastern, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan), Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, English, Irish, Italian, Pol- ish, Czech, and of course regional French. There were bookstores everywhere, the streets, even between 2:00 and 4:00 pm when many stores were closed, were busy and we saw very few tourists. We stopped for lunch at a small Crêperie (Heb Ken) on a small side street, no tourists, only locals. Sheila had an andouille and pomme crêpe while I had a lar- don, pomme de terre, onion, and cheese crepe with a carafe of the house red, the andouille nothing like the North American version. It was superb, as was the whole meal. We walked the 4 km back to camp along the Erdre, first along the mall built over the river and then along the bank, retracing the route we taken on the tram. Passing people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from many races. Nantes was a delight, a city lacking in pretension, making few concessions to tourism, well lived in, and alive. Despite the Museum being closed, it far surpassed our limited expectations and is one of the high points of France so far. It had been threatening to rain all day, period- ically clearing, then clouding over, then clear- ing, but tonight it rained. Rather it poured. I have often  thought of how pleasant cycling through the French countryside had been and thinking of doing another bicycle camping trip. Last night and our night in Bergerac have caused me serious second thoughts. I  felt sorry for bicyclists whose only shelter from the rain and cold, other than their small tents, was the wash- room block. One couple had set up a 1-man tent in the dark, in the downpour. The next morning we saw their packs, balanced on their bikes, wearing their rain capes and looking for all the world like people. The tent covered in a make- shift rain-fly barely had room for its two occupants. It is intriguing to see the range in age of the bicycle campers. Some look to be in their early 20s, a very few middle aged, but most seem to be 60 or more, mostly single men. Most of the couples we see bicycling are more like us, using a van or motor-home as a base and cycling, unencumbered from there.
View across the Tarn from camp.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Route Map Route Map Slideshow Slideshow
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.