While my family and I were in the Vendee on our family holiday at the May half-term, we decided to take a day trip to Nantes. To be honest, we had never heard of Nantes before the holiday but had read an interesting article in the Brittany Ferries magazine and wanted to visit Les Machines de L'ile. And yes, it was mainly because I wanted to ride on a giant mechanical elephant.
Les Machines is an art installation on a grand scale. You will see how sketches are brought to life with small models, which are then made on a large scale. The elephant is an amazing feature as it is 12m high (that's 40 feet!!), and made up of more than 48 tonnes of wood and steel. You can go for a walk along three different routes, which take about 30 minutes each. When you are at the top, you feel so high and it is such a strange sensation to be moving along. One of our favourite aspects of the elephant is that its trunk splashes water at people. So funny to see, whether you're near the elephant or riding on its back (have a look at my vlog below to see it in action).
Amongst other things, we saw a huge spider, operated by five people. It is astounding watching how the different limbs are controlled. And the latest creation is a heron tree, which is due to completed in 2021. There is currently one branch of the tree completed, which we walked along (it is about 20m long). The completed tree, which will be topped by two herons, will be 35m high.
Nantes is in the Western Loire region (central France on the west coast). We were staying at La Garangeoire in the Vendee, and it took about one hour and 15 minutes to drive to Nantes. There is a reasonably-priced parking garage across the road from Les Machines de L'ile. Entrance into Les Machines costs about 31,80 € for a family of four or five. To ride the elephant, it costs another 31,80 €. It is not a cheap day out. But it is well worth it for a fascinating outing.
After visiting Les Machines, we walked over a jetty to the O Deck restaurant. In hindsight, I should have packed snacks for the children so they would have been able to wait until we found a more suitable restaurant. O Deck was nearby, and although the food was good, the service was dreadful. We ordered the rapide menu thinking that would hurry things along, but we were at our table for almost two hours (it took half an hour just to get the bill). Not great when you have a limited amount of time to sight-see.
Finally we were able to go explore. The clever people at the Nantes tourism board have a green line around the main sights around the city. This means that you can follow the line and it will take you around to some interesting and beautiful venues. So no getting lost, just seeing the best bits. And the children thought it was so much fun to follow the line that they didn't complain about all the walking. Woohoo.
We hadn't realised what a big, and pretty, city Nantes would be. I wish we had had longer to explore. Another time, Nantes. Another time.