NANTES – www.nantes-tourisme.com
Nantes claims allegiance to two places: Brittany, to which it is historically linked, and the Loire, of which it is presently a part. The split personality is rightfully embraced as its doubly rich heritage and proud tradition of intellectual curiosity and pursuit. So it should be no surprise that Surrealism traces its roots to Nantes. Or that Jules Verne is a native son whose steam punk visions inspired Machines de l’Île, home to quirky mechanical automatons, including a 39-foot-tall walking Grand Elephant. Or even that it is capital of Muscadet country, the largest vineyards of the Loire Valley.
One of the best ways to discover Nantes is by looking for a green line along the sidewalk and following it to Nantes' architectural, artistic, cultural and historical highlights.
Nantes is considered the birthplace of Surrealism, since André Breton (the founder of the movement) met Jacques Vaché (one of the movement's chief inspirations) here in 1916.
Château des ducs de Bretagne: former ducal residence and now home of the Musée d’Histoire de Nantes with exhibitions about the city
Musée Jules Verne: interactive exhibitions bring to life the work of Jules Verne, the city’s native son
beurre blanc: a butter sauce made with Muscadet wine and a popular accompaniment for fish
Pays Nantais wines: the largest vineyards of the Loire Valley and the heart of Muscadet country
Jacques Demy: film director who rose to notoriety through the French New Wave and by virtue of his celebrated visual style
Also in the Area
Alignements de Carnac: 3,000-plus prehistoric standing stones left as alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs amount to the largest such collection in the world
La Baule: a seaside resort with gorgeous villas, luxury hotels and an original mix of old Breton and exclusive culture along its five miles of beach
Access from Paris
by road: about 3 h 45 min (238 miles) via the A11 autoroute L'Océane
by train: about 2 h 15 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse
by plane: about 1 h 15 min to Nantes Atlantique Airport
For more about what to see and do in and around Nantes, including on the “Art and History in Western France” itinerary, visit www.topfrenchcitybreaks.com.