Sun 5th May.
I was keen to wrap up and get out after the previous night. I was up later then I wanted and on the road around 11am. I stuck to the roads to make good time. I was about 30km from the outskirts of Nantes and as I neared, I rejoined the Loire river, like an old friend, offering relief from the stresses of travelling like this and the ugliness of the roads.
As I entered the outskirts, the designated cycle paths returned and I was coasting along nicely into the city. I passed a few modern buildings and still not having GPS, favouring screen grabs from Google maps and a compass for navigation, I started planning how to get to my host Emmanuel’s place for the night. We had corresponded by text and he said that he wouldn’t be around until later that day, which gave me time to relax and catch up with the journal, maybe have a beer.
Finding his place was easy and luckily for me, there was a decent bar a mere 50m from his doorstep. I settled down there and did as I thought I might, catch up with some writing and have a beer.
It was a nice little bar, a few interesting local beers in there, some strange ornaments, hundreds of crazy photos of nights in there, funny things in the ‘Water Chambre’ (toilet) and skateboards designed by local illustrators on the walls.
I met a French/Canadian guy, interested in my bike and the trip. We got talking, he was an artist, who had studied in Berlin, so I was interested in his stories. He offered me a place at his if I needed it and luckily I was good, Emmanuel had replied and was on his way. We said goodbye continued in our ways.
Emmanuel was a super cool guy. He looked a bit like Keanu Reeves, a slightly 90’s hairstyle, black and a similar face. We had a beer and went back. I dropped my things off, had a shower, then he offered to show me around Nantes.
He took me to a wall mural that depicted all the famous people and many events in Nantes history happening in one place at one time. It was a charming piece and seemed to capture the feeling of Nantes, relaxed, understated and historical.
We went to the centre, looked around, had crepes and cider served in cappuccino cups (no idea why and haven’t seen or had it since) in a small restaurant. We went for a drink in one of the local bars, another great bar, loads of things on the walls, a small lively place, with re-purposed furniture and plenty of characters.
Emmanuel was going to get me to try a local aperitif they had there, but the guy on the bar said they were out and got us a concoction from the fridge called ‘the ass of a chicken’. I forget what he called in French.
We polished them off and went back via the Cathedral, which had dramatic lighting to show off its features. Emmanuel told me about a plan they were working on to redesign this part of the city, so it was more cycle, skater and people friendly, putting the cars and traffic second. I was amazed at how forward thinking and person-friendly it was.
He also showed me an old factory, home of the popular French biscuit manufacturer ‘LU’ and told me it had been set up by two brothers many years ago. The manufacturer still exists today but has moved. I felt an affinity with it, as it has been one of my favourite snacks on the trip. The original factory had been redecorated and used as an arts centre. I liked Nantes a lot.