Looking back, I never really explored Nantes when I lived there. I covered a fairly small area—home, school (a fifteen-minute walk through the city centre), the library, my grandparents’ place (a few blocks from my parents’), two supermarkets (a ten-minute walk from home), restaurants and bars in Bouffay or Commerce. My friends also lived nearby, at most a couple of tramway stops away. For a few years, I took bus #24 to the Conservatoire in Beaulieu where I had music lessons, and this neighbourhood felt far, far away from home—it makes me laugh now since I walk to Beaulieu without a second thought. I also knew the SNCF train station, two parks and the main sights we would visit during school field trips—the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, for instance.
Even when I had both free time and freedom—basically between 12 and 18 years old—I rarely ventured outside the city centre. I had no reason to. I stuck to places I knew. This was my little world and I was happy with it.
Then I left France.
Backpacking taught me to be curious and explore cities on foot to feel their pulse and enjoy contrasts between neighbourhood. Living in Canada changed my perception of distance as it became completely normal for me to walk the two, three, ten kilometres to another neighbourhood. Leaving Nantes taught me to appreciate the city as a tourist—I see it with new eyes as I can no longer rely on places and people I used to know when I was a teen.
So, I explore and I go out of my way to find new streets, new neighbourhoods, new spots. The city expanded as well, and it’s more connected than before.
Fifteen years ago, I had absolutely no reason to follow the Erdre River. There was nothing of interest around here for a kid and a teen, just buildings, restaurants and bars like in any other neighbourhood. Besides, I never liked it as much as the Loire River—the water is murky and the banks feel swampy.
But I’ve been rediscovering this area and I learned to appreciate it. It’s a nice escape from the urban atmosphere even through I’m only twenty minutes from the city centre.
Last Sunday, I realized there was a long boardwalk until Port Boyer as well as a Navibus, operated by Nantes’ public transportation system, to cross to the other side of the river. We took it today, much to Mark’s delight who then spent the following two hours listing all the stuff that made him happy—taking the boat, finding a stick, taking a picture, doing LEGO, kissing, loving us, etc. (that was cute… for the first half hour…)