Articles tagged with: Snapshots of France
After a few days as a tourist in my hometown, I usually enjoy getting off the beaten track and finding new places to explore, no matter how far and how gritty they can be—basically, I need some non-tourist spots.
I wanted to see the world and I did. And now, I can look back and appreciate Nantes for what it is—a lovely city, really. I still wouldn’t live there again for many reasons, but visiting as a tourist feels great.
In Nantes, there are two several-week-long fun fairs a year: one in the spring, and one in the fall. When I was a kid, we waited for both fairs impatiently—going there would keep us busy for several Wednesdays (in France, kids don’t go to school on Wednesday!).
One of my favourite districts in Nantes is the one close to the Loire River, by the quai de la Fosse. The former dodgy neighborhood was home to the shipyards and, at the time, prostitutes and brothels were known to satisfy sailors’ needs quai de la Fosse (there are still a number of strip bars along the quay today).
Last week, Nantes inaugurated a brand new memorial to the abolition of slavery. The city doesn’t have a glorious past: Nantes was the slave trade capital of France, and that’s how it became the largest port in France and a wealthy city. In the 18th century and well into the 19th, Nantes alone launched about 1,800 expeditions to buy African captives, hauling more than 500,000 men and women to the New World.
I’ve been spoiled with photo-ops lately! A demonstration, the annual street market, the carnival (that I skipped)… and now a huge fire. Nantes is definitely the place to be in March-April!
Yesterday afternoon, I smelled smoke …
Sales are an exciting topic in France for two main reasons: first, clothes aren’t cheap, second, sales and discounted prices are rare. In fact, the French government regulates sales and only allows two six-week-long markdowns a year, one in June and the other in January. But this Saturday was the annual “braderie” (street market) in Nantes—an exception to the rule.
I took a long walk to the Île de Versailles, a small island on the River Erdre. The place is modeled after a Japanese garden, and dotted with patches of bamboo, rhododendrons and bonsai trees.
It’s a great place to get a “out of the city” feel, even though it’s tiny and can be crowded on nice days. I love seeing trees in bloom—the landscape was still very winter-y ten days ago in Canada!
Passage Pommeraye is one of the historic monuments I’m now rediscovering. The mini shopping mall is a passage between two streets, rue de la Fosse (the lower street) and rue de Santeuil (the higher one). It was completed in 1843 and was a novelty at the time. The design is very elaborate and includes renaissance style sculptures along the stairways.
French love to rebel against the establishment, and spring is generally the start of “protest season”. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I heard a demonstration was planned this Saturday. But while the protest itself was fairly innocuous, the police force deployed seemed pretty disproportionate.