An Elephant In My Castle

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We made it. Finally. From Paris, we took the train directly to Nantes, my hometown, the city where I grew up and from where I gladly escaped as soon as I turned 18.

Of course, we were both a bit tired after spending almost two days in Montreal airport. That probably explained why my bank card was swallowed at the first ATM I used and why we didn’t notice we were using the wrong plug for my computer.

For the bank card, it was my fault. I typed the PIN in wrong three times in a row. Duh. I was — God knows why — using my old PIN code, the one I had when I was living in France… 7 years ago. With my Canadian debit card.

For the plug story… Canadian and French plugs are different so you need an adapter for the power supply (for my laptop). I got one from a friend before I left but — once again, Gods knows why — I somehow didn’t notice there were no way it could fit in my laptop plug. So we went to the FNAC (= French HMV) and bought a huge Swiss-made-lifetime-warranty-works-in-129-countries adapter. Of course, it wasn’t made to fit Canadian plugs. We ended up buying a new power supply for my laptop.

Then we slept for about 14 hours.

Nantes hasn’t changed much. Of course, stores did: the then popular cafés are now closed and new trendy places opened. The streets look old and the architecture is beautiful. Everything is small: people, streets, roads, cars and shops. I showed Feng around. It’s actually a lot of fun to see the city as a traveler, a Canadian. I’m bored and boring when I’m French.

One of the nicest place in Nantes is the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. Even though it was raining a bit (Nantes… but still, the weather is very mild for us after the harsh Canadian winter!), we had fun climbing the fortification.

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And then we walked around the city for hours. I got to see the new courthouse… It’s brand new and highly controversial, since the architect made it all black: the picture below was taken inside it. Weird atmosphere, isn’t it?

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And finally we saw… the famous elephant. A group of artists living in the island of Nantes (not an actual island but a former shipyard in the middle of the Loire River) is working on these mechanicals animals and showing them around the city. Here is the elephant… directly inspired of Jules Verne’s books — the famous writer was born in Nantes, of course!

Being home as a traveler is the best. Ever. I just wish I would stop saying “thank you” (instead of “merci“) and “sorry” (“désolé“) to French people!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. silverneurotic on

    Believe it or not, there is (or was…it might be closed) a big elephant thing like that not TOO far from my home city. It’s called Lucy. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it though…guess I was deprived of that experience when I was a kid.

    silverneurotic’s last blog post..Beginner’s Greek by James Collins

  2. Do you miss shovelling? I’m sure you do… 🙂
    Nice pictures and nice comments about your city tour. I’ve never been there myself (yet) but I had always heard it was worth visiting.
    What are Feng’s first impressions about Frogland?

    Froggywoogie’s last blog post..Moving Stars

  3. Fantastic! I’m so jealous … almost everyone I know has at least *been* to France, and I can’t seem to get out of my own damn country.

    Ghosty’s last blog post..Age Is Just A (Really Big) Number

  4. @sir jorge – Really? Bad experiences with elephant?

    @Jay Cam – I know the street art people actually traveled with it — in Latin America I think. Wouldn’t go through the US customs! 😆

    @silverneurotic – Cool! Too bad you didn’t get to see it!

    @Froggywoogie – So far he likes it… I mean as a traveler anyway. 😉 Staying there too long, probably not. He found Nantes pretty clean actually, he was surprised.

    @Ghosty – Well, the US are like a mix of small countries I guess, so the incentive to travel isn’t the same. Plus I’m French so it’s natural for me to go.

    @Keshi – OZ is cool girl!

    @Spyder – Food IS great 😉 And I’m a nice girl so I do the dishes 😉

    @Art – I actually speak English all the time with Feng. So far okay 😉

    @Theresa – It’s not as weird as I thought it would, mostly because Feng is here with me. I’m not too French then, I’m just a traveler, makes it easier!

    @Mme. Meow – The courhouse was very weird!

    @Jessica – Glad you like it!

    @johnada – It’s the 7th biggest city in France, about 300 000 people. Nice place actually… a bit small though and I spent 18 years of my life there so…

    @kyh – Haven’t been there yet. Must have when I was a kid though. We have a lot of castles in France!

  5. Oh wow! Beautiful pictures and I didn’t realise you were originally from Nantes! I thought you were Parisienne born and bred for some reason! (sorry!!) The flatmate I lived with in La Rochelle spent many years in Nantes – that’s a very useless piece of information for you I know, but there we go!

    princesse ecossaise’s last blog post..Big Pants

  6. durano lawayan on

    Hi Zhu,

    Finally! You’re back in your hometown. Wow, I could feel my lower back begging for a massage reading the 14 hour forced stay at the airport. At least it’s more comfortable than being stranded for 21 hours in a village in Nigeria where the rest rooms are so uninviting, to say the least.:-)

    Nantes is a nice place, and it looks refreshingly clean. The court is so grim in black, and it feels like one would definitely suffer a conviction and be led straight to the dungeon. :-)Much like the descriptions in Les Miserables. No wonder Jules Verne created his submarine to go into another world. 🙂 –Durano, done!

  7. Oooh, those are nice photos!

    Like Disneyworld, the last time I was in Paris was over 25 years ago. The only memory I got from that city was a fancy Chinese restaurant that we went. We didn’t visit the suburbs.

    One day!

    Rudy’s last blog post..Space…

  8. yoohooo 🙂 I’m back to blogging and managed to fix the feed problem on my blog.

    I bet it still feels good to be back home, right? My friend visited Nantes some years ago and she brought back a whole jar of “berlingots de Nantes”. First time ever I tasted those 😛

  9. @princesse ecossaise – Non, non, pas Paris! Just kidding 😉 Nope, born and raised in Nantes, nothing to be proud of though but it’s a nice place to see as a tourist.

    @RennyBA – I’d love to go to Norway! Probably not this time though, but in the summer I’d definitely consider it. More time and I still have to catch up with family so… 😉

    @durano lawayan – The obly thing I wanted after the crazy trip was a shower. Or two. I felt so sweaty and confused in Paris, it was weird to speak French again! I mean, I do speak French to my students but it’s not the same.

    The courthouse is very weird… Really dark and doors are hidden in the wall. I was curious to visit after I heard about it so much!

    @Shantanu – More to come soon! And some about food, I promise!

    @Rudy – Even I don’t know Paris that well. But I’ll visit next week “as a tourist”, so expect pictures! 😉

    @Angele – Oh, the Berlingots… a local specialty! I’ll bring some back, thanks for reminding me! I’ll pick up your RSS feed as soon as I can.

  10. I am completely ashamed to say that I have only ever popped over to France once. After looking at these photographs, I am definitely going to have to take a proper trip there to have a good explore.

    Your tale of your bank card and your laptop sound sooo distressing. I am glad things sorted themselves out. I hope you are having a wondeful time.

    Luv Graham x

    Graham’s last blog post..March Photography Challenge

  11. Lis of the North on

    Wow Zhu you grew up in Nantes! My husband and I met in Nantes when I was on my year abroad. Now we live in Lille though, it’s very different.
    Sorry to hear about your airport nightmare, I hope your trip back to Canada is easier, and I hope you enjoy your time with your family loads! A bientôt 😉

    Lis of the North’s last blog post..Post-op report

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