Nantes, heart of Brittany
We decided our second to last stop, Nantes, was going to be all about the kids. Having done the hiking thing, and the castle thing, even the museum thing, their time was now here. Driving 2 hours from Mont St Michel to Nantes, we parked the car and walked to the Island. No one was sure what to expect; Nantes was recommended from a traveling friend of mine when she toured Normandy with her family last year. Her kids, similar ages and likes, had a great time, so I figured, why not, it looks cool enough.
Memorial before the bridge
Between the parking garage and the island, we stumbled upon a Memorial site. This was a “Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery”. All along the path, on both sides of the solar panels pictured below, were memorial plaques embedded into the pavement. They each had the name of a slave ship, originating from the Port of Nantes, the year it sailed, and which port in Africa is pillaged for persons to turn into slaves in America.
I wish I had more time to walk around the memorial and study the plaques, and see if I could find any other information pieces, but munchkin knew what we were going to visit and didn’t want to stop for anything.
Not many people know this, but I majored in History; African Studies in University. My minor was Anthropology, specializing in colonization. I choose this field because I enjoy studying anthropology, I enjoy learning about other cultures and there is something about studying slavery, colonization and abolition that stuck with me.
Clearly, I knew there were a lot of cities, countries and ships involved in the slave trade. It killed me to see all these memorial plaques, reading the informational statues and see the shear numbers thrown in my face this way. I really did want to stay longer, but you know kids…
Les Machines de l’île
Trying to explain “Steampunk” to a 4 year old is like pulling teeth. No, there are no punk kids causing trouble, there is no steam trying to burn your skin like hot tea. No, they aren’t alive. I finally just gave up and showed him a photo of what we were going to visit on our vacation next month.
Mommy! It’s a Robot Elephant! Why didn’t you just say that?”
“Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.”
Once we crossed the bridge, attempted to explain what we had just walked through to no avail – one day buddy, we will have this conversation again, but for now, be 4 years old and let’s talk robots.
Directly off the bridge there is a hanger and a small carousel. If the elephant is missing or covered up, you wouldn’t think much of the hanger. He was missing, and we walked right passed it. Eventually, we saw some signs and doubled back. Next to the hanger is another hanger – this time the doors were wide open, still no Elephant, and a restaurant. We walked into the open hanger and headed for the reception desk.
Strollers are not allowed into the Gallery, but baby carriers are provided free of charge. They only ask for a piece of photo ID to hold “hostage” while using the carrier. I saw at least 10 hanging on the wall and the area didn’t look all that busy with little ones so I wouldn’t worry too much about them running out. We paid for our Gallery admission, also purchased our walk on the Elephant – reserving a time for 2 hours from now – and decided not to go on the larger carousel down the road (at the end of the Elephant ride). We didn’t feel 8 euro per person was worth it when 2,50 per person on the smaller carousel was available.
Passing the gates at the reception desk, we ran into this guy.
The kids weren’t too bothered by him… until he started to move. They say that the Gallery takes about 1 hour to tour, but the area is rather small. I saw 3 large creatures like the spider, pictured above, and the tour guide discusses and activates each one. This is why it takes an hour to complete. Munchkin decided he didn’t want to be near the spider once we all gathered around it, so hubby waited with him in the other side of the gallery. This, however, meant that hubby missed his opportunity to volunteer to ride on the back of the giant walking spider. Baby girl had no problem with it. There were painted lines on the ground that we could not cross during a demonstration; she wanted nothing to do with rules; get as close as possible and pitch a fit when we say “safety”.
Outside of the gallery was a staircase to a lookout where we could see into the closed hanger. They were in the process of building another giant mechanical animal and had videos of building the giant Elephant. Due to copyright laws, I was not allowed to photograph any of this. I took the elevator down with the baby, and the boys took the “Branches” down. Munchkin had a little issue with the heights when it was time to step out of the hanger to the branches themselves. Once he was out in the open and could see me, he shouted that he was being a “brave boy” and walked the length without issue. Pretty sure he just called me a woosy but I’ll let it pass.
Also see; Road tripping with kids
We still had an hour before our elephant ride so we stopped for lunch. The dinner was really the only place to eat on the island within a reasonable distance so it wasn’t surprising that it was so busy. They only had 3 options on the menu and no real kids menu available, but they were able to put a little something together for the kids at a reduced price.
Also see; Quick Guide to Normandy with kids
Potty break, rent a baby carrier, check on the stroller, then make our way back up the stairs to the Elephant Entrance. The signs are not marked very well if you don’t know what you are looking for and the receptionist instructions were a little odd. Across the hall from the reception desk is the stairs to get to the 3rd floor look out that I mentioned earlier. The 2nd floor is where you catch the elephant. Down the hall, and wait for the guy to open the gates, check your ticket and let you in. Even though Baby Girl was free, she needed a ticket. Only 50 bodies are allowed on the elephant so she needed to be counted.
There are only a few rules; don’t hang off the edges, don’t jump off the edges, don’t throw things off the elephant, and don’t take photos of the inside of the cabin. Every once in a while, they would trumpet the elephant and he would spray water on the bystanders in the streets. The noise can be fairly loud for those in the cabin, as opposed to those on the elephants back who can’t hear anything, so the driver signals before doing it, do give parents a chance to cover any little ears.
The ride ends at the large carousel, where we get out and another group gets on. We thought it was a full circle ride, so we told the munchkin he could walk the branches again. Felt bad for the little guy that we were wrong but he got to ride the carousel so he was fine.
The little carousel was still a little fast for Baby girls likings. We had bought two tickets, one for each kid, but she needed a change and I needed to return the carrier. Munchkin took his turn but hubby decided it was too jerky and rose too high for her. The kids all have seat belts, but she is still only 18 months, I think we forget that sometimes.
3 hours after parking the car, we were heading back to grab our gear and check into our hotel. The kids were just finished and had a great time. Munchkin was already asking if I could print a photo of him with the “Robot Elephant” to show his friends at school. I guess that means he had a great time.
Check out this incredible video of the whole experience.
Where to eat in Nantes
We checked into the hotel, found the castle and took a nice walk around the grounds and moat, but it was getting dinner time. We decided not to pay to tour the castle and only took a look around the outside for free.
As seen on;Best Castles in Europe
Everywhere we looked, it was either too expensive for what we were craving – something food like because we are way too tired to care about nutritional value at this moment – or it didn’t open until 7 pm. We forgot that we were in France. I did the unspeakable and suggested the McDonald’s that we had seen 30 minutes prior. Hubby finally caved and as we were heading in that direction, we ran into a Pita Pit. Oh, thank the heavens for a Pita Pit.
If you don’t know what a Pita Pit is, first you are seriously missing out, and second I don’t blame you, they are a Canadian company that is being overshadowed by its American competitor. They have a handful of locations outside of Canada – see my pregnant cravings in London. They have amazing Pita’s, created fresh in front of you, for a fairly inexpensive price.
Where to stay in Nantes
Anyways, we headed back to our room and all passed out…. not before completely destroying the room. It’s a shame too because it was such a beautiful room. We stayed at a Best Western this time.
We had asked for a room with a double bed, a single bed and a baby bed. This is exactly what we received. The only problem is that munchkin rolls around so much that he falls off the bed if he doesn’t have a bed-rail. Remember, he is only 4 years old. We can do this one of two ways.
- He sleeps in the double bed with one parent, push his side against the wall, and the other parent gets a single bed all to themselves
- We keep our bed, and we put his mattress on the floor.
Related Article; Hotel Bedtime Routine
We decided option #2 was a good idea. But what to do with the bed frame. We moved the base to the wall with the window, along my side of the bed, on its side, and he slept on the mattress, on the floor.
Lights were out by 830 pm and we were all DONE. Tomorrow is a big day and neither knew what was going on……….. 4 hour drive to DISNEYLAND!!
An excellent resource for planning all of Germany can we found with the Lonely Planet Normandy Guide
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