While technically not in the Brittany region, Nantes is still a city which has its roots in Brittany’s culture. Located about an hour’s drive from Rennes, it was where I ended my extended Easter weekend during my first year teaching in France. Although I didn’t stay too long in town, I got to get a glimpse of it, and I found it to be very charming.
After two nights in Rennes, I took a BlaBlaCar ride to Nantes. The ride only took an hour, and I was soon dropped off in the outskirts of town. From there, I took the tram towards the city center, and I got off at the closest stop to my Couchsurfing host’s (or “hosts”) flat. It was in a residential part of town, and I was surprised to see many town houses and individual houses, which I hadn’t been used to after visiting larger cities that contained apartments. Reminded a bit of home in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and it was a calming feeling, to say the least.
In any case, I arrived in front of my Couchsurfing hosts’ townhouse. I was a little early in arriving, but my hosts still let me in. They were a couple from New Zealand who, like me, were in France to teach English. Considering that I’d been speaking French throughout my trip in Brittany, it was kind of a relief to revert to English, especially as our native languages– granted, we did try a bit of French, but not the entire time!
We spent the afternoon inside of their townhouse over tea and conversations. It was just a matter of getting to know each other, as well as bond over our expat experiences abroad in France, as well as teaching English.
After some time, we got ready for dinner, and I helped them prepare the meal, which included chopping vegetables, stirring the pot, and rolling out the pizza dough. It was a copious dinner of pizza, minestrone soup, bread and butter, and it was good to have helped out in the process. I also got to meet their French flatmate, who had dinner with us, and afterwards we watched an episode of Community (one of my favorite series) before I turned in for the night. It’d been a long day of traveling, and I was ready to rest up.
The following day was a Sunday, as well as the Easter holiday itself. After a lie-in (and some amazing zucchini fritters that one of my hosts had cooked up for breakfast), I ventured out into the city center with her (the other host opted to stay in for the day). We didn’t spend too much time in town, since many places were closed for the holiday. I did, however, managed to see the regal château des ducs de Bretagne, as well as the cathedral. And strolling along the canals was perhaps one of the highlights of Nantes.
Unfortunately, les Machines de l’île wasn’t open when I was in town that day. An artistic project that uses shipyard remnants to recreate animal statues (including the iconic elephant), les Machines de l’île would’ve been fascinating to have witnessed. Alas, that merits another trip to Nantes for that!
After grabbing lunch to-go at one of the boulangeries in the city center, I took the tram with one of my hosts to the meeting point with my BlaBlaCar ride back to Rennes. My host got off at an earlier stop, during which I said goodbye and thanked her for her hospitality. Soon enough, I caught my ride back to Rennes, then a second BlaBlaCar ride back to my small town in Normandy– it was a lovely coincidence that I’d found a ride that dropped me off exactly in my small town, and I was back home in the evening.
Again, it’d been a brief moment in Nantes, and by no means did I scratch the surface of the city and what it had to offer. All the same, however, I enjoyed my time there with such pleasant, welcoming hosts, and I think that meant more than seeing the actual city itself. Of course, I’d love to return some day to see Nantes properly, especially not during the Easter holiday. Perhaps one day in the near future!
Thanks for reading, and many more adventures to come soon!