FRANCE: BRAIN SUR-L’AUTHION TO NANTES ALONG THE LOIRE ON THE EUROVELO 6 2019
This section of the bike route took us further along the Loire but with some detours inland past vineyards, picket fences and grand gateposts and along a railway path by the river with wildflowers of red, yellow and purple.
To read more about the significance of the Flanders poppy go to archives June 2014 Greece: Central Macedonia.
Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum), also known in Australia as Salvation Jane or in Europe as purple viper’s-bugloss is a native to southern Europe, North Africa and south-western Asia. It was introduced to Australia in the 1880s as an ornamental plant and the names, Paterson’s curse and Salvation Jane relate to Jane Paterson, an early settler who brought the seeds from Europe to beautify her Australian garden. The Latin genus name comes from the Greek ‘ekis’ which means viper. Some say the seeds resemble a viper’s head and it is claimed that the plant roots when eaten and taken with wine could provide a cure for snake bite. Regardless of the word origin, Paterson’s curse has been a pest for graziers (not so much for apiarists as it provides a good source of pollen) and biological control in recent years has almost eliminated the plant from the Australian landscape.
Along this section of the river we followed an old rail trail and I’m sure the vertical face of the above geological event was associated with the railway construction.
Lunch was in the quiet village of Savennieres by the picturesque Norman church.
Building stone was often in short supply and whatever material was available was used in construction. Here, river stones and fired terracotta bricks were used in combination. The six bricks in the middle of the lower herringbone course are of interest. The following photograph shows two of the six prominent bricks close up.
It’s hard to imagine the wind and rain eddies flowing here. The wall was part of St Peter’s and St Roman’s Church. The church was built in the 10th century and is a fine example of Norman architecture.
Further on along the Loire we came upon the Café Bondu. The café catered largely for cyclists and even though it was nothing fancy it had character. Its character was reflected in the way it came into our view. After passing through a small hamlet and turning to cross a long bridge over the Loire it was there hidden on our right. It was a welcome stop for afternoon coffee and the most delicious pommes frites.
After crossing the river we rode on to the village of Montjean-sur-Loire and our next camp. The main feature of Montjean-sur-Loire was an old coalmine head. The head of the mine is now privately owned and was built in the latter part of the 19th century. Coal from the mine was used to fire kilns processing limestone.
The church on the hill provided a vantage point in the town from where we looked down upon one of the many bridges that cross the Loire.
And speaking of bridges…we passed and crossed a number of bridges across the Loire, all impressive because of their length.
Oudon was our next night’s camp. We passed through cultivated fields, crossed another bridge at Ancensis and reached the small town of Oudon and the campground.
Almost every village in France has a municipal campground, especially those along the designated cycle paths. At the onset of summer when more cyclists are out riding some camp managers set up temporary marquees in which cyclists are able to shelter. The camp at Oudon was no exception.
At first we set up our tent in the open, however after the manager informed us that there was heavy rain and extremely destructive winds predicted for later in the night we decided to move our tent into the protection of the marquee. This of course was only possible because our tent was self-supporting and didn’t require pegs. The floor of the shelter was concrete.
Another cyclist who was unable to secure his tent inside the marquee suffered a wet night. Everything he owned was wet the next morning and he was forced to place his sleeping bag, mattress, clothes and even his tent in the camping area’s tumble dryer. It pays not to skimp when it comes to buying a tent, his tent was a cheap one and it was simply not weatherproof.
Nearby to our tent was Gregoire who was walking to Norway. It was his first night out on his long trek. I suggested to him that he also move his swag into the marquee. It rained heavily in the night but the predicted high velocity winds didn’t eventuate.
Gregoire was on his annual university break and he decided a good thing to do during the holidays was to walk from France to Norway, approximately two thousand kilometres. Bev and I have passed many walkers; one was actually walking around the world, the ultimate challenge for the devoted hiker. I will write about this man in a future post. When it comes to walking versus cycling, cycling wins hands down. It takes less energy to cycle one kilometre than it takes to walk a kilometre. In fact, a bicycle can be up to five times more efficient than walking. In addition, cycling is much easier on the body as you carry your luggage on the bike, whereas when you walk you carry it on your back.
From Oudon we pressed on to Nantes and the end of our Eurovelo 6 ride for the moment. Nantes is not actually on the Atlantic Ocean but for us it was close enough as we wanted to go north to La Gacilly where an open-air photographic exhibition was in full swing.
Note the blue sky in the last few images. Most of the ride to Nantes was in sunny weather but about 20kms from the city a storm rolled in from the North Sea. We donned our wet weather gear, waited out the heavy wind and rain then pressed on to a stormy Nantes. Fortunately for us we met with a local cyclist riding to Nantes and we followed her in driving rain into the town centre where our hotel was located. Soaking wet and utterly bedraggled the hotel receptionist described us as looking like a couple of ‘drowned rats’.
NANTES is a remarkable city. It was severely bombed in the 1940s and hit hard a second time with the closing of the shipyards in the 1980s, but it found its way back into prominence by investing in the arts. Art in this case is the blend of art and engineering inspired by the imaginings of Leonardo Da Vinci, H.G. Wells and a native to Nantes, Jules Verne. The theme of entertainment for the visitor is “Les Machines de L’Ile”, an amusement park at the old shipyard and home to moving mechanical animals, including a 48-ton monster, the Great Elephant, and carousels with imaginative mechanical rides for both children and adults.
The main outdoor feature of the park is the gigantic elephant, or as one commentator described the creation, ‘One Wild Pachyderm’. Pachyderm (animal with a thick skin) is an obsolete 19th century term describing elephants, rhinos and hippos.
The elephant is twelve metres high and is constructed from wood, steel and leather. It carries passengers around a circuit lasting about half an hour. People who stand in front of this giant machine are sprayed with a jet of water ensuring they move out of the way.
Other popular attractions are the carousels. There are no fibreglass rocking horses or swans on which children sit but creations beyond imagination.
The modern carousel emerged from the Middle East knights during the 12th century. The knights galloped in a circle tossing balls to each other as a training exercise. In the 17th century the balls were dispensed with and instead riders had to place their swords through small rings suspended in a circle as they galloped past. Carousels on which people could sit and literally go around in circles soon developed. Early carousels had wooden horses supported on chains and centrifugal force forced the horse and rider outwards into the blue. Various methods were used to drive the carousels. Early ones had donkeys as the driving force and there were even ones where men rode bicycles attached to the carousel providing the motive power to drive the carousel in a circle. Eventually steam engines came into being and they have now been replaced by electric motors.
Following are the heads of a few other carousel contraptions.
To read more about the fantastic creations of Les Machines de l’IIe search…
Taking advantage of the spectators was a marshmallow seller who had a classic old-fashioned way of conveying his tasty treats around.
Nantes is a city of engineering contrasts, ranging from the gothic and art deco to more contemporary and creative examples of architecture. Following are images showing some of the more modern designs.
There are of course many examples of early architecture including the Nantes Cathedral built in the Gothic tradition. It took 457 years to build and reached completion in 1891.
One last building that is important to Nantes is the castle, the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French Monarchy. It now houses the History museum.
That’s the end of another post. The next post deals with us leaving the Eurovelo 6 and following the Eurovelo 1 and the Nantes Brest Canal north to Blain, Redon and La Gacilly. Our aim was to visit an open air photographic exhibition at La Gacilly. Following are two images from the exhibition to whet your appetite. Make a comment if you wish.